Vacation Rentals 101: How to avoid vacation property service calls

lonely repairman

There are a number of issues that arise (during the summer) that will likely increase your chance of requiring costly maintenance calls.

Since tenants usually check in on weekends, most service calls are initiated during that time. Calling for a service person could be quite expensive with “after hours” or “emergency” service calls.

Many of the issues can be avoided by being aware of common errors frequently committed by tenants.

Here are some examples of common complaints:

Refrigerator isn’t operating property

The hot water heater is not working

The air conditioner isn’t cooling property

Keys don’t work

Dryer isn’t drying clothes

The disposal is jammed

Here are some suggestions for avoiding service calls

Refrigerator: If the freezer is working, so is the refrigerator. A fan blows the cold air from the freezer down into the refrigerator. Common error:  an empty refrigerator does not hold the “cold.” Tenants arriving will place food in a warm refrigerator and instinctively turn the dial to a lower setting. The tenants have the mistaken thought that the refrigerator will get cold more rapidly if they turn the dial down low. Unfortunately, when the dial is turned down low the system will freeze and leave the tenant without refrigeration at all.

Correction: Ask the tenant what the dial is set on.  If they inadvertently froze up the system, with a low setting, they will need to shut the refrigerator completely down, wait six hours and turn it back on to a medium setting. More info here

If the dial is not set up high, ask if there is anything blocking the vent. If the vent is blocked it will prevent air from being pushed to the refrigerator side.

Hot water heater: Most hot water heaters in vacation properties are not large enough to allow for multiple showers at the same time.  Common error: If a dishwasher is run shortly before showering, the hot water may run out before the shower is completed.

Correction: Check the breaker to be sure the hot water breaker is on.  Make sure to allow at least 20 minute between showers, and that the dishwasher has not been run for at least an hour before expecting hot water. More info here

Air conditioner not working: The same principle for the refrigerator applies to air conditioning. Common error: Tenants frequently leave doors open while carrying in their belongings. In an attempt to cool the unit quickly, the thermostat is frequently turned down. Unfortunately, this can easily cause the system to freeze up, resulting in only warm air emitting from the air conditioning unit.

Correction: Ask what the thermostat is set on and make sure the circuit breaker is on. If the thermostat is set lower than 20 degrees below the outside temperature, the system will likely freeze. The system will need to be turned completely off and allowed to thaw for approximately eight hours. When it is eventually turned back on, the thermostat needs to be set at 76. Once the temperature reaches 76, the thermostat could be lowered a little at a time to cool the unit. Remember an air conditioner is limited to a 20 degree difference between the outside air and the thermostat.  As an example, if the outside temperature is 90, the unit will likely freeze up before it cools lower than 70. However, if the outside temperature is 100, the air conditioning is not expected to cool below 80.  Turning the thermostat down lower will only freeze the system up. More info here.

Owners are advised to replace their air conditioning filters each spring and every few years have their duct work cleared.

Keys don’t work: Often when keys are cut for a unit, unless they are cut from a master key, the newly cut keys may be slightly “off’ and not work properly.  Common error: Tenants do not spend time struggling with a key.  

Correction: Make sure you use a master key to cut additional keys from. Rub the sides of the key on a sidewalk or road. Sometimes the metal “burrs” keeps the key from fitting into the keyway properly.

Try to pull the key out slightly.  Sometimes the master key isn’t fully inserted into the key machine to the “stop” position on the blank. More info here

Dryer not drying properly: Many vacation properties have stack washer and dryers. They will not hold a  load as large as your regular household dryer. Common error: If a dryer is overloaded it will need to be run a number of times to properly dry the contents. This may cause overheating and a breakdown of the appliance. 

Correction: Check the circuit breaker to be sure it is fully on. Do not overload dryer. Check vent hose for excessive lint that may not allow the hot air to vent out. More info here

Remember: At the beach, towels and sand are the most frequent items in a dryer. Towels always need more time and fewer towels should be placed in the dryer.

Disposal jammed: Food particles frequently caused the disposal to stop working. Common error: Tenants often place food in the disposal without running the disposal to clear it between uses.

Correction: If the disposal is making a humming sound it is likely jammed. Insert a broom handle into the sink drain into the disposal and gently turn the mechanism clockwise. This should free up the disposal and allow it to operate properly. If there is no humming noise, the reset button on the housing of the disposal under the sink should do the trick, once the disposal is cleared.  If shells or hard substances are in the disposal preventing the blade from turning, make sure the disposal is off (the circuit breaker should be off) before cleaning the debris from the disposal, reset and start. More info here

Service calls, especially after hours, or on weekends or holidays, can cost an exorbitant amount of money. Many times these charges may be avoided by a few timely questions of your tenants, which will make your investment more profitable.

Joanna Laslo
Joanna Laslo
Broker/Owner of Beach Real Estate, Inc., a local that Graduated from Stephen Decatur High School.  35+ years of experience in real estate sales.  Joanna is a broker in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.  Joanna also manages Ocean City weekly condo and vacation rentals.

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