It’s the bane of the mom-and-pop property manager: At 2 am, a tenant calls to say a pipe has burst, or the toilet is overflowing, or the heater has suddenly failed.
But Silicon Valley startup Latchel believes it has a solution, and just raised $2.3 million to bring that solution to more landlords.
The company provides a 24-hour, emergency property maintenance hotline.
After landlords and property managers sign up to use the service, their tenants’ maintenance calls and text messages are routed through Latchel, which trouble shoots over the phone and then dispatches repair and maintenance workers when necessary.
Latchel uses a combination of chatbots and actual human call agents to field tenants’ maintenance requests.
Property managers and landlords using Latchel still pay for repairs themselves, but in urgent situations Latchel takes care of the logistics and dispatching. The company also lets property managers use either their own preferred service providers or Latchel’s network of recommended companies.
Non-urgent maintenance requests are sent back to the property manager to address later.
Latchel also lets property managers decide how much money to spend on emergency maintenance before clearing the charges with the managers.
So, for example, a manager could tell Latchel to go ahead and deal with leaky pipes that cost less than $200 to fix, but to seek permission before pulling the trigger on more expensive repairs.
Latchel does not handle other aspects of property management, such as finding tenants or collecting rents.
Instead, the idea is simply to free up existing managers to deal with their other responsibilities more efficiently. And CEO Ethan Lieber said that so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Our customers tell us that before Latchel they would spend up to 50 percent of their day working on maintenance,” Lieber said in a statement. “With Latchel, they spend only 15 minutes per day on maintenance. They use all of that extra time to focus on building their businesses.”
The company charges $25 per month fee for its lowest tier service, plus $1 per unit, and has no minimum unit requirement. That means a mom-and-pop landlord with a single unit can use the service for a total for $26 a month. Latchel also serves large, institutional landlords and charges the same fees.
Latchel also offers a premium tier that costs $25 per month plus a per unit charge ranging from $5 to $10. Latchel handles all property maintenance requests, including those that aren’t urgent, for premium customers.
Latchel was founded in 2017 when now-chief operating officer Will Gordon inherited a real estate investment portfolio from his family. Gordon was working for Amazon at the time, but quickly realized maintenance requests from the various properties were taking up all of his time.
Gordon then approached Lieber to find a technology-based solution, and the two men quickly realized that property managers everywhere were swamped.
“We went out to talk to a bunch of property managers,” Lieber told Inman. “And they were spending up to 45 percent of their day just on maintenance coordination.”
Latchel was subsequently designed to be a 24/7 maintenance department for property managers operating at any scale. And today, just over two years since launching, Latchel provides maintenance for about 43,000 units across the U.S.
Lieber said that the company is most heavily used in parts of California, Texas and the Tri-State Area in the Northeast, though it is available nationwide.
But Latchel execs hope to expand even further with its new funding, which according to a company statement will be used “to grow its customer base and expand on its technology and operations platform.” The $2.3 million came from a group of investors including Bain Capital Ventures, 1984 Ventures, Hack VC and others.
Lieber added that the new funding will be used to beef up Latchel’s software engineering, product development, automation and marketing.
The company has also used the new funding to hire Josh Hirsch to serve as a vice president of growth. Hirsch previously worked as a vice president of growth at lead vetting startup Agentology, and Lieber said Latchel was “really excited to get Josh” and keep growing.
“We want to keep our foot on the gas,” Lieber added.