It's the middle of summer and one of your tenants calls to report their air conditioning has gone out. It's one of the hazards of managing single family properties, but getting a service technician out during their busiest time of the year can be a real hassle.
Taking the right steps to prevent maintenance issues and having a plan of action in place when emergency strikes is key. Follow this guide to cover all your bases.
Avoid emergencies all together with preventive maintenance
Before summer hits, it is considered best practice to have your outdoor condenser units inspected by someone who knows what they're doing. You may be fortunate enough to have a maintenance person on staff who has HVAC experience, but if they do not, there are still steps they can take to improve efficiency and extend the life of your units.
Inspections of the panels that cover the outdoor condenser units should be done periodically. Having the airflow impeded by leaves, litter or even pet hair can shorten the life of your expensive unit. The condenser unit's shroud should be cleaned using a water hose, with the stream sprayed in a downward direction, according to retired HVAC technician George Andrews.
Monthly replacement of indoor filters is a good idea, especially when your tenants have pets. Indoor allergy sufferers may find some relief with the changing of filters, as well. The problem comes when you have to rely on the tenant to change the filters on their own. With some foresight, the monthly changing of filters by staff could be stipulated as part of the lease agreement.
Finally, if your maintenance staff is comfortable enough with your equipment to find the primary drain, the monthly flushing of said line with a cup of bleach will prevent any mold growth within the unit.
If you or your staff is not confident in their abilities concerning your HVAC equipment, consider the money a little preventative maintenance could save you. Many companies charge much less for a scheduled tune-up and inspection over an emergency call in the hottest part of the summer.
Be prepared when emergency strikes
The inconvenience of a broken A/C unit can quickly turn into a full-blown emergency. In some parts of the United States where the heat reaches triple digits during the day, a lack of climate control can turn life threatening for older tenants and young children.
In California, for example, air conditioning is considered an amenity and is not required by law to be repaired in a timely manner. In other states, such as Texas, the property manager is required to keep rental premises habitable. During the summer, that means maintaining a working A/C unit.
When an emergency call comes in, be ready to help tenants by providing box fan or two while they wait. This will likely contribute to warm feelings and could even influence a lease renewal down the road. If the worst happens and the central unit is not repairable, temporarily replacing the broken unit with a window unit is an affordable option.
Remember, a happy tenant is one who renews leases and refers friends. An unhappy tenant with valid complaints can wreck havoc on your business reputation. Handling AC issues appropriately is an important step in keeping tenants happy and protecting your single family properties.