The recent cold snap could offer extra challenges for landlords – you are entirely reliant upon your tenants to report problems with the property, and you can’t just assume that your tenants will take the simple but necessary precautions to prevent costly damage.
Here’s some advice from Maidenhead-based property rental Specialists, Thames Valley Lettings, on how to attract high quality tenants and work with them to keep your letting property in prime condition.
Inform and work with your tenant
Having a good relationship with your tenants is the best protection for your property.
You don’t need to be best friends, you do however need to let them know what you need from them and make sure they feel comfortable to get in touch if they spot any problems. Here’s how to do that:
- Don’t view tenant concerns as a nuisance, view them as an opportunity to keep your property in tip top condition.
- Consider putting together an information pack, including things like the location of stopcocks, basic boiler operation, and so on. Remind tenants they should use the heating (using the timer system if one is available) in cold weather, even if they go away, for example, over Christmas.
- Leave some basic items in your property as part of the inventory, such as a torch and basic tool kit, so tenants are equipped to deal with very minor repairs such as a loose screw.
- Also make sure that tenants have contact numbers for you (or your lettings management agency), and for the relevant utility companies.
Pipes, Plumbing and Heating
Water can often be a landlord’s worst enemy – water damage is expensive to fix, no matter where it comes from. Both indoors and outdoors, in cold weather, blocked or leaky pipes can freeze – which leads to them expanding and bursting. The flooding that results is costly for you, and potentially devastating for your tenant.
If you aren’t using a letting agent, ensure your Tenant knows that if the heating or plumbing isn’t working well, or if they spot any bulging pipes, they need to let you know so you can get it fixed fast. Heating issues are critical – heating is a big ally against damp and pipework, as well as something tenants view as important, so make sure it is always in good working order. Likewise, sort out any leaky taps or pipework issues quickly, a niggle can quickly turn into a major leak.
For heating, it’s worth investing in boiler cover, peace of mind costs as little as £5 per month.
Tenants are unlikely to notice minor external problems, so this one is usually down to you.
Externally, check all guttering and pipework for breaks, leaks, and blockages and get any problems fixed before Winter bites – water damage is more expensive than a little planned maintenance.
If there are drains, make sure they are free flowing, and make sure that the doors on your property are solid. Check window frames and doors, make sure any bare wood is painted or protected and replace any damaged window or door frames. Not only will the property look more attractive, it will be warmer and more secure.
Ensure both pipes and guttering are properly secured to the walls, so water flows where it is supposed to. Check too that all the windows can be freely opened and closed (many a tenant trying to push open a stuck window has shattered the window in the process!)
Finally, check the brickwork around your property for cracks, which could potentially allow water in, leading to damp – prevention is better than cure.
When your property is empty
It’s easy to think that if your property is empty, you can forget about it, but empty properties are at risk.
The first thing to do is to make sure your property is properly secured so squatters can’t get in – once in, it can be expensive to get them out. At the very least, ensure that the locking mechanisms meet your insurance policy requirements (usually 5 lever mortice locks and window locks). If you aren’t insured, get insured!
However, security isn’t the only risk of an empty property, the property also need to be maintained. At a bare minimum, visit regularly, check the inside and outside of the property and open the windows when you are there. Keep the heating on at a very low level in cold weather.
Regular checks on your property are vital – If you have a letting agent, make sure they agree to do this for you, and remind them to report back if they notice anything that needs attention.
Fix It – Don’t Patch It!
Lettings agents will expect a property to be kept in good order. That’s because they’ve learned though years of experience that skimping on maintenance is expensive in the long run. Tenants may not moan too much about the niggly little problems, but it doesn’t mean you should ignore them, because they are only likely to get worse.
The damp-ravaged door, the flimsy pipe, the dodgy lock? We’ve seen tenants unable to go to work because their rotten door came off it’s hinges after heavy rain. However, the same door would have left your property vulnerable to burglars and will offer no protection against flooding.
Even though you aren’t living in the property yourself, a good landlord knows that investing in their property doesn’t end after purchase.
By keeping your property in prime condition, you will attract better quality tenants and ultimately maintain your investment.
About the author
Thames Valley Lettings are an online letting agent based in the Maidenhead area.
They offer a number of letting services for landlords, from advertising only to full lettings management. Visit www.thamesvalleylettings.co.uk to learn more.