Managing a rental property by yourself; how hard can it be? Well, it’s probably a lot more difficult than people imagine. After all, you can’t just buy any property and expect it to be a fruitful investment.
The truth is, there are several pitfalls that a landlord can fall into, and these mistakes can end up costing you a lot of time and money to put right.
In this blog, we’re going to go through the toughest jobs that landlords have to face on a regular basis. However, we don’t want to turn you off the idea of being a landlord, so expect a few tips from us along the way to help you overcome these obstacles.
The Legal Side
There’s a lot of legal tape you have to go through before you can rent your property, and the law tends to be updated on a regular basis. Understandably, the laws exist to protect tenants, so there’s no way of getting around them; they need to be adhered to.
Your property will be considered up to scratch if you provide:
- A valid Gas Safety Certificate;
- A valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC);
- Smoke alarms;
- Proof the property complies with building regulations (this isn’t something agents check, but every building needs to have regulations for insurance purposes, etc);
- Consent to let the property (this could come from the legal owner, your insurance company or your mortgage lender);
- Your property is safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm, ie. “fit for human habitation” as outlined in the Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018;
Depending on your property, for example, if you’re renting out an HMO or you’re in a licensed area, you may also need to have the electrics checked.
If you’re providing a furnished rental property, the furniture must also meet fire safety regulations, but in general, we don’t recommend providing furnishings. Likewise, if you’re providing electrical appliances, they will need to be PAT tested.
There’s also the new Tenant Fees Act that came into being in June to keep in mind. The Act states that landlords are no longer allowed to charge fees such as for admin duties and end of tenancy cleaning services.
As you can see, the legalities are a minefield, and that’s with us barely scratching the surface of the Tenant Fees Act. Missing even one of these legal requirements could land you in hot water, so you should consider hiring an experienced lettings agent to keep your property above board.
Yeah, the hard work is still ongoing, and there aren’t even any tenants lined up yet. The good news is, this is the last step before they start rolling in (and then that’s when the fun really begins).
So, now you’ve got to think about marketing your property, but this means so much more than putting a few words together for an advert and attaching a quick snap of the master bedroom taken with your phone.
To create an advert that catches the attention of prospective tenants, you’ll need to know your property from top to bottom. This includes:
- How many rooms your property has and their dimensions;
- Identifying the key features that will make your property stand out;
- Knowing the local area well enough to point out transport links, parks, schools, supermarkets and more;
You’ll also need to put up a few photos that highlight the best assets of each room but in a way that gives potential renters a realistic idea of what the property will look like. And while you may think your smartphone takes good photos, you should definitely use professional photography equipment to give the best impression.
Once you have a great advert, next comes the issue of where to put it up.
Property portals are a good option, but the major portals you’ll want to use are only available to agents. You can also use social media to advertise your property, but you’ll need to know how to best use each platform to really get results.
All in all, it’s probably a wise idea to bring in a lettings agent who can confidently market your property. Our own knowledge on the best ways to do this is second to none.
Tenant Screening and Viewings
Your advert is up and running, and you’re starting to get some enquiries about your property. Great! But now you have to think about which potential tenant you’re going to hand the keys over to.
This process is often the most time-consuming aspect of property management, especially if you have another full-time job. Making your way through references, completing credit checks and undertaking dozens of viewings can take weeks to complete and to scrutinise thoroughly.
Then there’s the matter of preparing all the correct paperwork, such as the tenancy agreement.
These things take a lot of time, but more importantly, it takes experience and knowledge to get them right. Our best tip here is to find a suitable property management agent who can do all this for you.
Perhaps the biggest discussion that takes place between landlords and their potential tenants is the cost of rent. The question is though, how sure are you that the amount you’re charging is fair for the both of you?
An experienced lettings agent who knows your area will be able to tell you what the average rate is for your type of property in the local vicinity. This way, you’ll be able to find a price that makes you a tidy profit and makes your property more financially appealing when compared to other rental properties in the area.
Lettings agents will even take care of collecting the rent, which is particularly useful if your tenant falls behind on payments and you don’t want any hassle or if you don’t have the time to chase them up yourself. And should the need arise to evict your tenants, lettings agents will issue legal letters to have them removed.
You’ll also need to think about your tenant’s deposit, which is paid to you in advance in case your property is damaged by the tenant or if they fail to pay their rent or bills some time down the line.
However, you can’t just put this deposit in your own bank account. By law, it needs to be kept safe with the Deposit Protection Service (DPS) or a similar government-approved tenancy deposit scheme.
Lettings agents will coordinate this for you if you’re unsure of how the process is meant to go.
Maintenance issues will crop up from time to time, no matter how rock-solid your property is. If the heating or electricity goes off or the toilet starts leaking, you can bet that your tenant will not be happy about it. As such, you’ll need to arrange for a tradesperson to fix things up as soon as possible.
Of course, maintenance issues don’t have to be that extreme. Maybe a patch of damp is starting to appear in the corner of a room or the floorboards are sounding a little creaky.
Keeping on top of these smaller issues will stop them from developing into something more serious, so that means committing to inspecting your property on a periodic basis
If you have the time to check your property regularly and you have reliable tradespeople you can call on, then this should be no problem for you.
But for those who simply don’t have the time, experienced lettings agents, such as ourselves, will take care of these things for you and keep you updated with reports.
There Must be an Easier Way
Put simply, yes, there is.
An experienced lettings agent can take care of all these tough, time-consuming jobs for you, which means you can spend your time doing things you really want to do.
At Philip Ellis Estate Agents Manchester, we cover all of these key services, and we will even provide you with a free lettings valuation so you can gain a better idea of what your property will fetch on the rental market.