Living or working abroad can make it difficult to to manage a property, as well as finding skilled tradesmen. It’s bad enough when you’re actually in this country and seeking an experienced, decently-priced individual who can make themselves available as soon as possible, rather than a month down the line.
Should you use a tradesman referral website?
There are websites that list names, locations and feedback for contractors, from plumbers to heating engineers, electricians, tilers and everything in between. However, not all information on reference websites are accurate. How do you know, for instance, that the feedback is genuine and not just the work of family and friends? Also, many of these sites charge the tradesman a fee and it’s possible to buy ‘premium packages’. Not all negative feedback is published either (usually following ‘an investigation’ by the website).
There’s no doubt that there are ‘cowboy’ tradesmen out there – individuals who’ll want to be paid upfront, who then do a terrible job and suddenly disappear. So acute is the problem that according to the online property portal Zoopla, the national ombudsman regularly receives around 1.5 million such complaints every year.
There are ways to suss out rogue tradesmen of course, i.e. by not paying upfront, doing your own checks and hiring someone who has ideally been referred by word of mouth via a friend or colleague (although this isn’t always possible if you’ve never lived in the UK).
If you do use the website route to find a contractor, then sites such as the consumer champion company Which (where all tradesmen are checked and double checked) and the relevant Trading Standards site are very useful.
Why you should always use accredited traders
It’s also a good idea to make sure that the tradesman is registered with a national trade scheme. If he or she is a heating engineer, for instance, then they should be registered with Gas Safe. It they’re an electrician, it’s NICEIC and a glazier FENSA. There are accredited schemes for every trade, it’s just a case of Googling and matching up your contractor with membership (if any). The reason trade schemes are good is because they always have a code of conduct members have to adhere to. If there are any problems, there is usually an arbitration service too, so that you would have some form of comeback and maybe even compensation.
Hire a local letting agent
You could hire a man – or woman – on the ground, as it were. In other words, pay a letting agent to not just collect your monthly rent, deal with the deposit and make sure the inventory is signed, but someone who will also manage maintenance issues.
Most letting agents use the same contractors every time. That’s because they know they can do the work and they will receive preferential rates for repeat work (which means you will too).
The cost of this service will be anything from 10% to 15% of your annual rent. If you’ve more than one property, then negotiate the rate down. Using a letting agent may cost you £60 to £100 a month, but for peace of mind, most overseas landlords find the additional cost is well worth it.