A high level of ongoing maintenance is essential in order to protect a landlord’s investment… and inexpensive minor repairs can often prevent expensive extensive restoration and renovations later.
“To prevent costly repair bills and deterioration of a rental property, ongoing maintenance is vital,” says proprietor of Belvoir Tamworth Angie Allgood.
Mike Campbell, proprietor of Belvoir Falkirk agrees and says, “Spend a penny to save a pound is an old saying that definitely applies in this context. In fact, simple preventative maintenance can prevent greater costs down the line.”
A well maintained property can also be beneficial for your tenant too…
“Ongoing maintenance helps keep the property in a good state of repair,” says Wayne Mearns of Belvoir Southend-on-Sea. “It also creates a good impression of you as a landlord and provides a better environment for your tenant to live in. This, in turn, may well encourage them to stay longer.”
Signs and signals
There are many early warning signs that maintenance may be necessary…
“Landlords should look out for any water damage, cracked or discoloration of plug sockets, blocked guttering, overgrown gardens, broken fencing and, importantly, signs of damp and mould,” says Angie.
Wayne agrees. “Damp and condensation should be nipped in the bud quickly,” he says. “A regular review of gutters is a good idea as this can be a main cause of damp if not cleared out, especially if trees are in close proximity.”
And, with all the rain over the last few months, this is more important than ever…
“A good example in this rather wet summer would be to clear out gutters rather than have water pouring down the front of buildings, or even worse, over the back of gutters and down inside the fabric of the property,” advises Mike.
“When it’s raining it is a good time to look at the outside of your property to spot leaking gutters, joints and down pipes. If you have a floored attic it could be some time before you notice a roof leaking into the living accommodation, so make sure you look in the attic itself. Tide-marks and wet patches appearing on ceilings or around windows are important signs too.
“Wooden windows cannot be left for long without needing maintenance and generally a 5-year programme of pre-painting repairs and repainting can expand their life span.
“It’s also a good idea to spend a few pounds resealing baths and showers, as well as checking shower screens aren’t leaking and removing bath panels to check underneath. A long-standing leak in an upstairs bathroom could cause major work downstairs if the ceiling was to come down.”
Maintenance awareness is key but some landlords say that they find it difficult to monitor maintenance issues as they are not living on site themselves. The answer lies in a combination of tenant feedback and regular inspections…
“Tenants have a duty to inform the landlord or agent of any obvious maintenance issues. However, regular inspections on a room-by-room basis should also be conducted,” advises Angie.
Wayne explains, “The best person to ask is the tenant who is living and using the property day to day. However, inspections really help as they allow you to look at each room yourself and also allow a little time for the tenant to think about any issues they are aware of while you are inspecting.”
Mike Campbell elaborates, “There are two types of maintenance: planned and responsive,” he says. “Unfortunately, tenants often aren’t as diligent as you would be in checking the fabric of your property so regular inspections could lead to identifying preventative maintenance rather than waiting for a big problem to arise at a more inconvenient time.”
But how can you ensure disruption is kept to a minimum for your tenant during maintenance?
“At Belvoir Tamworth we always work around the tenant and ask them when they would rather have the work done,” says Angie. “And, usually, if the problem requires immediate attention most tenants are happy to accommodate this. For some maintenance, however, such as decorating and major refurbishment, we would wait for the property to become empty.”
Mike agrees. “If we lived in a perfect world tenants wouldn’t encounter disruption due to maintenance issues but often speed is of the essence in order to prevent matters getting worse and taking even longer to deal with,” he says. “If an emergency issue arises good communication with tenants is essential. However, planned or routine maintenance, such as external or internal paintwork, are better left for void periods.”
During your tenants’ annual holiday or during the working day are also good times to carry out maintenance.
“Holidays are a great time to do major repairs as long as the tenant has appropriate notice and you have their permission to access the property,” says Wayne. “Also while the tenant is at work could be a good time if they are happy to let the contractor gain access.”
A helping hand
One of the best ways to ensure your maintenance is kept up-to-date is to employ the services of a good property management agent, such as Belvoir.
“Properties are like the Forth Bridge and ideally need tinkering with constantly… but inevitably, with a rental property, maintenance is much more intermittent,” says Mike. “A good letting agent, such as Belvoir, can help by inspecting the property on an agreed frequency, plus instructing and managing repairs with their reliable local contractors.”
Wayne adds, “All our contractors are fully vetted and tried and tested and are therefore proven to be reliable and trustworthy. We can liaise with both the contractor and the tenant and heavily reduce the need for the landlord to use up their own precious time.
“We also have a good basic knowledge of maintenance issues and can often instruct the tenant on what to do regarding the issue or attend ourselves to solve the problem – although this of course does not relate to more specialist areas, such as gas and electrical works.”
As many agents offer an emergency out-of-hours service, having their helps also means that issues will be dealt with swiftly – whenever they may arise…
“Most agents will deal with reported problems 24/7 and the landlord can be confident that maintenance will be organised within an acceptable timescale to eliminate unnecessary disruption to the tenant,” says Angie.
Maintenance signs to look out for…
Leaking or blocked guttering
Signs of damp
Cracked electrical sockets
Cracked chimney stacks
Dislodged or broken roof tiles
Erosion of shower and bath seals
Crumbling brick or stonework
Wood beetle infestations