Do you have what it takes to do your property maintenance?
Property management – can’t be too hard, can it? And when it comes to a spot of maintenance, maybe you could do the repair yourself? You could save a small fortune. But what if you start the repair and find you can’t finish it? It could work out even more expensive, and you may not get the maintenance man you want. And if something goes wrong, will your insurance cover you against a claim for negligence?
Here are four questions you should ask yourself before deciding whether DIY property management is for you.
1. Have I got the time to do the property maintenance?
You’re sitting in your favourite restaurant. It’s your birthday, and your spouse has arranged a get-together with your very best friends. The waiter has just brought your main course to the table. A succulent steak, hand-cut chips, and the best pepper sauce in town. As the first forkful melts in your mouth, your mobile phone rings.
It’s your tenant. They have no hot water, and the radiators are cold. It’s mid-winter, and they’re worried about their baby.
Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing at the time, you can’t ignore a call from a tenant. When that call is made, it will probably be at the most inconvenient time. You must make a judgement call. How urgent is the tenant’s request? Is this a repair that needs to be done now, or can it wait 24 or 48 hours?
Our property management repair reporting system enables our investment property managers to assess urgency online and within minutes. As a DIY landlord, you probably won’t have this ability. You’ll have to rely on what the tenant tells you, and may have to visit the property anyway. Bang goes the rest of your birthday dinner.
2. How much is my time worth?
A lot of DIY landlords say they manage their properties because it saves them so much money, and when it comes to carrying out maintenance work, repairs or decorating, they begrudge spending so much on labour.
Here’s the thing: you’ll need to figure out how much your time is worth. Let’s take something simple, such as decorating a lounge, for example. You’ve got the walls, ceiling and skirting board to prepare and paint. The doors need glossing, as do the window frames. So, this ‘small’ decorating job:
- How long will it take you? Two or three days?
- How much would a professional decorator charge you? According to ‘Which?’ magazine, the average cost is around £250.
- How much could you earn in those three days?
- Would the professional decorator do a better job than you?
- Could you find something far more exciting to do instead of decorating your investment property?
So, ask yourself, “how much is my time worth?” before deciding whether the DIY route is best for you.
3. Am I qualified to do the work needed?
While some work can be done by anyone, other jobs must only be undertaken by suitably qualified and licensed tradespeople.
Now, it may be that you’ve done a lot of decorating in your time. You’ve got a fair amount of experience, and this qualifies you to paint that lounge we discussed a few moments ago. I’ve changed a few light bulbs in my time, but this doesn’t mean I should tackle electrical work in a buy-to-let property. In fact, it wold be against the law for me to do so.
There is some property maintenance that DIY property managers cannot and must not do unless they are qualified to do so. Electric and gas especially fall into this category.
However, you should also consider whether you’re ‘qualified’ to do the property management side of property investment. Forget the need to know how to vet tenants; do you know how to fix a dripping tap, rehang a door, or replace a pane of glass?
More importantly, if you make a bad repair that causes an injury to your tenant, be prepared to lose your shirt in a compensation claim. Perhaps worse, do you want your tenant’s ill health or inability to work on your conscience?
4. Should I expect the tenant to do simple property maintenance?
It is a question that a lot of buy-to-let investors ask me. The answer is that there is quite a bit you can expect your tenant to do, and an awful lot you shouldn’t allow them to do.
You should expect your tenant to keep the property clean and tidy, and not to deliberately cause damage. Perhaps do the day-to-day property maintenance work such as tightening loose drawer handles. But over and above this, the advice I’d give is to be very careful; and detail the tenant’s responsibilities clearly in the tenancy agreement.
Let’s say that your tenant told you that they are a qualified gas engineer. You’ve even seen the certificate. If you ask them to make that repair to the heating system, perhaps offering a sweetener such as a reduction in their rent, and something goes wrong, will your public liability insurance cover you? It’s a grey area that you would do best to avoid.
So, how did you answer the four DIY property management questions?
- Have you got the time to do all the property management for your buy-to-let property?
- Do you value your time less than the cost of getting a quality, guaranteed job done by a professional tradesperson?
- Are you qualified to do the work, to ensure you won’t get sued if something goes wrong?
- Would you (or could you) trust your tenant to do property maintenance and repairs?
If the answer to any or all these four questions is “no”, then you’re not cut out to be a DIY landlord. That’s not a bad thing. Contact Ezytrac today on +44 1522 503 717, and discover the advantages of our investment property management service. Wherever your investment property, our national reach with local expertise will help you maximise your buy-to-let profits and your free time.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA