Identifying Real Emergency Repairs
As an established Orange County property management business, we have been providing investment property owners exceptional residential property management services since 1964. During this time we have learned that although the subject of emergency repairs seems quite benign, it is an important topic of discussion in the Orange County property management market.
It is not surprising that over the years the issue of emergency repairs has been the basis of many disputes between landlords and their tenants. However, you may be surprised to find out that it is also source of a fair number of disputes between property owners and their property managers. I will explain why.
First we must point out that emergency repairs will generally cost more than routine repairs. This phenomenon is caused by a wide variety of factors, the most basic being that emergency repairs often occur outside of normal working hours which causes the vendor who was awoken at 3am to charge a premium for his time and services. In addition, when a pipe burst in the middle of the night, one normally does not have much time to price shop for estimates before getting it repaired.
Despite the fact that emergency repairs are generally bad news, it is a very common practice among the major Los Angeles and Orange County property management companies to have agreements under which, in emergency situations, the property manager is given the authority to arrange for repairs to be completed without first obtaining the property owner’s permission. The rationale for such an agreement is that in emergency situations, the property manager must be allowed to act swiftly to minimize potential property damage.
This of course sounds pretty straight forward, however the reason so many Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange County property management companies find themselves in conflict with their clients is regarding the definition of an emergency. What constitutes an emergency on the part of the tenant and/or property manager may not rise to the level of an emergency in the mind of the property owner. It is this scenario, and generally after the owner has received a large bill for an unapproved emergency repair, from which disputes arise.
This begs the question: What is an emergency repair? During our almost fifty years as the Orange County property management specialist, we have developed a general rule we follow. We generally consider an emergency repair to be one that if not immediately addressed would likely cause damage to the rental property or injury to its occupants.
In situations where a pipe burst and water is running through the living room and out the front door, it is clear that an emergency exits and immediate action must be taken. Those types of calls are easy to make. But what about less obvious scenarios.
What if the bathroom toilet is clogged in one of your rentals, but it is not overflowing with water and there does not appear to be a risk of any immediate property damage. However, the tenant calls you at 11pm and demands that this is an emergency and a plumber be sent out immediately. He goes on to explain that the only other bathroom in the house belongs to his roommate. What would you expect your property manager to do?
There are many reputable Los Angeles and Orange County property management companies that would consider this an emergency repair. However, when this recently happened at our company, we applied our general definition of an emergency and concluded that this did not qualify since the property was not in risk of further damage and the tenant was not in physical danger. As a mitigating factor, we also considered the fact that the tenant did have access to another toilet within the home. As such, the tenant had to wait until the following day when we could gather the appropriate estimates and then contact the owner to obtain approval for the repair.
Before you engage a Riverside, Los Angeles or Orange County property management company, you should obtain a clear understanding of what their emergency repair policy is. You will find that many Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange County property management companies do not even have an emergency repair policy, which should be your first clue that the company may not be the right one for you.