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Don't get called out on Christmas day!

Christmas is supposed to be an enjoyable break - for both you and your tenants - and if things go wrong with your buy-to-let, it can spoil the festivities for everyone. So now is the time to check you’ve done everything you can to ensure any inconvenience is kept to an absolute minimum.

By far the best way to cover yourself is to engage a managing agent who is a member of ARLA Propertymark or RICS. That gives you peace of mind that trained professionals are ensuring your property is legally let, issues are dealt with quickly and correctly, and the rent your tenants have paid is protected. They should have systems in place for taking care of problems over the festive period and be able to respond quickly to calls from tenants, handling everything on your behalf.

Whether you have a full management agreement with an agent or are looking after your buy-to-let yourself, here are our top three tips for avoiding Christmas callouts:

Make sure your bricks and mortar are ready

Every year, as winter approaches, you or your managing agent should carry out a set of ‘standard’ checks to make sure your property is wind and water tight and prepared for cold and adverse weather. These checks should include:

  • Having your annual gas check and boiler service
  • Making sure smoke detectors, heat sensors and CO2 alarms have fresh batteries and that interlinked and hard-wired fire alarm systems are working properly
  • Having portable appliance checks (PAT) on all electrical items, such as fridges and washing machines
  • Checking all door and window seals and closures
  • Clearing guttering and drains
  • Making sure no roof tiles are loose or missing
  • Its also a good idea to remind your tenants of what to do and who to call in case of an emergency and as a landlord, worth having a few PAT tested, legal, heaters spare, just in case!

Give your agent advance approval for repairs

Since the Deregulation Act came into force on 1st October 2015, it has been illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant simply for making valid complaints about housing conditions and asking for necessary repairs and maintenance to be carried out on their home. And, as of 1stNovember this year, councils have the right to fine landlords who are found to be in breach of their duties up to £30,000, without going to court. So it’s now more important than ever that you respond to your tenant and make repairs within a ‘reasonable’ timeframe.

You also have to ensure that any repair issues reported by the tenant are responded to, in writing, within 14 days of the problem being raised.

So, over the winter period, when maintenance issues have the potential to be more serious than at other times of year, it’s a good idea to give your managing agent authorisation to fix problems up to a certain value without needing to contact you – especially if you’re planning to be away on holiday. Check with them that they have reliable emergency plumbers and electricians, who know letting laws, and make sure your tenants know exactly who to call in case of an emergency.

Is your tenant going away?

Ask your tenant whether they’re planning to be away over the festive season. If so, especially as this year is looking to be a cold one, remind them (or ask your agent to) to leave the heating on low to avoid pipes freezing and bursting. Also, given that Christmas is a bonus time for burglars, ask them not to leave presents on display and to lock up properly when they leave the house. It might also be a good idea to put some lamps on a timer so that the property doesn’t look as if it’s unoccupied.

Finally, do double-check your landlord insurance policy to make sure you have met your obligations with regard to property maintenance and are happy with the level of your cover, for example, what emergency cover do you have? If you have any concerns, call your insurer and make sure you won’t be left out of pocket if winter gets the better of your investment.

Because we play by the book we want to tell you that…

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
There may be a fee for mortgage advice. The actual amount you pay will depend upon your circumstances.
The fee is up to 1% but a typical fee is 0.3% of the amount borrowed.

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