What does it take to be a great landlord?




Nice properties attract nice tenants, but being a nice and considerate landlord is key in retaining a tenant once you have one. At present, there is no means of independently researching whether a landlord is any good or not (although of course, you could argue that is subjective anyway). This is likely to change however if new legislation (the renters’ reform bill) is passed through Parliament which will give renters and indeed other stakeholders such as property agents access to a database of rogue landlords.


Of course being a landlord, contrary to some beliefs is not easy, as there are a lot of things to think about and organise. In addition, it’s also worth noting that most landlords only own three properties with nearly half owning just one. Thus it’s clear most are not the caricature billionaire property magnate some in the media would have you believe. Of course, that does not mean there aren’t any bad landlords but just as there are bad CEOs, and bad local elected officials there are unfortunately some bad landlords.


With this in mind, we thought it would be interesting to discuss what makes a good landlord and have highlighted some of the ways this can be achieved…


Fix stuff fast


Having something not working in a rental property can be very frustrating for the person living there. If it’s something minor such as a lightbulb that needs replacing the tenant may feel inclined to replace this themselves, given that it’s fairly low cost and easy enough to do. However for bigger problems such as a broken boiler or appliance the tenant is in most cases reliant on the landlord organising a repair or replacement. It is for this reason that landlords should act promptly and seek to resolve issues like this as soon as possible. If they do, tenants will appreciate this and be more inclined to take greater care of the property. Contrastingly those landlords who do not fix problems in a timely manner or worse, don’t fix them at all are likely to see their tenants take less care of their property as they will assume the landlord doesn’t care that much about them or the state of their property.


Pro tip: Have a list of reliable tradespeople to hand so that when a problem does arise you can get someone in to fix it without delay


Pay your fair share of tax


Although this doesn’t impact the tenant directly, it does impact the wider community as tax evasion or aggressive avoidance means less money for public services. There are a number of things that are legally tax deductible for landlords (repairs etc) so there are ways to reduce the amount of tax that is due each year. Helpfully there is a plethora of information on the web such as this guide to Making Tax Digital for landlords in addition to a ton of information on the .gov website. Most landlords who only rent a handful of properties or less and who don’t have any other complications in their tax affairs should find the self-assessment process fairly straightforward. However for anyone who is unsure or uncertain it may be worth speaking to an accountant for further help and assistance.


Invest when you can


The temptation with any investment is to maximise returns, why wouldn’t you want to? However, when it comes to letting out property it can in some circumstances become a false economy. The reason for this is that eeking out every penny without reinvesting any of it back means over time the standard of the property will start to decline. This in turn will reduce the appeal of the property which impacts in a number of ways including…


  1. The amount you can charge to rent it out. Higher quality properties attract higher rental values, it’s as simple as that. Sometimes even just replacing the carpets and repainting a property can make a world of difference to prospective tenants
  2. The way tenants perceive the property, for example, if a property is tired and is starting to deteriorate, tenants are less likely to want to look after the property themselves
  3. Rentention. If you can invest in a property to a level that helps you to retain your current tenant it means you are more likely to avoid any void periods in addition to the agency fees associated with finding a new tenant including credit reference checks etc.


Finally, you should always think carefully about whether to increase the rent or not. Of course like everyone else, landlords have bills to pay which go up over time however as with the refusal to invest in a property, habitually increasing the rent can also end up being a fools’ errand. The reason for this is that each rental increase will make you less popular with your current tenant. And if they are a loyal tenant who has always paid the rent on time and keeps your property in good condition, why would you increase the risk of them leaving by increasing their rent? A void period of just one month will normally wipe out the extra rental income you would have received had the tenant stayed on, not to mention the cost and hassle of finding a new tenant who just might not be as reliable in terms of paying the rent on time as your previous tenant.


Only be in touch when you need to


Whilst it makes sense to maintain a good relationship with your tenant, overdo it can you could soon be perceived as being a nuisance. In essence, most tenants only want to hear from their landlord if there is a problem and vice versa. Thus, aside from urgent matters, you should aim to leave your tenant in peace, only contacting them when renewing tenancy agreements or attending to any problem with the property that may arise. You should also give them at least 24 hours’ notice if you intend to visit the property.


In conclusion, it’s a useful adage to state that you should treat a tenant how you would wish to be treated yourself which in most cases is with fairness and compassion.

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