It doesn’t seem that long ago when we were all sweltering in the heat of the summer, juggling arrivals and departures, worrying about whether there would be enough hands on deck to deliver the amount of same day turnarounds with everything that comes with them. Now the weather has taken a definite wintery turn and we begin to get used to holidaymakers marvelling at our winter attire of boots and full coats (whilst they still seem content with their flip-flops and shorts), attention turns to some winter Property Maintenance.
As a Holiday Property Manager, Property Management doesn’t stop when the guests leave. We just change focus.
In this post, we will be looking at some maintenance of heating and hot water installations, along with some safety considerations around these.
- Hot water tanks:
- Whether they are fueled by gas, diesel, electrics, solar or anything else, hot water tanks should be checked by a qualified technician to ensure efficiency and safety.
- The first time you fire up a gas boiler, there may be air in the system which can prevent the gas from getting through. You can try to purge this with the manual button/valve if the system has this, or call a plumber to help if you are unsure or this does not resolve the issue.
- If you are located in a hard/high calcium content water area, this is going to have a noticeable impact on efficiency if the property does not have a water softener installed. Calcium build-up in hot water tanks leads to significant inefficiencies and the corrosive effects can cause electric elements and other parts to fail quicker, if they not cleaned regularly.
- These should be checked and cleaned out by a qualified professional to ensure that these are maintained and kept in good working order and to avoid these failing when you need them to be fully operational.
- Gas, diesel, oil etc boilers:
- Carbon Monoxide is a killer. There should be absolutely no shortcuts whatsoever with these installations and these should all be checked by a qualified professional. A lot of the standard safety inspections will depend on your location and installation. For example a private gas tank at a property will normally come with annual inspections by the gas supplier as standard. However, it is important to check whether these inspections include checking the actual boiler, or just the tank. When were the installations last checked for gas leaks (with gas installations) and safety of exhaust fumes? Keep a copy of these certificates on file.
- Install Carbon Monoxide alarms. This should be required by law but currently (in Spain) this is not and it was an incredible oversight that it was not included in the Short Term Rental License requirements. However, this is where a professional Holiday Property Manager should insist that their Owners agree to have these installed and if the Owner refuses, make sure you keep this documented and ensure that you do not open yourself up to any liability, legally, morally or otherwise.
- Any gas, oil or similar heaters should also be tested by a professional to ensure that they are working efficiently, there are no gas leaks and the exhaust fumes are safe.
- Hot Water Radiators and Underfloor Heating:
- These should all be fired up well in advance of any winter arrivals to make sure that these are all working properly in all rooms, including checking to see if there is any air in the system that needs purging. If you are in an area that suffers from hard water (without a water softener installed at the property), the valves that control the flow of hot water between rooms can sometimes seize up and get stuck with calcium when they are not used for a while. If you find that some rooms are not heating as they should, make sure that your plumber does not take advantage of what is often a simple fix.
- A tip with underfloor heating on arrivals – Underfloor heating is a great way to heat a property, but it can take a very long time to heat up especially with stone or marble floors. One way to get around this is to switch it on several days before the arrival (to ensure that you have time to fix any faults) and once you are sure that this is working properly, lower the temperature switch down to keep this ticking over and prevent the floors from cooling back to cold again. If the actual floors are kept just warm enough, the cleaners can turn the thermostat up just as they leave so the property is warm for arrival. Or, you can leave the guest to do this when they arrive depending on the actual weather. This can help avoid lots of calls from guests complaining that the heating is not working because it can take many hours to feel the effects of underfloor heating.
- Electric Radiators and Underfloor Heating:
- Even though electric heating systems are not prone to the issues that can come with hot water systems as outlined above, these should still be switched on well in advance of the first winter arrival to ensure that they are working as they should and to allow for any time needed to fix any issues. A qualified person should always be called on to fix any issues or problems.
You may be thinking that this is just another list of things to do that you don’t get paid for. We are not suggesting that all of these things should be provided as a free service, as modest monthly Property Management Fees can only stretch so far.
It is worth considering at this point where some of the confusion around Property Management comes from. Holiday Property Management Services are exactly what they say they are— services relating to the Management of Holiday Properties. This is a very broad statement and can pick up a very wide range of activities and services.
When there is a problem at a Property and an owner believes that they have contracted the services of a Property Manager, but what is and is not included in the fees that are charged have not been clearly identified, everything related to the Property (fair or otherwise) is going to be laid at the feet of the Property Manager. However, if a Property Manager clearly identifies what is and is not included in their fees and what can be provided for additional fees/charges, confusion and disputes can be avoided.
In a later post we will cover some more areas of winter maintenance to consider. Later on in the year we will also take a look at how a Property Management Contract or Service Agreement can help you not only avoid any misunderstandings and disputes with your Clients, but also help you grow your business and the range of services that you can offer to your Clients and Property Owners.