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A good landlord needs to stay on top of repairs and maintenance across each of their properties. This means keeping them safe and maximising their potential in order to attract the very best tenants. To do this, naturally, a landlord needs to know how to hire the very best tradesmen!

Still, most landlords do not make a career out of letting properties. The majority only own one or two, and may be no more familiar with hiring tradesmen than their renters. A recent Plentific survey even found that an estimated 13 million UK homeowners fear hiring tradesmen, despite how essential they are.

While finding a top-notch-tradie can be difficult, it is by no means something that a landlord has to do every day. Ideally, landlords will be able to find tradesmen who they can rely on for years to come. During an emergency you may find yourself without enough time to find the most experienced and fairly priced tradesmen out there, so it can be good to prepare yourself before this happens.

An important thing to keep in mind at this point is how heavily scrutinised landlords are when it comes to property maintenance. If a landlord ignores issues and allows a property to fall into disrepair, they can face serious fines, or even prison!

It could take a few disasters for you to fully get the hang of hiring top tradies, so we are here to help you along. Here are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when you need to hire a tradesman!

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What are a landlord’s responsibilities for hiring tradesmen?

There are a number of landlords who ‘let and forget’. In other words, once they find tenants they disappear and only poke their heads up if there is a problem with the rent coming in. While some may get away with it, these landlords are very much a dying breed. Organisations like Shelter are working harder than ever to educate tenants on their rights and the widespread use of camera phones means that tenants have little trouble with collecting evidence.

If a landlord is informed about a repair or maintenance issue and refuses to fix it, the tenants can go to their local council for help. This would likely result in a ‘housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) assessment’, after which the council could restrict the use of the property, force the landlord to make repairs or even carry out any necessary work and bill the landlord afterwards.

It is also important to keep in mind that penalties for rogue landlords can be dear, especially when they let standards slip across multiple properties. Some of the most famous cases have seen landlords fined hundreds of thousands of pounds, and that’s without taking compensation to tenants into account!

In other words, it pays for a landlord to know their responsibilities! Some of the most important ones include:

  • Conducting an annual gas safety check and providing tenants with the resulting certificate
  • Ensure all gas and electrical systems and appliances are in safe working order
  • Keeping the property free from health hazards (as defined by the HHSRS)

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Lesson one: hire promptly

When you need to hire a tradesmen, it is important to do it sooner rather than later, especially if your tenants are in immediate danger. While tenants should not expect you to hire someone at the drop of a hat for every little issue, emergencies are another matter entirely.

In most cases, a landlord should be expected to book a Pro within two weeks. This should give them plenty of time to compare their options and arrange an appointment which suits their tenants.

Lesson two: organise a time with your tenants

Most of the time, a tenant will want to be at their property when a tradesman comes calling. It is their home, after all, and they are entitled to a certain amount of privacy. Legally speaking a landlord needs to give a tenant a minimum of 24 hours’ notice before sending someone round.

At the same time, certain tenants can be difficult about this. They may demand that landlords hire tradesmen in the evening or at weekends, which will be more expensive, because they are too busy to be present during the day.

The key here is to find a good middle ground. If tenants are being difficult, a landlord would be well within their rights to simply book a Pro anyway, provided they give enough notice. In a case like this you may even be able to diffuse the situation by offering to accompany the tradie yourself.

Lesson three: always verify your Pros

When you hire a tradesman, it is important to make sure that they are the right Pro for the job: somebody who will not charge the earth for good quality work. There are plenty of cowboys out there and if you want to avoid them then you will need to carefully vet any Pros you consider.

The first thing to do is check a tradesman’s qualifications. This is particularly important with Pros whose work could cause serious damage, such as an electrician. If subpar work is done, it could place your tenants in danger and invite serious fines. Others, like gas engineers, must carry ID to show that they are qualified (and on the Gas Safe Register).

Next, look for reviews from past customers. Be sure to look at several, just in case there are fakes, and pay close attention to reviews for jobs which were similar to what you want done.

Thirdly, ask your candidate about the job at hand. If they demonstrate a good degree of knowledge and experience, you know what you have found a top Pro.

After all of this, if a Pro seems to tick all of your boxes, you can confidently… put them in the maybe pile. We still have more to cover, after all!

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Lesson four: trust your instincts

When assessing a Pro, you can do all of the checks in the world, but if they still seem to be giving off a bad vibe then it will usually be best to look elsewhere. After all, you are looking for somebody to put your trust in, and good tradesmen know that being professional, friendly and knowledgeable are all invaluable when it comes to winning work.

While your instincts will never make up for failing to do background checks on a potential Pro, they can still be highly valuable in helping you choose the right candidate. Better yet, they are almost guaranteed to get better the more you practice!

Lesson five: collect multiple quotes

It should go without saying that a responsible landlord never stoops to just hiring the cheapest Pro available. Nine times out of ten, this Pro will be cheap for a reason, usually because the quality of their work is so poor that they cannot attract business otherwise.

At the same time, you would not be expected to hire an overly-expensive Pro simply because they pass all the checks mentioned above. 

So, how do you find the middle ground? The answer is to collect multiple quotes from several different candidates. This offers several advantages:

  • It lets you work out the average cost for the work you want done. This is better than looking for averages online, as costs can vary considerably between different locales. These bespoke quotes will also reflect the individual aspects of your property, such as whether access is poor
  • Once you have an average you will be able to realise when candidates are trying to charge too much or too little
  • Knowing how much other Pros are charging can help you to haggle. Your best candidate may be willing to accept a lower quote if you let them know the prices you have been offered elsewhere

As a general rule, it is usually best to collect at least three to five quotes. Make sure that they are set quotes, rather than hourly or daily rates, as this will allow you know exactly what you will be paying. 

Lesson six: think long term

When you hire a Pro as a landlord, you should be thinking about future jobs as well as your current one. As we mentioned earlier, if you find a Pro who you can rely on in the long term then you can save yourself the stress of your current search further down the line.

If you establish a rapport with a Pro by being respectful and recommending them to your friends, you may even be able to enjoy a discount down the line! Plus, the prospect of long term work could convince the Pro to work harder to make you happy.

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Lesson seven: the old ways are the best

We have spoken a lot about the best ways to compare Pros, but the old mantra is still true: the very best tradesmen get by on recommendation alone.

So, be sure to ask friends and family for ideas on who to hire. If you have a tradesman who you trusted with a different job, they may be able to recommend a colleague. Your tenants may even have some ideas!

Even when this is possible, it is still a good idea to do background checks. Reviews and qualifications will still be important and it will also be worth asking the Pro a few questions to test their knowledge. Luckily, websites like Plentific make finding any relevant information fairly easy.

Lesson eight: avoid paying with cash

There are plenty of old chestnuts of advice when it comes to hiring Pros, but there is one which you should definitely ignore. This is the old mantra that you can get a better deal by paying your Pros in cash.

Let’s think about what ‘deal’ actually means. Yes, you may end up spending less money, but without a formal agreement, contract and invoice, a Pro could simply take their lower quote and leg it.

It may sound like we are making a fuss over nothing, but in reality most rogue traders operate in this way. Some tradesmen may have legitimate reasons to ask for cash payments, but if a Pro absolutely insists on doing things informally then you should know to steer clear.

Lesson nine: always ask for an invoice

This goes back to what we mentioned in the previous section. It is absolutely fundamental that you ask for an invoice whenever you hire a tradesman.

Why? It's all about accountability. Having a signed invoice will establish a paper trail and define exactly what kind of work you were promised for your money. Should your tradesman fail to provide this work, the invoice can then be used to hold them accountable.

It can also be a good idea to ask potential candidates about how they handle invoices before deciding on who to hire. Their reaction can tell you a lot about the kind of Pro they are. 

Do they have a solid system in place, or are they insisting that an official invoice isn't necessary? If they are both well organised and completely legitimate in how they operate, obtaining an invoice shouldn't be a problem.

Lesson ten: ask about insurance

A good landlord knows the value of a good insurance policy. Landlord insurance can protect both you and your property in the event of an emergency (you might even be paying for your Pro this way.)

However, larger home improvement projects may not be covered by your current policy. It is definitely worth taking the time to check this and contact your provider if necessary. You may need to take out additional cover, but this can be well worth the cost for your own peace of mind.

Of course, your tradesmen should also be covered. Most Pros will be covered by 'public liability insurance (PLI)', which should protect both themselves and your property in the event of a disaster. However, this is not strictly mandatory, so it is still worth asking your Pros to make sure they are covered.

Certain Pros may also be covered by 'professional indemnity insurance (PII)'. This is designed to protect professionals who are hired for their expertise. For example, if a structural engineer made calculations which turned out to be incorrect, a PII policy would help to cover the cost of correction work.