What to consider when moving into the buy-to-let market

David Sinclair, Head of Lettings, Carter Jonas, York, www.carterjonas.co.uk

Do your homework before investing in buy -to-let property
Do your homework before investing in buy -to-let property

It’s broadly recognised that York, with the strength of its property market, is popular amongst landlords. Indeed, many have held portfolios in the city for over a decade.

However, it’s always worth refreshing our understanding of how to navigate the market, particularly for those who may be considering a move into buy-to-let property.

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*Research is critical. We encourage every landlord to investigate similar properties in their preferred areas and establish how much they are being let for per month. Unrealistic expectations over rents can be detrimental, so it’s worth working with the facts rather than aspiration. If rents are set too high then prospective tenants will steer clear.

Consider who your target tenants are and ensure that your chosen property reflects what they might want to rent. Work with an experienced agent to set a competitive price and aim to keep your property occupied to minimise rental voids.

*Upkeep is a priority. A nicely maintained property will prove the most popular with tenants, particularly if compared to a neglected or tired looking home. A fresh lick of paint could make all the difference, but look at the wiring and plumbing too, so you can ensure that a tenant’s experience of living in the property is hassle-free.

New rules around Energy Performance Certificates kick in from April 1, so ensure that your property is either compliant or legally exempt, otherwise you will need to undertake improvements so that it conforms to a minimum E rating, before being able to let it.

*Furnished v. unfurnished? It goes without saying that tenants often have very fixed views on this. If you are going to furnish a property or at least offer the option of it being furnished, ensure that the furniture is in good condition and that it is clean.

*Master your responsibilities. Ensure your mortgage allows you to let your property; if you are unsure, speak to your lender directly. At the same time, be aware that being a landlord is a 24/7 job; if there is a gas leak or a broken boiler, you will need to resolve it in real time. There is the option to outsource maintenance to a letting agent’s property management team, which could help those who don’t want to be on call.

Insurance. It’s imperative to make your buildings and contents insurer aware of your intention to let your property, as it’s likely that your policy will need to be amended. While landlord insurance isn’t a legal requirement, it is advisable to protect the building, tenants and investment. Some policies will even pay out if your tenant misses a rental payment.

*Legal intricacies. Letting out a property comes with a host of regulations, to which landlords have no option but to comply. To uphold immigration laws, landlords must undertake ‘right to rent’ checks from the outset, as well as sign up to a deposit protection scheme.

While not a legal requirement, it is certainly a very good idea to have a written tenancy agreement so that both you and your tenant understands their rights and responsibilities.

You must have a gas safety check every year. It’s also a good idea to make sure all electrical appliances and wiring are tested regularly. Finally, it goes without saying that your rental property should be fitted with smoke alarms on every floor and carbon monoxide protectors where necessary.

*Choose the right agent. If you want to make the process pain-free, use an agent to manage your property. A good agent will take away the stress of finding suitable tenants and also ensure your property complies with any regulatory changes.