By Karl Griggs, Director, CPC Finance
The transition from winter to spring is an excellent time for landlords to visit their rental properties to embark on some spring cleaning. A rainy, windy winter usually exposes some kind of problem in many older homes, whether a leaky roof, draughty windows and doors, visible damp, or a heating system that is not reaching its full potential. Fixing these problems will result in happier tenants – and will prevent further damage and cost from occurring in future.
You should schedule a time to visit your rental property to identify and make these needed repairs or embark upon larger-scale upgrades, regardless if you have longer-term tenants or an imminent change in tenancies.
Use your visits to get feedback
It can be a good idea to check in with your tenants prior to visiting the property. You can use your visit as a valuable information-gathering mission: Offer to send your tenants a quick checklist in advance of your meeting so they have an opportunity to provide you with valuable feedback. Knowing what your tenants are happy, or unhappy, with will help ensure that you can make the most relevant fixes (and that you do not overlook anything). Remember, your tenants will benefit from any improvements, both in terms of comfort and overall satisfaction; potentially enabling you to command a higher rental price and reducing the risk of voids.
Ensure energy efficiency
While undertaking any repairs, a key area to investigate is your property’s energy efficiency. From April 2018, landlords in England and Wales will be legally required to raise the energy efficiency of rental properties to at least band E in energy efficiency standards, which can be achieved through some relatively simple steps. Regardless of whether you own an older property currently below band E, or a newer property, all of the following energy efficiency-related tips are relevant to maintaining the comfort and safety of your tenants.
Boiler performance: You may have an up-to-date Gas Safety Certificate for your property, but has the boiler been serviced recently? It is a good idea to have a registered Gas Safe engineer test the boiler’s performance, properly set the pressure, and monitor for carbon monoxide. Ensure that you have a carbon monoxide detector installed as well.
Heating system efficiency: In addition to the boiler working properly, check the full heating system for leaks or blocked radiators. Spotting leaks around radiators is simple: look for any rust or corrosion where the copper pipes join each radiator. Have tenants been complaining that certain rooms do not warm as quickly or effectively as others in the house? A blocked radiator could be the culprit. To check for blocked radiators, ensure each radiator valve is fully open and run the heating system for ten minutes. If the top of any radiator is not as hot as you anticipate, stop the heating and bleed the radiator with a key. Air blockages are common in older radiators and significantly reduce their effectiveness, so let any air escape until water runs. If this does not solve the problem, you may want to ask a heating professional to flush the system clean and re-balance the pressure.
Draught proofing: Leaky and draughty homes are a frequent complaint of tenants. Even with an efficiently working heating system, draughts can make an otherwise warm home uncomfortable for tenants. Check windows to ensure they close and lock tightly. If not, windows could be vulnerable to water, leading to rot. Check around the window frames and fill any gaps. Also fit draught excluders around the exterior doors to stop draughts.
Do a full sweep of the property
In addition to these energy efficiency and comfort improving tips, you should also investigate other areas, including:
- Look for signs of damp in bathrooms and in colder areas of the house, especially on exterior-facing walls behind kitchen cabinets and wardrobes
- Clear gutters, downpipes, and drains for debris and blockages
- Check for signs of roof leaks, including loose or missing roof tiles, and check timbers in the loft if accessible
By undertaking these checks and improvements on an annual basis, you will identify any potential damages or repairs before they become a major problem. You will also gain valuable feedback from your tenants and make any small repairs that may improve their comfort and satisfaction with your property. Doing so should ensure that you have happy tenants – happy enough pay a higher price for the privilege of living in a well maintained home.