Why Online Repair Request Forms Are Best
Most Austin Property Managers, in fact all that I know, require tenant repair requests to be submitted in writing. This is required by Texas Property Code as well as the commonly used TAR (Texas Association of Realtors) and TAA (Texas Apartment Association) lease forms. It’s good practice for tenants to follow, even if the landlord or property manager doesn’t strictly enforce it. As a tenant, you want all of your important communication regarding your lease to be documented in case the worst case scenario ever comes about and you end up in court over a dispute.
At Crossland Property Management, we provide an online repair request form for the convenience of our tenants. 99% of our repair requests originate here, albeit sometimes after I direct a tenant there from a phone call or email. Occassionally tenants fuss about this. “Why can’t you just take the info over the phone?” is a common gripe. “Because we already agreed in the lease agreement that repair requests are submitted in writing or online” is my response. “And we make that super easy for you by providing an online form”.
The operational efficiencies of having all repair requests originate online through a repair request form are phenomenal.
1) The online request form is interactive.
This is very important. All property managers should be programming your online repair requests with this functionality. It’s simple to do even for non-programmers if you’re using the right web tools. Sorry, but none of the “out of the box” pre-fab websites that many property managers use provide for this, which is another good reason to develop, host and manage your own website with WordPress, then you can use a simple Forms Plugin.
For example, on my repair request form, once the checkbox under “Problem” is checked “Air Conditioner” or “Furnace”, an informational blurb automatically appears above the Submit button. It reads:
“Many of our service calls for A/C and/or furnace result in “user error” as the cause, especially when seasons change from hot/cold and thermostats are not properly set. Please double-check your thermostat and also make sure you have clean filters properly installed. If you feel confident that the thermostat and filter(s) are in order, proceed with your request so we can get out to have a look.”
Likewise, if the tenant checks “Electrical” as the problem, the following blurb automatically appears:
“Many of our service calls for “plugs not working” or “light won’t come on” turn out to be tripped breakers or GFI outlets. This could result in a repair charge-back because you are responsible for checking your breakers and GFI outlets before submitting a repair request. If you’re confident that your electrical problem is something other than a tripped breaker or GFI outlet, proceed with your request and we’ll come out to have a look. Thanks.”
If the Tenant checks “Yes” for pets on premise, a required field suddenly appears stating “Describe the number and type of pets” so we can be informed about the pets without having to look it up, but we don’t even ask the question of tenants without pets.
By directing all repair requests to the website and an interactive repair request form, resolution of the problem can begin before I even know about it. And it can even be entirely resolved before I even know about it if the tenant abandons the repair request to go reset a GFI breaker, or double-check the thermostat. I have effectively “managed” the problem without even being aware it existed, or expending any time or effort, by instead informing and empowering the tenant automatically, in real time, to take just one extra step before sending the repair request.
This “real time” handling of repair matters cannot be accomplished with pre-printed forms or instructions, nor a move-in packet that would have been long discarded or lost 2 years into the tenancy. It requires modern, innovative web technologies.
2) The form is programmed with “required fields” to ensure collection of all needed data
This helps the tenant to provide all needed contact information and problem description such that once I receive the email of the completed form, I can simply forward that request via email to my vendor in an instant, even from my iPhone. Done. It’s handled, and I don’t have any paper to print, route, scan, file or keep. I can’t do that with paper forms. I can’t even do it with free form emails that tenants sometimes send, because those rarely have all of the address and contact information that I need to provide to our vendors, which is why I always reply with a link to the online form and direct tenants to complete the request online.
Also, the repair request is archived in gmail (searchable forever by tenant name, email, property address, etc) and also automatically logged into a database on my web server as backup. This archiving and permanent searchable record retention is automatic.
3) Tenant Automatically Receives a copy
Upon submitting the repair request, the tenant automatically receives an email confirmation copy of the actual request, with a pre-written general cover message explaining what will happen next, that a vendor will be contacting them directly to set the appointment, that we strive for 1-3 business day resolution of non-urgent repair issues, etc.
This automatically closes the loop on the initial repair communication event and leaves the tenant fully informed and well-served, having received an instant response to the request with relevant information. And I haven’t had to lift a finger to accomplish that level of service because it’s all automated.
The result of this system is that we’re able to respond quicker than property managers and landlords who don’t utilize a systematical, simple approach to accepting and taking action on repair requests. Many Austin Property Managers still provide paper forms to fill out and fax in for repqir requests. That’s so 1990s and is not a modern, efficient way to provide service to tenants and owners.
If you’re one of our tenants who sometimes gripes about receiving a response to your email or phone call saying “please go to the following online form and complete your repair request”, I do it not to be a difficult or uncaring but because I want to serve you better and get your problem handled quickly. I just need you to follow the process agreed to in your lease, nothing more.