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Landlord responsibilities – what to look out for

01/11/23Landlord responsibilities – what to look out for

When it comes to the property management side of our business, one of the areas we deal with is taking on the responsibilities of a landlord – as when we were recently engaged to take on the management of a mixed-use development in Birmingham. There are a variety of responsibilities that fall on whoever is deemed responsible for a property, whether it’s occupied or not.

Having a checklist of what to look out for can be useful, as there are some important aspects that need to be addressed, particularly if the property is going to be unoccupied over the winter months. This list can also be heavily affected by seasonal variations – there’s a lot more to think about as we approach winter, which we’ll have to focus on in our management role in Birmingham.

Keep yourself covered with insurance

One of the most important things to remember is to check the property or premises is insured correctly, even if it is empty. If you have a policy already, then it’s worth looking what exactly it covers and also if it meets your needs if the property is unoccupied.

If you are setting up a policy, then make sure that all the necessary cover is included and that aspects such as the property being vacant is not affected in the long-term. There’s more that can go wrong with a building in the winter, due to a variety of factors, including the inclement weather, lower temperatures and aspects such as moisture, cold and damp.

A clause you especially need to look out for as a landlord is that you might need to let the insurers know that the property is empty. As a result, you will be required to have someone visit at intervals – possibly every seven days or every 28 days – to inspect it. You’ll need to read your policy thoroughly and make sure there’s nothing in the small print about this, as if anything should happen and you have failed to notice, it could invalidate your policy.  

Check the Building’s Declared Value

You need to check the building’s Declared Value is up to date, by having an up-to-date valuation for insurance purposes.  This will help to ensure the property is adequately covered in the event of a claim.  Also check the Loss of Rent figure is up to date too.  In an attempt to keep buildings insurance premiums low, some insurance companies provide cover for Loss of Rent for only 12 months, whereas greater policies provide this for 36 months.  Our advice is to always go for the maximum period for Loss of Rent. 

There is usually a clause in commercial leases stating rent payments can be suspended if the premises are damaged or destroyed by an insured risk.  E.g., if, say following a fire, a property needs to be demolished and re-built then planning permission would be required in both circumstances, which can delay matters, so having the Loss of Rent cover for a longer period of time would come in useful here for the Landlord to continue to receive the rental income whilst the property is uninhabitable.

Key inspection points

The kind of things you need to look out for are patches of dampness inside on walls, floors or ceilings, that could be caused by an external leak or internal condensation forming.

Check the gutters and drainage are working properly, and cut back any overhanging branches that could cause blockages with leaves and twigs. Also, inspect the roof and make sure there are no tiles or slates missing, and any leadwork is doing its job. The roof is most buildings’ biggest weak spot and should be inspected regularly as a matter of course.

If the central heating is not being used, then it’s a good idea to carry out a drain down of the system, to avoid leaks. This is fine to do in the summer months, but in the winter, the boiler or central heating mechanism needs to be kept operational, in case of freezing or dampness in the building. If there are fixtures and fittings, they need to be kept aired too, particularly bathrooms, which can retain moisture and cause mould and other blemishes to form. Keeping it aired is key to ensuring the premises don’t get that icy cold ‘empty property’ feeling when you walk in.

If you are a landlord of a property and would like some advice on its management, then get in touch with us today. 

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