The pre-rental home check for landlords

The advent of the buy-to-let mortgage and the ever-increasing value of property has turned many of us into landlords. This has revolutionised the property market, both in terms of sales and rentals, but it has also introduced a good number of semi-reluctant landlords to the market. While the income from rental property may be welcome, we are less inclined to enjoy the day-to-day business of running our (probably very small) property empires. Even having one house or flat up for rent can be time-consuming, especially when it comes to dealing with repairs and maintenance.

The most surefire way to cut back on time spent chasing tradesmen for small repair jobs is to make sure that you do your maintenance work before your tenants move in, taking time to give the home the once-over between rentals. This means giving your home a basic MOT before your tenant puts a key in the door. These are the top five things that you should be looking to concentrate on.

rented home

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Gas safety

As well as pre-empting expensive emergency repair jobs and leaving your tenants without heating or hot water, giving your boiler the once-over is a legal obligation. This law applies to all gas appliances in the home and the check should be carried out by a Gas Safe engineer. Malfunctioning gas appliances can pump out carbon monoxide, which can kill. They may also cause damage to the property. This is one expense that you should never skimp on.

Clear the gutters

outside home

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The simple things often get overlooked but autumn leaves in the gutters, a blocked gulley or drainpipe are the things most likely to cause leaks or damp in your home. Tenants are unlikely to perform routine annual maintenance tasks such as clearing the gutters, so you have to make sure that you do. This can save re-plastering or re-painting with the tenants in-situ later on.

Open the windows

As well as allowing some fresh air into the property, this will give you the chance to check something that can be overlooked when the tenants move out. Opening the windows will allow you to check for any damage from previous tenants as well as identifying any draught-proofing or repair work that may need doing. Opening the windows will allow you to look for cracked panes, windows likely to fall out of their frame, broken sash cords or lost window lock keys.

Lose the high-tech

kitchen design

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Part of minimising the time and money that you spend on maintenance in your rental property is making sure that things cannot break in the first place. Appliances installed in the home should be simple ones (and basic, unless yours is a luxury rental) and not overloaded with technical add-ons that can malfunction. Even if your tenant does not want a wifi-enabled fridge, they will call you when it is not able to connect to their smartphone. Be sure to leave instruction booklets for washing machines and cookers, unless you want tenants to call you at midnight to ask how to do a cold wash or roast a chicken.

Change the locks

This is a very simple thing, but it can get forgotten in the chaos that can ensue when contracts are signed and the tenants want to move in fast. Changing the front and back door locks (or lock barrels) is a quick job for a locksmith or handyman and it can prevent arguments, burglaries and angry tenants. This will give your tenants a sense of security and it means that they are unlikely to have their bath interrupted by a former tenant letting themselves in to pick up some mail.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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