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When you are responsible for taking care of a property (or several), you will need a good system for finding, judging and paying top quality tradesmen. This is not just about fixing repair and maintenance issues whenever they pop up. Legally, a landlord is responsible for maintaining a property in line with minimum safety standards, or they could face serious legal and financial penalties.

A landlord may need to book tradesmen for mandatory maintenance tasks, such as Gas Safety Checks or Energy Performance Certificates, to make repairs when things go wrong or even in emergencies when the safety of their tenants is in serious jeopardy. In any of these situations having a system in place, or even a simple set of steps to follow, can prevent a great deal of hassle or even potentially save you money.

Still, finding good tradespeople is not always difficult, especially for landlords. While most homeowners have the freedom to spend time weighing up their options before hiring a Pro, a landlord will often have to book someone quickly in order to satisfy their tenants. If a landlord fails to do so, leaving a property in a poor state or even causing further damage by refusing to book repairs, the tenants can hold them legally accountable or even get their local council involved.

So, what exactly are the difficulties which come with managing tradesmen as a landlord?

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What does a landlord need to hire tradesmen for?

Though tenants may be responsible for the day to day care of a property, most tasks relating to maintaining the building and the contents it came with are the responsibility of the landlord.

A landlord must make it their priority to maintain:

  • The structure and exterior of the property, including walls, stairs, the roof, any external doors, the windows and bannisters
  • Toilets, baths, sinks and drain pipes
  • Hot water and heating facilities/ appliances
  • Ventilation and chimneys
  • Electrical wiring
  • Portable appliances provided with the property
  • Gas appliances provided with the property
  • Common areas such as entrance halls and shared kitchens

A landlord is also required to pay to fix any damage done to the property’s decor by poor repair work which they arranged.

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How to find reliable tradesmen

When it comes to hiring trade professionals, experience is absolutely golden. However, there are several well known signs that you have found yourself a top-notch Pro:

  • Willingness to visit - Agreeing to a site visit before actually doing the required work is a classic sign of a professional Pro. Granted, this is not always possible, but if a Pro is happy to inspect the situation in order to appraise it and give you a more accurate quote then you should usually feel safer using them. Conversely, if a Pro insists on doing the work immediately, be sure to ask them why.
  • Not asking for cash - A Pro asking to be paid in cash may not necessarily be illegal, but it should certainly raise a few red flags. These days most professionals are happy to be paid online, as this is convenient for the customer and establishes a clear paper trail in the event of a dispute. If a tradesman insists on being paid in cash, especially up front, your best bet will be to look elsewhere.
  • Knowledge on job - When it comes to taking care of a property it is important not to take so called ‘experts’ at their word. Ask your candidate a few questions about the job at hand in order to test their knowledge. If they don’t seem to know what they are talking about, you will be better off going with another Pro.
  • Good reviews - A good quality Pro will usually be able to show you positive reviews from recent customers. The two key words here are ‘recent’ and ‘customers’: reviews which are several years old may not reflect the quality of their current work, while a Pro who has multiple reviews from several different clients is less likely to have faked their praise.
  • Past projects - Before hiring a Pro, ask to see details of their previous jobs, including photos. For larger projects such as extensions they may even be able to take you to see them. This will give you a chance to assess the quality of their work and see if they are good as they claim.
  • Local discounts - Most trade professionals enjoy trade discounts from local retailers. However, the very best candidates will have checked what is available from multiple locations. For example, a top-quality kitchen fitter would be able to tell you about the discounts available with Wickes, B&Q, IKEA and so on before advising you on the best retailer to go with.
  • Recommendations - The old saying still rings true: the very best tradies are the ones you hear about through personal recommendations. It is not always easy to find Pros in this way, so if you are struggling for ideas then you may wish to consider joining an online landlords’ forum.

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How much does it cost to hire a tradesman?

The cost of hiring a tradesman always depends on the job itself. Several aspects of your property, along with the size and length of the job, will influence how much work will be necessary, whether you will need specialist help and how much you can expect to spend on materials.

You can find averages for jobs by searching online, though it is important to keep in mind that quotes often vary widely between different locations. Pros in London and the south of England tend to be more expensive than those elsewhere, and so on. It will also be important to collect multiple quotes as this will give you an idea of what constitutes a fair price for the work, allowing you to spot when candidates are attempting to charge too much or too little.

Something to keep in mind is that your tenants may well request, or even insist, that they be present when you have tradesmen over. In order to fit with their schedules, this may require you to bring in tradesmen outside of normal working hours. 

While it is certainly understandable for tenants to request this, it is hardly mandatory. Booking Pros at this time will often be far more expensive, after all. While you cannot simply barge into the property and make repairs whenever you want (the legal minimum is 24 hours’ worth of notice), as long as you inform your tenants in advance then they cannot reasonably refuse you entry. If they stop you making necessary repairs, the cost of repairing any resulting damage can also be taken out of their rental deposit. In any case, it is worth doing your utmost to arrange a date to suit all parties. You can also offer to be present yourself, so that somebody they know will be there to keep an eye on the Pro.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you have been asked to hire a tradesman to repair damage which was caused by your tenants, it is not necessarily your responsibility to pay for it. For example, if your tenants broke some of your furniture or ruined the decor of an entire room, you would be within your rights to deduct the cost of repairs from their deposit at the end of the tenancy.

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Hiring tradesmen through a property manager

If you do not want to have to go through the hassle of hiring tradesmen whenever something goes wrong in your property, you could always have an estate agency manage the property on your behalf. As well as collecting rent and handling tenant queries, they will also be able to bring Pros in and even arrange for their agents to accompany them to the property in order to ease the minds of your tenants.

The downside to this is that hiring an estate agent or property manager for this can be quite expensive. The standard fees can take up to 15% of your property’s rent, whether or not they actually have to deal with any maintenance requests. 

There can also be additional fees for:

  • Replacement parts or materials
  • Hiring Pros (an ‘arranging fee’)
  • Booking 3rd party services, such as EPCs or Gas Safety Checks