The accidental landlord:check your rental property regularly to avoid nasty surprises

Nip maintenance issues in the bud to protect your investment and keep your tenants sweet.

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Admittedly, I have said this before but just in case you weren’t paying attention I’ll say it again: you must inspect your rental property regularly, or insist that your managing agent does so. 

By “regularly” I mean at least once every six months but more often after bad weather, such as the storms that battered the South-East earlier this month.

Go often and you will be able to check for early signs of damage, such as damp or mould or rodent infestations; don’t go at all and you will miss the chance to sort out any problems before they become more serious.

In my experience, tenants don’t tell you anything until the drama happens. They will call to ask you to tighten a loose loo roll holder but they won’t bother to let you know about the growing damp patch on the living room ceiling, which is probably a leaky pipe.

My tenants reported a faulty washing machine and when I went to take a look I spotted a far worse problem they hadn’t told me about: a large patch of damp in the hallway, right above the front door.

£750 a week: in Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, this two-bedroom fourth-floor furnished flat, with a lift, is available to rent through John D Wood (020 8012 2451).

“How long has that been there?” I asked one of the girls. “What? Where?” she asked. Of course she hadn’t noticed the damp because it never occurred to her to look up. It turned out that a seal around the front door had been blown loose in a gale, letting in rainwater.

I took a walk around the flat and found that the freeholders had recently painted the balcony, and left large white handprints all over the black handrail. 

None of the tenants had told me because they didn’t care. Neither did they let me know that the painters had disturbed the netting that was put there to prevent pigeons getting on to the balcony — so a bird had pushed its way in and made a nest.

I also found a letter there addressed to me from the freeholders, saying they hadn’t been able to gain access to the flat to carry out essential window repairs and unless I contacted them within seven days they wouldn’t do them.

I asked a friend who recently became a landlord when she last visited her rental property. She said she was nervous to go round in case it prompted her tenant to present her with a long list of repairs. I had to think about that one...

Tenants should let landlords know of any maintenance issues and, technically speaking, they could be held liable for any further damage if they fail to do so. But it’s better to pre-empt problems by making regular checks yourself.

If you feel awkward about disturbing your tenants, remind yourself that you are ultimately safeguarding your own precious asset worth several hundred thousand pounds.

Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock


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