Over the past years, your response to our surveys has provided us a roadmap of what improvements we have needed to make to our services. The number one issue causing complaint and frustration for our clients and their tenants was the maintenance and repair process. Beginning in the third quarter of 2009, and throughout 2010, we redesigned virtually all of our repair procedures and implemented new measures of quality control. The revamp of the department is yielding dramatic improvements.
When a repair call comes in our new tracking system first searches for any preferred contractor or warranty/service contract provider that you have indicated to us (in your management agreement). If the repair is expected to be under $500 we will approve the repair. If the cost is expected to be above $500 and the issue is not urgent we will ask for an estimate. We will obtain up to three estimates for non-urgent items over the $500 threshold. Next, the appropriate contractor is determined and simultaneously a notice of the impending repair is sent to you, the contractor and your tenant. You are made aware because the next month’s proceeds may be affected. The contractor is given the nature of the repair, contact information of the tenant and our expectation as to when it should be completed. To the tenant we provide contact information of the contractor. The tenant notification has proven to be one of the most effective and appreciated implementation as it empowers the tenant to contact the contractors directly in the event an appointment needs to be changed for any reason. It also holds our contractors accountable to promptly set up appointments and complete the work in a timely fashion.
We have established a vendor responsibility policy which we require to be signed by any vendor who expects to do business with us. Amongst the responsibilities of the vendor is the requirement to bill us within 30 days of completion of the job. Bills will no longer arrive months late (a problem with some vendors in the past). We have all contractors’ rates and the rates of their competitors on file and we must be made aware of any labor rate increases before we order work. Pictures are required to be submitted with all invoices to ensure we have documentation of the repair. As a legal precaution, our tracking system also ensures that every contractor we use is current on their liability insurance.
Many vendors we use have been working with us for many years and we know that their prices are reasonable, they deliver good service, and they complete repairs in a timely manner. But even our most trusted contractors are being evaluated on a regular basis. Dave Buckingham, the Repairs Manager, and his staff interviews new contractors regularly to promote competition among our vendors, and we are always looking to upgrade the vendors we use. Our vendors must consistently perform at a high level or they will no longer earn business from us.
Lastly, when procedural changes are made, it is often difficult to change the dynamic and enforcement between contractors and the McGrath employees who have known each other for many years. To cause this positive change to happen (instead of just being discussed), we changed our repair personnel and have made the new staff accountable for implementing these new procedures. Dave Buckingham, a McGrath property manager for over seven years, took over as the manager of the repairs department in 2009. “I have worked with McGrath for five years and while it was a challenge to re-design this department, I had clear direction that improvements were necessary. Today our contractors are very cognizant that they are being continually evaluated on objective performance standards and our McGrath employees are fully invested in the new system.”
While our company culture is about continual improvement in every area, we are confident that the area in which you will see the most significant improvements in 2011 is in repairs. We thank you again for your participation in our surveys. Your comments were the catalyst to these improvements.