This week has seen resounding warnings that the energy price cap is set to rise 80% again by the beginning of October. That will mean an increase in household bills from £1.971 up to £3,549. With The Independent newspaper saying “Nearly one in four won’t turn on heating this winter”, as energy bills soar, this is almost too scary to think about!
For landlords, this is an extra worrying time too. Just looking at some of my own tenants who are single parents with very young children, and young couples just getting back on their feet after months and months of the COVID pandemic, makes me wonder what impact this will have on us all.
I have set out below what I hope will be a help to other landlords who might be worrying about the dire winter months ahead.
Speak to your most vulnerable tenants as soon as possible
One thing I will be doing over the next few weeks is ensuring I catch up with my most vulnerable tenants to find out their views on things, and hopefully get a clear picture of their current circumstances. This will also give me the opportunity to quietly check over the properties to see if there is anything that I can do to help with energy efficiencies within the properties.
Check in on your properties more often
Throughout these coming visits in the autumn, I will be looking to see if there are things that can be a quick fix at little cost. For example, are there any drafty windows? Mine are all double glazed, but nevertheless does anything need re-sealing. Maybe fix draft excluder tape if there are visible gaps where heat can escape.
Front and rear access doors – are they fitting correctly? If there is a draft creeping under the door? If so, then fix a door sweeper – a long, thin broom-like vinyl and pile attachment that fits along the bottom edge of the door.
A really common problem, but a quick repair for landlords, is a broken letterbox. Lots of heat can escape through a broken letterbox.
Now is the time to get those outside jobs fixed, such as leaking guttering, or leaky roof tiles. Any water ingress against walls – make sure you investigate. Any outside pipes that are attached to the building, try to get insulated. A stitch in time, as they say!
If you do already have vulnerable tenants who are extremely worried, then put together a list of support organisations that are available in your area, such as charities that will help with fuel poverty. This may turn out to not only help your tenants with their bills, but if they are able to keep properties heated for even short periods, this will help with internal maintenance throughout the winter. One of my greatest fears, when tenants shut off heating, is burst pipes and this is something that none of us wants. A house without heating will become damp and mouldy very quickly and may give rise to health issues, so the longer we can assist them to keep their heating on, the better.
Securing your own risk
With a large number of residential properties and increasing mortgage interest rates, one of the things that I have been keen to do is spread my risk across the portfolio. Therefore, I have been switching quite a few of my mortgages from variable rates to fixed rates. Whilst I have the freedom to sell off stock, I will feel more secure if interest rates rise in the coming months. This also serves the purpose of securing tenants in their homes with no further rent rises. I have been in the rental industry for over 25 years and would rather have long-term tenants who look after the properties on a slightly lower market rental than have a high turnover of tenants.
Is your portfolio robust enough for the onslaught and more uncertainty? What measures will you be taking to minimise the risk of possible damage to your rental property or missed rental payments?
By Mandy St John Davey
Multi Award Winning Property Entrepreneur, Mentor and International Speaker