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5 avoidable mistakes too many Landlords make

By Fi Walkley

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As a landlord you’ll be aware that there are lots of things to consider when renting out a property, especially with so much legislation affecting lettings. But how are you performing as a landlord? Are you falling short of your tenants’ expectations and what is required of you by law? We talk you through the five avoidable mistakes that are most commonly made by landlords.

1. Not leaving enough time for marketing

It’s a myth that tenants only look for a new property just before their move date. Many look online before giving notice on their current rental, so getting your property on the market quickly is important.

Best practice would be to start marketing two months before your property is available. Make sure your existing tenancy agreement allows for this, and if not update the remarketing clause to allow you to show it to prospective new tenants in the closing two months of a tenancy. Students, especially international students, often plan even further ahead, so don’t delay when it comes to remarketing. Voids are costly so make sure you are taking full advantage of marketing time to ‘avoid the void’.

Finally, there is no point marketing a property for let if your agent can’t get access. Make sure your agent has keys, and that the current tenants are made aware of who you have instructed to conduct viewings, and ask them to accommodate these. The sooner viewings take place, the sooner you will get an offer, and the sooner the existing tenants can be left in peace to pack for their move.

2. Not valuing first impressions

These days first impressions aren’t on viewings – they’re online. You wouldn’t use any old photo on a dating profile, and the same applies with property profiles.

Check out the competition and see how other properties to let in the area are being presented online. It’s important to have a marketing strategy, and this starts with displaying quality images for prospective tenants to browse.

Start with ensuring any exterior images are for the current season. Marketing in the summer with photos showing snow on the ground makes potential tenants think that it has been on the market for months and that there is something wrong with it.

Next, consider how the interior looks. Do you need to refresh the décor or upgrade the furniture? How old is the kitchen or bathroom suite? If you have already made improvements or upgrades, ensure the marketing photos reflect this.

Ensure there are no inadvertent reflections in mirrors, or valuable items on display. If possible employ a professional photographer – most agents offer this as part of their lettings service.

If you are letting your property for the first time and you currently live there, now is the critical time to declutter and de-personalise. Don’t waste time and money paying a removal company to transport items you end up disposing of. Make the effort now to declutter and try to stage the property to look as attractive as possible to potential tenants, just as you would if marketing for sale.

3. Not responding to tenants

Happy tenants usually result in longer tenancies. Some requests from your tenants may seem unnecessary but accommodating requests can help to maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship in the long term.

No matter what the nature of the enquiry, the rule is simple – always reply, and always be polite in your response. If a repair needs sorting, explain what you will do next and the expected timeframe in order to manage your tenant’s expectations.

4. Self-managing a rental property

It might sound easy, but when something needs fixing or the tenant has locked themselves out, typically it happens when you aren’t available to deal with it. Or, even worse, when you’re on holiday and don’t see their message at all!

As a landlord you have an obligation to keep the property in good repair and working order, and to respond to requests from tenants in a reasonable timeframe. Even if a tenant request seems unreasonable or unnecessary, it always needs to be responded to in a professional and non-emotional way. This is where professional property management becomes critical.

Understandably, tenants expect a high level of service when they’re paying rent, so it’s important to make sure that you keep on top of what’s happening and respond quickly to any queries or problems. Consider paying for a professional Property Management service that will allow you to take a back seat and minimise your stress.

These fees are also usually tax deductible (check with your accountant to be sure for your personal tax position). Having a professional property manager at the core of the landlord-tenant relationship can make a huge difference to a everyone’s stress levels, tenants included.

5. Neglecting compliance & safety checks

The fifth money laundering directive takes effect in January 2020, so the benefits of using an agent are further extended when this becomes law. Right to Rent checks are still legally required when letting to adults in England aged 18 or over, despite legal challenges.

When using an agent be sure to ask what their process is for Anti Money Laundering and Right to Rent compliance checks.

A gas safety certificate must be obtained for your rental property every 12 months to show that the gas appliances are safe to use. Councils can request this be produced within seven days of demand, so make sure you have a record of all historic checks, and a valid certificate at all times.

Fire alarms need to be installed on every level, and carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance. Test these at the start of every tenancy, and on every inspection to ensure they stay in working order.

If you let your property to three or more unrelated people (i.e. a HMO) then you may need to install mains-wired smoke alarms, heat sensors and a CO alarm in any room with a gas burning appliance like a boiler or gas fire. Check with your local council housing team to be sure. Electrics should be checked by conducting two types of tests. The first, a Portable Appliance (PAT) test, is to check that anything with a plug is safe to use. This is best done at the start of every tenancy.

The second is an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) by a NICEIC qualified electrician (www.niceic.com) and this is valid for 5 years. Again, if you let your property as a HMO you must have an EICR and the council can request this be produced within seven days of demand.

A valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) needs to be maintained too, and these last for up to ten years. The rating needs to be a minimum of band E – if your property does not reach this minimum rating then you may need to make upgrades, or see if you can get a registered exemption.

Finally, be sure to check whether your property needs to be licensed by the local council. There are three types of licensing schemes that might affect you, and we have lots of information available here to help you stay on top of your compliance responsibilities.

Do you know the rental value of your properties in today's market? Use our free online valuation tool to calculate the sales and rental value of any property.

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