If you’re planning on renting out a house you need two things: a pragmatic, ego-less approach to design and décor, and a good grasp of practical and legal requirements.
Tips for renting out a house
The pretty bits
First of all, the all-important ego-less aspect. If you’re converting your own home from owner-occupied to let, then it’s important to remember that your tenants are not… well, you. You might think that your aubergine walls and lime green carpets look lovely, but they will only appeal to a limited number of potential tenants. On the other hand, if you’ve bought your property specifically to rent it out, then decorate it with the firm mindset of someone making a bright, clean, ‘blank canvas’.
This should appeal to as many tenants as possible and enable a tenant to personalise the space with their own furniture and belongings without them clashing with your own imposed taste.
While we’re on the topic of personalisation, it’s a good idea to decide whether you’re happy for your tenants to put hooks or nails in the walls, and if not, which methods you would prefer them to use to hang pictures. DIY and homeware shops sell sticky-backed hooks and hanging strips that could provide a hammer-less alternative.
These examples show how a ‘neutral’ homeowner interior design with unfussy paint colours and plain floors provides an ideal backdrop for a tenant to put their own stamp, for example with brightly patterned rugs and cushions, or paintings and artwork.
A rental property needs to be both a practical place for tenants to live in, and a marketable entity. A flat or house that looks bright, clean and spacious in the photographs is much more likely to garner interest from web-browsing potential tenants who will click quickly through the properties on the market, and are likely to ignore anything that looks cramped or cluttered.
Between tenants, be sure to return your property to an appealing, neutral space before putting it back on the market. Many cleaners offer specific ‘end of tenancy’ cleaning services, and a pause between tenancies will also give you the chance to get paintwork touched up and general maintenance work completed. Not only should this help to attract new tenants, but it will also ensure that the property doesn’t become increasingly scruffy with the wear and tear of a series of occupants.
The gritty bits
As a landlord, you’re generally responsible for maintaining your property and making sure that it’s fit to live in during the tenancy. If there’s pre-rental work that needs doing such as wiring, fitting and plumbing, this is a good chance to find trusted tradesmen who can work on your property before and then during the tenancy.
If you’re managing the property yourself rather than through an agency, it’s likely that you will get a call from your tenants at some point because the boiler’s not working or the dishwasher needs to be fixed. If you have the phone numbers of some good, previously-used local tradespeople to hand, this could save a lot of on-the-spot hassle, and you will already have agreed ways of setting goals and paying for work, for example.
Also remember that as a landlord you’re responsible for making sure that an annual Gas Safety check is carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer. You need to keep a record of this check and provide it to new tenants before they move in.
Think about security; test any fire alarms and burglar alarms, and make sure that the tenants know how to use them when they move in. Check that all of the lockable windows have keys that you can provide to the tenants.
The paper based bits
Once your property is spick and span it’s time to turn to the legal and insurance stuff that you should get sorted before you hand over the keys. Although in England and Wales most landlords aren’t legally obliged to provide a written tenancy agreement, having one tends to be in the best interest of both landlord and tenant.
Templates are available online, such as on the landlord law website, and also from solicitors and some estate agents. You should include as a minimum your name and address and the names of the tenants, the date that the tenancy begins and the duration of the tenancy, and the amount of rent payable and when it should be paid. It’s also a good idea to include any services that you’ve agreed to provide, and the length of notice that you and the tenant need to give to end the tenancy. If you have more than one tenant, all tenants should sign the tenancy agreement.
Once your tenancy agreement is sorted, get your landlord insurance in place. Most landlord insurance policies include a level of liability cover, which can pay out if a tenant or visitor seeks compensation from you for injury or damage to their belongings. You can also add buildings insurance to the policy, and you can opt to cover fixtures and fittings and any contents that you’ve provided for your tenants. However, it’s worth reminding your tenants that they will need to take out their own contents policy if they want to cover their own possessions.
Bear in mind that insurance providers will usually want to check that you have a tenancy agreement in place and they’ll want to know what type of tenants you have – students, retired, employed etc. – before they will give you an insurance quote.
Written by Jade Wimbledon for online business insurance broker Simply Business.
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