With more people renting than ever, installers can build up a stream of regular work by targeting local property landlords and estate agents – if they’re willing to make themselves available at short notice.
The property rental market is bigger than ever, with almost an entire generation of Brits reliant on renting a home in the absence of enough cash to secure a mortgage – so much so that there are now more private rental properties than social houses in the UK.
For installers, this huge slice of the property market can provide regular, reliable and profitable work in the local area.
If you’ve been thinking about targeting landlords, but haven’t yet had the confidence to go for it, read our list of four desirable installer characteristics – according to landlords – with helpful hints and tips to get your new business drive started:
RELIABLE TRADE PARTNERS FOR MINIMAL FUSS
Landlords often fall into two categories: those who have a day job aside from their investment properties, and those who manage a large portfolio of dwellings as their main source of income. But every landlord strives to maintain relationships with reliable trade partners who can lift the burden of managing their estate.
The installers who make a real success from the investment property market are those who are willing to be on call for their landlord customers around the clock, so when a distressed tenant calls about a boiler breakdown, a reliable installer is just a call away.
HINT: If you have a large customer base to service and are often stretched for time, you may need to consider hiring more staff to ease the load before offering to service demanding landlord clients.
TIP: Consider landlord-specific marketing materials such as flyers or mini-brochures, plus changes to your website which reflect a fuss-free and reliable round-the-clock service for busy landlords. Are you on social media? Consider posting content which reflects how you have helped take the stress out of a difficult emergency situation.
KNOWLEDGEABLE PROFESSIONALS MAKE FOR LEGISLATIVE COMPLIANCE
In recent years, landlords have been hit by measures to improve the standard and efficiency of the UK’s rental housing stock. Tighter legislation, more guidance and strict penalties mean property investors have nowhere to hide when it comes to ensuring the homes they rent out are of an appropriate standard. This includes everything from gas appliances and flues to plumbing, pipes and sanitaryware.
If appliances are found to be poorly maintained, landlords face fines of up to £20,000, imprisonment, or both, for endangering the life of their tenants. While responsibility for maintaining the correct certification undoubtedly lies at the door of the landlord, they often rely heavily on their Gas Safe engineer for reminders and prompts which will keep them on the right side of the law.
There are three areas to consider under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulation 36(3) for landlords: annual gas safety certificates, effective maintenance and accurate reporting.
The landlord gas safety certificate covers comprehensive investigations of all appliances, chimneys, flues, pipework, casings and gas meters, plus a range of other compulsory visual inspections and safety checks. In addition to this annual certificate, a landlord must also be able to provide documented evidence of ‘effective maintenance’, which shows a programme of regular services and inspections across all appliances and other areas covered in the annual check.
The legislation isn’t difficult to understand and is largely similar to the daily work of most domestic and commercial installers. A little reading will have any installer worthy of his Gas Safe card up to speed in no time. This is a small investment out of your working week in order to reap the financial rewards of regularly servicing and maintaining multiple properties.
HINT: Go online and search for ‘Gas Safe legislation for landlords’ to start reading up on the latest guidance. When you meet a prospective landlord customer, be sure to demonstrate your knowledge of the laws that affect them and their investment portfolio, especially the penalties they could face should they fall behind.
TIP: For installers with accurate diary management skills, or an office-based administrative resource, why not develop a process whereby you diarise inspections on behalf of your landlord customers and remind them with a text, letter or phone call? This would keep them legal and their tenants safe, all for a contracted monthly fee.
LOCAL INSTALLERS FOR A FAST TURNAROUND
If a landlord owns multiple properties, they will most likely all be within a similar postcode area, which means having one reliable installer who can visit their properties at short notice. Some landlords will hold buying power through landlord associations or have merchant trade accounts of their own, so being nearby to collect their orders and install or maintain their appliances will make for a well-established and profitable relationship.
Another route to market is through estate agents, which can offer a lettings management service for busy landlords. These management teams will have a panel of approved installers who are called upon to carry out installations, maintenance and inspections on behalf of their landlords. Getting on this list of approved suppliers is a sure-fire way of making a success of any investment property client base.
HINT: Do you work further afield but would still like to capitalise on local landlord work? Consider how you could arrange your working week to accommodate both income streams. Could you be back in your local area in the afternoons, or could you dedicate one or two days per week to postcode-specific rental property maintenance?
TIP: Research which estate agents in your local area offer a lettings management service and ask them how you can become an approved installer. Consider sending them some customer testimonials, a price list and outlining why you would be an ideal addition to their Gas Safe network.
ENERGY-EFFICIENT SOLUTIONS FOR EARLY SPRING REGULATIONS
After 1 April 2018, it will be illegal to let any property in the private rental sector that does not meet an energy efficiency rating of E. This new legislation will apply to new lets or renewed let agreements, with all current rental agreements being protected by the same standards after 2020.
With penalties of up to £4,000 for landlords who do not conform in time, property investors are racing to get their rental homes up to scratch. However, often they will only have a limited understanding of the measures they can take to meet the standards. If you are up to speed with the latest energy efficiency products and maintenance methods, then opportunity awaits with local landlords on the lookout for installers with the knowledge and skills to get them compliant quickly.
HINT: Visit your local Wolseley Plumb Center branch to find out more about popular energy efficiency products for rental properties.You may want to consider some manufacturer-led training on the latest technologies so that you are best placed to offer the right advice.
TIP: Consider creating product and service packages for certain-size rental properties, so that landlords can quickly identify the right solution for them with transparent pricing. Leaflets are a great way to showcase this sort of offering, and make sure it’s on your website too.
Helping customers manage their heating more efficiently can not only reduce bills, but can also create new opportunities for installers
Look at any sport and you will find that no winner stands alone.
Breakdowns to boilers and appliances cause a huge amount of distress to householders. Colin McGregor, Parts Center’s category development director, explains how being prepared can help installers get them back up and running