1. How much should I budget for property maintenance?
Will the boiler conk out in the next week or the next decade? You just don’t know. Maintenance costs vary hugely but set aside 5–10% of your annual rental income for this. A new build flat will likely have fewer costs than a period house. The most important thing, though, is to set aside something.
2. When should I do works?
To prevent territorial irritation, do painting and major works before the first letting or between tenants – especially if you want to do it yourself.
3. My tenant won’t let the tradesman in. What can I do?
Write to your tenant that the landlord has a legal right (under Section 11(6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) to enter the property ‘for the purpose of viewing [its] condition and state of repair’ at reasonable times of the day and after giving 24 hours’ written notice. Keep a log in case there is a dispute. This also applies if the tenant won’t let the gas safe engineer in for an annual check.
4. What is fair to expect my tenant to maintain?
Newbie tenants (and a few spoiled ones) don’t know their responsibilities. Legally tenants are stewards of their rented home with a duty to look after it, though they don’t have to pay most repair bills. The contract usually lists what the tenant has to do:
- Take good care of fixtures and fittings
- Use appliances according to their manuals
- Put only appropriate items down drains and unblock drains if required
- Keep the home free from pests
- Ventilate and keep the property mould-free
- Not leave the house unattended for more than three to four weeks without telling you
- Report any serious maintenance issues immediately
5. Who maintains the garden?
Though the contract usually says garden maintenance is the tenant’s job, in practice it’s not that simple. You may have nurtured your garden over years, but your tenants will probably not know their Euphorbia from their Echinacea. If your garden is large or important to you, compromise to ensure your Eden survives. For example:
- You employ and pay a gardener, but try to include this cost in the rent when negotiating the tenancy terms
- You do the trees and borders; your tenant does the leaves and lawn
- Fit an automated sprinkler system so the tenants won’t forget to water
Include photos of the garden in the inventory, but be aware that you can’t hold tenants responsible for every plant that dies. You must also supply the right garden tools. Lastly, be prepared for change – in your few years away, your garden can grow dramatically.