Well that’s it then – Summer time has ended before the Summer really arrived! Whether we feel ready for Winter or not, the days will get shorter, nights will get colder, shops which started selling Christmas cards in July will be strung with holiday lights and play Christmas carols if you’re lucky, rather tacky Christmas songs if you’re not.
What is certain with the end of summer time, is that tenants will start to complain to their landlord that:
- The house is cold
- There is mould growth in the kitchen and/or bathroom
- The doors are sticking
- The drive or path is flooding
Once summer time is over, a cold house becomes a serious issue, particularly if there are children or elderly persons living in the property. If the tenant decides it is too cold, or costing too much to heat, they may report this to the local enforcement team, who will take action as it is one of the requirements of the HHSRS legislation that the property is adequately heated.
It is far better to discuss it with your tenants first, to see if there is anything that can be done to improve the efficiency of the heating.
Is the boiler as efficient as the more modern boilers are? Consider whether it is worth changing it now.
Are window frames sound? Even double glazing can be badly fitted and cause draughts. Put draught excluders around doors and windows.
If the property is sound and there are no obvious reasons why the property is colder than it should be, it may be that the tenant is frightened of the prospect of big bills and is not heating it to the extent it could and should be, but you cannot force a tenant to use more gas. It may be worth providing a halogen heater, which is not expensive to run but could keep at least the main sitting room warm.
The appearance of black mould disturbs many tenants. It causes a musty smell, damages clothes and furnishings and is a health hazard. The answer is usually to open windows, ventilate the property properly and the mould will not occur. Easy to say if you are not on a limited income and don’t have to choose between eating and heating. Despite expensive advertising of products that can be used on mould, these seem to pass unnoticed by the tenants.
Installing extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms will help, and for a permanent answer, install Positive Impact Ventilation units. They guarantee to clear the problem of condensation completely and will cost the tenant only 1p a day to run. Admittedly, a unit will cost the landlord £4-500, but this could be worth it for happy tenants and unspoiled decoration.
Sticking doors are common in Winter, due to expansion. The doors can be taken off and planed, but you will need draught excluder strips fitting as when they contract in warmer weather, there may be a draught.
It may depend on the tenant whether action is needed. Whilst most people may be able to cope with a sticking door, the elderly or frail may have a problem which needs to be addressed.
A path flooding is almost certainly down to blocked drains. It is sad to say that whilst a home-owner will keep his drains clear so this does not happen, the same does not seem to apply to tenants. Talk to tenants about it; make it clear that it is part of their tenant’s duties to keep the drains clear; consider buying drain protectors which are not expensive but stop leaves gathering which can lead to flooding.
During the cold, dark days of Autumn and Winter, people want to feel comfortable and secure. If they don’t, they are likely to complain to the local authority. Try and pre-empt that, talk to tenants and address their concerns. It is worth it to keep good tenants and to keep your name out of the local authority’s files.
Summer time may be over, but your relationship with your tenant doesn’t have to be.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon