Winter is coming, and Melbournians are retreating indoors because short days and long nights mean more time spent at home where it’s warm.

For savvy landlords, now is the ideal time to carry out compliance checks and repairs; doing so in the run up to winter will not only provide a safer, more comfortable home for residents, but improve the property value and the landlord-tenant relationship. Moreover, with the end of the financial year just around the corner, acting now means you can claim the costs on your tax return.

“At this time of year, you get triple benefits,” says Carolyn Purnell-Webb, head of property management at Kay & Burton.

“The season’s changing, so we need to prepare for cold, wet weather. It’s timely because it’s coming up to tax time; investors will get immediate benefits from spending the money now, rather than waiting for breakdowns or leaks to happen and then paying costly after-hours repair rates.”

Here are some of the top maintenance issues worth getting on top of before winter sets in.

Clogged gutters

A common occurrence, clogged roof gutters can lead to bigger issues in a property, such as leaks and significant water damage. In fact, Purnell-Webb says that when Kay & Burton reviewed clients' 2018 cases of roof leaks, several were caused by blocked gutters.

“Often there’s nothing actually terribly wrong with the roof, it’s just that the water seeps and pools there and eventually finds its way into the house,” she explains. 

Planning ahead and having roofs cleaned regularly can prevent more serious problems. How often a home will need this done depends on the surrounding vegetation; some properties only need gutters cleaned annually, while others require more regular upkeep.

In response to last year’s findings, Kay & Burton introduced tailor-made roof cleaning regimes for investor clients, in which they set reminders as needed and organise for gutters to be cleared.

Compliance checks

Tenants are going to be turning up the thermostat for the next few months, so ensuring that heating systems and smoke alarms are in good working order is crucial. Regular maintenance is preferable to a break down in the middle of winter.

Gas heaters, particularly older ones, need to be checked and serviced every two years as they have the potential to leak or spill carbon monoxide (CO), an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas. CO poisoning can cause serious illness and even death.

Kay & Burton can provide service reminders to landlords on a case-by-case basis, and organise for a qualified gasfitter to check systems for CO emissions.

Sustainability and solar energy

As the national conversation around sustainability grows ever louder, there’s never been a better time to invest in features such as quality insulation and solar power. Not only is it best for the planet, but it will increase the value of your property and attract more tenants.

An article published in Domain last year revealed that two-thirds of renters would pay $5 more per week for a property with solar panels, and 55 per cent would pay at least $10 more. Purnell-Webb has witnessed this trend as well.

We have had more and more tenants seeking sustainable options, either with environmental motives or simple cost savings” she notes.

By upgrading to these, investors can improve a property’s energy efficiency. A well-insulated home with double glazing uses less energy than a leaky one, and operating on solar significantly reduces bills. Solar panels are also tax deductible, so landlords can claim their depreciation every year. 

Building a positive relationship

Keeping your property well-maintained will also pay enormous dividends in the form of a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Happy tenants are good tenants, and will be more likely to stay and improve an investor’s annual return. Purnell-Webb calls this “the benefit of reciprocity”.

“Where a landlord is diligent, and arranges to get these checks done for the tenant coming into winter, it just creates a footing for a good relationship.”

Investors considering improvements or repairs can get in touch with their Kay & Burton property manager to get the ball rolling.

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