VOLUME IXCreating a Go-To Contractor ListBy Thomas Cochran
Landlords spend a considerable amount of time hiring independent contractors to perform services for their property. These can include emergency repairs like a leaky pipe or regular services like pool cleaning. An issue that landlords often run into is response time. They need a service to be performed now, but a contractor is too busy or doesn't respond to the request.

Agreeing to a contractual relationship, such as a service maintenance agreement, with a vendor could significantly speed up that frantic search— especially during emergencies and late-night hours.

Here are some other services that landlords, condo boards and/or property managers should always have a contractual relationship with:

  • Maintenance specialist
  • Plumber
  • Electrician
  • Painter
  • Landscaper
  • Waste removal company
  • Pool cleaner 
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians

While Realtors are the liaison between marketing and closing on sales and rentals, having recommendations for the professions above could also be helpful for their clients. Depending on how the lease is written, some renters may have more repair and maintenance responsibilities than others.

Why Repair Turnaround Time May Affect Tenant StayWhile condo bylaws and Rules and Regulations may or may not have an exact turnaround time to make repairs, state laws and leases often dictate a "reasonable" time frame in which landlords must begin making repairs that they are responsible for. If the repair is the responsibility of the condo board (ex. malfunctioning doorbell or broken banister), then the landlord (an association member) would contact the board for any needed common area repairs.

However, if the repairs are in a single-family rental, the repairs are often the responsibility of the landlord, depending on what’s specified in the lease. (Plumbing in multi-units may be a gray area, depending on whether the pipes are shared plumbing for the building or on the inside of the unit.)

In Texas, its state property law gives landlords seven days from the time they receive the repair notice to make repairs.

In Florida, its state property law gives landlords at least 20 days from the time they receive the repair notice to start making repairs.

The consequences of missing the seven-day window in both states can be severe. Tenants can either withhold the cost of the repairs from the rent until the repair is made, or they can legally break the lease agreement.

In addition to complying with property laws, keeping a rental property well-maintained and serviced is in the landlord's best interest because it is good for business. Tenants may not renew their leases if they feel that landlords aren’t maintaining the rental unit (or common areas, in the case of condo boards) and properly responding to service requests. This can also harm the landlord's reputation online with a bad review, which might affect future tenant interest in the rental property.

How to Choose the Right Service ProviderLandlords do not want to scramble around to find the best plumber at 2 a.m. to fix a busted pipe. If the landlord has no home warranty (which includes an already compiled list of contractors to make appliance and service repairs), they should start their search for contractors before the need arises:

  • Research online reputations on sites like Google, Angi and Yelp.
  • Contact each contractor for a quote.
  • Keep a copy of any necessary insurance (worker’s compensation and liability), licenses and other certification for the profession.
  • Make sure the signed contract includes a mandatory option for a W-9 form for tax season. This will be necessary for all independent contractors.

Having this contractual relationship with a go-to list of vendors will help landlords get the services they need to maintain their property, protect their investment and do so in a timely manner.