BEGIN THE SEARCH NOW
Leaving it until the last minute to start hunting for a contractor is a recipe for anxiety and panic. That emergency or repair will never come at a convenient moment, and you’ll be rushing around against the clock to find someone you trust.
Having time on your side will give you the space to compare hourly rates to get an idea of what’s fair and what’s not. Try and find three of each type of contractor to get an average price and ask them whether they charge by the whole or part hour.
Some firms publish their prices online, but it’s always worth calling for an insight into their customer service and whether they answer the phone or call you back.
By having the numbers of a good plumber, electrician and handyman in your phone now, you’ll be well prepared in advance. Knowing who to call can be a real lifesaver in emergencies when your tenants expect a speedy solution.
ASK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS
You can’t beat a personal recommendation, as long as you can trust the source.
Do your friends, family, or neighbours know anyone reliable? Some might recommend their own friends, so check that they’ve experienced their work first-hand and aren’t just being supportive.
You could also see if any contractors you already know can recommend someone in another field. Perhaps your plumber met an electrician on a renovation project where they worked together.
If your rental property is far from where you live or have connections, it’s going to be more difficult. Your tenants might be willing to knock on your neighbours’ doors or drop notes through, but the onus is ultimately on you to fix the problem.
READ REVIEWS & ACCREDITATIONS
Companies generally only post the best remarks on their website, but review sites or Google can give you a fuller picture. Don’t judge by one bad review – everyone gets the odd one of those. Instead, check if the general story is a positive one.
We all know a friendly local handyman who’s good for replacing a washer in a tap or fixing a loose door handle, but when it comes to jobs involving electrics, gas, plumbing and renovations, you need to be sure your contractor has the correct certifications.
If something goes wrong after you use an unqualified contractor, it’s you who’ll bear the responsibility and consequences, no matter how well-intended your efforts. We cannot stress enough that it’s really worth doing your homework.
RESEARCH RESPONSE TIMES
Every property requires ongoing maintenance, general repairs and safety compliance, so it’s good to know how far in advance you’ll generally need to book. Ask about average arrival times for regular office hours, weekends, and in the middle of the night.
For non-urgent repairs, anything up to 72 hours is acceptable, but you may need to call further ahead for electrical and gas safety checks. As soon as you know the deal, put a note in your calendar a couple of weeks before any certificates expire to ensure you get a slot.
Direct Line Insurance carried out a survey of UK landlords and found that plumbers are the fastest emergency responders, with an average arrival time around 13 hours after an issue is reported. They’re followed by electricians at just under 18 hours, with gas and heating engineers coming in just short of 21 hours.
Many excellent contractors are sole traders, but no matter how wonderful they are, they might be busy when you call, so it’s worth having a couple of numbers. When there’s water coming in or a major electrical fault, the speed of response will be crucial.
SPOT THE ROGUES
It’s a big deal asking a stranger into your property to carry out work and repairs, so look for these tell-tale signs of traders to avoid.
Good contractors are like gold dust. The best ones know their worth, and their work is worth the cost. Be cautious when someone is unusually cheap compared to other quotes, particularly if you have no firm recommendations to go on.
The days of writing cheques and three-day bank transfers are long behind us. Now you can send money from your phone to another bank account in seconds, so there’s not much excuse for only taking cash.
Requesting full payment upfront
It’s normal for contractors to request a deposit to cover their time and any materials they may need to buy in advance, but you shouldn’t have to pay the total cost until the work is complete.
Non-committal language, vagueness over price and failing to turn up at the agreed time are not the signs of a good contractor. If you get a bad feeling, go with your gut. There’s always another option.
Building a trusted circle of contractors is no easy task: it takes time, and it takes work, but the peace of mind is priceless.
Of course, having a managing agent removes all of this work to give you a truly passive income. You’ll never have to deal with maintenance, compliance or repairs, and you’ll never get a call in the middle of the night. We have an emergency number for tenants to call and our very own little black book of contractors from years of trying, testing and sometimes tears.