If you’ve ever been a landlord, this scenario will almost certainly sound familiar to you. Your property needs a small repair. It’s a loose door hinge, a dripping pipe, or something else minor that could easily be repaired by the tenants in an hour or two. It could also be just as easily fixed if they would only take a few minutes to call you. However, it is, for the most part, ignored. Eventually, your tardy tenants urgently report an impending emergency as the situation has deteriorated to the point where the minor repair has become a major undertaking.
Let’s be clear that we’re not talking about tenants who don’t know there’s a leaky pipe at the bottom of the garden where they never go. We’re discussing those who know there’s a problem and don’t report it until the problem escalates.
Why it happens
There is an economic truism known as the tragedy of the commons. It illustrates that people who don’t have a stake of ownership in a resource don’t take care of it. A homeowner speedily jumps on small repairs if they are sensible; otherwise, they become bigger and more expensive. If a hinge on my door is loose, I tighten the screws to stop the hinge from being pulled out of the frame and possibly the entire door from being damaged. If I don’t own the door, however, I’ll wait until it’s difficult for me to use the door.
How bad is the problem?
According to a study by insurance giant, LV=, tenants who ignore small repairs until they are major problems cost UK landlords over £4 billion a year.
Furthermore, the study found that 37% of all tenants genuinely felt that repairs could wait until it was an emergency. This means landlords can expect expensive trouble from more than one-third of all renters.
What can I do about tardy tenants?
Of course, you’re going to want excellent landlord insurance to protect you against tardy tenants with this attitude.
Other possible solutions to the problem include:
- Encourage your tenants to report any problems. Try and forge a friendly, accessible relationship with them. You can even try rewarding quick reporting of problems with a rental discount.
- Draw up a detailed procedure for reporting and effecting needed repairs. Make the tenant aware of the process and set out a procedure something like the one recommended on thebalance.com. If you sound more professional than the average landlord, they’re likely to regard keeping you in the loop as a higher priority than would otherwise be the case.
- Use a letting agent so they can deal with this kind of problem. Letting agents have preferred contractors for repairs, established procedures, and an inspection schedule to keep tenants in line. How’s that for peace of mind? However, they also cost money and some agents, as with all industries, are not as professional as they could be. Find out what you need to consider when choosing a letting agent.
The tenant-landlord relationship can be tricky, as both parties may have been taken advantage of in the past. However, most people are decent, and it’s quite possible to foster a relatively trouble-free relationship that doesn’t burden either of you with unlooked-for expenses.