2014 has been a year of great change for private landlords. With the private rented sector taking more responsibility for the provision of housing in the UK, as many continue to struggle to get a mortgage with the high deposits needed to secure a home and more and more concerned about rising house prices, the sector will come under ever-greater scrutiny come the New Year.
In fact, as the dawn of 2015 looms, greater transparency will be demanded of landlords and it is even more key that they keep abreast of changing legislation as well as the condition of their properties as winter takes hold. With this is mind, now is the time for landlords to make their very own New Year’s resolutions and plan for a prosperous and stress-free future in 2015 and beyond.
Neil Woodhead, Founder of Ready Rentals, an online resource that offers self-managing landlords with the support to provide a professional and legally compliant service, gives his suggestions for 7 resolutions that private landlords should keep this New Year:
1) Don’t forget your anniversary
When is your gas safety, electrical, flue and PAT testing due? When is your insurance up for renewal? Miss the dates and you could end up being prosecuted, so it is important that you keep a close track of all anniversary dates. Logging them with Ready Rentals’ online support system means that you will be notified well in advance of upcoming dates and reminded weekly thereafter to ensure that nothing is overlooked or forgotten. Now if only there was a similar system for your wedding anniversary!
2) What’s your policy?
Does your insurance policy cover accidental and malicious damage, letting to unemployed tenants, 30-days void occupancy levels and loss of rent, or does it have a minefield of exclusions in the small print? If your policy is not yet up for renewal, make sure this New Year you have a good look at your current documentation and ensure that you are fully covered. If and when it is due for renewal and you’re looking around at other policy options, make sure you read everything thoroughly as it could mean the difference between a payout and a huge headache.
3) Have a thorough MOT
When did you last inspect your rental property, check meter readings for adverse usage, assess general wear and tear or damage and update your inventory? While you have a bit more free time, start planning arrangements to visit the property in the New Year to ensure everything is up-to-date and there’s nothing that needs addressing.
When was the last time you checked for condensation and were the tenants advised of how to deal with these issues to reduce the risk of damage to their health and your property? Do the smoke alarms and CO2 detectors work? Are all the appliances functioning and have any unauthorised alterations to the property or fixtures been made? This can all sound very daunting but can be made far simpler with the use of templates that can be populated online.
4) Keep tenants cosy this winter
Make sure you are providing systems that are operating successfully to ensure that your tenants are warm as the weather turns colder when January hits. Has your boiler been serviced and all your pipes and radiators checked for leaks? And do you have emergency cover in place in case of any emergencies? Make sure you also check that your loft insulation is up to current standards and consider additional measures to reduce draughts and increase the ability of your property to hold heat. All this makes a more comfortable home for your tenant, important measures for ensuring long-term rental and energy-efficiency.
5) Are you on track?
Check your current tenancy documentation is up to date and that it takes into account the changes brought about by recent legal cases and alterations in government policies. Make sure they comply with the correct notice periods and tenant deposit rules. Legislation is something that is not static for long, especially when it comes to the private rented sector, and therefore staying on top of any changes or alterations is key to staying within the bounds of the law. Ready Rentals can help by providing regular newsletters to landlords registered with the system, they will be notified of any changes and the online documentation updated accordingly.
6) Make the most of your assets
First impressions count and whilst many make the resolution to join the gym and exercise regularly come the New Year in the pursuit of the perfect physique, the private landlord should be looking to the improve the appearance of their property, especially when it comes to marketing it to prospective new tenants. Ensure that the property is presented in a professional manner, whether it is de-cluttering if it is furnished, trimming back hedges, redecorating to make sure walls and skirtings are clean and neat or fitting new handles to doors.
Whilst being supported by a regulated agent, make sure that you have good quality photographs to show off your property and use a range of property portals to market and secure as much interest as possible from renters.
7) Become more eco-aware…
This may seem a long time away but by April 2018 new legislation will have a significant impact on properties with an energy rating below grade E and if Labour gets into power they are proposing an increase to grade C. If your properties do not meet these minimum levels you will not be able to make them available to let, so as we head into 2015 now is the time to budget for and programme any works required to raise your property’s standard.
To add further pressure to private landlords, from 1st April 2016, private domestic tenants will be empowered to request consent for energy efficiency measures that may not unreasonably be refused by their landlord. Now is the time to become more ‘green’ and look at what you can do to improve your property and in turn help the planet.