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Proactive vs. Reactive Maintenance

The extent your property manager goes to ensure your building is in tip-top shape


The owner of a rental property’s main goal is to attract long-term tenants to the best of their ability. Long-term tenant retention means overall less vacancies, which means consistent streams of rental income in your pocket – all you can ask for, isn’t it? The best way to ensure return on your investment is to maintain your building at regular intervals, both at times when you definitely need to and even at times when you feel its not imperative. Taking these measures will go a long way in easing tenant-landlord relations and having long term success as a property owner. This does not just pertain to rental properties, however. In any situation when it comes to the place you call home and live day-to-day it is very important to be knowledgeable in maintenance so your living space/building is in tip-top shape.

As detailed in our last post, the property manager is responsible for all day-to-day operations of the building. These operations include collecting rent roll, marketing listings on the landlords behalf, filling vacancies, securing the premises, enforcing leases, hiring supers, etc. The most important role however – and the one that has the most long-term impact – is the overall maintenance of the building. Although more often than not the property manager hires a super to do handiwork throughout the building, the overall concept of maintenance falls under the realm of property management and thus for this post we are allocating the responsibility to the property manager. Now, when we mention maintenance you should know there are many different types, especially pertaining to the type of maintenance done by the property manager. Although we will mention others briefly throughout this post (we will get into more detail in later posts), the ones we are focusing on in this case are the more general forms of maintenance – those being proactive maintenance and reactive maintenance. It is important to keep in mind that there is a fine line between the jurisdictions of maintenance. What we mean by that is there are times when the reason a certain issue happens in a given unit of a building is due to improper treatment of the living space. In this situation, it is the tenants responsibility to both pay for and fix the issue at hand (we will address tenant misconduct in later posts). This post will be focusing more so on the maintenance that is within the property manager’s jurisdiction. These are the two just mentioned. They are the most general, typically dealing with building wide issues and deal more so with the necessary functions of the building such as utilities and structural integrity. Now we will dive deeper:


Proactive Maintenance

All types of maintenance require a good understanding of the property and all of its functions. Proactive maintenance is definitely at the very top of the list when it comes to needing to know every facet of the building. Proactive maintenance focuses on the work that needs to be done in order to ensure damage in the future does not occur. ‘Upkeep’ would be a good way of describing this type of maintenance. Every aspect of the building from landscape to hallways to fire escapes, etc. require some form of routine upkeep to ensure the building is up to date with all regulations and codes enforced by various municipalities of the town/city it is apart of. More importantly these routine maintenance protocols are designed to mitigate disaster and assure every tenant occupying your building is safe. Each of these ‘upkeeps’ have a cost and time frame associated with them and thus the property manager must budget for every potential proactive measure. This budgeting includes the cost of materials and staffing required to accomplish the tasks at hand. Depending on the extent of the work at hand, the staffing more often than not will be done through contracting specialized workers, therefore the manager should have an extensive network at their disposal to reach out to when needed. Below is a list of typical proactive maintenance:


  • Common area/hallway clean-up
  • Landscape upkeep (although this falls more under aesthetic maintenance)
  • Routine HVAC system check-up
  • Electrical and plumbing systems check-up
  • Roof check – look out for water damage from rain, loose panels, rotten wood, etc.
  • Clear gutter back-up
  • Fire Escape – make sure it is sturdy and can support weight in case of emergency.    
  • Boiler check (very important!)


Each of these aspects of the building are arguably the most important when it comes to living comfortably. That being said, if any minor issues are overlooked and you fall into the bad habit of negligence, you can find yourself in a significant hole that is very difficult to get out of. And this hole does not just affect you, it hurts everyone in the building. To put it in perspective, replacing a faulty HVAC system can range anywhere from $3,000-10,000 on average, with some costs being much greater if the building is very large. This could set you back significantly, especially if the replacement is due to something that was overlooked and could have easily been fixed if a routine check was done. Don’t be negligent, be proactive!

Reactive Maintenance

Unlike proactive, reactive maintenance is not something the property manager can predict or routinely check-on. Hence, reactive maintenance are all the things that “pop-up” and need immediate fixing. It is much more difficult to budget for this type of maintenance as the property manager is notified of these issues after the fact. These tend to be more stressful as tenants typically call in to the manager the moment something dire occurs, and that moment can happen at any time. The property manager is obligated to address these issues as immediately as they can (and as the situation dictates) as typically these corrective issues are things that need to be fixed in order for the tenant to continue to live comfortably. The property manager’s overall response time to issues like this are what makes or breaks his/her business, but also the long-term tenant retention throughout the building. Therefore, it is imperative the property manager has the correct network in place in order to accommodate the tenants and the owner to the best of their ability. When you think of reactive maintenance, think about all of the possible things that can go wrong in your residence. Because as we know with buildings comes depreciation and with depreciation comes repairs. Some of these issues require immediate attention, such as:


  • Leaking pipes, faucets, roofs, etc.
  • Loose/broken tiles on staircases.
  • Significantly broken windows
  • Elevator malfunctions
  • Floods (superstorm sandy caused many throughout NYC)
  • Power outages


Other issues also require attention, but can be taken care of more efficiently in groups and through scheduling. These include:


  • In unit appliances stop working
  • In unit heating/A/C malfunctions
  • Issues with door locks/tenant needs new keys
  • Holes in the wall (who knows how, but this is always an issue)


It is the property manager’s job to determine whether or not the situation requires immediate help or if a specialized third party can be called to come fix the issue at their convenience. The property manager must also balance the costs associated with either situation and weigh whether or not the issue at hand will yield building code violations, which is something you never want to deal with.

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are other forms of maintenance. Part of facility and building maintenance is construction and remodeling just to name a couple. These maintenances might be required for special business/commercial requirements, to correct a certain obsolescence, or to accommodate certain needs of a tenant. This brings us to a different realm of property management, one we will gladly go into more depth in future posts.  

As you can see, the role of the property manager and the extent to which they go to ensure your building is running smoothly is quite extensive. They must be skilled in various fields as well as functions of management in order for the overall condition of your property to be maintained. The better maintained, the better your tenant retention, the more consistent your rent collection.