A recent story in the news entertained me, but also made me think. The story concerned a light-hearted article by a Doctor, blaming episodes of Peppa Pig for giving an unrealistic expectation of what the National Health Service should deliver.
It appears that Dr Brown Bear in Peppa Pig came out on an urgent visit because of a rash on the porky patients face. It seems that this is causing anxious (homosapien) patients to call out the doctor for equally trivial reasons. It is difficult to believe that anyone could watch an animation and believe that they, with the busy medical practices and the other options available for advice and assistance, could take their cue from a children’s animation. Any more than we expect the odd poisoned apple a la Snow White to kill us (or send us into a coma from which we’ll be woken by a handsome prince!)
So, what has this to do with the private landlord? Whilst the article was highlighting what the NHS shouldn’t be expected to do, dinner with a couple of landlords last week brought a similar thought to mind. These were exceptionally good landlords (you wouldn’t expect me to dine with the other kind) and one got a call.
In my training sessions with landlords, I always stress that they should put a time limit on for calls, unless in an emergency. This instance was an emergency, a problem with a water tank meant the house was flooded and the lights had fused. At this time of year, this had to be rectified as soon as possible, as it was a HHSRS hazard not to have lights and for tenants to have to rely on candles. The landlord went out and within an hour, the electric was on, the issue with the water tank had been addressed and the water pumped out.
But what has this to do with Peppa Pig and the newspaper article (repeated in the newspapers and discussed in various television programmes)?
It’s about what counts as an emergency and in need of immediate attention. Take time to discuss it with your tenants at the beginning of the tenancy; 9.00pm seems a good cut-off time for reporting repairs.
An emergency would be if all the lights failed; an emergency is not one light switch failing, which could wait until the next day.
An emergency is the toilet over-flowing; an emergency is not the toilet blocked and not flushing. A bowl of water down the toilet should clear waste until the landlord can take action – hopefully the next day.
Does this seem less than the standard of service you like to provide? Use as your standard the service provided by social landlords. Some may be highly efficient, but how many could be rung by a tenant at 9.30pm and have it repaired within an hour?
At one time, a standard blocked toilet was a 10-day job – that is, would be repaired within 10 days. A private tenant is unlikely to think this is reasonable. It would be interesting to know what an Environmental team would make of that – a private tenant would doubtless find his landlord suffered penalties, whilst a social tenant would be refused a visit – it would be classed as a conflict of interest.
So, over the Christmas period, remind your tenants about what constitutes an emergency. Be prepared for necessary repairs; make sure you have a good torch with plenty of spare batteries and a couple of spare heaters to offer some warmth if there is a heating problem.
Do that, and you can be confident that you are not only providing more than a social landlord could, but are also showing an excellent, and humane, standard of service.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon