The top 5 maintenance skills every landlord needs

Superscript
Flexible monthly business insurance
12 April 2022
8 minute read

Let’s face it, being a landlord can be tough. Buying your rental property is likely to have been the biggest investment you’ve ever made and, by managing your property yourself, you become a one-person business with a whole host of responsibilities.

Even if you are one of the many landlords around the UK that choose to pay a lettings agency to manage their property, there are still plenty of benefits to having a hands-on approach to looking after the place yourself.

In this article, we look at the five key maintenance skills that every landlord should know how to do, so you can keep your property in good shape and save money on expensive contractors.

1) Landscaping

First and foremost, ‘landscaping’ does not always mean creating complex multi-level gardens with water features. In essence, landscaping as an act of maintenance means keeping the appearance of the outdoor areas of your property up to a good standard. Landscaping can be simple, low-cost and done in a way that does not require constant attention.

How to do it

There are several key things you can do yourself as a landlord, without the aid of costly gardener or landscaper, to maintain the outdoor spaces of your rental property:

  • Lawn mowing/hedge trimming – this is especially important between tenancies, when there may be no one living at the property to do any upkeep
  • Sweeping drives, patios and pathways – a thorough sweep of hard surfaces can instantly improve the appearance of the property
  • Power washing – renting a professional power washer will cost you between £50 and £100 per day, but it can make a world of difference to your patios, decking and pathways if grime has built up over time
  • Weeding – weeds are a fact of life in any outdoor setting. They have the power to cause damage and destruction over time to lawns, pathways, patios and building exteriors. Save money in the long run by getting those gardening gloves on and using a de-weeder and weed killer to maintain your property

Kerb appeal

A well maintained outdoor area generates what is known as ‘kerb appeal’. A simple and well maintained front yard or garden can add to your property’s sale or rental value. More than 80% of respondents to an Openrent survey in 2021 said that a well-maintained garden and tidy paths and driveways are important factors in choosing a rental property.

2) Bleeding a radiator

Often seen as a benchmark of do-it-yourself maintenance, bleeding radiators is one element of plumbing that is well within the grasp of regular landlords. By mastering this skill, you can keep your plumbing operating at peak effectiveness and potentially avoid the additional costs of calling out a plumber if your tenants’ radiators are cold despite the thermostat being turned up.

However, amongst the millennial age bracket (those who are most likely to be becoming new landlords this decade), fewer than half know how to bleed a radiator.

How to do it

So, how is it done? How do you ‘bleed’ your radiators, or ‘drain your central heating system’ to use the proper terminology? Well, if you are bleeding more than one radiator, first off identify which radiator is furthest away from your boiler. This is where you’ll begin.

  1. Turn off your heating - it might sound obvious but if your heating isn’t turned off beforehand and your radiators are left to cool, the whole process will get very messy.
  2. Insert a bleed key into the bleed valve - This is usually located at the top of your radiator, at one of the two ends. You can pick up a bleed key for a couple of pounds online.
  3. Holding a cloth or jug underneath the valve, turn the key anti-clockwise - you’ll hear a hissing sound as air begins to escape.
  4. When water starts to escape, turn the key clockwise to close the valve
  5. Repeat this process for all the radiators in the property - work in order, heading back to the closest radiator to the boiler.

The cost of hiring a professional

Given that basic bleeding of radiators is a plumbing job that just about anyone can do, it seems like a waste of money to call out a professional to do it for you. An estimate by myjobquote.co.uk puts the cost of hiring a plumber to bleed one property’s radiators at £80-£150. Why not save money on plumbers’ fees for when you have a situation that really requires the skills of a professional and get bleeding your own radiators in your rental property?

3) Re-painting

There’s a fine line between home improvement and maintenance. As a landlord, you may wish to invest in hiring professional decorators to re-decorate your property between tenancies in order to maximise the rental value of the place.

During a tenancy, however, it is important to keep an eye on the state of the decor. Small scuffs and chips are par for the course in a rental property and are considered as normal wear and tear during a tenancy. However, if the paintwork is becoming very tired and battered, you may wish to touch up the decor yourself or re-paint entirely, keeping the property looking good and saving money on hiring a professional.

How to do it

Doing a basic paint job in your rental property should not be beyond the ability of most landlords, but here are the basics steps and a few thighs to consider along the way:

Paint or wallpaper?

Beautifully patterned wallpaper can look delightful in a home, but it is far harder to touch up in the event of scuffs and tears than straightforward paint.

Choose your colour

It may not be the most adventurous choice, but there’s a reason that magnolia is the most common choice of colour for rental properties. It is neutral, inoffensive and cheap to buy. If you do decide to deviate from tried and tested magnolia, a mid cream or light grey can also work very well. Remember, if your tenant leaves, you will want your property looking neutral and attractive to a wide array of potential future tenants.

Prepare the walls

Before you can get painting, you should prepare your walls, dusting them to remove built up grime while they’re still dry. Next, wash them thoroughly with diluted sugar soap and a sponge, allowing them to dry completely before painting. Remember to tape over the electrical sockets while you wash and paint the walls to avoid splashes getting into the circuits.

Consider investing in a paint sprayer

If you own a portfolio of properties, or even if you have one property that you like to keep regularly decorated, then a paint sprayer is an investment that can save you time and allow you to achieve an even, professional finish by yourself. Costing anywhere between £50 and several hundred pounds, they can pay for themselves in terms of the time you get back within a few years.

Skirting boards, architraves and doors

For the skirting boards and architraves (the shaped frame around your interior doors), as well as the doors, we’d recommend using white gloss paint, which is easier to wipe down if it becomes dirty.

Water-based gloss will last longer and be less likely to discolour, but it can take weeks to fully dry. If you have tenants in occupation at the time of your re-painting, then oil-based gloss will dry much faster.

4) Unblocking a sink

As a landlord, you should be aware that there are plenty of responsibilities that fall on your shoulders, as laid out in legislation such as the Landlord and Tenant act 1985. One of these responsibilities is the maintenance and upkeep of the plumbing in the property.

Read our guide to your responsibilities as a landlord

In many cases, such as a seriously clogged outdoor drain, you will need to call on the services of a professional plumber to fix the problem. However there are some small plumbing issues, such as unblocking a sink, that you can do yourself, saving money on the call out and labour fees of a plumber, and keeping your tenants happy by quickly fixing the problem.

How to do it

The most tried and tested method of unblocking a sink is using a plunger (if you don’t already have one you can pick one up from a hardware shop for a few pounds).

Before you get started, you will need:

  • A plunger
  • A cup
  • Bathroom cleaning product
  • A sponge
  • Duct tape
  • A towel
  • Rubber gloves (you should wear these at all times while unblocking the sink)

Then you can follow these steps to unblock the sink:

  1. Drain the sink of any water. If the standing water won’t drain at all, use the cup to remove the water to end up with a dry sink
  2. Use the duct tape to cover the sink overflow and create an airtight seal
  3. Use the towel to cover the floor around the sink in case water spills over the side
  4. Use the bathroom cleaner product and a sponge to thoroughly clean the plughole area, removing any obvious blockages by hand (wearing rubber gloves)
  5. Try running the taps again at this point to see if the blockage has been removed, if not then move on to step 6
  6. Place the plunger over the plughole and press firmly downwards
  7. Turn the tap on briefly to cover the plunger in a couple of inches of water
  8. Gripping the plunger handle with both hands, pump up and down vigorously to create suction in the pipe
  9. This should dislodge the blockage and you can then flush the pipes through with hot water

5) Applying sealant

What is sealant?

Our final essential maintenance skill for landlords is knowing how to apply or replace sealant, primarily in the bathroom or kitchen of your rental property. In simple terms, sealant is a waterproof substance that is usually made from silicone that can be applied as a paste and left to set, forming a watertight seal around things like your shower basin, bath and sinks.

If your rental property needs any joints resealing to help prolong the life of the bathroom suite or kitchen and avoid leaks, then it’s worth knowing how to apply sealant yourself, as it could save you a good deal of money in hiring a professional.

How to do it

Applying sealant yourself is not a particularly difficult task, but it is one that can get quite messy if done wrong. To apply sealant you will need:

  • A sharp knife or scraper
  • Bathroom/kitchen cleaner product and a dry cloth
  • A tube of sealant and sealant gun
  • A damp cloth

And here’s what you need to do:

  1. Carefully using the knife or scraper detach and lift off the old existing sealant. It should peel away easily once you’ve cut it off with the knife
  2. Use the kitsch or bathroom cleaner to thoroughly clean the area you wish to seal
  3. Make sure the area is fully dry before proceeding
  4. Fill the sealant gun with the sealant
  5. Squeeze a thin strip along the line of the joint you’d like to seal
  6. Run a finger along the the freshly laid sealant putty, making it smooth and forcing it into the corners
  7. Use your damp cloth to quickly wipe off any excess putty from around the joint
  8. Allow the sealant to dry, keeping the room as ventilated as possible

And there you have it, a freshly sealed and waterproofed joint. It’s a job that any landlord should know how to do and doing it yourself can save a good amount of money compared to calling out a professional tradesperson.

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