The life of a landlord is often difficult. From tricky tenants who don’t pay their rent on time to never-ending red tape causing you headaches, there will be times when you feel like throwing the towel in and moving to Spain.
Well, fear not! We have a handy list of 30 life hacks designed to make your life easier. Grab a refreshing drink and read on for some useful ways to save time, money and reduce stress.
Home Décor Hacks
Whether you let your properties furnished or unfurnished, you still need to provide the bare essentials, like floor coverings and light bulbs…
Here are some handy hacks to make your properties more attractive to prospective tenants.
1. Buy Neutral Carpets
Everyone loves a beige carpet. OK, maybe not…
Beige is boring, but it has the advantage of matching pretty much any type of furniture or décor. Tenants like beige/brown carpet because it’s neutral, but for landlords, it’s ideal because you can pick up a job lot for a lot less than an expensive patterned carpet.
Try to avoid very light beige, as it’s a dirt magnet. Go for a light donkey brown with some neutral colour flecks in the weave to disguise stains.
2. Stick to Laminate in High Traffic Areas
Neutral carpet is awesome, but it doesn’t stand up too well in high-traffic areas, for obvious reasons. Laminate is an excellent alternative. It’s cheap, easy to fit if you have some basic tools and a reasonable grasp of DIY, and is capable of withstanding a lot of heavy foot traffic and pets. The only place laminate is a bad idea is in bathrooms. You can fit laminate in a kitchen, but make sure you choose a product that can withstand the higher humidity levels.
3. Invest in Trade Magnolia Paint
The walls in rental houses typically need touching up each time a tenant vacates. To paint a property from top to bottom is time-consuming and expensive, even if you do it yourself. One way to minimise the work involved is to invest in a large quantity of trade magnolia emulsion. If you use the exact same paint each time, you won’t have to repaint the entire wall. Instead, a few touch-ups are all that is needed, and the finish will be virtually seamless.
Using neutral shades like magnolia also help give rooms a light, airy and fresh feeling, which will be attractive to tenants.
4. Use Mirrors to Fix Damaged Doors
Cheap internal doors are hollow. They look nice when new, but it doesn’t take much to cause damage to this type of door. A tenant with anger issues can easily put a hole in a hollow-core door without breaking a sweat. If you have to replace a door each time a tenant moves out, it could prove very annoying.
One quick and easy way to fix a damaged hollow core door is to stick a mirror panel on it. The mirror will make the room feel more spacious and light, plus your tenant has a handy place to check their look or fix their hair.
5. Buy a DIY Paint Sprayer
As we have already mentioned, painting is a messy job that most landlords hate with a passion. If you have a painter and decorator on your payroll, no problem, but if you prefer to do the job yourself, invest in a paint sprayer.
Paint sprayers make painting walls and ceilings a doddle. You’ll save time and use a lot less paint. You will need to clean the machine thoroughly, but overall, it’s a great investment.
6. Use the Same Accessories – i.e. door handles, etc.
There are a few items that may need replacing every few years. These include door handles, handles on kitchen cabinets, toilet roll holders, etc. It’s a good idea to buy things like this in bulk. That way you can replace as and when you need to, without worrying about a jarring mismatch.
Some career landlords use the same items in every house they own. For example, they fit the same style of doors and windows, kitchen, and bathroom when they renovate. Not only does it make life easier, but it’s also useful from a branding perspective. Potential tenants can view a property and recognise it as one of yours straight away.
7. Switch to LED Lights
LED lights are far more efficient than incandescent lights and they last longer too. They are also a lot cheaper than they once were, so it makes sense to switch to LED lighting as soon as you can. Your tenants will save money on their energy bills and you won’t be asked to change a light bulb on Christmas Day (hopefully).
8. Fit Window Blinds
Tenants like properties with blinds already fitted. It means they don’t need to invest in curtains or tape newspaper over the windows. It also means they aren’t tempted to borrow any power tools from a “friend” and make an unholy mess of the walls (or themselves).
Fit some inexpensive Venetian blinds in bedrooms and living rooms. You can pick these up from stores like Dunelm for a reasonable price. Stick with wood effect for a neutral look. If the windows are wider than average, fit two regular blinds instead of one extra-wide blind; it’s cheaper to replace one smaller blind if it gets damaged.
9. Fit Curtain Poles
If you don’t want to invest in window blinds, at least fit some curtain poles so tenants can hang curtains when they move in. This gives them some privacy and helps them to feel at home sooner. It’s far better if you fix curtain poles than leave it up to a tenant with zero DIY experience. If you leave your tenants to get the job done, start stocking up on multi-purpose filler in anticipation of a few random holes.
Go for a generic wood effect or white pole that matches most decorative schemes.
Property Safety Hacks
Property safety is an important issue. Remember, not only could you get taken to court by a housing officer on a mission to rid the world of rogue landlords, but dead tenants usually stop paying the rent on time…
10. Fix Wired Smoke Alarms
As of October 2015, smoke alarms are a statutory requirement in rental properties. Battery operated smoke alarms are cheap, cheerful, but not terribly reliable. The problem with battery-operated smoke alarms is that they can be disabled by removing the batteries. To prevent this from happening, fit wired smoke alarms. It’s a smart investment.
11. Set Reminders for Boiler Servicing
Boilers must be serviced annually by a Gas Safe engineer. When managing several properties, it’s easy to lose track of which boiler needs servicing next. To avoid any forgetful moments, set reminders a month before the service is due. This gives you plenty of time to organise an engineer’s visit.
Kitting out a kitchen in a rental property can be expensive. Here’s how to save a few pennies.
12. Buy B-Grade Appliances
Most landlords provide white goods such as a fridge, cooker, and sometimes a washing machine. Skip the visit to Curries and save money by buying B-Grade appliances.
B-Grade appliances are appliances that have been returned to the manufacturer. Often, it’s because the appliance sustained some cosmetic damage, or the customer changed their mind after ordering. These appliances are in perfect working order and still covered by a warranty, but a lot cheaper than the RRP. Look around for a discount store in your area and see what bargains you can find.
13. Invest in a Warranty Repair Service
Modern appliances are not designed to last for several decades. Sad but true. Make life easier by investing in an extended warranty repair service. You can buy in-store warranties, but it is often cheaper to buy an insurance plan that covers repairs and replacement on all appliances. Look for a policy suitable for landlords, preferably one that covers brown goods too.
14. Use Spare Vinyl to Line Cupboards
If you have any spare vinyl off-cuts, use these to line kitchen cupboards, especially sink units. It protects cabinets from spills, grease, and general mess. When the tenant moves out, cleaning will be so much easier.
15. Use Glue to Fix Drawer Fronts
Kitchen drawers suffer a lot of wear and tear. We fill drawers full of heavy cutlery and other items, then wonder why the front comes loose after a few years. One way to prevent drawer fronts from falling off (which necessitates a replacement) is to glue them on using a strong wood adhesive. Do this carefully to avoid making a mess and leave the unit to dry overnight before using it.
Gardens are often a bone of contention for landlords and tenants. Most tenants like the idea of having a garden, but dislike doing any of the work required to keep it looking nice.
16. Mulch and Weed Control
Weed control membrane should keep weeds at bay under gravel areas. You can also use it in the borders; cover with woodchip, mulch or gravel.
17. Low-Maintenance Gardens
Low maintenance gardens are best when you rent properties. Most tenants won’t have time to spend weeding and cutting the lawn. Install decking, patios, and gravel areas. Tenants can add their own pots and planters if they want flowers.
18. Provide a Set of Tools
If there is a garden, provide some basic tools to encourage your tenants to get stuck in. A lawnmower, some hand tools, and a set of hedge trimmers are handy. It’s wise to include a clause in the tenancy agreement if you expect the garden to be maintained.
19. Employ a Gardener
If all else fails, employ a local gardener to maintain the gardens. A couple of hours a week during the summer should be enough to keep a lawn and flower beds under control. If the property has boundary hedges, pay someone to cut them twice a year – or more often if they are fast-growing. Just remember to avoid hedge cutting during nesting season.
It is sensible to try and hang on to nice, reliable, solvent tenants at all costs. The following hacks should help you in this regard.
20. Send Birthday Cards
Everyone likes to receive a card on their birthday. Make a note of when your tenant’s birthday is and send them a card. You don’t have to go too crazy. A generic greeting card is fine. It’s the thought that counts!
If you get on well with them, a nice bottle of wine or some flowers might be appropriate. But don’t overstep the mark if your attentions might be in any way misconstrued.
21. Make Time to Chat
Conversation is a dying art. Most people spend more time chatting online than they do in-person. Where possible, make time to chat with your tenants on occasion. Don’t be in a huge rush each time you have to contact them about something. Pass the time of day and show an interest in their lives (not in a creepy way, of course!). If the weather is bad, call them to make sure they are OK. This is especially important with older tenants. Being nice and friendly is more likely to encourage tenants to stick around for longer, which is better for you.
22. Run a Dedicated Social Media Account for Your Property Business
Don’t dismiss social media as a waste of time. It can be very useful for interacting with tenants in a positive way. Create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for your properties. Encourage tenants to follow you. They can reach out on social media if they have questions or issues and you can do the same. This is all part of good customer service!
Property management is one of the more onerous parts of being a landlord. There is so much to think about that it can be very easy to forget about occasional tasks. The following hacks should make life easier.
23. Invest in Landlord Software
It would be remiss of us not to recommend landlord software! If you have yet to embrace landlord software and are still using post-it notes, notebooks, and spreadsheets to run your property portfolio, it’s time to find out what you’re missing.
Landlord software can help you manage every aspect of a property portfolio, from finances and property checks to tenancy agreements and landlord regulatory requirements. You can even set reminders for gas-safety checks, insurance renewals and anything else you need to be reminded of. Cloud-based services like Landlord Vision are easy to use from any device and are available as a monthly subscription. Try it today!
24. Use a Sensible Filing System
There will inevitably be receipts and bits of paperwork to hang on to for accounting reasons. Even if you try and go paperless, contractors often prefer to send paper invoices and some tenants might like a paper receipt for payments made. Without a decent filing system, you will end up losing things. Not only is this a pain in the proverbial, but it could cost you money at year-end.
Buy a filing cabinet and start using it. Create a simple filing system, with files for each property and sub-folders for things like property maintenance and tenant records.
24. Use Apps to Scan Receipts
Download a receipt scanning app on your smartphone and use it to keep a digital record of small receipts for fuel, miscellaneous purchases, etc. Scan a receipt and it doesn’t matter if you lose the original. Scanned copies can be stored online or synced with your accounting software. Evernote has a useful receipt scanning feature.
25. Store Important Documents Online
How would you feel if your computer suddenly died and there was no way to switch it back on? It really doesn’t bear thinking about, but these things happen. We are not wishing to tempt fate here, but it makes sense to store copies of your most important documents online. Use a free service like DropBox to store anything you can’t afford to lose. That way, should the worst happen, you’ll always be able to get at your important documents.
You can also save important documents in Landlord Vision 😉
26. Keep a Handyman Service on Speed Dial
No matter how handy you are, you cannot be in two places at once. There will always be jobs that need doing at the most inconvenient times, like replacing a lock or unblocking a toilet. This is where a reliable and skilled handyman comes in… well… handy!
Once you find a good one, pay him a retainer and pass on his contact details to your tenants. If they have a problem, they can contact him/her directly. This will save you a lot of time and headaches.
27. Sync Rent Payments with the Tenant’s Pay Day
Be flexible about when you want the rent paid. It’s much easier for a tenant’s cash flow if they can pay their rent on payday. The money leaves their account as soon as their wages come in and they won’t miss it half as much. Expecting a tenant to pay the rent 3.5 weeks after payday is asking for trouble. Syncing rent with payday is a smart way to minimise the possibility of rent arrears.
28. Carry Out More Regular Inspections for Pet Owners
A lot of landlords won’t take tenants with pets, but we think this is unfair. Pets make tenants happier and more settled. A home is not a home without a cute cat or dog. As long as you ask for a larger deposit to cover the extra wear and tear, you should be fine, but it is still wise to carry out more regular property inspections.
Instead of every six months, visit the property every quarter. If you spot any gnawed doors, craters in the garden, or stinky carpets, act fast to fix the issues.
29. Install Solar Panels
Fitting solar panels is a big up-front investment, but there are a lot of benefits to be gained. Solar panels generate free electricity when the sun is out, so your tenants can wash, cook, watch TV, and kill things online for free on a sunny day. You will gain from the feed-in tariff payments – a nice fat cheque every few months is not to be sniffed at.
In addition, solar panels are a selling point for future tenants, plus you can justifiably charge a bit more in rent because of the energy cost-savings available.
30. Rent Out Extra Parking Spaces
Not all tenants want or need a car. If your property has an unused driveway and it’s in a commuter area or close to a major sporting venue or transport hub, make extra income from renting out the driveway. In towns and cities with restricted parking enforced, this is a potential gold mine and you could easily make £200/month.
Short-term renting is easy if you use a website like JustPark. It’s also possible to organise a long-term rental agreement for people who work in the area.
Congratulations! You have reached the end of our list. Try out some of these hacks and let us know if they save you time and money – or even make you some extra cash!
As always, we love to hear from you, so comment below or reach out on social media with your landlord stories and experiences of managing properties and tenants!
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