Maintaining your rental property
Posted on: 03 December 2013
Conducting an annual survey on your rental property will help identify any repair and maintenance issues which need to be rectified before they turn into costly problems.
It will also ensure that you, as the landlord, meet your health and safety obligations and adhere to the terms of your insurance.
But remember safety first! Before carrying out any maintenance, use the correct equipment or a suitably qualified contractor.
Check the exterior of the property
First give the outside of the building a thorough examination, not forgetting the roof. Defective roof coverings and damaged or poorly maintained gutters can cause major problems. Debris on the ground from broken slates and tiles could indicate there may be a problem. Brush any moss off the roof as it can block gutters and retain moisture (which can damage the roof in frosty weather). It will also allow you to assess the area better.
Make sure the gutters are cleared of any debris and check for any signs of damage to pipes – they may burst and cause a leak. If you notice any damp patches or leaks, it's vital that repairs are carried out before the problem escalates into a flood. If this was to happen, your insurer is likely to ask if all preventative measures had been taken to avoid the situation before paying out on a claim.
While checking the building's exterior, also look at the walls for signs of decay to the masonry and mortar joints, including any new cracks (which could be an indication of subsidence). If the crack is minor, you could repoint it with an appropriate mortar to prevent moisture entering. If it opens further after pointing, seek the advice of a chartered structural engineer.
You may also want to clear away any bushes and trees that have grown close to the building as they can cause problems in the future. They may also prevent you from thoroughly inspecting the premises.
Managing fire risks
The Fire Safety Order 2005 requires any person who has some level of control over the premises to take steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape in the event of an incident. In a tenanted building, this applies to the entire premises, not just common areas. This means that as a landlord, you should carry out a fire risk assessment to identify any possible dangers and provide the necessary precautions to deal with a fire. These include fire blankets in kitchens and the appropriate extinguishers. In your annual check, make sure any fire safety equipment is serviced and the smoke alarms are tested.
Fire certificates are also required and it is likely that your business insurance provider will ask you and the tenant for a copy.
If you update your fire alarm system, make sure you inform your insurance provider as it will need to be noted on the policy.
When servicing equipment within the building, don't overlook the boiler and heating system, the air conditioning units and the wiring systems. It's the landlord's responsibility to have any common and shared systems checked as these areas are also considered a risk.
A qualified, Gas Safe registered installer should examine installation, maintenance and safety checks on the heating system. For electrical testing, make sure the contractor is NICEIC registered, which will provide a six year, insurance-backed warranty on their work. Air conditioning should also be annually serviced and it's advisable that this is done before the system is switched on for the summer.
General health and safety
Landlords also have some level of responsibility for health and safety issues. You need to make sure that the premises are in safe, working order, in particular areas such as lifts, stairways, walkways, corridors and any outside footpaths. You should ensure that hand rails on the stairs and steps are in good condition and repair any broken walkways to prevent slips and trips for which you could be held responsible.
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