A landlord’s ultimate guide to property maintenance and interiors16-06-2023 | Property Maintenance & Interiors
For many landlords, their buy-to-let property is their pride and joy. A good landlord is passionate about providing a well-maintained and well-presented property for their tenants from the offset, so maintenance and interiors prove a pretty important part of the job.
Does this sound like you? If so, you’ll want to read this ultimate guide to property maintenance and interiors to ensure you’re doing everything you can to provide a good quality home to your tenants. And if this doesn’t sound like you, you need to read this guide to ensure your approach to your duties is up to scratch!
It can be easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to property maintenance in particular. When it’s not your home, it can be difficult to prioritise maintenance tasks – out of sight, out of mind, right?
The cost of maintaining a property each year is said to sit at roughly 1% of the property’s value. With the current average house price hitting around £285,000, this means annual maintenance costs of £2,850. That’s no small figure – particularly if you’re a landlord with a property portfolio of multiple properties.
So, what does this £2,850 figure go towards and what should be part of your property maintenance and interiors plan each year? Let’s explore.
The importance of property maintenance and interiors
Part of your responsibility as a landlord is to provide a safe and secure place for your tenants to live. Therefore, keeping on top of property maintenance is key – whether that’s responding to tenant maintenance requests, carrying out regular inspections and managing routine property maintenance tasks.
Not only is it your duty to keep on top of property maintenance, but doing so is sure to make your life as a landlord much easier. Your tenants will be happier and potentially more loyal, reducing your tenant turnover and expensive vacancy periods, and you’re likely to be hit with less large unexpected maintenance bills.
Plus, whether you rent out your property or not, every property requires some level of maintenance in order to hold its value and keep it in good condition. And let’s face it, rental properties can be exposed to a bit more wear and tear than usual across multiple tenancies. If you ever wanted to sell your property in the future, you’ll thank yourself for keeping on top of those regular property maintenance tasks and keeping the interior fresh, so that you’re not hit with a long and expensive to-do list of tasks when the time comes!
Types of property maintenance
There is a lot that falls under the property maintenance umbrella. Where on earth do you start? Let’s start by breaking property maintenance into three categories; preventative, corrective, and cosmetic.
Preventative maintenance refers to any tasks that are designed to prevent issues from occurring and to prolong the life of your property’s components. Preventative maintenance tasks can include:
- Cleaning gutters to prevent blockages
- Servicing boilers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and security systems
- Appliance maintenance (dishwashers, refrigerators etc)
- Checking pipes and plumbing
Preventative maintenance should be carried out once or twice a year. It’s arguably the most important type of property maintenance as in theory, if you’re on top of this maintenance, you’ll have a lot fewer repairs to deal with in the long run.
This brings us to our next type of property maintenance – corrective maintenance. Unlike preventative maintenance, corrective maintenance is performed when a problem has already occurred. Corrective maintenance tasks can include:
- Repairing broken appliances, fixtures and fittings
- Repairing leaks
- Addressing electrical issues
Even the most maintenance-conscious of landlords are likely to be faced with corrective maintenance at one point or another. It’s important to accept that accidents can happen. Be as reactive as possible and get these issues seen to in a timely manner.
The clue with cosmetic maintenance is in the name. It refers to anything cosmetic that is designed to maintain and improve the property’s visual appeal. Cosmetic maintenance tasks can include:
- Painting the walls
- Landscaping the garden
- Refreshing old and tired fittings and fixtures
Who doesn’t want to live in a well-turned-out property? We all like to look after our homes, but for a tenant, much of the maintenance is out of their control and not their responsibility – it’s yours as a landlord. It’s in your best interests to respect your tenant’s right to live somewhere that’s well looked after.
Gardens and external maintenance
Speaking of external maintenance, where do your responsibilities as a landlord lie when it comes to the outdoor space? There can be quite a bit of ambiguity over who is responsible for what when it comes to the garden and outdoor space in a rental property. Are landlords responsible for garden maintenance? Can a tenant cut down a tree? Do landlords have to provide gardening tools? The list of questions is endless.
In a nutshell, landlords are only responsible for maintaining areas of the garden that tenants cannot reasonably maintain, such as guttering, pruning and maintaining trees and hedges and repairing fences and boundary walls. At a minimum, tenants will need to de-weed the garden, cut the grass and keep the outdoor space litter-free and tidy. If you’d like any major upgrades, improvements and repairs undertaken in the outdoor space, then this is something you’d need to organise yourself.
So, if you require your tenant to keep the lawn mowed and tidy, does that mean that you have to provide them with equipment such as a lawnmower? The answer is no, you don’t need to. However, it makes sense to provide some basic essentials if you want to encourage your tenants to take proper care of the garden. If you’re not lucky enough to be taking on a keen gardener as a tenant, it’s unlikely that they will splash out to purchase their own gardening equipment.
Ultimately, ensure that you outline your expectations and where responsibilities lie when it comes to outdoor areas when completing your tenancy agreement. If your tenancy agreement states that the garden should be returned in the original (or similar) state as when tenants moved in, then your tenants will understand that it’s up to them to perform basic maintenance such as mowing the lawn and de-weeding to ensure garden upkeep.
Part of maintaining your rental property is keeping the decor fresh for your tenants. Sure, it’s not always a necessity as bad decor cannot cause disrepair and damage, but if you want your property to compete in the market and be respected by your tenants, decorating is an important part of property maintenance.
You can decorate, or redecorate, your rental property as often as you like, however, the norm for many is once every five to six years. This might include painting the walls, recarpeting the floors and replacing kitchen and bathroom fittings and appliances.
You might choose to give the walls a fresh lick of paint between each tenancy to cover any marks and scuffs that are likely to build up over time. A little paint can go a long way in making your property look clean and ready for new tenants.
What about if my tenants want to decorate the property themselves?
No matter if you’re renting or not, most people want to put their own stamp on their space. Your tenants might ask if they can make cosmetic changes to your property to better reflect their style.
Whether or not you agree to this is totally up to you. It comes with its pros and cons. If you trust your tenant, it can be a good idea to give them the opportunity to make changes to the space that can easily be reversed by them before they leave, such as painting the walls or swapping out fixtures such as kitchen hardware. It will strengthen your relationship with them and may mean that they are likely to stick with you and stay in a property that feels more like home. Plus, they might just make your property look better in the long run – win-win!
On the other hand, they may make changes that you’re unhappy with. And even worse, if they attempt any bad DIY jobs, they could even devalue the property. If you do decide to allow them to make changes, perhaps set some boundaries first. For instance, agree on a colour scheme to stick to if it’s painting that they want to do – preferably something neutral! If they are replacing anything such as curtains, handles and light fittings, make sure they keep your original items safe to put back in place before they leave.
It’s probably wise to draw the line at letting tenants handle major jobs such as wallpapering, plastering, new flooring or full renovations. If you agree to any work that involves using a tradesperson, perhaps take control and give them the details of your preferred contact.
Choosing fixtures, furnishings and fittings
When kitting out your rental property, you may be wondering how expensive to go with any fixtures, furnishings and fittings that you provide. In short, it’s all about balance. There’s no point breaking the bank when furnishing your rental property and including top-of-the-range items in every room.
That said, they say if you buy cheap, you buy twice. And you’ll want to provide fixtures, furnishings and fittings that will withstand the test of time so that you’re not inundated with tenant maintenance requests over the month when items have broken down or become damaged.
So, where should you focus the majority of your budget when it comes to choosing fixtures, furnishings and fittings? Don’t scrimp on flooring and carpets as you’ll want these to last you a good five to ten years! When decorating, it’s always worth spending a little more on the paint you use for the last reason. Good quality paint will take longer to chip. You may even want to invest in washable paint so that tenants can remove any marks and dirt themselves.
If you are providing appliances such as a dishwasher, oven or washing machine, take the same approach. Read reviews, look at energy ratings and always go for quality. You can go a little more affordable with curtains and light fittings as these are items that are a little more consistent quality-wise across the board.
Carrying out property inspections
Alongside scheduling your regular property maintenance, you should also undertake period property inspections so that you can keep on top of corrective maintenance tasks. At the start of a tenancy, aim to carry property inspections out every three months. For long-term tenants that you build up trust with, these can be reduced to bi-annually.
There are actually a few laws surrounding carrying out property inspections that you should be aware of. Sure, you are the owner of your rental property. But that certainly doesn’t mean that you can turn up and enter whenever you fancy it.
In accordance with the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, you do have the right to access your premises to view its condition and state of repair, however, inspections must be conducted at reasonable times of the day and with at least 24 hours’ written notice given to the tenant. Additionally, if you are planning on getting anyone other than yourself or your letting agent to carry out a property inspection, that person needs to have written authorisation.
It’s a good idea to evidence that you are complying with your responsibilities when it comes to carrying out property inspections and keeping on top of maintenance, so consider writing a report at the end of each inspection and sending it to your tenants and keeping a copy on file for your own reference. This will be really handy if you’re ever unlucky enough to encounter a tenancy deposit dispute.
How to carry out a property inspection
You may be wondering how you can get the best out of your property inspections. This will depend on how thorough you feel you need to be with your inspections to ensure peace of mind, however there are, of course, a few key areas that you should pay particular attention to.
When moving around the property carrying out an inspection, you should take note of:
- The condition of the toilet, white goods and anything else you have supplied with the property
- The condition of windows and doors
- Carpets and whether they are stained or worn
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and whether they are in good working order
- Any potential leaks or holes
- Any risk of rodents or pests
- The state of the garden
It might be a good idea to take photos of these things as you go around the property and create a photographic inventory to look back on at the end of the tenancy. This can help you to decipher what is damage and what can be considered fair wear and tear if there are any items or fittings that need replacing.
A landlord’s annual property maintenance checklist
To help you plan your property maintenance duties, we’ve put together a checklist of all the main annual tasks that should be on your radar – the majority of which fall into the preventative maintenance category. These can be done between tenancies when the property is empty to avoid disruption, or organised to work around any long-term tenants.
✓ Clean gutters
✓ Inspect the roof
✓ Maintain trees, hedges, fences and boundary walls
✓ Service the boiler
✓ Inspect and change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
✓ Inspect security systems
✓ Inspect appliances
✓ Inspect pipes and plumbing
✓ Refresh grout and shower caulk
✓ Clean chimney
✓ Inspect radiators
You may want to break these tasks down seasonally so that you don’t have to tackle everything at once. For instance, clean gutters and chimneys and carry out any external maintenance after the winter months and as we move into spring and summer. Focus on servicing boilers and inspecting radiators, pipes and plumbing as we move into the colder months in the latter half of the year.
The importance of landlord insurance
Keeping on top of property maintenance and interiors will protect your property from high levels of damage, disasters and unhappy tenants. It will also protect you from unexpected and unwelcome bills and any disputes.
The ultimate protection, however, is landlord insurance. Landlord contents insurance in particular is so important to protect any items that you are providing for your tenants from malicious damage or accidents. This can include washing machines, dishwashers, tumble driers, fridges, furniture, curtains, carpets and more.
Landlord building insurance is also pretty important. No matter how across your property maintenance you are, accidents can happen when you least expect them. Landlord building insurance covers the costs of repairing and rebuilding your property if it should get damaged as a result of any insured peril such as a fire, storm or flood. It can also cover outside structures connected to your property such as burst pipes or issues with a garage.
If you are yet to take out cover or looking for a more competitive quote, get in touch with us here at CIA Landlords today. We won’t be beaten on price. You can get a quote by filling out your details on our website or you can speak to an expert on 01788 818 670 or request a callback.
We won't be beaten on any like for like landlord insurance quote.Get a quote