Although the tenant should be the one who should be doing their best to persuade a landlord to give them a tenancy, it is quite surprising at how little they are prepared to give, and how much they expect a landlord to do for them.
The best prospective tenant, that provides references, deposit and rent in advance, may have expectations of the property they take and lose no time in suggesting improvements. Of course, an ideal tenant may feel entitled to ask for changes, and it is your choice whether you decide if this is acceptable or not.
A newspaper article I read recently mentioned features guaranteed to make a potential purchaser flee and some of them would also be listed in the features most hated by tenants, and which a landlord, eager to take what appears to have the potential to be a particularly good tenant, may consider doing to get them.
- The bathroom suite. Gone are the days when a suite in avocado, dusky pink or turquoise was seen as desirable. White is the de rigueur colour for bathrooms. However, whilst it may make the property slightly harder to let, it is no reason to change the suite unless it is not functional. It is obviously worthwhile to install a white suite when it needs it. In the meantime, if the bath is cast-iron, it may be worthwhile having a coloured bath re-enamelled. This maintains a better-quality bath, but gives it a more acceptable colour. Replacing a sink or toilet will be cheaper than replacing a full suite.
- Woodchip wall paper. Once seen as a cheap means of decorating rooms, easily re-painted if freshening-up is required, now despised and perceived as a 70’s mistake. If your properties have any rooms still decorated in woodchip, change it, difficult as that may be. Good tenants that want to make their homes their own would rather paint plain walls or better quality textured papers.
- Built in wardrobes, particularly fitments around the bed. Perhaps again seen as rather dated, though an efficient use of space. The tenant with nothing may appreciate them, but that may not be the kind of tenant you want. The tenant who already has their own furniture will not want a property with fittings as a permanent fixture.
- Laminate or solid wood floors are becoming more popular, but this does not mean that you should replace good quality carpets. However, if the tenant wishes to do his own improvements by fitting laminate or solid wood floors, agree to it, but remind the tenant this must be left in situ, should they leave. Try to ensure the carpet is not damaged and placed in storage – the next tenant might believe carpets make a room feel warmer and it could be a saving to refit the original carpet.
- A nice kitchen is a selling feature for both a purchaser and a prospective tenant. Make sure it is clean and that drawers open smoothly, handles are fitted, cupboard doors are firmly attached. If work surfaces look badly damaged or marked, consider changing the damaged parts – something as simple, and as relatively cheap to replace, could make a huge difference in the appearance of the whole kitchen and a good quality work surface can give even a plain kitchen a gloss. If you provide a cooker, make sure it is spotless. Even a nice ceramic hob spoils the look of the kitchen, if it is left dirty. It is worth having it professionally cleaned – this really does make it look like new!
To get the best tenants, those that know they would be viewed that way by more than one landlord, your properties must appear to have something that makes them better than the norm, if you are going to be successful against the competition.
If your properties stand out, perhaps your tenants will too, and pay the rent, look after the property and treat you, and the property, with the respect you are looking for.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon