Guide for first-time landlords. Part 3 - How to get your property ready for tenants

POSTED: 18th May 2015
IN: Landlord helpful guides

The buy-to-let industry appears to be going from strength to strength. In the last quarter of 2014, mortgage lending to landlords in the UK soared by 26 per cent, with 197,700 buy-to-let loans agreed in total. Loans amounted to more than £7.7bn during this period, up 36 per cent on the same period the year before.

undefinedThe buy-to-let industry appears to be going from strength to strength. In the last quarter of 2014, mortgage lending to landlords in the UK soared by 26 per cent, with 197,700 buy-to-let loans agreed in total. Loans amounted to more than £7.7bn during this period, up 36 per cent on the same period the year before.

For those willing to invest not only money, but also time and effort into a property, buy-to-let can become a solid long term investment with short term financial benefits too. In a series of guides, we look in depth at the world of buy-to-let to establish how landlords can find the right property, keep on top of paperwork and make the most of their investment.

In this post – the third of this four part series - we’re going to cover everything from deciding how much rent to charge, to making sure you provide a home that your tenants will love.

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Type of tenant

Tenants are of course a crucial part of being a landlord, so it makes sense to spend time finding the right ones for your property. When you do find the right tenants, it’s equally important to ensure they are happy in their new home.

Once you’ve placed your ad and have started to receive applications from potential tenants, vetting the applicants can often prove to be a worthwhile process. Not only can it can help you to ensure that your property will be well looked after, it can often reassure you that the tenant can pay the rent.

While vetting tenants can take time, by doing so, you not only could save money in the long run, you may also find a tenant who is likely to stay in your property for many years. If you followed the advice in part one of this series[hyperlink], you should have a property that will appeal to the type of tenant who is likely to care for the house or flat as if they owned it themselves.

When marketing your property, it’s important to make it clear who you will or will not accept. For example, ask yourself whether you can provide for the following:

  •          Smokers
  •          DSS/DWP tenants
  •          Tenants with pets
  •          Tenants with children

It’s always best to be honest from the outset, so that you can increase the number of suitable applicants and help those who aren’t suitable to find the right property for them.

Matt Hutchinson, director of flat-share site,, advises: “Take the time to think about what you’re selling and, crucially, who you’re trying to reach. Appealing to your target tenants’ needs is always a good move. Consider what they’ll be looking for and address this in the title of the ad. For example, if the house is located close to good transport links, say so at the earliest opportunity. This will help people spot your ad from the crowd.”

Preparing/decorating the property

The biggest selling point when renting out a property is of course how it looks on the inside, and so it’s important to ensure tenants like what they see.

Avoid focussing on your own personal tastes when considering the appearance of the property, and instead keep everything neutral so that you can appeal to as many prospects as possible.

If you decide to furnish the property, use furniture that is durable so that it is likely to last. A glass coffee table or white carpet may look nice, but accidents can happen and the cost of replacing luxuries can soon mount up. Remember that while you can do everything in your power to reduce the need for replacements, as a landlord, you’re responsible for the repairs and maintenance to the following:

  •          The property’s structure and exterior
  •          Basins, sinks and baths
  •          Heating and hot water
  •          Gas appliances, pipes and ventilation
  •          Electrical wiring

Is your property safe?

When investing in buy-to-let, there are a number of rules and regulations that landlords should adhere to. Any gas or plumbing work must be completed by a Gas Safe registered engineer, and electrical safety checks must be commissioned prior to tenants moving into the property.

Landlords must ensure that their property complies with building regulations and is safe. So while fire and smoke alarms are a legal requirement in some rental properties, it makes sense to have them for any buy-to-let property to ensure that your tenants are protected. Fire extinguishers and blankets are also not required by law in all rental accommodation, but it can help to include them anyway.

Other landlord obligations

There are a number of legal obligations that landlords must follow, and so it can really help to familiarise yourself with the rules when embarking on a buy-to-let venture.

For example, it’s important to secure your tenants’ deposits under a government-approved Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme. This can protect both parties in the event of any disagreements at the end of the tenancy.

If you earn over the tax threshold, you also must declare your annual income by completing a self-assessment tax form before the deadline each year.

New and prospective tenants must be provided with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which will detail the energy efficiency levels of the property. These certificates cost £50, last for 10 years unless any major renovation work is carried out, and can be obtained by contacting an EPC provider. Tenants must not be charged for these certificates at any point.

To learn more about your responsibilities as a landlord, have a look at before you begin renting out your property.

How much rent to charge?

When calculating how much rent to charge, it’s important to find a balance between making enough for it to be a worthwhile investment, and being competitive enough to attract tenants. It can help to look at similar properties in your area and research the average cost of renting a room.

Matt Hutchinson recommends checking rents in your area and considering the property’s assets. He says: “Is it well connected by transport links? Does the room have an en-suite? These will affect the rent you can charge. It’s important to get this right from the start – your tenants won’t be impressed if you increase the rent after they’ve moved in.”

The amount you charge should:

  •          Cover your mortgage
  •          Give you a profit
  •          Reflect the facilities on offer, along with the size and location of the property

You may also want to factor in a little extra so that you can build a solid contingency fund that can be used in the event of an emergency such as a leak or a serious breakage.

According to a poll conducted by SpareRoom, 95 per cent of tenants prefer to pay rent with bills included. Just three per cent prefer to pay bills separately, while two per cent don’t mind either option. Having rent and bills combined can make it easier for tenants to keep a handle on their outgoings.

As important as it is to gain a strong rental yield, by charging slightly less than other properties in your area you can improve your chances of receiving plenty of applications as soon as you start to advertise. Void periods can prove troublesome for landlords, so to ensure you have plenty of potential tenants to choose from, it can pay to offer competitive rents.

Extra perks

While tenants are most likely to judge your property on its appearance, sometimes it can pay to go the extra mile and stand out ahead of other landlords in your area. All the best landlords know that a good quality property is key to attracting applicants, so you may need to offer prospective tenants an added incentive to choose you.

Although certain white goods such as fridges and freezers are usually to be expected in rental properties, by throwing in a dryer or dishwasher you’re likely to stand out above those that don’t. 

For tenants struggling to decide between two or more properties, offering inclusive broadband and a TV licence could help them to make their decision.

By tailoring your property to a particular type of tenant, decorating it accordingly, ensuring that it’s safe, and going above and beyond to be competitive, you can increase the number of applicants and minimise the likelihood of problems once your tenant has moved in.

Competitive from the start

By selecting the right buy-to-let mortgage for you, with manageable monthly repayments, you can lay the groundwork for a competitive investment.

This post is instalment three of a four-part series for landlords making a first buy-to-let investment. In the other three parts, we take a closer look at:

Part one: An Introduction

In part one of this series, we started by asking: Is buy-to-let right for you?

Part two: Finding the Right Property

In part two of the series, we looked at how landlords can find the best property for them.

Part four: Finding tenants and managing the business

Part four, the final instalment in our buy-to-let series will look at how you can find and manage your tenants. You’ll learn how to manage your property and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

To find out more about buy-to-let mortgages, and to discover which rates are available, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Aldermore. 

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