In property management, organising works is a hugely misunderstood area of any lettings agency. There are many viewpoints from all parties involved and in many cases, all coming in from different angles and opposing directions which conflict and can cause issues if all is not explained fully to all parties throughout your dealing with them.
Tenants want the work done fast at a time that suits them, quite often evenings and weekends, landlords want the work done cheaply, and in many cases want 3 quotes for the works before they are done, agents want the job done as described, safely, correctly and compliant with regulations (and the keys returned promptly) and the contractor wants to get the best price for the job and be paid fast and be able to do the works during day time, but that is just the beginning of the juggling act that a property management department would have to face.
In relation to using contractors in the first place, agents have a responsibility to ensure that any contractors they use are “qualified” or “suitable” to carry out the type of work they have been sent out to do, this may seem quite simple, but invariably isn’t, and in their quest for more work, contractors can very often will say they can do something when they can’t, so how do you as a property manager ascertain whether they can or can’t?
With gas it may seem simple, but again it isn’t, not all gas men are equal! Some are only certified to carry out checks, others can do servicing, many are not authorised to work on LPG or Warm air systems and also need to be qualified to work on Combi boilers, so just looking for a gas safe registration is not enough. It’s the same with electrics, with all sorts of classifications, but made even more complicated by the fact that there are numerous accreditation schemes they can join that you have to remember to check with and whom operate differently.
But all the above is simpler than checking say a roofer (or someone claiming they can do roofing) or building, replacing windows, painting (I’ve seen some absolutely awful paint jobs from alleged “professional painters”) so how do we check these contractors and make sure they are suitable?
Firstly it’s important to gather their paperwork and look for badges, qualifications, and accreditation, if there is an accreditation body for their trade like FENSA for windows, then this is a good place to start, take references from satisfied clients, but then beyond that you need to check their first few jobs (or if it is specific work or a large job, like a new central heating system, have a professional do this for you to make sure it is correct)
I can remember one “new” contractor we used for a bathroom install, and we had another contractor check the work, it was the most awful job I have ever seen, the tiles were actually grouted to the top of the toilet lid, so you could not get the lid off the toilet and the bath feet were balancing on tiny slips of wood, plus the extractor fan was fitted dangerously close to the shower head in the ceiling. If we had not have got it checked the contractor might have got paid for that job. As it was he didn’t and we got the job done again by another well used contractor.
As agents and landlords we are also responsible to a degree for the contractors safety whilst they are on the job (and of course the tenants too) so if the contractor does not use correct scaffold and falls off, you could be liable, if they drill a wall and it has asbestos in it and they don’t know, are not aware or do not take the adequate precautions to protect the tenant, expensive consequences could result to the landlord and agent or as a terrible case that happened in the midlands a non qualified gas man attended a rented property and the house blew up killing the tenant, and as a landlord you would be liable.
Therefore as an agent and a landlord it is very important to make sure that any contractors you use have public liability insurance and are members of the appropriate accreditation scheme, have attended the appropriate courses and follow the correct procedures, so that if they cause any injury or damage to your property (or tenants) they are insured and you are covered to a degree and at least have some area of recourse, but all of this does not come cheap.
Very often our conversations with landlords, is along the lines of; “How much? My mate could do it for a fraction of that price” or “I know a man down the pub that could do it for half that!” I am a landlord and I would never use a man down the pub or a mate. It may cost me more to know my property is safe, my tenants are protected and that I’m within the law but in my mind it’s worth every penny.