What is a Rental Emergency?
It is important to understand what a rental emergency is. Depending on whose perspective it is - owner, tenant, vendor, or property manager - it can mean different things when it happens.
The definition of "Rental Emergency" found on Wikipedia is:
An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property, or environment.] Most emergencies require urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation, although in some situations, mitigation may not be possible and agencies may only be able to offer palliative care for the aftermath.
While some emergencies are self evident (such as a natural disaster that threatens many lives), many smaller incidents require the subjective opinion of an observer (or affected party) in order to decide whether it qualifies as an emergency.
The precise definition of an emergency, the agencies involved and the procedures used, vary by jurisdiction, and this is usually set by the government, whose agencies (emergency services) are responsible for emergency planning and management.
This is a precise definition, but when it comes to handling “emergencies” in rental property, the first step is to determine if there is a true emergency. Some emergencies are obvious when they happen, such as fire, water flowing through the property, loss of heat in cold conditions, major gas leak, etc. For these circumstances, it is important to take immediate action and simply handle the situation as quickly as possible. These are emergencies but there are solutions.
Often a tenant has a different “perspective” on what is an emergency. When this happens, the Property Manager has to consider the tenant’s feelings but at the same time, recognize that it is not an emergency. The following maintenance problem is a good example of this.
Janice is a good tenant. One thing that Janice rarely does is cook. She does use the stove and microwave, but not the oven. However, she invited eighteen people for Thanksgiving and planned the full turkey dinner, including baking pies. The day before the holiday, she started working on the pies. When she turned on the oven, it did not work. As you can imagine, she panicked, calling the Property Management office, screeching that she had an emergency.
When the Property Manager finally worked through the hysteria, she determined it was not an emergency but a necessary repair. However, Janice was not to be soothed. The Property Manager immediately called a technician to see if they could get out immediately. They would try but could not promise. Apparently, this is quite a common situation just before Thanksgiving. Eventually, the Property Manager also worked through the situation with Janice and they came up with a plan for the Thanksgiving dinner. It took some time, but Janice finally came to the realization that it was not a true emergency. The best news is that the vendor worked late and did manage to fix the oven.
This may seem a silly example to you but there are many similar situations like this with tenants. They can feel frightened, threatened, angry, frustrated, and more. They can be difficult tenants or just had a bad day. What is important is to determine quickly what the situation is. If it is a true emergency, we want to act on it right away. If it is not, we want to diffuse the situation, but still handle the repair in a timely manner.
As a property owner, you may also feel angry and frustrated when a true emergency occurs. It will mean expense and potential problems with the tenant. We do our best to counsel tenants on what is a true emergency, but it is not always easy. As your property management company, we will do everything we can to minimize the problems and find the solutions, whether it is a true emergency or just a maintenance problem.