As a managing agent, you’re only as good as your worst contractor. No matter how effective and attentive your communication with clients is, how knowledgeable and well-connected you are or how reasonable your prices are, if the contractors you employ to take care of repairs and maintenance works aren’t up to scratch, your landlords won’t be happy and the reputation of your brand will be tarnished.
But sometimes it’s not incompetence that means a repairs or maintenance job is completed poorly; it’s inadvertent mismanagement. With that in mind, here are five effective management tips to ensure your contractors are doing exactly what you asked for, exactly how you asked for it.Be clear about expectations
It might sound obvious, but making sure that you’ve made your expectations clear – in terms of duration, cost and completion dates - right from the outset is the first step to ensuring a job is completed to your satisfaction. Keep written records (communicating through repairs and maintenance software systems like Fixflo will provide you with a paper trail in case of any dispute) so that you can prove you were open about your intentions from the start.
Make sure you do your own risk assessment
The government’s Health and Safety Executive advises that all companies engaging contractors should complete their own risk assessment prior to appointment and it’s advice that managing agents should take on board too. Conducting your own risk assessment will give you an idea of all the potential liabilities involved, which should enable you to a) measure the calibre of the contractor (by comparing your assessments) and b) give you a more comprehensive idea of the work required.
Decide what level of management and supervision is required before the work commences
Make sure your contractors know what level of oversight you’re planning to engage in so that they feel adequately supported and not harassed by your presence on-site. Your site visits will obviously depend on the size of the job and your previous experiences with the contractor, but it’s advisable to stop by with relative frequency to make sure things are being run to your satisfaction.
Don’t pass the buck
As the contractor is an independent party who has been specifically hired to resolve your repairs or maintenance issue, it can be tempting to think the responsibility for the smooth running of the project rests with them. Actually you’re equally as responsible – which means you should be giving contractors a site induction (to be repeated every six months) and sharing any safety information or site rules from the outset. Not only do you have a legal and moral responsibility to do so, but the contractor is a representative of your brand – so as far as the landlord is concerned, any mistakes he makes are your mistakes as well.
Invest in good comms
So much of being a managing agent falls down to maintaining appropriate levels of communication. In this instance, agents should maintain regular communication with their contractors to ensure they know exactly when their contractor is on-site (which they should then communicate to tenants) and what stage of progress the job is at (which should then be passed onto landlords).
We’ve all heard the nightmare stories about cowboy contractors but the majority of contractors are well-trained, well-resourced and likely to do a good job – as long as they’re managed well. For more information about engaging and managing contractors, download our free eBook, The Property Manager’s Guide to Managing Contractors.