With costs of labour and materials rising almost daily, carrying out repairs to properties that have been damaged by unforeseen circumstances can soon spiral out of control. That is why having adequate landlords insurance cover is an absolute necessity, but repeated claims can increase premiums and excesses, especially if the damage results from circumstances which, with a bit of foresight and routine maintenance, could not only have been foreseen but also avoided.
Good management of a landlord’s properties includes regular and targeted inspections of all their rental investments looking for early signs of issues which if left unchecked, could lead to more serious problems which take considerably more time and effort to rectify.
What to look for?
An inspection has to be far more than just a cursory look around to see if the tenants are mowing the lawn or keeping the carpets clean. It is primarily the condition of the property that needs to be assessed, not the housekeeping skills of the tenants. However, if some of their actions, or lack of them, are causing issues to the property, these will have to be addressed by due process.
A first look at the outside of the property might reveal signs of water damage from broken guttering and downpipes. In an area with many trees, guttering can become easily blocked with fallen leaves so will require periodic cleaning to prevent water from overflowing and running down the walls. Of all the claims made on landlord’s insurance, the greater number are due to water damage, either by water ingress from the outside, or leaks from within.
Also, check the ground-level walls for signs of rising water in the form of green stains or other plant growth. Earth, building rubble, and even rubbish piled up against walls, can allow moisture to breach the dampproof course and result in rising damp inside the building.
In all, these case simple and timely maintenance can prevent more significant problems from developing which would require considerable expense to repair.
Inside the house.
Again, the primary focus here is looking for signs that might indicate a problem is developing which if treated early will avoid unnecessary claims and costs. Not only will serious issues take up more time and resources to remedy, but they might also make the property unliveable for a time, resulting in lost rental income and even extra costs for rehousing the existing tenants.
Signs of damp and black mould are early indicators of damage due to excessive moisture. The primary culprit is condensation. While moisture in the air is unavoidable, everything we do, from breathing to cooking and having a shower, puts more moisture into the air, and damp and black mould are indicators of ineffective or non-existent ventilation. Opening windows might seem the obvious answer, but in cold weather, with the central heating on, this may not be a popular option for the tenants. And in these cash-strapped days, some tenants may even cut down on their heating resulting in cold spots throughout the property where excess moisture will condense.
The solution is to provide efficient extractor fans in the primary sources of moisture, the kitchen and the bathroom.
Other areas of concern will be under kitchen cupboards where appliances have been connected to the water supply, and in the bathroom, around the shower, sinks, bath and showers. It must be remembered there a property contains many channels and voids within its structure, so signs of water damage may be the result of a leak elsewhere in the building.
In the roof.
A regular inspection of attic spaces might reveal poorly lagged pipes, which could cause problems in cold spells, or damage resulting from water ingress as a result of broken or missing tiles. Flat roofs are a particular area of concern, so a simple check might reveal pools of rainwater or torn felt. Prompt remedial action will again stave off the cost of replacing the whole roof.