Published: 27/09/2020There's no escaping it: summer is on the way out, and autumn is around the corner. The nights are longer, the weather is cooler, and evenings on the patio mean hoodies, blankets and socks.
As the season changes, there are some checks you can make – and some opportunities to take – in getting your rental property ready for when the temperatures fall, the rains return and your tenants spend more time indoors.
Being on the case now could help you avoid the traditional annual rush of last-minute callouts where overbooked contractors take longer to respond, problems take longer to solve, and relations between landlords and tenants become strained.
So let's look at how to avoid all that unnecessary drama.
There is little more infuriating or disheartening than turning on the heating for the first time after the summer, only to discover that something somewhere has gone wrong.
Usually, everyone switches the heating on when they first need it, rather than doing a test ahead of time. This inevitably leads to engineers' calendars filling up overnight, leaving you frantically calling around while fending off calls and messages from ever-colder tenants with your pleas of "I'm doing everything I can" while trying to get on with your own life.
Unsurprisingly, this does little for landlord-tenant relations, but it can be avoided by asking your tenants to turn the heating on now for a quick check to make sure that everything is working fine.
Is the boiler firing up? Do the radiators need bleeding? Are your thermostats, timers and control panel functioning? Switching everything on for an hour will answer all these questions in good time for getting them fixed.
If your property is vacant you'll need to pop round yourself, or arrange for a contractor, to perform the checks. Heating engineers are usually readily available in late summer, which means you should be able to get maintenance or repairs sorted swiftly.
And even if something does go wrong later on in the season, your tenants will know that you were thinking about their comfort early on, which will at least warm their hearts (if not their home).
GUTTERS, PIPES & DRAINS
While it's unlikely that leaves will be clogging your guttering or drains yet, it's nonetheless wise to check them now and intermittently afterwards to make sure there are no blockages when the autumn rains come. Because when they do, overflowing gutters and blocked drains soon turn into leaks and repair bills.
Ask your tenants to have a quick look around now and to keep a casual eye on things throughout the colder and wetter months. It won't be something that's naturally on their mind, but simply mentioning it will plant the seed: it's really no effort to glance up at a gutter or down at a drainpipe every now and then.
Leaks and water damage are a nuisance at the best of times, but having to fix them when it's cold and wet adds extra misery and inconvenience.
If you've supplied a table and chairs or an outdoor couch for your tenants, they're going to last a whole lot longer if you also supply covers, or somewhere to store them.
While early autumn isn't necessarily when furniture needs to be put away for the season, its use will become more intermittent as the weather cools and rainy days begin. This means your furniture will take more of a beating if it's left on its own to deal with the elements.
Covers are great because they allow your tenants to keep the furniture out for when they want to use it, rather than having to constantly put it away in a shed or cupboard and then retrieve it again. Anything that's inconvenient tends to get done less, so make it easy for your tenants to look after your things.
You can buy covers very cheaply on Amazon, at B&Q, or many other online and physical stores, and the price will almost certainly be less than the cost – and hassle – of replacing the furniture.
The Government's own figures state that 20% of privately rented properties in the UK are fuel-poor, with the sector having a high prevalence of poorly insulated and energy inefficient buildings.
Warm tenants are happy tenants, as are those with lower energy bills. The last thing you want is your tenants giving you notice when the weather gets colder as they discover your property loses heat faster than taking a cold plunge after a sauna.
The government's Green Homes Grant is available to landlords and provides a possible £5,000 towards increasing the energy efficiency of your property. You can claim up to two-thirds of the cost of your improvements, which not only add value through your Energy Performance Certificate, but can save up to £600 a year on energy bills: a great sell to existing and future tenants.
If you have an older property without modern insulation, the Green Homes Grant is an excellent opportunity to upgrade its energy efficiency without having to cover all the costs. The grant must be used for primary measures like insulation for lofts, walls and floors, but can also contribute to secondary measures including thermostats, heating controls and energy-efficient doors.
You can apply for a voucher from the end of September 2020, so it's worth putting the date in your diary if you have a rental property where the energy efficiency could be improved.
Take a look at the Government's official website for more information:
STOPPING THE ROT
The sun can really take its toll on your exterior woodwork. But while some peeling paint or varnish might look unsightly in the summer, it can create problems in the autumn and winter.
As well as making your property look mighty fine on the outside, paint and varnish protects your windows, doors and frames from heat and water. So when it gets tired and peels, wood can start to split and rot, which leads to drafts, leaks and replacement costs. There's not really much of an upside!
Painting your woodwork is far less expensive than replacing your windows and doors, while drafts and leaks are inconvenient for everyone and interrupt your tenants' enjoyment of their home.
So give your woodwork the once-over, or ask your tenants to check for any worn out paint or varnish and to send you a few snaps on their phone. It's much easier decorating the outside of your property in late summer/early autumn than trying to get your paint to dry in the rain.
With these few simple checks, and a possible financial injection from the Government, you can set your property and tenants up for the autumn knowing that all is well and ready for the season.
Prevention is always better – and far less expensive – than cure, while the peace of mind from having everything sorted is a priceless quality.
If you'd like to talk about getting your rental property ready for the autumn, or you'd like a managing agent look after things for you, we would love to hear from you.
Tring office: 01442 820420
Berkhamsted office: 01442 863000