Date Published 10 October 2021
Don't let repairs stress you out!
Stuff breaks. It happens. And items in rental properties get damaged, stained or just simply wear out from time to time just like any others. But what you shouldn't do, whether you're a tenant or a landlord (or agent) is panic! Repairs and replacements can be quickly sorted out if you have a system in place, and as long as both sides understand how the system works, then there shouldn't be anything to worry about.
If you're a tenant, here a few things to think about.
First of all, if something happens, don't try to hide it, your landlord will probably discover it sooner or later. Whatever it is, report it! Even if you're not sure whether you need to report it or not … report it anyway! If you can think back to when you moved in, you will recall seeing an inventory (either photographic or video), so refer to it if you need to. You'll be able to see if something was broken/marked/damaged when you moved in and will be able to make a comparison.
Things that ALWAYS need reporting to the landlord immediately are:
Boiler and heating breakdowns
Flood/escape of water
Smell of gas or gas appliance not working properly/ carbon monoxide alarm activation
Electrical problems of any nature
Security problems, such as broken door/window locks
Structural problems (such as a large crack appearing, plaster collapse)
It's impossible to draw up a list of other, less serious things that you need to report, but suffice to say that if the damage or required repair wasn't there when you moved in, then chances are you'll need to report it. Here are a few examples:
Red wine, curry or other stain on a carpet that is difficult to remove
Cracked or broken window or glass door panel, or crack/chip to sanitary ware
Burnt work surface
Toilet not flushing/recharging
Kitchen/bathroom taps leaking/dripping
This list is not exhaustive of course, and you can probably think of many more mishaps and incidents that could happen in the home or outdoor space, some by pure accident, some not. However they occurred - come clean and tell someone! It's the best way.
We know a landlord who went to do an inspection one day and it was notably cold in the house. Here's what happened when he challenged the tenant…
Landlord: It's really cold in here, is it always this cold?
Tenant: Oh ... err … hang on a sec.
(Tenant disappears into integral garage and reappears a few seconds later.)
Tenant: That's better, it'll warm up now.
Landlord: Where did you go?
Tenant: It's just the boiler, it keeps dropping its pressure and switches itself off. I know what to do though, so it's no problem … only takes me a few seconds.
Landlord: If it's dropping its pressure then there must be a water leak somewhere.
Tenant: Nah, it just needs me to turn the knob and the pressure goes up again, then it'll switch on.
Landlord: No, there's water being lost out of the system. How long has it been like this?
Tenant: Errrr, not sure, about three months.
Landlord: Three months! Why didn't you tell me? I'd have called the plumber in!
Tenant: It's no trouble, honestly, I know what to do and it only takes a few seconds. I don't mind … really.
Landlord: I'll get the plumber in straight away.
Outcome? The system had developed a leak under the utility room floor. Water had been seeping out for over three months and had caused far more damage than would have been expected if the problem had been reported straight away.
So, if your young daughter pulls some wallpaper off, the boiler is temperamental, you've broken a bathroom tile, you moved a wardrobe and it fell over and took a chunk out of the plaster, you changed a lightbulb and dropped the glass lampshade, your car leaked oil all over the drive, your son jammed a whole toilet roll down the loo causing a blockage, or any one of a million other possible things that can happen … report it! You're giving yourself and the landlord chance to sort it out together. Don't forget, when you come to leave the property it must be clean and in the same condition as you found it, apart from ‘wear and tear'. This means that, for example, a carpet may look flatter and more worn through use, but it must still be clean.
Keep a good dialogue going with your landlord or agent and be clear on the reporting process. Together, we'll keep things ship-shape. Here at Westwood Lettings we have an online form you can fill in, but you can also ring us if it's urgent, or email or send a text. As long as we know!
Landlords. It's the same for you, especially if you're new to it all. Here are a few things to think about.
If you're notified of a breakdown or damage, don't panic! If you're self-managing a property then you should have a team in place who you can contact. At the very least you'll need a Gas Safe engineer, an electrician and a joiner/handyman. If your property is managed for you, then your agent will have all these services (and more) available at the end of a phone.
It's always best to try and work something out with the tenant if the repair needed is as a result of something they've done themselves (or another occupant) and isn't a boiler breakdown, broken gutter or similar. Accidents happen and it may be worth going fifty-fifty on cleaning a vindaloo stain out of a carpet, for example, if it means keeping a very good long-term on-time-rent-paying tenant who keeps the place spotless!
If you're using a management service/agent, then they'll do the negotiating for you and get all the facts together so that a decision can be made on how to get things rectified.
Criminal or wilful damage, lack of hygiene practices or total neglect is a different matter and must be dealt with swiftly and firmly. With regular inspections, such situations can be spotted in their infancy.
Looking after a rental property is a joint venture. Both tenant and landlord have a responsibility to each other, and working with each other from the start means that no-one gets stressed out by repairs!