All maintenance problems are not equal:
Many Owners have a problem with maintenance issues, especially if they were just residing in the property prior to a tenant moving in. The thing you need to keep in mind is that no two people live the same way. That squeaky door in the third bedroom that you never used, is now the babies room. Squeaky doors or drafty rooms as an example, and babies, don't go well together. In other words, the stuff you learned to live with might well be a big problem for a tenant. Consequently, it is not unusual to get several maintenance requests when a new tenant moves into a property... be prepared.
Avoiding the tenant doesn't fix the problem:
One of the fastest ways to anger a tenant is to ignore their legitimate maintenance requests. It's not like you're going to avoid the repair after they've moved... it still needs to be done. Except now you have no income and you still have to pay to get the work completed. You need to plan for repairs. Set aside money every month for anticipated repairs.
THE BIDS YOU GOT ARE TOO HIGH, CAN'T I JUST HAVE MY FRIEND OR THE TENANTS DO THE WORK IF THEY WANT? - You can have anyone you choose do the work you want on your property. However, if they are not insured you always stand the chance that they could get injured and then they will end up owning your building. We have found that about 95% of the time, using friends or anyone else that is not in the construction/repair business, full-time, is a huge mistake. The work is almost always lacking and rarely is it completed in a timely manner. If you insist on using someone like this, you will be the one ordering the work, inspecting the work, and paying for the work. We will not get involved since we will want to keep an arms length distance from the transaction just in case there is a problem.
We had a situation once where the owner insisted on using the tenant to replace the landing on the second story of a four plex. We warned him of the huge liability he was putting himself in. Sure enough, the tenant had a friend over to help him. The friend ended up losing his footing and stepping between the flooring joist, and then falling through a plate glass window. He of course ended up in the hospital without insurance and they expected the owner to step forward.
When the City gets involved:
The last thing you want to do is to have the city cite you for repairs: I RECEIVED A NOTICE FROM THE CITY TO MAKE A BUNCH OF REPAIRS, WHAT CAN I DO? - The city, in conjunction with the mayors office, is trying to 'clean up' downtown, or older areas of the city. Their methods include using inspectors from the Neighborhood Services Department to inspect and cite properties for code violations. They also work hand in hand with the Fire Department to achieve the same results. If you do not comply with their requests they have the power to shut down your building and eventually demolish it. You of course have legal recourse and there is a system in place where you can take your case before the city council. This is a lengthy process. Keep in mind it is the city that is backing these people. In the long run it's best just to make the repairs.
Old things, including us, break more easily and more often:
Maintenance problems can eat you alive. It usually becomes a huge issue on older properties. Owners of course want to buy as cheaply as possible. When they do, especially older buildings, they usually are forced to pay for more frequent repairs. Things break more frequently as a property ages... kind of like people. Just understand where you are in the investment scheme of things and plan accordingly. Usually with older buildings your are initially paying less per square foot. However, that price savings can eventually be made up in repair costs.
Paying For Repairs
On single family homes, condos, and townhomes you are required to keep a minimum of $300.00 in the trust account for unanticipated repairs. Sometimes, that isn't enough to cover an emergency situation like a water heater or air conditioner replacement. Usually, these items need immediate attention. Here, if you want, you can get the funds into your account electronically in order to avoid delays and hopefully avoid any legal issues. Otherwise, if need be you can pay the vendor directly with a credit card in most cases.