Specialist residential property solicitor Amanda Sutcliffe of Bray & Bray looks at the importance of keeping a rental property in good condition.
Research conducted by Endsleigh Insurance and TrustMark claimed that over 75% of landlords spent between £200 and £1000 on property maintenance throughout 2015.
Since then, the supply of rented homes has been significantly boosted due to a buying frenzy before the increase in stamp duty in 2016.
With more rental properties on the market than ever before, renters can be choosier about where they rent. This has caused rents to fall in some parts of the UK. However, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the result of tenants going after fewer rental properties could cause rental prices to rise faster than house prices throughout 2017, which could make tenants even more particular about which properties are worth their money.
What tenants now expect
According to research by Belvoir Property Management reported in House Beautiful, the top 3 things that tenants now expect from a rental home are:
- A clean and contemporary home
- Minimum wear and tear
- Speed at resolving maintenance issues
Property Academy’s 2016 Landlord Survey shows that the most common primary concern as a landlord is that the tenant does not damage their property. However, in Shelter’s Survey of Private Landlords (2016), 21% of landlords would somewhat agree with the statement ‘I sometimes struggle to keep my properties in a good state of repair’.
In many cases, the only way that a landlord finds out about repairs that need to be carried out is when a tenant lets them know or makes a complaint.
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 sets out a landlord’s obligation to carry out basic repairs on a rented property, whether in a written tenancy agreement or through a spoken agreement with a tenant. The types of things that a landlord is responsible for keeping in good repair include:
- The structure and exterior of a home
- Water pipes, tanks, sinks, toilets etc.
- Gas pipes, boilers, fitted fires and radiators
- Electrical wiring
Taking on the competition
Looking after the above factors will go some way to keeping existing tenants happy, but when it comes to attracting new tenants, or your first tenants for a buy to let property, setting your property apart from local competition is best done by giving tenants the best, most appealing place to call home.
First impressions count
Make it as easy as possible for anyone and everyone to see themselves living in your property.
Neutral, light colours are always appealing as they allow tenants to adopt any colour scheme they like – allowing them to personalise their space and bring any existing furniture with them where relevant. Similarly, keep carpets clean and simple in style, but don’t go for colours that are too light or you run the risk of them easily staining and showing wear and tear.
Kitchens and bathrooms are where you’ll be judged for cleanliness the most, so if there are stains or hard-to-clean cookers, perhaps invest in a professional cleaner to give it a once over before you put the property on the market. Similarly, spending a little bit of money on replacing old fixtures like taps and light shades will make a big difference to how contemporary your house looks.
Finally, dress your property as though you’re selling it. If you’re selling as furnished, make sure that there are fresh or at least clean covers put on seating and take curtains down to be aired, if not washed or replaced. If you’re selling unfurnished, then make sure that there’s nothing left lying around that doesn’t have a purpose, or which hasn’t been put there to make the property look like a nice place to live.
Something as simple as adding a vase of flowers on a table, or a hanging basket at the front of the house, shows prospective tenants that someone has taken pride in the property, which is not just appealing – it should also set a standard that they will hopefully wish to maintain themselves.
Going further than the basics
Adding features that refurbish a buy to let property but which are more expensive – such as a new kitchen or adding a conservatory – might cost you in the short term, but according to The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, in the case of adding a new kitchen, the value of a home can increase by around 4%. By adding to the value of the house, you’re adding to its appeal, so will usually find that your property becomes preferable to those of other local landlords – and potentially justifiably more expensive in terms of rental price. Another benefit of refurbishments to buy to let properties is that they are tax deductible.
Costs in between tenants
A lick of paint may be all that some landlords need in between tenants. Others will need to replace carpets, repair electrics or completely overhaul a kitchen to be able to offer their rental property as a contemporary home.
Unless you have huge maintenance bills from repairs that you weren’t previously aware of, basic cosmetic changes to your property shouldn’t cost you much money and are well worth the expenditure when your property is favoured by tenants over another in the same area at the same price.
If you aim to keep around £500 aside at all times in case a tenant vacates a property and leaves it in a poor state, this should at the very least, be a good buffer to help you make the property look like a great place to live as quickly and cost effectively as possible.