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How Landlords Can Interview Furnace Repair Companies

Key Takeaways

  • Heating is essential in all rental units, so interviewing trusted HVAC technicians before an emergency arises will rescue you and your tenant if the furnace stops working. The advantage of seeking smaller contractors for quotes is they are less likely to work off of commission. Commercial companies may be more accessible during holidays and weekends. Ideally, you’ll want a backup plan.
  • Designs and parts for older furnaces are more readily available than more complex modern products.
  • It would be ideal if a landlord could get their furnace repaired rather than replace it with a costly modern high-efficiency (HE) furnace. The difference between servicing and replacement could save you thousands.

Published on Dec 9, 2023 | Updated on Dec 11, 2023

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When the heat fails your tenants in the dead of winter, it’s good to have a primary HVAC technician and a few backup technicians you can rely on. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide suitable living conditions for your renters. Learn how to find a certified professional to repair your furnace and what qualifications to look for.

Who to call for a broken furnace?

Contact an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) contractor to schedule furnace inspections, repairs, and replacements. Any time you’re having issues with the AC or heating, an HVAC technician will have the proper training and qualifications to make repairs. An HVACR specializes in heating and air conditioning, as well as refrigeration.

In most states in the U.S., you must be licensed as an HVAC technician. Similarly in Ontario, the HVAC trade is regulated, meaning technicians must complete a minimum of hours of training to be certified. Most Canadian provinces require training. To learn more about what an HVAC specialist can do, read our article about hiring an HVAC contractor [link to once published] and keeping up with cooling and heating annual maintenance.

How to find potential contractors

Always ask for recommendations from trusted sources, whether you ask your neighbors close to the rental or search Google for qualified technicians specializing in heating systems and furnace repairs in your area. Reading online reviews can be very telling. If you’re concerned about accidents or property damage during repairs, ask the contractor if they have insurance requirements, such as liability insurance.

Most HVAC technicians and contractors who repair air conditioning units and furnaces also perform routine maintenance. The goal for most landlords is to find the most trustworthy technician offering the lowest price.

Interviewing a reputable contractor

SingleKey’s Director of Customer Engagement, MacKenzie Wilson is also a landlord and host of the FOR RENT podcast. In an episode earlier this year, he recounts his experience when a landlord texted him on New Year’s Eve, reporting he had no heat. MacKenzie was three hours away from the rental.

During the first service call, a more prominent commercial repair company visited the property and diagnosed the issue within 15 minutes. They concluded that something was wrong with the heat exchanger, and MacKenzie would need to replace the furnace at the hefty price of $7,440, plus the goods and service tax of $1,500. The job included cutting a new exhaust pipe and routing it outside to the furnace. However, the estimate did not include repairing the gaping holes in the drywall or any other cosmetic fixes once the installation was complete.

The second company MacKenzie contacted offered him a free consultation and suggested a furnace replacement for $800 less than the original quote. As he grappled with spending more than $8,000 on the replacement, MacKenzie posted a question in a Facebook group called Alberta Landlord Community, which provided customer reviews and gave him a bit more peace of mind.

MacKenzie received valuable feedback and price ranges that gave him insight into reasonable costs. In addition to learning that economy brands are easier to replace, he also found out that older furnace patents are more widely accessible, and therefore, more affordable. In the end, MacKenzie ended up going with a smaller contractor who quoted him $400 to service the furnace––a significant drop in costs from the previous quotes. 

Here are some of MacKenzie’s takeaways:
  • Even when you suspect what the issue may be, allow the contractor to do their own problem-solving.
  • Look for a basic model that offers energy efficiency and is easier to repair and replace.
  • High-efficiency furnaces tend not to expel as much heat as low-efficiency furnaces, so when temperatures are low, ice freezes over the vents. Energy-efficient furnaces can cause the ice to freeze the pipes.

For more on MacKenzie’s furnace replacement experience, explore the full podcast episode below. 

How to review quotes from furnace repair companies

Another thing to look out for when collecting estimates is to obtain a hard copy of a quote. Observe how much information is outlined in the estimate.

Here is an example of a good quote versus a quote that’s lacking detailed information:

Advantages of hiring big and small furnace repair companies

When you’re working with a bigger commercial company, chances are the contractors are earning a base salary plus a commission, which could provide them with more motivation to upsell the customer. Commercial companies may also have contracts or handshake deals with specific manufacturers, which could hike the prices of parts needed for installation and repairs.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t find ethical contractors who work for more prominent companies, but it’s always a good idea to request a quote from a smaller company to compare costs and services.

Smaller companies typically only pay their contractors hourly, so there is no incentive to persuade the customer to replace a furnace rather than service it.

Ideally, you want a high-reparability solution where you don’t have to pay more for a replacement. 

The advantages of a bigger company are that you will get experienced contractors, and they will likely have more availability to work with you during peak holiday seasons. On the other hand, one trade person typically operates a smaller company with less availability. 

FAQ: How to find furnace repair companies

Search for technicians who are certified, licensed, and insured. Read online business reviews. Contact them for a consultation if the positive reviews outweigh the bad business reviews. A reputable company can be found online, through Facebook groups, or by word of mouth. Some service companies act as AC repair companies and work as heating contractors.

If the thermostat goes bad or if there are any faulty heating elements, this usually means that the furnace needs repairs. Look for uneven heating or, of course, a complete lack of heating. When an old furnace starts emitting pollutants and comprising the air quality, you may need a replacement.

Yes! A landlord should quickly address any heating complaints, especially if the weather is freezing. The landlord must maintain habitable conditions and avoid imposing on the tenant in their rental property as much as possible. That’s why having a repair person for all emergencies will help reduce scrambling when an emergency happens.

Learn how to screen tenants like a pro. Finding a tenant who alerts you ahead of time of potential appliance problems could save you money.

Our final thoughts

SingleKey offers the best tenant screening services by providing a comprehensive Tenant Report that verifies the prospective tenant’s income, employment, and previous addresses. You’ll also gain access to a potential tenant’s credit report and learn how financially reliable and trustworthy they are.

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