When considering a buy-to-let investment it is important to remember that you are not simply renting out a piece of equipment; you are entering into a long-term binding contract. When you become a landlord you take on a huge amount of responsibility and the agreement that you enter into when renting out to tenants covers a huge range of areas. If you don’t want to be widely considered as a bad landlord and you want to build a strong, effective relationship with your tenants it is important to take an active interest in the maintenance and condition of your rental properties.
A buy-to-let investment is not a short term fix, however if enough time and effort is put into the investment it can be very rewarding. Whether you have decided to let out a holiday home, you have become a student landlord or you are letting a few properties within a city centre, as a landlord you have a set of responsibilities you are required to adhere to.
Building a strong relationship with your tenants is the key as they are giving you the money needed to cover the mortgage after all, so it makes sense to keep their best interests in mind. Tenants and landlords who have a mutual agreement tend to stay in business for longer and at the end of the day if you have a cooperative, trustworthy set of tenants it makes life a little easier for you as a landlord.
At the start of a tenancy, DO
Furnish your property with good quality appliances and furnishings. This will attract better tenants who will in turn take better care of the appliances and the property itself. Make sure to write a detailed inventory of everything within the property at the time and take photos of the property including any potential problem areas, to avoid disputes at the termination of the tenancy.
Ask for a minimum of a month’s deposit at the start of the tenancy. If you are unsure of the security of the tenant, don’t be afraid to ask for more than a month’s deposit. If they are that eager to start agreements then they’ll happily provide a bigger deposit. Always give at least 24 hours notice when you are going to visit your property. You cannot expect it to be spick and span 100% of the time, so 24 hours is ample time to clean it up ready for a visit or inspection.
At the start of a tenancy, DON’T
Go on holiday. Although not necessarily against the rules, this is very bad form at the start of a tenancy. A relationship between tenants and a landlord can start off pretty shaky, and by starting off a tenancy with a vacation often your tenants may worry that there is something wrong with the house. Wait at least a few months for your new tenants to settle in, as then they’ll have had enough time to get accustomed to the quirks of the house and this way you’ll also be close to hand during those first few weeks at the start of the tenancy should anything go wrong.
Fail to have a proper condition report made before a tenant moves in. If a proper condition report is not carried out and a tenant moves in and suffers to damages in the house, you may be liable as the owner of the property. Make sure to get it thoroughly checked out with a professional surveyor before agreeing on a tenancy.
When carrying out repairs, DO
Give your tenants notice of when and what will be repaired. If your tenants have expressed concerns with a certain aspect of the property (if it is within your jurisdiction to fix) you should respond in an appropriate amount of time.
Hire a professional to diagnose the problem and then give advice on what needs to be done to rectify the problem. With issues such as ventilation, pipes, drains and exterior or potential structural damage, it may also be wise to request that your tenants move any valuables while work is being done. It requires little to no effort and then there is no chance of you taking the blame for any damages to tenant properties.
Remember that landlords are responsible for maintaining the structure and exterior of the building, sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings, pipes, drains, heating, hot water, electrical wiring, gas appliances and ventilation. Therefore you are required to repair or replace most of the above if they are defective or are having a negative effect on the basic living needs of the tenants within.
When carrying out repairs, DON’T
Attempt to carry out repairs yourself or with help from friends. Regardless of how skilled you yourself may be, unless you are a qualified electrician, plumber or have extensive experience in the field it is not recommended that you fix any problems yourself. No matter how small the problem may appear it is always better to get a professional opinion on it.
Think of it this way, would you trust yourself to fix the electrical wiring in your own house? If the answer is no or if you are not completely confident in your own abilities, then it is strongly recommended that you get a professional in. Even if you have the relevant experience, you may be accidentally making another problem worse within the house if you’re not careful. Leave it to the professionals.
If you are planning to go on Holiday, DO
Arrange for an agent to manage the property full-time. This is particularly important if you go for an extended period of time. Make sure to leave a contact number in the case of any emergencies. It is unlikely, however it never looks good for a landlord to be away if their property is suddenly damaged or subject to burglary or any other such unpredictable misfortune. Having an agent manage your property is also recommended if you do not live locally or at least near to the property. Agency fees will be around 15% to 20% of the rent.
If you are planning to go on Holiday, DON’T
Leave without fully informing your tenants of the dates of your holiday. If they have any enquiries or problems that they want to take up with you, it could be potentially damaging if you leave without letting them know as the problem may be a basic need such as heating or electricity.
Don’t leave charge of the property with a friend or family member. If your tenants are used to dealing with you directly, they may not take too kindly to an unfamiliar face poking around without permission. Plus although you may feel that your charge is trustworthy, they may not be prepared to deal with all the responsibilities a landlord has and might end up making things worse. It is always best to use an agent to manage the property, or if you work as a partner, this is also an ideal solution.
There are a number of other things to remember, but these are just a few basics to remember. Building a long lasting relationship with your tenants is essential because if you have good communication you can sort through issues with less hassle. Plus tenants who get along well with their landlord will be more likely to stay longer and continue to pay rent on time, so there are benefits all round to maintaining a good relationship with your tenants!
Tony Jacobs has enjoyed many years working in the property and housing industry and continues to take a keen interest in the housing market. He enjoys refurbishing properties to release back on to the lettings market and writing about his experiences for Property Frontiers.