As a landlord, it’s vital that you keep your property in a good condition for a number of reasons – it means you can provide tenants with a safe, habitable living environment (which they’re entitled to by law), reduce the number of costly repairs you’ll need to carry out over time and enable your house to keep its value.
The latter factor is important if you ever come to sell your home in the future and want to make a decent return on your investment.
With the importance of the condition of your property in mind, we have come with some top tips for keeping your rental home in the best possible shape.
- Take decisive action. While it can be tempting to leave a problem in order to save money, issues like damp, mould and broken gutters won’t go away of their own accord and will merely end up costing you significantly more to remedy in the long-term. It’s much better to act quickly and decisively when a problem first arises.
- Don’t be afraid to shop around. It’s never wise, of course, to cut corners and pay a lower amount for shoddy or substandard work, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar either. It’s a pragmatic move to get plenty of quotes from reputable tradespeople to ensure you’re getting the most cost-effective service. As well as phoning and meeting tradespeople in person, there are now specific websites which enable you to get a number of quotes at the click of a button.
- Service on a regular basis. It’s vital that you frequently service your boilers and cookers to ensure they are working as they should be, and are completely safe for your tenants. Servicing regularly can also reduce the chances of anything going wrong in the future.
- Invest time and money. To keep your property in good condition you need to dedicate enough time and be willing to pay for its upkeep on a regular basis (which will, in the long run, save you money as you save on any expensive repair bills). You should ideally put aside three months’ rent to cover emergencies, or situations where your tenants leave and you’re left with an empty property temporarily. Remember, too: if you own an old property, it’s more likely to need more in the way of maintenance.
- Develop mutually beneficial relationships. When renting out homes, you’re likely to turn to and work with the same tradespeople time after time – especially if they are reliable and do a good job. You should try and keep your professional relationship friendly and productive, and might find that your loyal custom is rewarded in the form of discounts. You should also try to build up a few contacts to ensure you have someone to turn to if your regular person can’t handle the job or is temporarily unavailable.
- Conduct inspections. As a landlord, part of your role should be to inspect your property regularly, with tenants not always aware of how to carry out even basic maintenance on a home. In some cases, too, they won’t tell you about problems until they leave the home behind. Regular checks, therefore, help to give you a good idea about the state of your property and can enable you to conduct preventative maintenance if required.
A recent change to the law
The importance of maintaining a property in good condition took on an even greater significance for landlords in March this year, when the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force. Effective from March 20 2019, it is designed to ensure that all rented accommodation is fit for human habitation as well as strengthening tenants' means of redress against the small number of landlords who flout their legal obligations to keep their properties safe.
It amended the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that all landlords keep their properties, including any common parts of the building, in a state that is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. The Government hopes this change will drive up standards in the private rented sector by empowering tenants to act against their landlords where they feel the property has been inadequately maintained. Unlike before, tenants no longer need to lean on their local authority to hold their landlord to account.
For a more detailed breakdown of the Act, the stages it’s being introduced in and how you need to comply, this Government guide for landlords will provide all you need to know. We also looked previously at the progress of the original bill and its consequences for landlords.
A home could be deemed unfit for human habitation for a number of reasons, including:
- Problems with drainage and the supply of hot and cold water.
- Issues such as damp, overcrowding and a lack of ventilation.
- A building that is structurally unstable or with unsafe layouts.
- A property that is neglected or in a bad condition.
- A property that doesn’t provide sufficient natural light or enough space to prepare and cook food or wash up.
Additionally, if a home contains any of the 29 hazards outlined in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005, then the courts are likely to come to the decision that it’s not fit for human habitation.
On the other hand, there are a number of scenarios where you won’t be held responsible for an unfit home, including when issues have been caused by acts of God (such as fires, storms and floods), where the problem has been caused by the tenants’ own possessions and when tenants themselves are responsible for the unfitness of the home.
Section 21 and repairs
As part of changes to Section 21 notices which took effect from October 1 2018, landlords who fail to follow the prescribed and time-limited repairs process set out can both invalidate a Section 21 notice and prevent one from being served for a further six months.
There are, though, serious plans underway to scrap Section 21, so-called no-fault evictions altogether, which means landlords rights and obligations when it comes to repairs and serving eviction notices could shift again.
To avoid this ever being an issue, though, you are advised to keep your property in an excellent state of repair to ensure problems with property maintenance are something you never need to concern yourself with.
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