Talking with your tenant throughout the tenancy is invaluable. "If you don't have a good relationship with your tenant based on the foundations of clear and concise communication then you're potentially going to miss some essential warning signs.
Talking with your tenant throughout the tenancy is invaluable. “If you don’t have a good relationship with your tenant based on the foundations of clear and concise communication then you’re potentially going to miss some essential warning signs in 2016,” says owner of Belvoir Liverpool Central and West Derby Adam Rastall.
“Is there a maintenance problem at the property that you’re not being told about? Has a contractor failed to carry out a commitment correctly? Or is your tenant thinking of bringing the tenancy to a close? We also find that if we have regular communication and a good relationship with a tenant then they are more likely to be honest if they are struggling to pay the rent and are more comfortable discussing payment plans etc.
“Unless you communicate on a regular basis there are many important questions that won’t be asked... or answered.”
When was the last time you visited your property? Do it now! “Regular inspections are essential for landlords and are the only way you can truly understand what’s going on behind the closed doors of your property,” says owner of Belvoir Liverpool Central and West Derby Paul Rice. “Even the best of tenants don’t always report every potential problem and damp, condensation or small leaks, for example, can easily be overlooked. At Belvoir West Derby we visit a property every three months, but make sure you set up an inspection by mutual consent twice a year as a minimum.”
Don’t delay, fix it today! “If you discover a potential problem during an inspection, or one is reported to you by a tenant, ensure you react at speed,” says Adam. “Problems that are left don’t go away, in fact, most actually escalate over time, especially roof issues and gutter problems which can be commonplace at this time of year. A rapid response to repairs will have big benefits for you, your property and your relationship with your tenant.”
“Are there any home improvements that you’ve been thinking about for a while but are yet to execute?” asks Adam. “Do you want to re-landscape the garden? Re-decorate throughout? Or perhaps you’ve had an ambitious project, such as a conservatory or loft conversion, in mind but it’s never seemed like the ideal time.
“Of course, larger projects will need careful consideration with regards to potential gain versus financial outlay, but explore these thoughts further in 2016 and, if the budget and circumstances allow, make your property dreams a reality.”
In the trade
Reliable trades-people you can trust are a valuable asset for any landlord. “Make 2016 the year that you build relationships with people in the trade who can help out on a regular basis, plus in an emergency,” says Paul. “In order to guarantee work that’s carried out on time and within budget, it’s wise to create a contacts book of dependable plumbers, electricians and builders that you have confidence in... either through historical commissions or recommendations.”
“If you have an outstanding debt on the property (i.e. a mortgage) make sure you are you paying it off in the most cost-effective way possible,” says Adam. “With banks and building societies releasing products on a regular basis, if you are currently on a Standard Variable Rate (SVR) or your ‘tie-in’ period for your mortgage is nearing conclusion, it’s worth exploring what’s new.
“An independent mortgage adviser will be able to research the market for you and advise about your eligibility for the most recent industry offerings.”
“How long has it been since you last reviewed the monthly rent?” asks Adam. “It’s surprising how many landlords don’t implement a rent increase for many years, often because they don’t want to unsettle a current tenant or have perhaps lost touch with the fast-moving market.
“It’s important that your asset is working hard for you so compare the rental income you’re asking with comparable properties in your area. Alternatively, instruct a letting agent to carry out a current valuation for you.
“If you have a good long-term tenant already in situ then reluctance to demand a sudden substantial rent increase is understandable. However, a moderate rise, backed up by an informed explanation about current market conditions, is unlikely to offend.”
Is all your paperwork in order? “If you haven’t done so already, make sure you’ve got an adequate filing system so all your admin is organised and easily accessible,” says Adam. “It’s surprising how many landlords lose important documents or mislay them among mountains of unrelated paperwork.
“Create a separate storage solution for each property in your portfolio, ensuring you file the inventory, gas safety and electricity safety certificates, receipts for work carried out, insurance documents, mortgage information, plus a copy of the all-important tenancy agreement. Some landlords even like to scan these important documents and create an online filing system.”
Do you have a short-term and long-term plan? If not, but pen to paper today. “Forward planning is essential for any landlord so it’s important to explore short-term options as well as long-term goals,” says Paul. “For example, how long is your current tenant intending to stay? When will you carry out essential maintenance? How will you market the property next time it becomes vacant?
“Don’t forget to plan your exit strategy with precision too,” continues Adam. “When are you hoping to sell and why? People invest in property for a variety of reasons, from a monthly income to a potential pension pot. Ideally, we should understand what are exit aims are at the beginning of the investment journey in order to minimise confusion and maximise profit.”
“Letting agents are the eyes and ears of the industry so if you’re looking for a helping hand in 2016 why not ask for some expert input,” says Paul. “As well as helping you source an investment property and secure the purchase an agent can also oversee all aspects of management, from finding a tenant to organising inventories, check ins and repairs, plus budget planning to help ensure maximum potential profit and troubleshooting problem tenancies if necessary.
“If you’re hoping to take a backseat in 2016 let a letting agent drive your property portfolio forward for you.”