Whether you’ve secured your first tenant or are getting ready for viewings, preparing your buy-to-let property is essential to your success. While some tasks are simply nice to do, others are required by law.
Taking the time to do your research not only means happy tenants, but also gives you peace of mind that you’ve done everything by the book. Here are our top tips for getting your buy-to-let ready for tenants.
Get Landlord Insurance For Your Buy-To-Let
When renting out a buy-to-let property, having landlord insurance in place will protect you should the unexpected happen. It may be tempting to use the same home insurance you have for your own property. However, landlord insurance offers specialised cover that will be much more beneficial.
Most policies will cover everything from damage to the property and contents to loss of rental income and even legal fees. If you offer a furnished property, landlord insurance can also cover your contents.
While you are not legally obliged to be insured, it’s good to have cover in place before the first tenant moves in. As a new landlord, it will give you extra peace of mind that your investment is protected, as most policies won’t be backdated.
Shop around to make sure you get the best quote (you’ll only need basic details to apply). Just make sure to read the fine print so you are confident that you have adequate cover. Finally, don’t forget that you can write your insurance premiums off against your rental income.
Depersonalise Your Buy-To-Let Property
Unless you bought a new build property, chances are that the previous owners will have done something to make it their own. If there are brightly coloured walls or patterned wallpaper, it’s always best to create a more neutral base.
Painting the walls a simple white or off-white will be much more universally appealing to your tenants. It also has much more longevity. Keeping things light will make it much easier to spot any marks or damage when the time comes to welcome new tenants.
Ensure Your Buy-To-Let Property’s Safety
One of the primary responsibilities of being a landlord is making sure that your buy-to-let property is safe at all times. As a result, there are various processes you need to undertake before your first tenant moves in. Many of these checks and inspections are required by law, so it’s important you are familiar with them.
You are obliged to make sure that the gas equipment in the buy-to-let property is safely installed and maintained. Arrange a visit from a Gas Safe registered engineer to check each appliance and flue. They will then provide you with a Gas Safety Record. This document will detail exactly what checks the engineer carried out and if everything meets safety standards.
When a new tenant moves into your property, you must provide them with a copy of this record. You can do so either before they move in or within 28 days of the tenancy starting. After that, you are obliged to arrange a gas safety check every single year.
By law, you must place a smoke alarm on each storey of the house. You must also install a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a wood burning stove or coal fire). Before the start of any new tenancy you need to double check that they are all working as they should.
You must make sure that there is access to escape routes in the event of a fire. If you are renting out rooms in an HMO (house in multiple occupation) then you will also need to provide fire extinguishers.
Since June 2020, private landlords have been required to have a qualified electrician check the electrical installation in their rental property to ensure their safety. You must arrange these inspections and tests before the start of a new tenancy. After that, you must arrange the checks every 5 years.
If you don’t comply with this law, the penalties are steep. If you are found not to have made the checks (or not completed any necessary work that was identified) you could be charged up to £30,000. To find a registered electrician in your area, you can check this website.
If you are offering a furnished or part-furnished property, you must make sure that all of the furniture items are fire resistant. This is usually indicated by a permanent label attached to the furniture. If you can’t find the label or are unsure, you should contact your local trading standards department for advice.
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 set the required level of fire resistance. If you don’t comply, you are breaking the law. This could result in a £5,000 fine and six months in prison.
Carry Out Repairs
If you still need to do some work to the buy-to-let property (even if it’s not urgent), it’s best to do so before the first tenant moves in. Whether it’s replacing a window or fixing a garden gate, it’s much easier to carry out repairs while the property is empty. As soon as the tenants have moved in, you will have to work around their schedule.
If you told tenants during the viewing process that you would make any repairs before they move in, it’s particularly important to do so. This will start the tenancy off on the right foot and help avoid any complaints.
Similarly, if there is any simple work that could significantly improve the look of your property, it’s the perfect time to do it. Showing that you are proactive about your property will keep your tenants happy. This can go a long way in building a long-term relationship.
Do A Deep Clean
It’s reasonable to expect tenants to leave the property in the same condition they found it. Cleaning the home from top to bottom is not only nice for the tenants, but it will save you hassle in the long run. The condition will be noted in the inventory report. This sets an expectation that the tenants will clean it to the same standard when they move out.
A thorough cleaning should involve everything from floors to furnishings, with particular attention paid to the kitchen and bathroom. You can always hire a professional to clean the buy-to-let property if you don’t want to do this yourself. Depending on the size of the property it shouldn’t be too big an expense.
If the property has a garden or outdoor area, don’t forget to spruce that up too! Give it a tidy up, getting rid of any stray items that have made their way outside. If there is a lawn, you should also cut it short before the tenant moves in.
Prepare Your Documentation
There are almost always questions at the start of a tenancy, and so it’s good to have all the important information to hand. Compile things like instructions for appliances, the boiler or security alarm and refuse collection timetables. Having everything together in one folder will ensure it’s easy to find.
Don’t forget that you are also obliged to provide your tenants with some lettings documents. You must give them a copy of the government’s ‘How To Rent’ checklist (this can be sent via email if you like). You must also provide your contact information (or those of your letting agent or property manager). This includes a name, phone number, and address.
You must give the tenant a copy of the property’s EPC. Finally, you have to give details of the Deposit Protection Scheme you have used. However, you can do this within 30 days of the start of the tenancy.
Cut Spare Keys For Your Buy-To-Let
This can be an easy step to forget, but has the potential to cause trouble if your tenants lose the keys! You should ideally have a set or two for your tenant, one for you and one for your letting agent or property manager. If there are keys to anything inside the home, like windows or patio doors, remember to leave these behind.
There’s a lot to think about when getting ready for tenants, but doing the work at this stage can make the whole process more streamlined and give your new tenants a fantastic first impression. With that being said, there’s no need to take on everything alone.
Working with a property management company will help ensure that everything is in order before a new tenancy and beyond. Along with marketing your buy-to-let property and finding tenants, a property manager can help get the property ready and take care of any issues that arise. If you’re considering outsourcing your property management, we would love to help. Send us a message today and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
For more buy to let advice, check out our article on Buy To Let Stamp Duty!