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Preparing your rental property for winter

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As a landlord, keeping your rental property in good condition is a priority, as is maintaining its value and ensuring that your tenants are comfortable and happy. Older properties tend to take more work to maintain than new-builds  but even these are not without their problems. But as the winter chills start to bite, we are likely to see more inclement weather, so now is the time to start looking at some of the most common property management issues faced by landlords – and how to solve them.

Routine maintenance
Changing battery smoke detectorWhatever the age of the property, regular maintenance is essential – inside and out.  Gas service checks must be done annually (by a registered Gas Safe engineer).  Wiring is another important issue and while there are no hard and fast rules, PAT (portable appliance testing) tests and an EICR (electrical installation condition report) should be carried out every five years. Landlords are now also required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their rental properties which must be tested at the beginning of each tenancy. Plumbing connections should be checked regularly to reduce the risk of leaks and there is also new legislation in place which makes landlords responsible for carrying out checks on cold and hot water in their properties to prevent Legionnaires’ and other diseases

The exterior

Houses usually require a greater degree of maintenance than apartments and our lovely British weather has a lot to do with that!  Roofs should always be well-maintained – tiles and flashing need to be checked regularly as do drainpipes which can become blocked by falling leaves which, if left to settle, can block drainpipes and cause water to overflow and lead to damp. Pointing between bricks on the exterior of the property should also be checked as, if it is worn, it could allow water ingress which will also cause damp. Damp can also be caused by a failing or complete lack of a damp-proof course – a problem that needs to be dealt with by a professional.

Blocked drains can be very unpleasant to sort out. We once organised a contractor to visit a property to unblock a drain; they found the problem to be a massive hairball in the sewer – five feet in diameter – collected from all the properties on the street.

Maintaining sash windows

Rosecroft Avenue, NW3Many landlords don’t realise that sash windows, often found in Victorian properties, need regular maintenance to ensure the cords move smoothly and the wooden frames do not rot or warp. If the property is in a conservation area there may be additional regulations – for example, in Camden wooden window frames must be retained and not replaced by UPVC.  This usually means more expense as the window frames must be maintained regularly.

But make sure you find a specialist contractor. A few years ago a landlord asked us to obtain a quote for replacing their sash windows. They said the quote was too high and instead, found their own contractors who said they would do the job for a third of the price. We asked them to check they had all the required insurance but unfortunately we couldn’t match that price. They called us back two weeks later asking if we would still honour the original price we quoted. It turned out that their ‘lads’ had stolen all the glazing and done a runner. Clearly, the quote had to be redone to take into account the fact that replacement glazing would also now be required. The job was a lot more expensive than originally envisaged!

Don’t forget outside space

Chalcot RoadMany landlords tend to forget about gardens. Without a proper maintenance schedule, shrubs can quickly become overgrown, lawns can get out of hand without regular mowing and fallen leaves can create a slipping hazard on paved areas, as well as blocking gutters. These can all look unsightly for tenants but also present a major ‘kerb appeal’ problems when it comes to re-letting the property when a tenant leaves.

We’ve seen numerous cases where landlords have been faced with a bill running into thousands of pounds to put a garden back into good order.  It would have been so much easier and cheaper to have a gardener regularly do the necessary work.  So, consider using a tree surgeon to trim back trees and hedges and check there are no tree roots invading foundations or drains.

Also, look at exterior doors which may be warped and need fixing while loose door handles may need tightening.  Balconies may also need attention.  For example, their use may be restricted if they don’t meet minimum rail height regulations (which may be the case in older properties).

Call the experts
One lesson we have learned over the years is not to assume the tenant has the required expertise. Only last week, we had a tenant report a badly blocked toilet  so we arranged for a contractor to attend with their drainage equipment which included a specialist suction machine. The tenant duly commented, “Oh, if I had known that, I could have done it myself with the Hoover.”  Remind us not to take ourshoes off when we visit again!

So, property management can throw up all manner of strange and unusual problems.  And while you can’t eliminate them entirely, regular maintenance goes a long way to minimising potential problems.  If you’d like to find out about how our property management service can help you maintain your rental property to a high standard please contact us here.


About the Author

A qualified lawyer (she studied Law with French Law) at UCL, Simran began her career working for a city firm specialising in commercial real estate, before joining Benham and Reeves in 2006. During this time, Simran has put systems in place to streamline administration, enabling the company to compete effectively with much larger organisations. As a result, the company’s property management department has grown substantially – in 2006 it managed 885 rental homes whereas today the department manages nearly 2000 properties for clients, including a growing number of overseas clients. Read more about Simran Prasad here - Read full profile