Anna Bibby, 25 July 2019
The dreaded void period; try as you might to avoid them, they are an inevitability for every landlord at some point. Although you cannot prevent void periods from happening all together, there are measures you can take to minimise the effect they have on your investment.
Void periods can be a huge source of worry for many landlords - you’re not getting regular income from your property and it makes paying off the mortgage and other financial commitments more difficult. They are also part of the buy to let lifecycle as a tenant’s circumstance can change unexpectedly, so it’s essential that you are prepared for this to happen.
Find a long-term tenant (where possible)
Although there’s no guarantee that a tenant will stay as long as they claim, you will always get a good indication of whether a tenant is long-term during the application and referencing process. Pay attention to things like the employment status of your prospective tenant and their credit checks, as these could be a clear indication of how long the tenant is able to stay in the property.
Keep on top of your landlord duties
Finding the ideal long-term tenant is only the first step. Once they have moved in, it is your job to keep them happy, so they’ll want to stay in your property. Make sure that any maintenance issues are dealt with promptly, do regular checks to ensure that your property is up to standard and, most importantly, keep an open line of communication with tenant. They should feel comfortable to discuss anything with you in case they find themselves in a difficult situation that will affect the tenancy.
Make sure that the rent is fair
Many tenants decide to leave their property if their landlord puts their rent up too much. According to the 2018 English Housing Survey, 14% of tenants had to move due to rent increases. It’s always advisable to keep a good tenant on a slightly lower rate rather than forcing them out due to the rent being too high – not to mention that high rents could also deter any future tenants. Of course, there are occasions where an increase in rent is needed. However, if you do need up the rent then make sure that it remains at a competitive rate while still considering the costs of the property and inflation.
Be proactive in finding a new tenant
If your tenant does choose to move out, it’s important that you start your search for a new tenant the moment your current tenant gives their notice to leave. Start advertising your property promptly and liaise with your current tenants for viewings and any work that needs doing on the property. The same can be said for properties that are new on the market, as it’s important to generate interest and have tenants lined up before the property becomes available.
Have financial back up
If you do find yourself in a situation where your property will be empty for a while then it’s a good idea to have a financial cushion to cover the cost of utilities, mortgages and other expenses. The advised amount is usually around two- or three-months’ worth of rent, but this does vary depending on your circumstances. Having said finances in place will reduce the pressure while you’re looking for a new tenant.
Like with other aspects of being a landlord, having a clear strategy will prevent void periods from becoming a problem for you.
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Anna Bibby, 25 July 2019