In this post, we have a few money-saving tips to help you keep your property maintenance costs as low as possible, without cutting corners.
Property maintenance is an essential part of owning a property, and if you rent a home, it’s up to you, the landlord, to fix problems and pay for work on the property. Since a landlord is a property owner, routine maintenance is a landlord’s responsibility.
Property maintenance can be a royal pain and expensive to boot, but as a landlord, it is in your interests to keep on top of routine tasks and fix issues before they snowball.
Tenants are far more likely to rent a property that is well-maintained. You will also find it easier to attract good tenants and charge market rent if a property is in good condition. Do not ignore the fact that a well-maintained property appreciates in value faster and is easier to sell when the time comes.
So here’s how to save money on property maintenance.
Interior Decoration Money Saving Tips
Most rental properties require a program of redecoration each time a tenant vacates. Depending on how long it’s been since the last lick of paint, you may either need to touch up high-traffic areas or repaint every room.
Paint isn’t cheap. It can easily cost £20 for 5L of emulsion from a well-known brand like Dulux or Crown. And if you fancy splashing out on a luxe brand like Farrow & Ball, prepare to lose sleep over the outrageous cost of a 5L tin of Brassica or Clunch.
It is easy to assume that the best way to save money is by buying cheap paint from a budget brand. Trade paint comes in large 20L tubs and is readily available from builder’s merchants. However, whilst cheap trade emulsion is handy if you have several square metres of new plaster to cover with a dilute coat, it usually requires multiple coats to achieve a flawless finish. It isn’t great at covering darker colours either.
Always stick to high-quality paints when decorating. Experiment with different brands to see which one you prefer.
Choose Paint Colours Wisely
Stick to neutral colours, like cream or magnolia. Once you have identified which brand of paint you like best, invest in a bulk purchase of some emulsion. A wipeable matt finish is trendy, but a silk finish is more resilient in high traffic areas.
Take Advantage of Paint Deals
Wait for special 2-for1 deals and other promotions. Un-opened cans of paint will last for ages, so keep some spare paint in reserve for when your properties need some maintenance.
If you use the same neutral colour in all your properties, it’s nice and easy to touch up spots rather than repaint an entire room. You won’t need to worry about colour-matching some obscure shade of green.
Splash Out on Special Paint Finishes
Kitchen and bathroom paint are especially designed to resist high humidity. Since mould is a nightmare for landlords and tenants alike it makes sense to upgrade to kitchen and bathroom emulsion rather than using generic emulsion. This will help prevent mould and where mould caused by condensation in damp areas forms it will be easier to wipe down and deal with. Again this paint doesn’t come cheap, but it is worth it, so if you have many properties it’s a good idea to buy in bulk when there is a special offer on.
Use Primer on Skirting Boards and Architraves
Don’t be tempted to cut corners when decorating. Yes, a one-coat gloss finish is quick and easy, but if you want a long-lasting paint finish that will withstand a lot of knocks, do the job properly. Start with primer on unfinished wood. Next, do two or three coats of undercoat, sanding it in between. Finish with a final coat of your chosen finish, preferably gloss, as it is easier to wipe down.
If you do the job correctly in the beginning, you can get away with a single refresher coat of gloss when the woodwork needs a refresh.
Oil-based Versus Water-based Paint
Water-based gloss paint is great quality these days and it dries in a fraction of the time, whereas oil-based paints take longer to “cure”, so you’ll be stuck waiting for one coat to dry before you can add a second or third coat. However, oil-based paint tends to be harder wearing, so in hallways and on staircases, it’s a better choice.
Exterior Decoration Money Saving Tips
Ideally, your rental property will be constructed from brick and have UPVC windows, facia boards, and guttering, but if you have exterior painting to do, make sure you buy good quality paint.
Exterior paintwork must be tough to cope with adverse weather conditions. Poor quality paint will flake off and peel in a shorter time, which creates more work and costs you more in remedial measures.
Invest in special paint that comes with a guarantee. It should last longer and make maintenance easier and cheaper in the long run.
Saving Money on Bathroom Maintenance
Bathrooms suffer a lot of wear and tear in rental houses. The high humidity in bathrooms (and kitchens) can lead to mould and mildew forming, which is a health hazard and in direct contravention of The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.
Aside from using mould-resistant bathroom specific paint, it is worth looking at options other than tiles and grout for shower cubicles.
Use Acrylic Panels in Showers
Acrylic panels are a popular choice for landlords, they are usually more expensive. However, they are a great alternative to tiles and grout because they are resistant to mould and easy to clean. Grout soon starts to look grubby if it is not regularly cleaned and it can stain over time. As long as acrylic panels are properly fitted and sealed along the joints, they are leak-proof, so you won’t have any issues with water finding a way through to the plaster behind the tiles.
You can choose from a range of colours and patterns. This is ideal if you are refitting a bathroom and want a vibrant, modern finish to attract new tenants.
Pro tip: instead of painting the ceiling above a shower, fix an acrylic panel instead. This will prevent unsightly mildew and mould growth.
Don’t Skimp on Ventilation
An adequate ventilation system will minimise maintenance issues caused by mould and mildew. Look for an efficient extraction system that automatically switches on and off when the bathroom is in use. This will reduce humidity levels in the entire house, which is better for you and your tenants.
Remember, if you allow mould and mildew to become a problem in a rental property, you could be prosecuted and fined under The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.
Invest in Quality Bathroom Fixtures and Fittings
Don’t waste your money buying cheap and cheerful showers, taps, and other fixtures. Buying the cheapest components possible is a false economy, as they will invariably break in record time. It is far better to invest in good quality bathroom hardware from a well-known supplier. Not only will they last a lot longer, but they will also ensure a much better finish.
Look for showers, taps, and other fixtures that are robust, solidly made, and in the case of showers, come with a guarantee. Stick to well-known brands and suppliers, as it will be much easier to source replacement parts if something does break.
Pro tip: ask a plumber for recommendations on showers and other hardware. Since their job is to fix these things, they will know which brands are the most reliable.
Use an Experienced Plumber to fit Your Bathroom
Many tenants say a nice bathroom is a major selling point when they are renting. It makes sense to upgrade a bathroom if the old one is tired and dated. But if you are not careful, the job will cost you more than it should.
Always use a Reliable Contractor to fit a new Bathroom.
It is always tempting to go with the cheapest quote when one of your properties needs a replacement bathroom or a new shower installed. However, as with most jobs around the house, cheap is rarely cheerful.
Bathrooms are associated with water, and when water leaks, it makes an unholy mess. You’d be amazed how much damage one loose pipe connection can cause when it passes under a bathroom floor and over a living room ceiling.
A reliable, experienced plumber is unlikely to make mistakes or rush the job in a bid to move on to the next contract. They will make sure your shower and bath are properly sealed and that all water installations are fit for purpose.
Problems always lead to further expense and a great deal of hassle. A badly fitted bathroom will soon begin to fall apart. Ask family, friends, and other landlords for recommendations if you need help finding a reliable plumber.
Once you have booked a contractor to do the work, make sure you ask for appropriate guarantees and paperwork. For larger jobs, it’s acceptable to pay for some materials upfront, but the rest of the invoice, including the cost of labour, should not be payable until completion.
Good tradespeople are hard to come by. Once you have found your man (or woman!), keep them on speed dial and treat them well.
Plan Ahead to Avoid Future Headaches
Plan ahead and don’t make the mistake of fitting a stylish toilet with a concealed cistern or a shower where the pipework is hidden behind a tiled panel. It may look nice, but when things need fixing, the extra time and hassle of accessing concealed pipework will lead to a larger invoice.
Kitchen Maintenance Money Saving Tips
Kitchens are a major capital expenditure. The cost of refitting a new kitchen can be anything from £2,500 to £10,000+, depending on how much oft the work you can do yourself. Since kitchens suffer a lot of wear and tear in a rental home, this is one area where cutting corners will lead to headaches further down the line.
Don’t cut Corners on Kitchen Carcasses
The basic carcasses are the foundation of any kitchen. If you buy decent quality kitchen carcasses in standard sizes, they will last longer. Instead of replacing the entire kitchen when it begins to look a bit shabby around the edges, all you need to do is swap the old doors and drawer fronts for new ones.
Buy your kitchen from a big retailer but don’t be lured in by headline offers. You will generally get better prices if you shop at a builder’s merchant rather than a nationwide kitchen retailer, such as the one named after a small garden bird…
Pro tip: ask your builder/joiner which branded kitchen they recommend. They will be familiar with the quality of each branded kitchen and should be able to advise you on which brands to avoid.
As we already mentioned in the bathroom section, it’s a false economy to buy cheap fixtures and fittings. Cheap door handles won’t last five minutes, and cheap taps soon leak or break. It’s better to invest in solid harder wearing fixtures and fittings as they will need to be replace less often.
Save Money by Picking Simple Handles and Taps
Make sure you pick simple designs when it comes to handles and taps. Decor, like fashion, has seasons. Sometimes you’ll go to replace a handle or tap and find out that the design is no longer made. If you keep it simple in your rental properties, your handles will be easier to replace. If the design is no longer made, you can pick up a similar simple handle or tap and it won’t look too out of place.
If you’re installing a new kitchen and you need to buy a bunch of handles at once, look for ones that are on sale and pick up a few extras. That way you’ve always got spares to hand if they’re needed.
Pick designs that are easy to wipe down. Kitchens can get very grimy and tenants will often forget to clean door handles. Using acrylic or stainless steel will mean that they can be easily polished up.
Choose Cookers Carefully
Landlords are required to provide cooking facilities, which is typically an oven/hob or freestanding cooker. When appliances break, as they are sometimes apt to do, you should aim to repair or fix it within two weeks, or less if you have a vulnerable tenant.
You must have gas appliances (i.e. a gas cooker) serviced once a year. Use this as an opportunity to spot any problems before they snowball. It’s best to fit good quality appliances, as these are less likely to break down.
You could make your life (and that of your tenants) easier by paying for an insurance policy that fixes or replaces appliances. That way, if there is a problem, your tenants can call the dedicated number and organise an engineer to come at their convenience. However, these policies can add up over time, so do the maths and work our whether such a policy is cost-effective in terms of monthly expenditure and your time saved.
Be Conscious of Fire Safety
Under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015, landlords have a statutory requirement to fit smoke alarms and CO detectors in rental properties. Smoke alarms must be fitted on every floor and CO detectors must be fitted in rooms with solid fuel appliances. Landlords of HMOs must comply with specific fire safety licence conditions, which include testing smoke alarms and maintaining electrical installations.
Maintenance includes testing fire safety equipment. It might feel like a chore going to each of your properties to test fire alarms but it is one of your landlord obligations to keep your tenants safe.
Garden Maintenance Money Saving Tips
Not all rental properties have a garden, but if yours do, then there will be some maintenance involved.
Gardens need regular maintenance otherwise they revert back to a wilderness within a few months. Grass, hedges, flowerbeds, and trees all require some human input, especially during the growing season.
To keep maintenance to a minimum, consider replacing lawns with decking or paved areas. They don’t need cutting every week and apart from an annual coat of wood preserver (for decking), you won’t have to do much to keep them looking good.
Hedges need trimming at least twice a year, depending on the species. Some, such as leylandii, are very fast-growing and can easily shoot up 90cm in a year. To save money and time, do your own hedge cutting or include a clause in the tenancy agreement that says the tenant is responsible for keeping the hedge trimmed. If you go with plan B, provide the equipment your tenant needs to get the job done safely.
Save Money by Scheduling Maintenance Tasks
If you are disorganised you can end up wasting money on routine maintenance jobs. Doing a maintenance job at the last minute can:
a) Mean you are giving any maintenance issues chance to get worse before they are rectified making them costlier and more time consuming to fix.
b) Contracting a job out in a hurry meaning you don’t have the luxury of shopping around for a decent quote so you end up spending more than you would have if you were prepared.
Good traders don’t usually need to look for work; they are booked up well in advance.
Have a list of reliable traders for set tasks and book them well in advance for routine maintenance tasks, like cleaning the gutters or servicing the boiler. Use your landlord software to schedule reminders for maintenance tasks. That way, you won’t be caught out and end up paying more than you need to.
Carry out Seasonal Checks to Save Last Minute Bills
The best way to reduce your maintenance costs is to fix minor problems before they become major issues.
In the autumn, check the roof, gutters, and pointing before winter. If there are loose tiles or some lead flashing is cracked, sort it out before the bad weather arrives. It doesn’t take much for water to find a way in and cause a lot of damage. Clean out the gutters, so rainwater can drain away. If your gutters and downpipes are showing significant signs of wear, replace them before you end up with water damage and damp. Check windows and doors to make sure they are weatherproof.
In the spring, look for signs of winter damage and organise repairs before they get any worse.
When summer comes, watch out for cracks in walls and around doors and windows. Hot weather ran increase the risk of subsidence, which is a serious structural defect.
Cultivate a Good Relationship With Your Tenants
As tenants are living in the property they are your first line of defence against maintenance issues. Maintain a good relationship with your tenants. Ask tenants to let you know if there are issues, such as a leaking tap or dripping cistern in the bathroom. The sooner you are made aware of problems, the sooner you are able to fix them.