6 questions to answer before you attempt repairs to your buy-to-let property
When you’re a buy-to-let landlord, it’s tempting to do maintenance work yourself. The prospect of saving money is magnetic. However, is the money you could save a myth? What if you get out of your depth, and make the problem worse? You could upset a good tenant. You will have wasted your time. You will probably end up paying more for someone else to put right your botched job. Still, there’s the possibility you could save a few quid…
In this article, you’ll learn how to decide if you should do maintenance on your buy-to-let property yourself, or leave it to another.
1. Do I have the time?
Most buy-to-let investors have their own busy lives to lead. You can put your shirt on it that a maintenance issue will come at a time when you have no time. You might be at work or in the middle of a family event when the tenant calls.
Now, it may be that an issue reported by your tenant can wait a few hours or a couple of days. But what if the central heating has stopped working and your tenant has a young baby? Can you drop everything and get to your buy-to-let property pronto?
So, when deciding if you have the time to make a repair, you must:
- Decide on the urgency of the issue
- Figure out how long the repair will take you to do
- Decide if you have the time to spare
2. Do you have the tools to do the job?
So, let’s say that you’ve decided you can drop everything and go to your property. You think fixing the toilet that won’t flush shouldn’t take more than an hour (plus travelling time). So, you’ll be gone two or three hours at the most.
Now, do you have the tools that you might need? Will you get there, discover you haven’t got a wrench, and need to visit the local hardware store and spend £20 on a new wrench, which you probably won’t use for several years?
3. How much is your time worth?
OK, so let’s get this right. You’re going to spend an hour travelling, a half hour shopping, and an hour doing the job (that’s an estimate, by the way, without seeing the job yet). What are two and a half hours of your time worth? Don’t forget to include the cost of that new wrench. By this stage, you’ll probably want to hire a professional to do the job. All that time, effort, and money – is it worth it?
4. Do you have the experience needed?
If this is your first time attempting a given repair, it will probably take longer than you think. But that isn’t the worst problem you may have. The repair probably won’t be the quality that your tenant expects. In the long run, that’s not going to instil a lot of confidence in your tenant. It could lose you a good tenant, and cost you more money to get up to scratch.
5. Do you have the qualifications to do the job?
Doing the odd DIY job around the house is way different to working on your buy-to-let property. There are some jobs you would probably attempt yourself in your own home, such as repairing a faulty electrical socket. This doesn’t mean you can do likewise in someone else’s home (your tenant’s).
Many repairs – electrical and gas, for example – must only be done by a qualified professional (it’s the law). If you attempt them and something goes wrong, you’ll find that your landlord insurance will not be valid. You could be fined heavily, and then sued for thousands in compensation for injury.
6. Can you afford to take the risk?
OK, so let’s say that you’ve got this far down the list of questions, and you’re still convinced that doing the maintenance yourself is the way to go. Before you jump in at the deep end, you should assess the risk that doing the repair will incur. For example, if it includes electrical work, or gas repairs, or working at height, can you afford to get injured? What would happen if you fell off a ladder and broke your leg, and couldn’t work for three months? Or worse?
So, can you do your own property maintenance?
Having asked yourself these six questions, you’ll be able to answer whether you should do your own maintenance on your buy-to-let property. You should think about the cost of every repair before you attempt it, in cold hard cash terms, and in terms of time, reputation, and risk. By making a substandard repair, you could put your landlord/tenant relationship at risk and put your tenant and property in danger.
As a rule of thumb, if you don’t have the knowledge or experience to make a quality repair, then doing it yourself will probably cost you a lot more than calling in a professional.
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