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29 Sep 2016

The hassles and unexpected costs of minor repairs

Do repairs and maintenance take up too much of your time? One self-managing landlord learnt an expensive lesson that PMs would do well to read before calling out the repairman.

Self-managing your portfolio can be a time-consuming task, particularly if you’re already leading a busy life outside the investment game – but a minor repair call reminded Julian Lancey everyone, whether you’re a PM or a landlord, needs to keep a close eye on their properties.

“My property portfolio is spread out over Sydney, and I’ve been self-managing since day one. I knew that a property manager wouldn’t give my properties, which are on the smaller, more affordable side of Sydney real estate, the attention that they deserved.

I’ve got plenty of stories to tell about my time managing my properties, located in Queenscliff, Kings Cross and Darlinghurst, but one in particular stands out as a valuable lesson.

My newly signed-up tenant’s oven wasn’t working and I knew that it needed to be fixed urgently. Legislation dictated that this was the case, and common decency did too.

Without thinking, I booked a repairman to go and look at the oven as soon as possible.

Whenever I get repair requests I always go over and look at them myself. I’m by no means a gifted handyman, but I’ve found that it can be the difference between a minor repair and paying for major, unnecessary work. After learning much of my renovation skills via YouTube videos, I also like to think that I’m pretty quick to cotton on to how to fix minor things.

In this case, I organised the repairman, conscious that I might be up for a new oven and that my tenant might be anxious to get cooking – but I had planned to get there before him, about an hour or so beforehand, just so I could check it out. Unfortunately I was running late, and it eventuated that I turned up at the same time as the repairman.

The repairman walked in and simply switched the oven on. It had worked all along; it was simply a case of the tenant being unaware of how the damn thing worked. The repairman wanted to charge me $200 for the call out. After a period of intense negotiation I resolved to give him $50, and he walked out muttering that his boss “wouldn’t be happy”. 

That $50 taught me a valuable lesson. No matter how busy you might think you are, if you’re self-managing an investment property you need to be prepared to turn up on your tenant’s doorstep at any point of the day or night. It’s important to attend to your tenants’ needs as soon as possible – but when you’re actively relying on your investment portfolio as a source of income, it’s also important to ensure that you aren’t paying for things that you don’t need.

After all, what’s the point of saving on agency fees if you are handing over a blank cheque for repairs that don’t need to happen? Never mind a $200 call-out fee, I could have been up for a new oven if I wasn’t there to supervise things.  As it stands, even $50 was enough to teach me to make sure I pay a speedy visit the next time one of my tenant’s comes calling.”

 

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