Last month we looked at the true value of using a letting agency and the advantages it offers to landlords. Today we will focus on just one of those benefits – that of property management, even when a property is vacant.
Unfortunately, there will be times when, as an agent, you have an unavoidable vacant period between one tenancy ending and a new one beginning. Hopefully, this will be only a matter of a few days, but if the property is not an easy one to relet then you will have a longer void period.
During those longer periods, there are two main concerns:
- Loss of income for your landlord.
- Potential problems that could arise from the property sitting empty
Let’s look at some of the possible issues and our three best tips for handling vacant properties.
Loss of Income
Letting agents play a crucial role in helping their landlords minimise income loss during unavoidable vacant periods, in the following ways:
- Staying Realistic: Ensuring that the rental property is priced competitively is important because overpricing can lead to a lack of interest and longer vacancy periods. Conduct market analysis by checking out how much similar properties have been rented for in the same area..
- Being Prepared: If you know a tenancy is about to end, a pre-checkout to evaluate how much work may be required before new tenants can move in is crucial. Speaking to your regular cleaners and maintenance contractors to check in advance if they have availability will avoid delays.
- Ensuring Effective Marketing: This may seem obvious, but ensuring a property is visible to as many people as possible, and as quickly as possible, is just half the story! If the property listing is missing a full and useful description along with professional photos, then your target audience may just scroll by.
- Understanding Tenant Retention: This is simple but key! Happy tenants are more likely to renew their leases, reducing the frequency of vacant periods.
- Asking the Right Questions: Taking the time to become acquainted with your tenant screening criteria will allow you to find out early on if potential tenants are likely to pass referencing or will need a guarantor – saving you time and money by not referring unfit applicants.
Potential Problems in Vacant Rental Properties
Whenever a property is vacant, it’s vulnerable to all kinds of potential problems. For example, should bad weather or a water leak cause damage, it may remain unnoticed for some time until the property is inspected again. If it’s clear the property is vacant, it may also become a target for vandals or squatters. These issues take money and time to resolve and can become a headache for landlords and agents.
So, what’s the best advice you can give your landlords when faced with a vacant rental property?
- Contact the Insurer
Many insurance policies for landlords only cover vacant properties for a maximum of 30 days. Therefore, advising the landlord to contact the insurer is sensible from the moment the property will be empty. Failing to do this could lead to the landlord’s policy becoming void should something happen that necessitates a claim. The insurance company will likely advise the landlord to ensure the policy stays valid. For example, there may be a requirement to turn the gas off or keep the central heating on a low setting during the cold months so that the pipes don’t freeze, and the property doesn’t develop a mould problem. ‘Unoccupied property insurance’ may be required by the landlord and although it may cost more, it’s worth it for the assurance and protection.
- Carry Out A Deep Clean
In between tenancies, when the property is vacant, it should ideally receive a professional deep clean, and a paint refresh if necessary, to ensure it has a fresh look and feel for viewings. Any traces of mould on surfaces should be wiped clean with mould spray, and any rubbish left outside the property by the previous tenants should be removed immediately so that it doesn’t become a fire hazard or attract pests and rodents.
- Make Regular Property Checks
It’s likely the landlord’s insurance provider will need regular visits to be made to the property during the vacant period – typically every seven days, to ensure it remains in good condition and is secure.
When visits are made, landlords should follow this advice:
- Go through each room checking for signs of dampness and mould;
- Allow some air to circulate by opening the windows (make sure to close them again before leaving!);
- Check the doors and windows to ensure they’re locked properly and that there aren’t any signs of forced entry;
- Keep the front of the property looking tidy, including any garden maintenance, to avoid bringing attention to the fact the property is empty;
- Keep a log of the inspections for the insurers .
Finally, landlords can also consider putting timers on lamps inside the property to automatically switch on and off at various times. Fitting motion sensor lights outside the property to deter vandals and burglars is also sensible.
In your role as an agent, you can assist landlords with some of this. If you’ve successfully re-let a property and there’s a brief period before new tenants arrive, you could consider including this service as part of your offerings. This not only ensures the landlord’s insurance remains valid but also safeguards the property in the ways previously mentioned. If the property will be unoccupied for an extended period due to any other circumstances, there’s an opportunity to provide this as an extra service for a modest fee.
This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. If in doubt seek professional legal advice.
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