Housing Specification Blog

Back to School for Student Landlords: The Must-do Top Ten

August 30, 2012 Alexandra Blakeman Housing Issues

Today we welcome Charlotte Leigh from Howard Inventories to the blog. She offers landlords some valuable advice on the student lets sector.

Letting to students can be a lucrative business; the UK’s leading student accommodation site accommodationforstudents.com has announced a 2.4% increase in student rents. It can also be a nightmare of damaged property, ongoing disputes and constant metaphorical fire extinguishing.

A terrible cliché in this sector of the lettings market has traditionally been the belief that one may as well keep standards low as things will only get ruined by student tenants anyway. However, property professionals believe that the best way to plan for student lets is to make the very best of the property and to ensure that a checklist of essential preparations and safeguards is in place.

Ben Hall, member of the Landlord Syndicate says: “My advice to landlords is to make use of the next two months to ensure their property is up to scratch before students commence their search for next year’s house. Whilst benefitting from low interest rates, a portion of profit from rental income should be set aside to improve a property’s furnishings and décor which will equate to higher rents, minimal void periods and higher yields”.

Charlotte Leigh, of London-based professional property services company Howard Inventories, offers us the benefit of her years in the industry dealing with landlords preparing properties to let to students and their tenants, on a daily basis. Charlotte explains her list of the 10 steps a landlord should take when venturing into the student lettings business…

1. Have a professional inventory prepared

You may think this is something you can do yourself, but the reality is that employing an independent, qualified clerk will save you a great deal of time and potential legal wrangling further into the tenancy. Landlords often live to regret not bringing in the professionals at this stage. It is a relatively low cost service that can provide peace of mind and security for both parties.

2. Ensure you check your tenant or tenants’ references

You would be surprised and possibly horrified by the number or referees that are non-existent. Given that you are putting the safety of your property into the hands of the tenant, checking these is a must.

3. You must have an EPC in place prior to marketing your property

EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates) give a rating to the energy efficiency of your home. All property owners are legally obliged to provide EPCs for their properties. With a more environmentally-conscious tenancy market, especially in the student sector, such proof of energy efficiency can add value to the property you offer.

4. Ensure a gas safety certificate is in place

This one doesn’t need much explaining. Not only is this a moral obligation – we’ve all read the horror stories of gas mishaps in rented properties in the news – but also a legal one.

5. Have your appliances tested (Portable Appliance Test)

This can really help if tenants cause damage or breakages to your appliances during their tenancy term. If appliances have been tested and certified as such, that provides the evidence you need to prove they were in full working order when the tenant took occupancy. When conducting an Inventory, Howard Inventories tests items for power, records their condition and whether they are in working order, but we can also provide PAT tests. For further details click here.

6. Ensure smoke alarms are fitted and in good working order

As with the gas safety certificates, smoke alarms are a moral as well as a legal requirement. If you are unsure about which smoke alarms are the most effective or how to test them properly, you can find further information from your local Fire Station:

7. Contact utility companies and ensure you note meter readings (a professional inventory company will note readings for Gas and Electrical meters as part of their service)

This is another reason for employing the services of a professional Inventory Clerk at the outset of the tenancy. Make sure that meter readings are set down in black and white and agreed by the tenant. Once on record there can be no dispute over the facts. Howard Inventories take photos of meters and include them in reports.

8. Check furniture is fire resistant (FFR labelled)

This may sound obvious, but many landlords have made the mistake of furnishing properties as cheaply as possible, neglecting to consider the importance of fire retardance. Not only is this a precaution for the safety of your tenants, but also for your property.

9. Register your tenant or tenants’ deposit with one of the Deposit Protection Schemes

Again this is now a legal requirement that some landlords and tenants remain unaware of. As of April 2007, Tenancy Deposit Protection for private tenants became law. All deposits for rental properties must be placed in a secure bank account for the duration of the tenancy through one of the Deposit Protection Schemes available. For further information click here.

10. If you want to receive your property back in a clean condition you must arrange a full professional clean prior to the tenancy taking place

The tenant has an obligation under the terms of their tenancy to return the property to its owner in the condition in which they received it. The best way this can be ensured is to hand over a clean property at the beginning of the tenancy and to recommend the tenant use the same firm of trusted professional cleaners at the end of the tenancy term. You should employ the services of an efficient, reliable and proficient professional cleaning company. We recommend EP Cleaners.

For further advice and information about the professional property services offered by Howard Inventories, including the provision of Professional Inventories Clerks, EPCs and PATs please click here.

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