What to Look for in a Maintenance Employee

When you’re in the business of property management, there’s always something in need of repair. Busted plumbing, bad electrical, improper heating or air conditioning. All of these things can escalate if you don’t have a knowledgeable maintenance guy on-call or on-site to address the issue immediately. Left untreated, a leaky pipe can turn into a busted pipe, leaving you with flooded rooms, angry tenants, and a bill in the thousands.

Success in the property management business demands hiring the right maintenance employee. But how? Follow these steps.

Look for a Handyman

You can’t afford to hire a specialist for every little issue, a plumber for clogged toilets, an electrician for faulty lighting, etc. There are simply too many small miscellaneous problems that regularly crop up to be hiring a tradesman in that specific field. You’d wind up putting these specialists’ kids through college! No, what you need is someone who can do a bit of everything—a jack-of-all-trades.

Consider all the possible duties a maintenance employee might have for a moderately-sized apartment complex:

  • Routine inspections of the grounds and equipment
  • Basic repairs and maintenance
  • Preventative maintenance

To earn his keep, your maintenance employee needs to be able to at least handle the basics, from performing small repairs and upkeep, to dealing with larger issues. Ideally, seek out a handyman who’s at least spent a bit of time in all the various trades. That said, also look for someone who is humble enough to recognize the limits of their skill set and knows when it’s time to call in a professional tradesman.

Do You Need Someone On-Call or On-Site?

It’s wise to ask whether you need a full-time property manager who works on-site, or a person or team who’s on-call. To find an answer, try and gauge how regularly you’ll need help.

How many units do you have? Do they need to clean units in addition to repair? Will you need one maintenance guy, or a team? There are so many things you’ll have to consider. In CA and NY, a live-in property manager is required if you have a certain number of units.

Consider the pros and cons of each route:

  • On-Call
    • Pros: This route cuts down on paperwork. Also, all spending on repairs is tax-deductible.
    • Cons: Higher wait time between the problem and repair. You may also have to use a service, which means several workers of varying quality and less ability to screen them.
  • On-Site
    • Pros: The moment an issue crops up, they’re on it.
    • Cons: You have to pay more and set up a compensation plan since they’re full-time.

Whatever you decide, remember to have cash on hand to bring in an expert for repairs that surpasses your maintenance employee’s abilities.

Have them Take a Test

You don’t know a wrench from a screwdriver, so how can you tell whether or not your handyman actually knows what he’s doing? Give him a test. For $50, the National Center for Housing Management (NCHM) offers the Maintenance Technical Aptitude Test (MTAT).

According to NCHM, this 50-question test measures “knowledge of key concepts, terminology, and methods common to multifamily housing maintenance. The test is intended for use as one part of a comprehensive process of assessing skills, knowledge, experience and attitudes.”

Test categories include:

  • Appliance repair
  • Decorating and painting
  • Electrical, plumbing and HVAC
  • Exterior maintenance
  • General carpentry
  • General repairs and work methods
  • Safety
  • Tools and equipment

That is a relatively small cost to pay if it grants you confidence in your employee.  

Perform a Background Check

Once you think you’ve located the right maintenance employee, you’ll have to request that they consent to a background check. Using employment screening solutions allow you to dig into a person’s past, checking for criminality and confirming prior work experience. This action protects you from liability and ensures the safety of your tenants and employees.

Start Hiring

Hiring the wrong maintenance employee could potentially break your rental property. Look for someone who has a history of reliable work and that’s capable of doing a bit of everything. Don’t just hire the first handyman you find. Hire the right one!