How to Educate Apartment Residents on Appliance Use

woman making maintenance call


Do your residents know how to operate their apartment appliances? Open the box to any new microwave, oven or washer/dryer combination and you’ll see an encyclopedia-style set of operating instructions. Whether they are put to use is another story.

When a new resident is handed the keys to an apartment, an appliance operations manual or service guide may be included. But chances are, those very important instructions won’t get read, and instead tossed in a drawer or the trash. Everybody knows how to work a dishwasher, oven or washing machine, right?

According to some apartment maintenance experts, this is not the case. And an inability to use appliances often leads to unnecessary and costly maintenance calls.

“We assume residents know how to operate these things, but in practice they don’t,” says Paul Rhodes, National Maintenance and Safety Instructor for the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI).

Dishwashers among others are frequently misused in apartment homes

Rhodes, who travels the country teaching maintenance, has seen plenty of instances where residents – particularly younger ones – submit service requests because their food isn’t cooked, clothes aren’t dried or the dishwasher makes a mess. He said more and more technicians are being called out to fix machines that aren’t broken, only misused.

Dishwashers are a frequent culprit.

“Probably the biggest or most recognizable one is that residents use regular dish soap in the dishwasher and it foams everywhere,” Rhodes said. “Or, they don’t load the dishwasher properly. They either overload or stack bowls on other bowls on top of other stuff so it doesn’t clean properly.”

Residents even fail to run hot water before starting dishwashers, sometimes resulting in dirty dishes.

Other problems include lint buildup on dryer screens, cooking without preheating ovens and overloading washing machines. Some don’t know how to use a toilet plunger, Rhodes says.

overloaded dishwasher

Video technology can help educate residents on appliance use

One solution is to educate residents through technology, while issuing a printed manual certainly doesn’t hurt. Short videos that are easily accessible through personal devices can show residents how to properly use appliances and increase their overall satisfaction, he says.

“You can produce 30-second videos on how appliances work,” Rhodes said. “How to load a dishwasher, what soap to use and how to close the door. It’s realizing the fact, residents don’t always understand how to properly operate the appliance.”

Toni Blake of has worked with clients to produce free Resident YouTube videos featuring common service tips from technicians. YouTube QR codes allow instant access to tips on how to avoid service issues on a specific appliance.

“Imagine that a resident opens the cabinet under the sink to see a YouTube QR on the garbage disposal,” she said. “Upon scanning, it automatically opens to a video of maintenance personnel talking to the resident from their smart device. Maintenance can appear through YouTube on their mobile device in their apartment, right when they need it without overtime or travel.”

“The apartment community maintenance team needs educational tools”

Blake says it’s obvious by looking at some work orders that residents are still making mistakes. She says maintenance tools that offer better diagnostics for the staff could provide a more efficient plan for servicing residents in today’s high rent marketplace.

Blake has developed maintenance-designed service request diagnostics cue cards for front office personnel to use while fielding service requests. The cards provide the details the service team needs so proper tools and supplies are brought to complete repairs the first time.  Questions are also designed to quickly get to the root of the issue and avoid unnecessarily sending a service technician. Two minutes of property trained telephone diagnostics with the office team could avoid 20 unnecessary minutes in the field for the service technician, she says.

“The maintenance team needs educational tools,” Blake said. “They are bigger part of success than really we’ve allowed them to be.”

She said clients who have implemented proactive maintenance-guided education for residents and office staff have reduced the total number of work orders by 17 percent, saving time and money.

A better informed resident saves multifamily communities time and money

time and money

Rhodes favors any kind of help that makes maintenance easier for technicians. Too often, their time is wasted when something could have been handled in the front office or because technicians are not adequately prepared for the service call based on the information they have.
Putting a teaching tool like a video into the resident’s hands helps reduce this problem. Rhodes suggests sticking the QR code on the side of the refrigerator so the resident is always reminded that help is just a tap away.

“The intent of video is not to teach resident how to fix anything, but teach the resident how to use the appliance,” he said. “The bulk of service requests come because a resident doesn’t know how the appliance works.”

A better educated resident can save time and money for apartments. And they can make sure that chicken gets thoroughly baked.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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