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The desirable bricky, the perky sparky and the elusive plumber – what nationwide shortages of experienced tradesmen mean for landlords

The desirable bricky, the perky sparky and the elusive plumber – what nationwide shortages of experienced tradesmen mean for landlords

The recession led many tradesmen to retrain or retire. Now as house building and renovation heats-up, general property maintenance contractors are harder than ever to find.


Of course this is great news for tradesmen, whose wages have been steadily increasing, but since the financial crash in 2008 the construction industry has contracted from 2.5 to 2.2m nationwide. The number of bricklayers has fallen from 100,000 to 70,000 over the same period, with the average age of the UK bricklayer now 59 years old and the story is a similar one for the majority of trades. This has led to great challenges for those managing property maintenance. Shortages in workers look set to continue, as construction continues to be an unappealing option for many young British workers. According to The Economist the number of trainees in the industry fell by half between 2005 and 2013 to fewer than 20,000.


Many landlords and agents have fantastic relationships with tradesmen, but the cost of property maintenance has been consistently increasing as demand outstrips supply. As reliable workers move on to other jobs or just get too busy or expensive, it is increasingly hard for landlords to find reliable replacements. Higher costs coupled with the practice many agents have of charging a mark-up on property maintenance further eats into profit margins. When coupled with the recently announced reductions in the wear and tear allowance, landlords are being placed under increasing pressure.


Whether landlords are managing properties themselves or using an agent it is really important that a property is well covered by reliable and cost-effective trades – not just one, but two of each trade. It is just typical that the week the boiler goes in a property is the week the usual heating engineer is on holiday, or too busy to get there. Checks also need to be conducted on the insurance cover of tradespeople and their eligibility to be working in the UK. There are lots of good tradespeople out there who are difficult to find without word of mouth recommendations – comparison websites can be overwhelming and the good ones often don’t have the time (or inclination) to invest in online marketing. 


Landlords and homeowners wanting to discuss property management or their property investments in general are welcome to visit our offices on Mutley Plain to discuss options in more detail or visit our website.