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Landlords forced to shell out £4.5bn on emergency contractors in past 12 months

With demand still far outstripping supply, buy-to-let remains an attractive asset class, but while the majority of landlords say they are still making a profit, some have seen their margins squeezed because they overlooked some of the costs.

Aside from the government’s determination to make the PRS less appealing to investors through recent tax and regulatory changes, new research shows that many landlords are also facing increased bills as they are forced to spend more on emergency repairs. 

Overall, landlords have had to shell out £4.5bn on emergency contractors in the last year alone, according to the latest research from Direct Line for Business. 

This amounts to an average cost of £764 per callout, or £2,141 per year for every landlord in the UK.  Fire is the most expensive emergency faced by landlords with an average claim cost of £17,000. 

Other high-cost but low-frequency claims include damage caused by lightning and flooding, at both £14,000. 

Despite emergencies costing landlords as much as two and a half times’ the average monthly UK rent, more than half - 56% - admitted they do not have suitable insurance to cover lost rental income or the cost of alternative accommodation.

The true cost of correcting an issue goes far beyond the physical repair work. While structural damage racks up the highest bill, costing an average of £2,325 per callout, this accounts for just 41% of the overall cost for landlords. 

Rehoming tenants are responsible for 31% of the final cost, while loss of rent accounts for 28%. 

Emergencies including floods, fires, and pest infestations have forced tenants to evacuate their rental properties almost nine million times in the last five years, the study suggests. This is the equivalent of 1.7 million evacuated rental properties every year.

In the last 12 months, just over half - 53% - of landlords have had to call an emergency contractor to visit one of their properties. 

On average, they have called out a contractor once every three months, which amounts to 4.7 million calls to contractors every year, or 13,000 each day.  

Tenants forced to move out of a property as a result of an emergency, for such issues as fire or storm damage, were left unable to access their home for 8.5 days on average while repairs were completed. 

The most common emergencies are plumbing related, with 365,000 rental homes evacuated because of these issues each year. The second most common issue forcing renters to leave their homes are faults with electrical or gas supplies (293,000 evacuated), followed by escape of water (267,000) and pest infestations (195,000 evacuated).

Sarah Larkin, landlord product manager at Direct Line for Business, commented: “Landlords are reacting immediately to tenants’ emergencies calling in contractors to resolve issues day or night.

“When tenants flag an issue early it can be resolved quickly preventing excess damage to the building and the tenants’ contents.

“The true cost of an emergency is unknown until all the work is complete and tenants are safely back in the property. It is essential that landlords have the right insurance cover in place to cope with the incident and avoid added stress.”

Landlord insurance will cover policyholders for fire and major flooding as standard, however, for other unforeseen incidents, some insurance providers, including Direct Line for Business, have developed new ‘landlord emergency’ add-on to give peace of mind and control back to landlords and tenants alike.

The new cover offers access to a 24-hour claims line which will send out a certified contractor to secure or prevent further damage to the property. Contractors covered include drainage engineers, electricians, glaziers, locksmiths, plumbers, pest control, roofers, gas and heating engineers.

Landlord emergency will cover call-out charges, the costs for labour and materials up to £1,500 per claim, with policy-holders able to make as many claims as they need, should the worst happen. 

Furthermore, tenants can make a claim and have an emergency dealt with on behalf of the landlord, saving time and potentially further damage.

Larkin added: “No landlord wants their tenant to be inconvenienced, but equally they want them to be safe. We have developed our emergency cover to give some control back to both the landlord and tenant when an issue arises.

“Being able to get in touch with a certified contractor will give peace of mind and have a positive impact on the landlord and tenant relationship.”

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    Direct Line ? no, I would not insure with them, same company as Green Flag, steer clear of them.

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    Many "emergency calls" could be dealt with as routine maintenance if tenants reported issues promptly before they needed an "emergency call".

    I wonder how the number of tenant evacuations compares to owner occupier evacuations for the same period? I suspect tenant percentages will be much higher.

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