Winter can wreak havoc on your buildings. Pipes freeze, gutters get stuffed with leaves, and even small draughts can cause serious issues. However, while maintenance is still a requirement for your properties, carrying out maintenance safely during COVID-19 is a challenge. Additionally, many landlords have had their cashflow affected, and more tenants than ever before are working from home, making a socially distanced maintenance stop is harder than ever.
When it comes to winter maintenance during COVID-19 we take a look at what maintenance tasks can’t be put off, which can be delayed, and what precautions can be taken to ensure maintenance is carried out safely for landlords and tenants.
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Some projects simply can’t be delayed. The longer they get left the more likely they are to become exponentially more expensive to fix. Prepping a building against the cold winter months is vital if landlords want to ensure their property remains habitable and reduce additional maintenance expenses.
Examples of routine preventative maintenance work that can’t be put off in winter include anything that could infringe on a tenant’s safety such as heater maintenance and repairs.
And as you make necessary repairs or maintenance to a property, be sure to remind tenants of winter tasks they are responsible for — like keeping the thermostat at a certain temperature even when they’re away to avoid freezing pipes — or if and when services like snow removal are provided.
Before you make any decisions about whether a maintenance task can be put off, ask yourself whether it is going to affect the tenant habitability, whether the issue is likely to escalate to something more serious, and whether leaving it will negatively affect your bottom line.
If you do decide that a repair is not urgent or essential, you can let your tenants know that you won’t be addressing minor repairs during COVID-19.
A few examples of minor repairs that can wait might include aesthetic issues such as chipped paint or loose cupboard handles. Or minor things like a stovetop where one of the burners isn’t currently working.
Alternatively, you could allow tenants to deal with non-urgent repairs themselves. Keep in mind though that if the work is not done properly this could cause issues in the property at a later date. Additionally, seemingly minor preventative repairs could save you a lot of money down the line if handled promptly.
In addition to general best practices when considering the maintenance of your property landlords should take extra care, implementing COVID-19 safety measures to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. If a landlord or contractor should need to enter a property for maintenance purposes make sure the basic guidelines listed below are followed:
Now, perhaps more than ever, landlords and tenants need to be communicating effectively and working together constructively. Both landlords and tenants are facing unexpected challenges, but the fundamental goals remain the same for both parties, that the tenant remains safe and comfortable, and that the landlord continues to receive rental payments as usual.
COVID-19 has not changed a landlord’s repair obligations, they need to ensure their property remains habitable throughout the winter months as usual. However, special precautions need to be taken to make sure that any essential maintenance is carried out safely. Maintaining distance, regular washing of hands, and wearing a mask are basic precautions that can be taken.
Additionally, if a tenant is self-isolating after displaying symptoms or has been recently exposed to the virus then if possible maintenance or inspections should be delayed for a minimum of 7 days. Additional considerations should be given for at-risk groups such as the elderly.
If you do need to postpone an inspection, keep a record of why, and all communications shared with your tenants.
Ben is an author and real estate enthusiast. His interest in all things entrepreneurial has led him to work with real estate professionals all over the world, distilling their knowledge into articles and Ebooks.
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