Xmas is Coming – the Landlord’s Getting Flak

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We are coming up to Xmas and despite the Xmas songs and Xmas markets, some landlords may think ‘so what’. Of course, they are right to say so, it is a business they are running, but the landlord who thinks this will have little implications for their business, should perhaps think again.

They may not have tenants who go to Church, but that does not mean that they are untouched by Xmas which has become the most commercialised season of the year and this could have an effect on you.

Let’s look at what may be expected of landlords. People will want their homes warm in the cold weather. Heating will be on, windows kept closed to retain the heat, which equals – condensation. Few tenants will believe that this is down to their own life-style, that homes need to be ventilated. 

The landlord can argue as much as they like that if wet clothes are dried on radiators, the window must be left open. If this is a likely scenario, discuss with the tenants. Could clothes be dried in one room, with an airing rack, keeping the door closed, the windows open? This should at least localise the problem of condensation. Dry the windows and doors when the drying period is ended.

The best answer to condensation is an electronic system of venting. Fitted in the loft, they guarantee no condensation. Running costs are only about 1p a day, but installation can be £3-400. It may save money in the long-run but may seem expensive to install. 

De-humidifiers also do a good job, but if there is a massive amount of condensation, the engine can burn out and if you provide one, you would be expected to replace, so be prepared for needing to do so every couple of years. There are small and inexpensive de-humidifier units, but whether they would have a major effect on large amounts of condensation is questionable – perhaps more suitable for a wardrobe space so clothes do not become subject to mould growth.

If previous advice has been followed, you will already have inspected properties closely, to ensure that there are no blocked gutters, no missing tiles; the gas safety check has shown that the boiler is working well, but have you taken the time to show the tenant how to rectify small problems? Nothing major, but bleeding radiators, checking the boiler and topping the water up when it is needed? Taking some time now may mean you don’t get a ‘phone call on Xmas day.

Of course, the main worry for landlords will be whether they get the rent. Families, who live on the edge all year, may go to extremes to give themselves and their families a good Xmas; sadly, this often leads to rent arrears and high levels of debt. 

Opinions are mixed; if it is raised with them, along with a gentle reminder that keeping you informed and paying something would be better than ignoring the issue and paying nothing, some would say this almost gives the tenant carte blanche to fall into arrears. Ignore it and then raise arrears after they have accumulated could result in an abandoned property in the New Year. 

You will know your tenants. You will know who doesn’t pay rent one month but then makes it up over the coming months. You will know who is likely to ring you about trivial repairs over the Xmas period. Try and prepare. Do what you can, and with any luck, you will be able to have a seasonal break from the usual hassle that being a private landlord can bring.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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