Pro Tip, renters: every sentence that comes out of your mouth in a showing should end with a question mark! Agents and landlords know what aspects of their business are profitable but unpopular. They won't volunteer such information without you asking.
With the goal of helping renters know what to ask, back in December I posted a collection of questions that renters could use during showings. That article focused on the subject of applications and fees. Today I'm back with more questions, this time designed to help you find out about the landlord's maintenance and hiring policies.
One of the biggest causes of friction between landlords and tenants is the quality of maintenance. In my years working in property management, the tenants who had the biggest problems with our maintenance and customer service were the ones who spent their apartment showings just looking at the apartment itself without asking any questions about our business practices.
- What sort of background checks do you run on their staff before hiring?
- When you must bring in outside repair specialists, such as plumbers and electricians, how do you vet them?
- Do your employees carry company IDs or wear uniforms, or are tenants expected to allow access to anyone who claims to be an employee?
- What sort of training do you provide for your maintenance workers?
- What sort of training do you provide for your office staff?
- How many maintenance staff do you have available for work orders each day?
- How many apartments are serviced by your maintenance team?
- For small landlords: do you have an established working relationship with a plumber, electrician, HVAC service provider, landscaper and handyman?
- How often do you wash the exterior of the windows?
- When did you last recharge the fire extinguishers?
- Do you regularly test hallway smoke detectors and change their batteries, or do you wait for tenants to complain that they're beeping?
- Do you spray regularly for bugs? Do you have regular bedbug inspections? Does your exterminating service use a pet-friendly pesticide?
- Do you notify tenants if you are going to be using high VOC paints or varnishes near their apartment?
- Do you notify tenants if you will be performing loud construction in the building?
- What hours are your maintenance workers available for normal (non-urgent) fixes?
- When was the last time you pulled a construction permit for any of your buildings?
- Under what circumstances would a renter have to pay for repairs while living in an apartment?
- On average, how many times do your workers have to return to a unit before an issue is resolved?
- When was the last time you made any major capital improvements to this building? (New windows, siding, roof, etc.)
Questions like these don't only help you figure out the details about your next home. They also give landlords vital clues about tenant expectations when it comes to customer service.
As with the previous article, you should not plan to ask every one of these questions during a showing. Landlords can refuse to rent to you if you seem to pushy. Cherry pick the most pertinent questions for your situation, and make sure to fact check the landlord's responses! Agents may try to stall you on your questions, claiming they need to check with the owner. In that case, be persistent and follow up with the agent until you get an answer.
Let me know in the comments if there's another topic you would like me to cover in the next installment of the Questions series!
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