Many people dread becoming a landlord due to the emergency maintenance calls they might receive late at night. They do not enter the business because they know they will have to deal with sewer backups, broken pipes, water leaks and the like at 2:00 am. Or worse, they worry such things will happen and they won’t be able to deal with.

Some people end up hiring property managers to avoid this while others just don’t get started in the first place. Whether you hire a manager or not is another decision, but regardless, there are ways to deal with emergency maintenance so fear not!

So, What’s the Plan?

Yes, hiring a property manager is a one option. If you do that, you should make sure to inquire about their emergency maintenance plans and follow up with them on how they have handled emergency maintenance requests they have gotten. Hiring a manager is not the end. You need to manager the manager too.

But using a third-party manager is not the only option.

Here’s What Else You Can Do…

If you manage yourself, the first thing you need to understand is that these emergency maintenance calls are inevitable. They will happen. So accept it and stop crossing your fingers and hoping you’ll just get lucky.

The next thing is you have to understand what is an emergency maintenance call and what is an “emergency maintenance call.”

There are certain things that are obvious; for example, yes, fire is an emergency, but the tenant has to call the fire department, not you. If there has been a break-in, yes, it is an emergency, but the police have to be called and informed, not you.

As for the maintenance issues, the one general rule you need to clarify with your tenants is that they should not expect you to solve these issues sooner than they would be able to if they were the homeowners.

If the furnace breaks in the middle of an ice storm, there is nothing you can do until the morning since all the HVAC technicians won’t be able to get out there. And they wouldn’t be able to get out there for homeowners just as they can’t for tenants.

The real maintenance emergencies you do need to immediately address normally (but not always) fall into one of three categories:

  • Water leak
  • Sewage backup
  • No functional toilet

Apart from the things listed above, normally, all other things can wait until the next day. I would say that if a refrigerator goes out on Friday or Saturday night, you should try to get someone out there the morning of the next day though and not wait until Monday.

You will need to have a bit of a thick skin, otherwise you will be driven crazy (and not get much if any sleep). If you are there to fix your tenants’ minor problems at 2:00 am, those minor problems are likely to mysteriously increase more and more.

As far as doing the work, you can do it yourself (if capable), but you should have specialists you know you can call. No one can do everything. If you have employees, maintenance techs should understand emergency maintenance is part of the job.

If you can’t afford to hire employees, you can find vendors or contractors to do the work. There are also maintenance companies specially designed for people who self-manager rentals. They are a bit more expensive, but worth considering if you manage yourself. Just make sure to ask them if they handle emergency calls.

The Bottom Line

It’s important to understand that emergency maintenance is not very frequent. It’s not a completely irrational fear by any means, but it has definitely been blown out of proportions. Don’t fear being a landlord just because you might get these emergency calls. All you need is to plan thoroughly so that you know what to do in case of such situations.

For more, check out our video on the subject and subscribe to our channel.

Categories | Article | Operations
  • Andrew Syrios

    Andrew Syrios is a real estate investor and writer living in Kansas City, MO. He is a partner in Stewardship Properties along with his brother and father. Stewardship Properties specializes in buy and hold and owns just over 800 units in five states. He also blogs at

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