SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Zakia Bouachraoui, Roger Strukhoff, David Linthicum

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Bad repairs and rogue traders

Don't let rogue traders make a fool of you!

Repairs can and will crop up. Your tenants can hopefully change a fuse or unblock a sink, and you might be handy enough with a spanner to take care of other bits and pieces, but it’s going to eventually reach the point where you’ll want to call in a trader.

Getting the right trader

According to statistics from Direct Line, one in five homeowners has had inadequate work carried out on their home by unqualified or badly trained traders. A staggering £181 million is spent fixing bungled jobs each year. Across the 1.1 million people forced to shell out, this amounts to an average of £165 per repair – a costly extra!

As part of a full management service, letting agents will take care of repairs on your behalf. Your letting agent should a member of a body like ARLA – if they are, they’ll be required to make sure that any trader they call in is above board. If you're unsure then it might be worthwhile giving them a call to double-check.

If you’re a DIY landlord, you’ve got a bit more work to do. Before calling any trader in, try to be sure of the following:

They have professional indemnity insurance

‘Professional indemnity’ is a fancy way of saying that a trader will be covered against negligence claims and the cost of putting bad jobs right. This isn’t a ‘license to mess up’ – a trader who has to claim will pay higher premiums, and so they have more than professional pride to lose if they botch a repair job.

PI Insurance is, ultimately, a good indicator that a trader takes their job seriously. Always ask if they have it, and always get evidence!

They have the right qualifications and certificates

Make sure you ask for certificates and other proof of qualifications and membership of relevant trade bodies like Gas Safe or NICEIC (the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting). Thanks to the internet, it’s relatively easy to find certified and registered traders.

For builders, ask to see NVQs and HNDs in construction. See if you can look at an example of a recent job firsthand and speak to the owners of the property the contractor worked on.

A few more tips to remember:

  • Try to get a recommendation. Near enough every landlord who’s been around the block a few times knows some decent local traders. If you can’t get a word of mouth recommendation, you can join a forum or ask online.
  • Try to get more than one quote – three is a good number. Make sure quotes include VAT. Also make sure any invoices have a VAT number.
  • Get a standard contract. This should include the specification of the work to be done and the time it will take, detail who’s responsible for clearing up, and lay out a payment schedule. The schedule is important – it protects both parties, and means the work needs to be completed fully before all the money changes hands. Never pay up front!

The contract will also act as evidence if the job isn’t up to scratch.

Finally, remember that legitimate repairs can be offset against your income when working out tax.

Repairs in rental properties

It’s important to make sure that the tenancy agreement says who is responsible for what repairs. This will prevent confusion in the future – though remember that you’re automatically responsible for a lot of utilities and structural work.

Your tenant might want to instruct a trader or even do some repairs themselves. If the tenant has contracted a repair without permission you’re under no obligation to foot the bill. If the job needs redoing, however, and the repair would have been your responsibility, you might have to cough up the money.

Alternatively, the repair might not have been your responsibility, but the tenant is happy to leave a botched job in place rather than have it redone. This will affect how easy the property is to re-market when they leave.

Either way, you can try to recoup the expense – either from the deposit, or through small claims court (from the tenant or trader) if needs be.

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Amelia Vargo is an online marketing executive for CT Capital. Amelia writes for Turnkey Mortgages, Turnkey Landlords, TurnKey Bridging, TurnKey Life and Commercial Trust.

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