Are tenants living in a more tenant-like manner during lockdown?

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, but it’s eerily quiet on the tenant property repairs and maintenance front right now.

And I can’t help wondering how many problems are getting stored up for the future – or maybe how many issues are unnecessarily reported to begin with?

In a typical week I’d usually get several calls with varying stuff from blocked sinks to broken showers and boilers to sockets not working, leaves blocking the brain and everything in between.

But now, in lockdown?

Nada.

Five weeks on and nothing.

And I really don’t want to be complaining, because I’m not, I’m just curious and anxious how this can be. I mean, I know, I get it, Covid-19, coronavirus contagion yada-yada but still – shit happens. It doesn’t matter if there’s a global pandemic and people dying and getting sick – roofs still leak, sinks still block and boilers still break. The two things are unrelated.

Except.

The other thing I find even weirder about this eerily quiet property maintenance period is that even more tenants are home more than ever and so really the reverse should be true: tenants should be having more maintenance issues because they’re spending more time in their own homes.  

But this doesn’t seem to be the case and I’m trying to figure out why that is – and maybe I’m just theorising here and being hopelessly optimistic, but I can’t help but wonder if people are now fixing things by themselves? Or maybe they’re being more careful to begin with? Or the worst case – maybe they’re just not reporting things right now and at the end of lockdown I’ll get a list as long as Kyle Jenner’s fake eyelashes.

But the truth being is that I’ve never really understood the sheer volume of the bills I have to pay for when it comes to property maintenance. I mean, I live in a property too and I’ve never had half the things go wrong that my tenants have.

And I’ve often speculated is it a lifestyle thing? An attitude thing? A I-own-this-so-I-give-damn-thing?

Take for example the kitchen sink. In my own home, I noticed the water was draining slower than normal. I checked the sink strainer – every household should have one to stop food debris from going down the plughole – but I know, despite my best efforts, grease builds up in the pipes underneath. So as soon as I see the slower moving water I put down Mr Muscle sink and drain unblocker and I keep an eye. I make sure the water swirls away again back to its normal speed, and if it doesn’t, I put more sink unblocker.

I doubt my tenants do that.

And maybe I’m being unfair and maybe their sinks were blocked with different things, but already four times this year I’ve had to shell out for sinks to be unblocked in tenanted properties. I know that because I’ve just done the accounts and I was perturbed by this and what I could do.

Should I start charging the tenants for the call out? How can I prove it was their fat/ food debris that blocked the pipes? Can I implement a rule whereby if a tenant has lived there for at least 12 months the problem must then be theirs? Might they argue it was something else – some sort of underlying fat condition of the pipe?

It’s tricky, trying to prove who’s liable. Personally I’m sceptical whether it’s my bill to pay, but for the good of the landlord-tenant relationship I’ve stumped up and got on.

But now, now I’m not so sure.

Sinks don’t block on their own. Sinks block because people don’t treat the sinkhole with respect. Most likely most of my tenants don’t have strainers. Most likely they don’t wipe the fat off pans and plates before washing. Most likely when the water starts going slow they ignore it. And so the build-up continues and the problem gets worse and worse until the sink blocks.

And then they call me.

Apart from now. Now, during lockdown, it appears tenants can manage property maintenance themselves. They can unblock their own sinks and they can live in a property and sort things themselves, in a tenant-like manner.

Either that or I’ve got a whole bunch of sinks just waiting to be unblocked after lockdown.

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