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Letting phoney war

Whilst I was away in New York I had the email that every landlords dreads.

“Dear Chris, we are writing to give you notice of our intention to move out at the end of the month.”

My thoughts? Damn! I’m going to have to re-let.

I can’t really complain. Ed and Liz have been pretty good tenants and were good to their word that they wanted the property for a long term let back in November 2008. The tenancy will have lasted 31 months by the time they leave to pursue an new life in Sussex at the beginning of July. Considerably more than the average let for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy of 9 months.

Inner City Nottingham vs W.Sussex….you can’t really blame them!

Let letting commence

Now begins the whole process of re-letting.

I’ve not done it for over a year because of a stable tenant base. I’m immediately reminded that I’m entering a phoney war. Whilst the tenants are in situ you are left trying to manoeuvre yourself into a situation where you can get the place let quickly afterwards.

One of the frustrating issues in this case is that the tenants are away until towards the end of this month. No doubt preparing their hippy pad for their imminent arrival. The place is as it stands a copmplete and utter tip, junk strewn everywhere, it’s clearly in dire need of a good clean. Now as the landlord I can’t really do anything about this. The tenants aren’t going to make any big effort to tidy until they finally get their gear together and head south to their new life. That’s all very nice and easy for them, but it leaves me in a bit of a dilemma, I’m left with a rental property that I can’t really market because it’s such a mess. In it’s current state most decent tenants would take one look and head for the nearest exit, its not really selling itself as well as it could. The only likely tenants that would give it the time of day would be the kind of dodgy desperate tenant that will just give me grief which is not at all what I’m after.

With the benefit of seeing it without the tenants in, I know that with a thorough clean, a coat of paint and an oven clean the place will look and smell brand new.

Patience and letting Philosophy

It’s never an ideal situation, but I’ve been in this game long enough to know that there is very little I can do. If you know otherwise and have some tips please post your comments

So far I’ve placed a free add on Gumtree with limited response. I’m really waiting now to get the keys back and then the real work and action starts. I’ve already booked the guy from Ovenu to go in and give the oven (which looks like it’s been used in a Toby Cavery ) a full going over. Given that the oven was professionally cleaned before I’m pretty confident that I can demonstrate that this is a reasonable deduction from the tenants deposit.

The small rental void period is an unfortunate but necessary cost which when you run a letting business you have to accept. Since the arrival of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (DPS) there is no way of adjusting for these ‘costs’ to a landlords business by making a deduction from the tenants deposit. I personally welcome this transparency but not necessary the bureaucracy that goes with it. What I have to console myself with is that several weeks lost rent is small change compared to almost fifteen grand of uninterrupted rent taken during the entire tenancy.

Tenants types

Finally, one thing that struck me as I was leaving my property after a brief inspection was that Ed, the existing tenant was into his martial arts. Now this was weird as the previous tenant Spencer was also quite a posh 20 something, who liked his Japanese samurai blades and his kung fu memorabilia. Does this mean that there is a definite type of tenant for each property? If so should I resort to trawling the martial art centres across Nottingham with my property to let poster?

Probably not, but it will be interesting to see who pops up next – Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee?


In response to your article, I was in the same situation (as I’m sure many landlords are).

In my opinion It’s all about how good a relationship you can build with your tenant (where possible), I worked on this with my relationship with my tenant and purely because of our relationship they let me arrange for the flat to painted from top to bottom while they were at work, my decorator took care to protect her stuff and they got a freshly painted flat to enjoy for the last 6 weeks of her tenancy.

Another option if you’re in a situation where your property is not in the right condition to be marketed is to offer the tenant an incentive to keep it well presented, that can be cash, flexibility on moving date, discounted rent, etc.

At the end of the day you want the property occupied asap after current tenants move out, if you can’t even start marketing it until it’s cleaned, painted whatever (after the tenant has moved out) your looking at least 4 weeks lost income (best case). – Adrian

Many years ago I went thro all this problem with up to three months void every time tenants gave notice, so I did the following because of the sort of area my properties are in.

1). Switched from furnished to unfurnished lets

2). Stopped taking deposits, and charged a one off non refundable admin fee

3).Always take one months rent in advance.

The result is that apart from one day cleaning and paint touch, property is ready for viewing, it costs me around £100 for this and well worth it, also with no deposit to be returned my tenants just phone me to say we are leaving, and where do you want the key, and move out immediately, the odd one within one month,
I also use gumtree and I am always over subscribed when I put a property back on the market, every two years my builder does a full inspection, and one coat paints, full repairs etc

So over a two year period with say two tenants my cost are £200 cleaning, and maybe £200 repairs, total £400 against £9600 income, plus the admin costs of say £400 which are covered by the tenant.

Obviously this wont work for all, but my voids are minimal

Regards Nick

With these problems you are going to have a void period. That can only be avoided by getting the tenants to help you, so how can you do that? I don`t know how much the rent is, maybe £400 to £800? So it would be financially viable to pay the tenants to help if it would help you relet quickly.

This is down to the individual tenants, your relationship with them, and negotiating. Have they already gone away? Send them an email (better than a phone call initially), putting "Would you like to make £50/£100/£150 (or whatever)" in the Subject line to make sure they read it all. Explain the problems, ask them to tidy up/suggest that they allow you to. Mention the cleaning and offer to do it, suggest painting (with care to their belongings) while they are away. And go on to ask if they would allow you to show prospective tenants round while they are away. The offer of money will persuade some, others won`t be bothered.

I have reduced voids as much as I can, but I still like to put the rent up once a year, even if only £10/month, and tenants being tenants there are always some that resent even a modest increase.

What have you to lose? If you don`t ask you don`t get!

Re Gumtree I also use it. But I don`t wait for people to decide to contact me, I have composed a standard email/description that I send off to ANYONE looking for remotely what I have to reduce time. Then I can sift thro any replies.

Point out to your tenants that the oven will need a clean and offer to do it for them – that will persuade a lot of women!



Best of luck Regards Grahame

Hi there, here in South Africa the tenants generally need their deposits for their next rental and what I do is use this as a lever to get them to co-operate – in SA if no damage – deposit needs to be paid within 7 days of end of lease – if there is damage 14 days after restoration of the property, i.e. no specific time but needs to be reasonable. So Mr Tenant you play ball and have the place repaired and cleaned up and kept presentable for me to show and I will return your deposit at final inspection or very close thereto.
Seems to work well – you co-operate with me and we both benefit.
Hope this to be of some benefit albeit in a different form in the UK.

You’re situation is not uncommon, so we find it very important to keep a good set of marketing images that display the property at its best. This way you can commence marketing whilst the property is occupied and applicants can see how the property will be presented once works have been done. We also put this in writing to any applicant wishing to secure the property so that they have the peace of mind and assurance that the property will not be let to them as seen on the viewing but instead as the pictures detail.

Prior to the marketing we carry out a preliminary final inspection. We detail all works required to return the property to its original state along with estimated costings. A version of this is given to the existing Tenants so that they are aware before moving out what they could be charged for if not rectified and a further copy presented as a summary of works to be done is given to the new applicant. We find that by doing this we seriously reduce the void periods between Tenancies and also have much better relationships with the new Tenants as they already know what to expect when they should come to the end of their Tenancy.

Some other tips that we find help is to always carry out thorough quarterly inspections and never be complacent, ensure that the Tenant has insurance to cover accidental damage to Landlords property or as a landlord ensure that you have suitable landlord insurance to cover against malicious damage.

I hope this helps and that you have better luck in the future. Marque

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