The big freeze at the start of March was well forecast and, happily, as far as we know, none of our landlords or tenants were hurt. However we did have 21 properties where the boilers failed and 2 properties with frozen external pipes. So what did we learn?
Unsurprisingly there was, to say the least, a “flurry of activity” in our office with so many people needing help, but our great team (all of whom got to work) and our contractors got everything covered efficiently. Most of the problems were condense pipes on boilers freezing, something which does not happen in our ‘normal’ winter temperatures.
We managed to spend time explaining to most people how to fix this problem themselves, where necessary sending pictures to show what was needed. Therefore only those people where the condense pipe was inaccessible, or the ‘self-help’ did not work, involved any delay in getting heat for our tenants and any cost to our landlords. We also managed to distribute emergency heaters to those properties that needed them, as well as help some tenants who were away to make sure the property was OK.
So what could we have done better? Well we always send a pre-winter warning email to all tenants to check things before the winter sets in, and before plumbers get busier. However as the very cold temperatures were well forecast, we could have contacted all our tenants again just before the cold snap to warn them that condense pipes can freeze. That way some people would not have had to call the office but could have got their own heat running slightly more quickly. This may also have allowed us to remind people that when something like this happens, plumbers are in high demand. We are delighted that our team of 4 plumbing contractors prioritised our tenants so they got heat much quicker than they would have done if they were someone arranging their own plumber.
We also learnt that a number of landlords who choose to manage their own property maintenance and repairs struggled to get any plumbers to support them. Where we could help them without diverting plumbers from properties where we manage the repairs we were pleased to be able to do so. A couple of these landlords have said they would like to move to a package where we provide the property maintenance, to avoid such a problem in future.
As for the tenant who called to say their dripping bath tap was an ‘emergency’ requiring an urgent plumber visit, we were reminded that some people see things from their own perspective, however hard you try to help them see otherwise!
All of this has been viewed with some amusement by a number of our east European tenants who think we had just a “light dusting of snow” and it was “slightly chilly”. We think their boilers are able to cope with minus 5 degrees, many of ours clearly are not.
If you manage your own property maintenance and repairs you might want to consider moving to a package where we handle this for you. More details can be found here http://www.maxinelester.co.uk/landlord-service-overview