Tips to reduce buy-to-let repair costs
Very recently, we published a New Year’s resolutions for buy-to-let landlords article, in which we discussed how to improve your buy-to-let business through better maintenance practices. One of the four tips we gave was to get ahead of the game and plan maintenance for 2019.
We’ve received a few questions about maintenance planning since, and so we thought we’d discuss a little further.
Repairs v. maintenance?
Many buy-to-let landlords confuse maintenance with repairs. Our repair reporting system helps tenants to tell us about property issues in a timely manner. They can tell us about the problem, and attach photos. This helps to assess how urgent the repair is, and what equipment and materials may be required to make the repair.
Whereas repairs are one-off occurrences, maintenance is an ongoing process. A repair is usually more expensive than carrying out maintenance and is usually caused by damage (either by the tenant or other factor, such as a storm, freezing conditions, etc.). The need for a repair may also be caused by wear and tear and poor maintenance. Therefore, a good maintenance routine should ensure fewer repairs are needed, and, in the long run, reduce costs and improve profits.
Intelligent regular maintenance
When deciding on maintenance, there are two basic routes to take. The first is the regular maintenance work that needs to be carried out. This can be diarised a year in advance. The second is unforeseen maintenance that is observed during property inspections. Here is the sort of maintenance tasks that a buy-to-let landlord should be arranging.
· Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly
While it is not a law to check carbon monoxide or smoke alarms during a tenancy, we recommend that you do so. After all, you are legally responsible for the safety of your tenants in your property. You may state in your tenancy agreement that testing of smoke alarms is the responsibility of your tenant, but can you be sure they will do so? Make sure that testing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are part of a property inspection routine, and you won’t have to answer that question.
· Check for leaks and dampness
Leaks, whether in the roof or from water pipes, can cause extensive damage to a property. Dampness creates the conditions for mould, which may cause health issues and damage your property. Common places to check are:
- In the loft space
- On ceilings and walls
- In the bathroom, under the bath, and behind the sink and cistern
- In the kitchen, underneath the sink
- In the pipework going to and from boilers and water heaters
- Around central heating outlets
The longer that a water leak goes undetected and untreated, the more damage it will cause. The more damage caused, the more expensive the repair will be.
· Check flooring
Poorly maintained flooring can lead to property damage and possibly the injury (or worse) of tenants. A loose carpet at the top of the stairs is a trip hazard. Loose floorboards pose a risk.
Loose or missing grout on tiled floors will allow water to seep through and attack the underflooring. Replace and/or repair is the order of the day with all flooring issues.
· Conduct autumn maintenance
An autumn maintenance routine will help you prepare the property for winter, and help to ensure that your tenants are warm and safe. Gardens should be pruned back, tenants reminded to rake leaves (so they don’t clog drains or create slippery surfaces), lagging on pipes should be checked and made good, and cracks in pavements should be repaired.
Other tasks include cleaning the gutters so that rainwater runs away freely, and checking doors and windows to ensure that putty is secure and draught excluders are not worn.
(See our article ‘4 property maintenance tips for buy-to-let landlords this autumn’ for more tips.)
· General conditions
During property inspections, you should also check the general conditions of your property. This includes fixtures and fittings; taps, baths and sinks; kitchen appliances; wall tiles; bannisters and stairs; skirts and walls; etc.
· Other regular maintenance work
Other regular maintenance work includes gas safety inspections, servicing of central heating, and electrical testing. These can all be diarised.
Inspect regularly and keep records
Quarterly property inspections will help to ensure that your property is kept in good condition and that your tenants are living in safe and habitable conditions. They help you discover maintenance needs before they become expensive repair needs, and this will help to save money in the long term.
Diarise inspections and maintenance
As well as undertaking quarterly inspections, it is wise to diarise and arrange regular maintenance work. This will ensure that you book maintenance technicians in advance and that you meet your legal obligations as a buy-to-let landlord.
Finally, keep records of all maintenance that is carried out on your property. Some of this information will need to be passed to the tenant, too (such as gas safety certificates). By keeping records, you will also be able to assess quotes for similar work in the future.
Our property inspections are designed to ensure that our landlord clients keep their long-term costs to a minimum, and any repairs needed benefit from our network of maintenance professionals. For effortless property management, contact us here at Ezytrac at +44 0 1522 503 717
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