When buying an investment property it is key to remember you are buying to let, your tenants will be living in the property not you. Tenants in Tunbridge Wells’s requirements are generally quite similar. Walking distance from the station and off road parking are both very popular. School catchment areas are key in many families’ searches and will dictate an area to which they will look in.
Finding the right property:
Leasehold or Freehold?
If you purchase a freehold property you own the land it sits on. Whereas if your purchase a leasehold property (most flats) in a sense you are buying the right to own the space between the bricks in your section of the property, possibly in the garden too. There are however communal areas which need to be embodied by a lease.
With a typical lease of 99 years you can generally extend the lease for a fee or together with the other leaseholders purchase the freehold and right to manage the property. With leasehold properties there will be a list of obligations that must be adhered to. The managing agent or freeholder will charge you service charges and ground rent. It is normally the freeholder’s responsibility to take care of the maintenance of the building, for example arrange the buildings insurance.
Where considering a property with a communal hallway take note of the condition. This will give you an indication of the other people living in the building. Remember the communal hallway will be what a potential tenant bases their first impression on.
New or old property?
Tenants’ preferences differ, some will prefer older properties and some brand new. What they both will be looking for is space and storage. In some new builds the rooms are small and storage space is sparse. New builds may come with a warranty which would be worth enquiring about. Don’t be scared to look for signs of damp behind units and carpets etc. If the property does seem to be suffering with damp then it would be prudent to arrange a full survey on the property.
Even if you are a cash buyer and purchasing a new build property it could still be worth you getting a survey. You could be buying into an area with subsidence or other issues.
Preparing your property
Dealing with builders
If your property needs work you may need to employ a builder. It is an idea to ask for recommendations from people that have had work carried out recently. Or ask us, we have a list of tried and tested contractors that we use for our managed properties.
Again, remember you are not going to be living in this property. If you are looking for long term tenants then you should be looking to decorate with hard-wearing, long lasting items. You should also take into account that you want your tenants to be able to clean these items easily. Although you want quality items you should try not to overspend as your tenants might not take as much care over your items as you would! Try and decorate in neutral tones and give an impression of a light and airy space, mirrors and good lighting can help with this.
Kitchen and Bathroom:
These two rooms you could spend your whole budget on. It’s best to keep it simple.
A few tips:
- To prevent walls getting dirty use tiled splash backs
- Roller blinds are easier to clean than slatted which can get greasy
- Install an efficient extractor fan to prevent condensation
- Avoid wall paper as it peels easily especially it your tenants have young children!
- Gloss paint is easier to clean than emulsion
- You should consider re-grouting tiles after long tenancies to keep them sealed and prevent leaks
- It is worth investing in a quality power shower. Water pressure is something tenants regularly check.
Tenants’ will quite often drive past the outside of a property before arranging a viewing. You want to ensure your property looks inviting and has kerb appeal. Low maintenance gardens tend to suit tenants. Perhaps add a couple of hanging baskets out the front to add some colour.
Furnished or Unfurnished
We let both furnished and unfurnished properties but we find the most popular are unfurnished. Tenants tend to have their own furniture and the furniture you choose may not be to everyone’s taste, reducing your market. Tenants generally expect the landlord to provide the white goods in a property and rarely have their own unless they are selling their own property and bringing theirs with them. Remember what you choose to provide you will have to maintain and insure. Curtain poles and curtains also go down well. Machine washable curtains may be best!
If you are providing soft furnishings in your rental property you must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. The items must be fire safety compliant. Keep an eye out for fire safety labels stating it meets the requirements of the 1988 Safety Regulations.
All gas appliances, fittings and flues in a rental property must be safe in coordination with The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. A Gas Safe Registered Installer must carry out annual safety checks on each gas appliance/ flue. All installation and maintenance must also be carried out by a Gas Safe Registered Installer. The engineer will provide you with a Gas Safety Certificate, providing everything is ok after your annual inspection. You should always keep a copy for yourself. At the start of each new tenancy you must provide the tenants with a copy of an in date Gas Safety Certificate and each year after that following the annual gas safety check. To be on the safe side it would be an idea to also install a carbon monoxide detector. At Kings we can arrange for a Gas Safe Registered Installer to carry out these checks for you. We will also remind you each year when your current gas safety certificate is about to run out and again can reorganise a new one for you.
There is no legal requirement to have annual checks on electrical equipment. Please note it is a criminal offence to “fail to ensure that the electrical system and appliances are safe.” (Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations 1994). Therefore if you would like your electrical system and appliances tested we can arrange this with a qualified electrician.
EPC, Energy Performance Certificate:
It has been a legal requirement, since 1st October 2008, for all landlords to have a valid EPC for their property before it can be let. An EPC assesses the energy performance of a property, from “A” representing the most energy efficient property to “G” representing the least energy efficient property. It must be carried out by a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor and will also show a building’s environmental impact by indicating its carbon dioxide emissions. Tenants must be given a copy of the EPC and they last for ten years.
HMO’s, Houses in Multiple Occupation
An HMO is where three or more people (not related) live in a single property but do not form a single household. An HMO still applies even if there is just one tenancy agreement between them all. It also applies if there are multiple tenancy agreements within the property. If the HMO is over three or more floors and there are five or more tenants then the landlord would be required to get a HMO license (applicable in England and Wales).
An HMO License comes with strict standards. The property would need to comply with fire and electrical safety standards. They also ensure that the property is not occupied by too many people. If your property qualifies for a HMO license then every 5 years since the license was granted the property would need to be inspected for health and safety hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
Please note if local authorities think that it is needed they can increase licensing of HMO’s to properties with fewer than three floors or five tenants.
If asked, landlords are required to make “reasonable adjustments” to their property unless they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to refuse. If you refuse without having reasonable grounds it can lead to court proceedings. If the property has an HMO license this could also be lost.