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Emergency Works on Rental Property

We’ve all had it – the phone goes, it’s one of your tenants’.

Do you:
1. Ignore it…if it’s important they will surely leave a message.
2. Answer the call and be put on the spot.
3. Let it ring out and then phone them back.

It was 8.45 in the morning and I’ll be honest, I was still in bed…but working away on the laptop.
I chose option 1. I picked up the voicemail to find that the tenants’ front door lock had failed and he needed a locksmith. I texted him back almost immediately with details of a local locksmith I had used only a week earlier.

Lock scam – WARNING

Firstly, a brief trawl around some landlord forums reveals that broken locks are a classic scam from inept tenants . Having lost their keys or locked themselves out they then have to break into your rental property. What could be easier than to blame it all on a faulty lock? This way they avoid the costs of set of replacement keys and any landlord call out charge.

Emergency Works

Obviously, in my situation if the tenant couldn’t lock the front door he was going to need it fixed pretty quickly. Common sense would say that this situation should be classed as an emergency. However, when I was texted with the bill; I was expecting the work to come in at less than 100 quid. In the end the figure had mushroomed into a sum of £145. What was even more annoying was that the tenant had clearly panicked and phoned the first locksmith on the list ‘AB locksmiths’ or something to that effect. We all know that any business with that kind of name will probably not be known for their cheapness or quality of their work. I was annoyed that the tenants’ ineptitude had cost me money. Legally and pragmatically there was probably not much I could do other than learn the lesson.

Setting a limit

All this made me think. Should I have set an emergency limit on the works costs? In the past I’ve said to tenants organising repair work to give the go ahead providing the costs are below a pre-agreed figure…say £100.

Letting lesson learnt

Despite being a landlord for over 20 years you are always learning. The first thing to note is that avoiding this situation in the first place by giving clear instructions to the tenant is key to any successful outcome. Hoping that the tenants’ common sense might prevail is fraught with difficulties and ultimately disappointment. I’ve come away from this little tenant encounter with the view that I need to make it clear that the contractor should contact me first before going ahead with the works rather than delegating to decision to the tenant. Like many landlords I’m busy and I’m not always contactable. In these cases I will revert to giving the tenant discretion up to a certain cost of works.

Would you have handled the situation differently and dare I say better? Feel free to post your comments and observations below.

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