Ten Steps for Letting
Basic tips for letting property
Renting property is a business – a letting business. The landlord is the manager, and the tenants are customers, but whereas a shop might have hundreds of different customers spending a little money with them each day, a landlord might only have one tenant. A tenant who might be paying a lot of money into the business for years or even decades to come.
Pick your tenant carefully and treat them well.
The perfect tenant would have the following qualities:
They are clean, smart, tidy; they pay the rent on time, never bother the landlord, never complain, never have noisy parties, never sublet, never bother the neighbour and are no trouble whatsoever.
“Do these tenants exist?”
Well after 20 years of letting property I can categorically say – they do. The skill is spotting them. I’ll share how to do this later, but first, let’s examine the process of letting a property.
The process of letting a property
The process of letting property combines a mixture of skills. On the one hand it brings into play a landlords’ marketing and selling skills. A landlord needs to target their rental property to the right audience, carry out viewings, charming any prospective tenant. Whilst, on the other hand, the landlord needs to be familiar with the complexity of the laws on letting property, and a basic understanding of this is vital if landlords are to avoid the potential legal pitfalls.
Here’s a brief ten step guide to the basics of letting out property.
1. Rental Property Marketing Plan
2. Implementing a Marketing Plan
3. Landlords Responding to enquiries
4. The Viewings
5. Selecting a tenant
6. Vetting the tenant
7. Organising the move in / move out
8. The property ‘check in’
9. Property ‘handover’
10. The paperwork (getting organised)
1. A landlords marketing plan
This is basically an outline of how the landlord is going to advertise their property including which letting agent they use or whether to use an online letting agent. Having the landlord considered which type of tenants they are after and how best to attract them they should have a basic strategy in place.
2. Landlords implementing their marketing
Time for landlords to action their plan by writing rental adverts and property descriptions. Landlords can then, place these lettings adverts by either phoning the relevant newspaper or e-mailing the listing sites with their investment property details. It might be that a landlord has decided to post a letting advert in the local Post Office and therefore needs to prepare an letting advert for display here or possibly the work notice board. Landlords should remember a few e-mails to friends and work colleagues might yield results.
3. Dealing with a potential tenant’s enquiries
This is hopefully where landlords will be inundated by a barrage of potential tenant enquiries. Once the lettings adverts go in it’s a case of the landlord checking their e-mails and messages regularly and then getting back to the potential tenant enquirers ASAP. Landlords should remember renting property is a competitive business and prospective tenants can often enquire about tens of properties per day.
Therefore, if a landlord is first to respond then they have every chance of setting up an early viewing and bagging a good tenant before the opposition landlords.
Landlords should remember to have a system in place that records the details of the tenant i.e. phone numbers, name any specific details about when tenants are looking to move and other factors – does the tenant smoke, have pets. All this will be useful to a landlord in remembering who the tenants are and making a judgement on whether to choose the tenants later on. A landlord could use the trusty pen & paper or our FREE Property Management Software allows you to record brief notes.
4. The viewings of a rental property
Landlords should try where possible to group their viewings together. This way the landlord is not traipsing backwards and forth across town – very time inefficient.
When landlords are carrying out the property viewings, tenants won’t necessarily expect the landlord to be fully togged up in a business suit, but looking clean & smart will do no harm. First impressions count and this goes for the property as well. If the property is still tenanted the landlord should give the existing tenants as much warning as possible. Encourage them to give it a tidy. If the property is vacant, then little steps such as tidying away the post, switching on some ambient lighting, ventilating or heating the property correctly will all help to set off a landlords property in the best light. Make it nice.
In conducting the viewing, a landlord should try not to rush the tenants, even if they are under some time pressure. Draw the tenants attention to the best features in the property and try and ‘gloss’ over the less desirable aspects. A landlord might want to highlight the view over the local park or how spacious the living room is whilst moving swiftly through the cramped and dimly lit hallway. Better still, if the existing tenants are in occupation then landlords should use some of the ‘good will’ they have built up and get them to do some of the initial viewings to save your time. If there is a lot of interest this is atime saving way of sorting out the ‘wheat from the chaff’. Leaving the landlord to only have to meet the incould meet any interested tenants prospective tenants that are interested in renting the investment property. The landlord can arrange to meet the tenants prior to their final selection.
Landlords should always use the opportunity of the viewing as a way of informally screening the tenant. Even in a brief meeting which most viewings should be, it’s possible for a landlord to slip into the conversation questions such as: what is the tenants’ name, address, where are the tenants living & how long have the tenants been there for, their occupation and how long the tenants have been working there. This information will prove invaluable to landlords late on when it comes to vetting tenants.
When showing the tenant around the property the landlord should always know their facts. Frequently asked questions by potential tenants are: what the bills are like especially the Council Tax as the largest outgoing, the type and nature of the neighbours, proximity of local services i.e. shops, transport
5. Selecting a tenant
This is the skilful bit. It is the time when a landlord has to employ all their knowledge of amateur psychology to pick out who they think will make the best tenant. This can sometimes be quite hard for landlords. The landlord may have several tenants that fit the bill and that they have a strong affinity with. A landlord needs to try and stay fairly dispassionate throughout the process. Landlords should remember it is after all a business transaction, not an act of benevolence that they are engaging in. I go into detail later on into how landlords can spot the perfect tenant
This is when landlords hopefully filter out the ‘scammers’. These are tenants, if we can call them that; who have made a career out of ‘ripping’ off landlords. It’s an important stage in the letting process for landlords. Whilst there are no guarantees that a landlord can expose them, a thorough methodical approach involving credit checks and references should ensure that even the most ‘professional tenants’ don’t get through the net.
7. Organising the move in / move out of the tenant
Finally, a landlord has a tenant that they are happy with. The landlord is hopefully at the start of a long and fruitful relationship with the tenant. Now a landlord needs to sort out the dates for the tenant to move in and possibly co-ordinate this with the moving out of the existing tenant. If a landlord has a tenant in place, they need to make sure the existing tenants are happy to go when the landlord needs them to; otherwise legally the landlord may be into a situation where they need to serve the appropriate notices.
8. The ‘check in’ of the tenant by a landlord
It’s the day that the landlord needs to assess the state of their property and take one final look at the shining floors and immaculate paintwork before handing it over to one of the marauding tenant classes. This is when the landlord records the investment property’s state BT – Before Tenants. Landlords should use an approved Property Inventory such as the one free to download from www.propertyhawk.co.uk to ensure that they have an accurate record of their investment property should a dispute a rise at the end of the tenancy.
Read a detailed guide on preparing a property inventory
This is ‘D Day’. The ‘handover’ of a rental property means the landlord is legally handing their property over to the tenant. The tenancy comes into being. There is no going back for the landlord now. The tenant has the landlord’s keys and takes up the occupation of the property. Landlord should have got them to sign the relevant forms: the tenancy agreement, the property inventory, the section 213 notice. These are all free to download from our FREE Landlord Software, then it’s back home to complete the final stage of the letting process.
10. The paperwork (Getting organised and staying legal)
This is a final, and often overlooked stage. The landlord needs to finish the paperwork. It maybe tedious, but it’s also essential. Failure to file and complete the details now will mean that the tenancy will start off in a chaotic and disorganised way and this could possibly lead to headaches later on; particularly if things go wrong with the tenancy. Also, a landlord needs to remain legal and comply with certain pieces of legislation. From 2016 the Government has introduced thre Right To Rent checks which now require landlords to check that a prospective tenants nationality status to ensure that they are not an illegal immigrant.
Landlords also need to file away all their forms, ensure any keys are in a safe and secure place, pay in any rental money, and notify the relevant utilities of the new occupants and the exit meter readings. Landlords will also need to decide how they want to deal with the tenant’s rent deposit money under the Government’s Tenancy Deposit Scheme.