As a follow-on from the last feature about landlord repair responsibilities, I thought I would give a run-down of best practice when working with contractors to effect any repairs or maintenance on a rental property.
Many landlords are current or former tradespeople or are simply fairly confident and skilled when it comes to DIY, but there will always be circumstances under which you are unqualified to do the job required.
As a letting agent, I have a duty to ensure anyone I appoint to carry out work on my landlords' property is reliable, capable, suitably qualified and providing value for money. Following the steps I take will help you ensure that you choose a contractor who ticks all of those boxes.
I suggest keeping a file of contractors for the various types of work you do, containing:
It's a really good idea to provide them with a set of terms or requirements, for example:
Set reminders in your diary when their insurance is due for renewal and make sure to chase them for up-to-date copies.
If you don't have an agent managing your property it is up to you to manage your roster of contractors and to make sure that they have the necessary qualifications and insurances to carry out specialised work.
Gas contractors need to be on the Gas Safe Register (this replaced the well-known CORGI register in 2009) in order to legally install, service and maintain gas-powered appliances. Oil heating contractors should be OFTEC-registered.
Plumbers who are members of the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) will be licensed, insured and have qualified employees. Plumbers can also register with The Trustmark scheme and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering is another good source of info.
You can check the Trustmark site for registered builders, and building associations such as the Federation of Master Builders and the Construction Employers' Federation maintain several good lists of registered builders.
Finally, glass and glazing contractors should be registered with the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF).
I advise to always instruct in writing where possible. Now, of course, there will be times you'll need to phone through a job - if it's particularly urgent or your contractor is out on the road - but get into the habit of following up all phone instructions with a written confirmation of the request.
Keep a record of:
A good instruction should contain clear details on time frame, the scope of work, budget limits, plus any other information that will help the contractor do the work required.
Ask your tradesperson to include the property address, nature of the problem, details of work needed to rectify, plus the cost of any parts as well as labour and call-out charges etc, on any estimates and invoices.
Having good systems in place to check work is key to avoiding problems such as incomplete or substandard work, or payment disputes.
It may be as simple as contacting the tenant to confirm the satisfactory completion of minor repairs (making sure to keep a written record of the communication), with in-person visits saved for more major work.
Are there any aspects of the buy-to-let industry you would like me to cover here in future features? Let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with subject 'Industry Info'.
If you have any specific landlord issues you'd like me to help you with, send a message to the same address with 'Ask Barry' in the subject line. I do publish these queries but always edited and anonymised to protect your privacy.
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