How can I find the best contractors?
Good contractors are essential if you want to fix problems quickly and effectively, and keep your tenants happy.
Being able to trust contractors comes down to four criteria: technical skill, price, legal and response time.
The technical skills are non-negotiable – both for simple handyman work (broken door handles) and complex problems (damp, broken boilers). You also need a Property Manager with the depth of experience to have technical conversations with contractors.
At Finders Keepers we assess the technical skills of new contractors by taking references and then giving them a couple of jobs. We inspect the work closely and decide if they are good enough. Contractors are only human and standards can go up and down. If standards fall, then we will address the problem immediately.
We have contractors who work almost solely for us and have done for 10+ years. They know the high standards we expect and, in return, they can count on us to pay their invoices promptly.
We also use the large amount of work we commission to negotiate the best prices. These are benchmarked each year as rates do go up and down according to the health of the economy. As with many services, you get what you pay for.
If you think you are paying too much, ask your Property Manager to explain the costs, but realise you have a duty of care to provide a safe, working property for your tenant. We had one landlord who said: “Why do they need hot water? I shower in cold water.” If you empathise with that view, you will not be a successful landlord.
The legal question is that each contractor must have valid public liability insurance. If they do not, you should not use them. We stop paying invoices if their insurance runs out – that soon solves the problem!
Response time is a huge factor. Some landlords do not care about this as they are not the ones living with the problem – their tenants are. But they should care and make sure that their agents only use contractors who can respond swiftly.
Finally, of course you can use your own contractors. Tell your agent when you first sign up. Just make sure that your contractors have their public liability insurance and bear in mind that you, rather than your agent, will need to pay their invoices.
This is one of the 50 most asked questions in our book: Landlord Intelligence.