Home Heroes rent my home Willesden Plumbing Maestro
Published 14th October 2015
Here at Rent My Home we know the importance of maintaining your rental property to ensure you get the best possible return on your investment. It is crucial therefore to find a group of professional trades people you can turn to in order to maintain the property.
This week we spoke to Jeff Culkin of Culkin Plumbing and Heating who knows that handling a client's stress is just as important as fixing their problem.
What does your job entail?
I'm a plumbing and heating engineer.
In your experience, is it more about fixing problems or general maintenance ?
An array of stuff really. A lot of fixing stuff and a lot of planned maintenance. The bathroom is quite tatty, or they don't want to wait for their old boiler to give up the ghost before replacing it. A lot of it is planned maintenance and upgrades. Responsive maintenance is what we call it in the industry. We do have to do a lot of investigations such as stains on walls where no one knows where it's coming from. Using endoscope cameras, taking off panels and chasing things. Plumbing noises, heating noises and odours, broken drain pipes concealed in walls. We do a lot of investigations.
Do you work with many landlords?
About half and half - landlords to home owners. We also work with estate agents and management agencies.
So landlords would contact the estate agent who in turn gets in touch with you?
Sometimes, but we generally we hear that the tenants themselves have got in touch with the estate agent, especially on the properties that are managed. So we have a lot of direct contact with tenants because of the contracts they hold with the estate agents, depending on each estate agent's account. Some of them will deal with the tenants themselves and have authority to carry out repairs. Some are more managed than others. A lot of landlords do deal with the properties privately so we deal directly with the landlord.
How do you help landlords ensure their properties are always in good condition?
We let them know of any defects. If we're there to do one job and notice something that needs doing, we will let them know. Tenants are pretty good at knowing what is wrong with their places. We do try and give them a more informed opinion on a problem.
Do you have repeat customers who turn to you in an emergency? How important is it for landlords to have a specialist they can trust and rely upon?
I imagine it's quite important. There are times where they don't know what's going on so there is quite a lot of explaining. To build and maintain relationships with our clients we have to explain everything without being too technical but also not being too vague either. It's always achievable, people are educated and obviously have access to Google, you can explain things to them. Once you've made that initial effort to explain what you are doing, and what you have done, clients are generally happy to let you get on with the job at hand.
Does your business operate on repeat business from clients or more word of mouth from past clients?
Both are important and generate a lot of work. Repeat business and referrals are extremely important. Every week we are doing repeat stuff and everyday we get new referrals.
How do you deal with difficult clients?
It depends on whether they're a potential client or an existing client. If they're a potential client we may try to avoid them. There is always going to be a small percentage of customers who will have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes people are difficult for various reasons. You just need to fix their problem and keep communicating with them. They may be stressed because of something completely unrelated to the work. It could also be a very difficult situation like a tenant not paying the rent or a leak is coming from upstairs, different leaseholders involved. A lolt of our work is done when people move, or move their rooms around. Moving and refurbishing your property is very stressful. It's our job to make sure we don't take it personally and to deliver a service
Do you think people get stressed because they don't understand the work that has to be carried out?
It doesn't help. If you don't have any heating after you've had a leak it could be quite stressful. A lot of our work is done in and around stressful situations. If you refurbish your home while you're living there, it's stressful, it's not easy. If you move and find your new house has issues, you need them fixed. At these times people don't really have the extra cash in the bank to sort these problems out. Generally if you do a good service and you communicate with people, it shouldn't be a problem. You should feel surprised if they're feeling stressed after you've talked them through a problem properly. If they seem like difficult clients then they're just being human. Part of the job I suppose.