Not another blog about rental property maintenance! Yes, we’re joining the bandwagon because looking after your rental property is a no-brainer. Yet, so many landlords choose to ignore the advice, especially in winter – the worst time of the year.
We encourage our clients to see winter property maintenance in a more commercial light. It’s an investment in your property – both as a building and as a business. As landlords ourselves, we don’t just carry out essential, remedial maintenance; we’re more proactive about checking our properties and anticipating the need for repairs. Why? Because…
- It doesn’t make sense to allow your property investment to decline due to neglect.
- The longer something goes unnoticed or ignored, the more serious and therefore expensive it’s likely to be.
- The Tenant Fees Act makes it even more important to take care of your property and limit the opportunity for something to go wrong. By carrying out the duty of care you owe your tenants you also limit the opportunity for them to find fault. Safeguarding your relationship with tenants is vital from a commercial and ethical point of view.
So, we advise our landlord clients to see the care of their property as simply being part of their profitability plans.
Rental Property Maintenance Checklist
The following checklist has the top 5 actions for profitable landlords.
Gutters, drains and roofs
Look out for loose or missing roof tiles which may lead to leaks from rain or melting snow. Flat roofs need checking to ensure water is draining away, instead of pooling and causing damage. Clear leaves and garden debris from gutters and drains to ensure the free flow of water. Finally, seal holes and cracks in walls to deter mice from seeking warmth during the colder months.
Since April 2018, landlords in England and Wales are legally required to get an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of band E or above. The EPC estimates a property’s cost of lighting, heating and hot water. The higher the rating, the lower your tenants’ fuel bills are likely to be. So, draught-proofing, energy-efficient lighting and boiler servicing will all make a difference. Similarly, water-saving devices and maintenance to reduce dripping taps are important environmental tasks that also make commercial sense.
Heating and pipes
Boiler failure is the single most common problem suffered by tenants. Servicing should be an annual activity and is best carried out before the cold months set in. Check radiators and make sure pipes are lagged, especially those in exposed places. If there’s a working fireplace, any electric or gas heater needs servicing and possibly the chimney sweeping. Condensation in the colder months can lead to damp patches, so ensure extractor fans are working.
Alarms and security
Any room with a solid fuel appliance (e.g. a working fireplace) should also be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm. Change the batteries and check they’re working.
Extreme cold weather can freeze locks, so spray with lubricant to ensure they don’t stick.
If there’s a burglar alarm check that too and any outdoor security lighting.
An easy to maintain garden, including trees, can be a major attraction to tenants seeking outdoor space for family fun and relaxation. Though the upkeep of a garden is generally down to tenants, trees are not usually included in the contract. So, it’s in your interest to ensure the garden is truly easy to maintain and trees are cut back so they don’t become a problem, especially during stormy weather.
Fences and herbaceous boundaries are the landlord’s responsibility too, so don’t wait for them to fall down or deteriorate.
A prerequisite for insurance
Our insurance partner specialises in market-leading and competitively-priced insurance cover specifically for landlords. However, like most insurers, they require that many of the above rental property maintenance recommendations are attended to, otherwise they may decline cover for certain insured risks, such as water leaks.
Also, if your tenant’s own belongings are damaged due to an insured (and preventable) risk such as a flood, then you may find yourself with a claim from the tenant, or their contents insurer, for the cost of replacement.
Good property maintenance guide for tenants
Finally, where do your tenants feature in your rental property maintenance plans? Well, it’s in your interest to help your tenants look after your property – but don’t assume they’ll be property-savvy like you.
So, create an easy-to-understand handbook that includes preventative measures during the winter months, such as:
- Being able to locate the mains water stop cock (and because some are difficult to access or hard to turn, we advise our landlords provide a stopcock key).
- Leaving the heating on low when they aren’t in the house to help keep pipes from freezing.
- Opening the loft hatch (when it’s very cold) for the same reason.
- Ventilating the property to reduce condensation – use extractor fans and / or open windows, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Spraying a lubricant on front and back door locks to stop them freezing.
- Leaving some lights on when the house is unoccupied to deter burglars.
- Not ignoring damp patches on walls and ceilings.
- Taking care not to leave food waste for hungry rats and foxes to find.
You want your tenants to feel safe and be able to avoid, or at least manage any minor hiccups rather than call you or your agent. That’s why rental property maintenance makes sense to the profitable landlord.