Whether you manage one single family property, or enough to populate an entire neighborhood, having a great rental property maintenance staff is key. Unfortunately, somewhere down the line, society decided that working in a trade was somehow less than admirable, and as the older generations retire, skilled maintenance staff is getting harder to come by. With scarcity, comes higher demand and higher wages being required. This can tempt all of us to go for a seemingly easy alternative in the form of inexperienced, untrained staff that will likely cost us more in the long run.
Part time, full time or contract?
Sit down and determine how much help you really need and what you'll expect from a maintenance employee. Will they be expected to clean units as well as repair when something goes wrong. What about yard care and pool maintenance if applicable? Do you also want them to be able to service your heating and air conditioning unit or units? What about plumbing? There are so many things to consider.
Also take into account how many properties or units you have. Will one maintenance employee be able to do the job? Many times a basic handyman versus a skilled tradesman will do, saving you money up front. If you decide that you don't require a full-time tradesman, be sure to put some funds aside in case the need to call someone more skilled arises.
Do a background check
You've decided who you need, you've created an ad and started receiving calls. Narrow the prospects down to the most promising few and get down to business.
Background screening is important with any employee, but it is doubly so when the employee has access to your tenants' homes. This is about protecting yourself, your owner's investment, your tenants and your employees.
You will need consent from your potential employee to dig into their background. A criminal background check should be paramount. Next should come a personal reference check. Just looking at the period of time the potential employee has known the references can speak to stability. The most difficult will probably be the references for employers. Depending on the state, the former employer may not legally be able to tell you more than dates employed, and if they are allowed to say more, they often will not for fear of lawsuits, sometimes though, clues can be picked up on without being verbalized.
Grow your own
If you are having trouble finding a qualified candidate and are in a position to train someone, do it. Finding a younger person who may lack the skills required, but may have the aptitude can be a very good investment. A person just leaving military service might be a good option. According to Manpower Group's Talent Shortage Survey, people in skilled trades are the hardest qualified employees to find.
It can be tough to tell whether someone really knows their stuff or not, especially if you're not particularly handy yourself. However, there is a way to know! Have the best candidates sit down and take the Maintenance Technical Aptitude Test. This test developed by The National Center for Housing Management tests knowledge of electrical, plumbing, general repairs, electric and gas water heaters, refrigerators, both gas and electric ranges and overall safety. A single test will cost you about $50. A small price to pay for confidence in your hires.
In another, luckier scenario, if you have a seasoned employee on staff who doesn't mind doing the screening for you, you can bypass any expense by verbally testing or hiring the candidate on a probationary basis. It is important to be confident in the person you're hiring.
Pay a little more
I'm not suggesting you break the bank, but as stated above, a skilled maintenance person can be hard to find. Do the math! Not all custodians are truly handymen, as not all handymen are truly skilled tradesmen. The value of a person who can fill the role of various contractors you might have to call out in the event of a catastrophic incident, such as burst pipes in the middle of winter, has to be worth a little more than the average employee who has some skill with a wrench and hammer.
No matter how you go about finding your next maintenance employee, treat them well and encourage them to learn more. You'll pat yourself on the back later as your competitors are scrambling to find rental property maintenance staff as amazing as yours.