Consider allowing pets
You often hear of the horror stories - the smell, the damage and the nuisance they cause but there are many benefits to being a pet-friendly landlord. The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PMFA) estimates that 40% of all UK households now own a domestic animal - a good share of the rental market that you could be tapping into.
If there aren’t a lot of pet-friendly properties in your area then it’s a good way to carve yourself a niche, and to justify charging a slightly higher rent too. You could also require a higher deposit to cover the cost of any damage caused.
If you decide that you’re OK with animals in your properties then make sure your expectations are clearly-stated within a ‘pet policy’ section in your tenancy agreement. A watertight inventory, with photographs to match, is also a safeguard.
What’s more, there are a number of websites, including Zoopla, OpenRent, and SpareRoom, which have advanced search filters to enable tenants to see whether pets are allowed; this could further widen your visibility to that market, if you advertise on those platforms.
Check-in with your tenants
Avoid lengthy and costly void periods by striking up a good relationship with your tenants. This doesn’t take much effort, a card or small housewarming gift to celebrate their arrival will go a long way.
If you know they are new to the area you could even create them a little welcome pack, with information on the nearest shops and attractions, for example.
It’s also important to let them know that you’re always available to answer any questions they have (within working hours, of course!) and outline what they should do if they have an emergency outside of these hours. By doing this you’re building a mutually trusting and respectful relationship right from the get go.
Happy tenants are not only likely to stay, but they’re likely to recommend you too, and we all know that word of mouth goes a long way.
Implement energy-saving measures
Landlords looking to invest in new technologies may want to consider a solar storage solution such as Sunplug, which offers homeowners greater control over their energy consumption.
Combining a cutting-edge home battery with an online app, you, or your tenants can store excess solar electricity for later use, while monitoring how much energy is being generated, used, stored or exported to the grid in real time. This solution - which is available for landlords with or without solar on their properties - can enable you identify areas where you may be able to reduce your energy consumption, and inevitably money on your bills.
Those in the industry will also be aware of the new legislation changes coming into force in April 2018, which will require them to increase their property’s EPC rating to at least an ‘E’. This alone should be enough incentive for landlords to start implementing more energy-saving measures into their properties now, but don’t forget all of the financial benefits that come with this too (if your tenant pays their own energy bills then this will have an immediate, positive effect on them).
Smart storage heaters are up to 47% cheaper to run than an electric convector heater and often come with a boost option for unexpected heat demands. LED light bulbs are also a good energy-saving option as they use 90% less energy than an incandescent or halogen bulb and last up to 25 times longer.
All of this will help you to increase the value of your property and make the homes you own more attractive to future tenants.
Switch your suppliers
Related to the point above, it’s always a good idea to review - and potentially switch - your energy and phone/broadband/TV provider at least once a year. People often avoid switching because the process is seen to be too complicated, or too much hassle but the truth is you can save hundreds of pounds a year if you change all of these things.
A quick search on a comparison website like uswitch.com will help you find the best deals on the market.
Selling your solar panels to a third party company
If you are a landlord that has paid for your solar panel system outright, you can take advantage of a relatively new service on the market, whereby you can release the capital of your panels and cash in on a lump sum - sometimes up to £21,000.
The real benefit of this is that you won’t need to wait years to receive the value of your Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) payments. You, or your tenants, will continue to enjoy the free electricity that the panels generate, while the company that is buying your system takes responsibility for its ongoing operation and maintenance. In exchange the buyer will retrieve the FiT payments.
There tends to be two types of offerings for people who own their solar system - a lease option and a non lease option. With the former, the company takes out a lease for the airspace above the solar panels on the roof; this lease is attached to the property, not to the owner, so if the landlord ever decides to sell the house they can easily do so. With a non lease agreement, the buyer - the third party company - gains permission to register a 'restriction' on the title of the freehold property with the Land Registry. When this occurs, the homeowner wouldn't be able to sell their property without the permission of the buyers of the panels, causing potential problems.
Whichever route you decide to take, ensure you have read through the terms and conditions of the contract very carefully; it sounds common sense but it can avoid a lot of hassle later down the line.
Ask your tenant to leave a good review
Asktenants.co.uk is a review website where private tenants can rate the properties they have lived at. Properties are given a rating out of ten, based on whether there are issues in the following areas: leaks/boiler, mould and condensation, flooring and carpets, brightness, noise levels, rodents/insects, traffic, parking, safety, energy bills, landlord/agents and deposit refund.
There are also other details available through this website, including information on crime, schools, ethnic makeup, social grade and housing tenure. It’s also worth noting that Ask Tenants allows landlords to download their badges free of charge, which can be placed alongside their property advert on an estate agent’s website.
Movem is also a review of student accommodation, landlords and letting agencies in more than 95 university cities in the UK.
David Williams is the head of residential buyback at Lightsource.
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