Landlords often breathe a sigh of relief when a property is rented on a long- term agreement – tenants are usually responsible for keeping the property in reasonable order and letting you know if repairs are needed.
However, the downside of a property on a long lease is that essential exterior maintenance and checks you would do on your own home may not be undertaken by a tenant, and they won’t necessarily notice . Tenants are more likely to call or act only when there is a problem, not wanting to ‘be a nuisance’.
By taking time to do essential maintenance in Winter, landlords could save themselves a big bill when the tenant finally leaves. A little regular maintenance will make the property easier to eventually re-let, and allow you to make essential repairs and make sure any home improvements you have made are doing the job.
Home improvements to rented properties are usually only done when essential, as they come out of the bottom line. However, as they are likely to receive less regular attention than in your own home, it’s important to choose a reputable provider – and cost isn’t a reliable guarantee of reputation. If you choose to make exterior improvements, it’s also worth checking what the supplier recommends in terms of essential maintenance and manage that yourself, at least once per year, because how the property looks will have a big impact on future rental value.
So what priorities should landlords have in terms of maintaining the property exterior? Which Trusted Trader, Steve Cody, has been manufacturing home improvements in Neath, South Wales, for more than 20 years. He supplies to the trade and also supplies and fits his products for local customers alongside his son, Christian. Steve’s company, Mister Window, has an enviable reputation throughout Wales and beyond, so much so that other tradesmen often come to Steve for advice. We asked Steve what landlords can do to extend the life of any home improvements they invest in.
“Of course, it starts with fitting good quality products in the first place, and it’s no wonder customers get confused – I’ve seen it all over the years. It’s hard for customers to understand why some installers charge £3,000 and some quote £50,000 for what seem like the same windows, but I can clear that one up fast! Anyone who quotes £50k and offers you a discount of £20k is just using a sales technique. They are probably using good quality products, but ask for the specifics – traders much cheaper can probably match product quality, provided they aren’t using imports.
“However, at the other end of the scale, anyone too cheap has to make their savings somewhere, whether using lower quality products imported from abroad, using unqualified staff or not meeting industry standard guarantees. My advice is to look at quality, but also to look at guarantees, trade memberships, quality, service, length of trading, formal assurances and customer reviews. This is even more important when you won’t be living in the property yourself to notice minor defects.
“Landlords in particular can be tempted to plump for the cheapest option, or even do a self-installation to save money, but often it’s a false economy – and the last thing landlords need is hassle. A good quality professional installation is usually guaranteed to last ten years, but with a little regular maintenance, they can last a lifetime.”
So what planned maintenance should landlords be looking to do at this time of year in particular? Here are Steve’s main recommendations:
- Well-made double-glazed windows will last for years, but tenants may not regularly open and close all the windows. Dirty locks and hinges could possibly seize, so we recommend that once per year, landlords inspect each window, and clean and apply a little oil to all the moving parts, like hinges, locks etc. It will take minutes to do, but will vastly extend the life of your windows. If you have old wooden windows, with cracked paint, get them repaired, repainted or replaced before winter bites. Your tenant won’t thank you if a rotten window breaks in the middle of a storm.
- Gutters are almost an afterthought until they stop working – they play an important part in a building’s structural integrity. Don’t rely on tenants, go and check gutters for any holes or cracks which could be problematic in stormy weather, and replace them ahead of time. It’s also important to make sure that gutters are free from leaves or dead animals who may have wound up there during a storm. The best time to inspect gutters is at this time of year, after autumn’s fallen leaves and before the cold weather begins to bite. This should prevent the blocked gutters and blocked downpipes that can cause so many problems – a leak down the side of your property, over time will lead to structural damage that may not bother your tenant – but it will invariably affect the landlord and the value of their property.
- Roof maintenance is often neglected even by people who own their homes – but an annual inspection can save money in the long run. Minor repairs are always cheaper than a whole new roof – and an unhappy tenant! Check the loft to see if any light is coming in, and make sure any air vents are clear. Vitally, check for any loose or missing roof tiles and ensure they are repaired. Also, if you notice moss and ivy on the roof, get it removed, both can cause damage through moisture. Finally, if you have a chimney, check the flashing (metal strips that seal the chimney to the roof). If you spot any gaps or slippage, call a professional to replace them – it’s cheaper than a whole new roof further down the line!
- Check for any overhanging trees with branches which could damage windows, roof tiles or even people underneath them, and check fences for integrity ahead of any winter storms.
- Drain checks are vital – a blocked drain can result in a flooded property, so check now before the winter bites. Floods will not only cost in terms of property damage, but also in lost revenue if your tenants have to move out.
Even though they take time and effort to do, these simple winter checks can save a big bill further down the road – and will help keep the exterior of your property in good repair, protecting your investment.