Landlords often get a bad rap. Portrayed as negligent, money grabbing and exploitative, they are frequently perceived to be charging high rents, neglecting maintenance and evicting tenants without reason. But is this a true representation of the 2.74 million landlords in the UK?
We know that being a landlord today is not an easy job. Many have been affected by rapidly rising interest rates which have increased mortgage costs, and high inflation has ramped up other costs associated with owning a property, such as repairs and maintenance. On top of this, many landlords are worried about more regulation in the form of the Renters (Reform) Bill. But despite navigating turbulent times, the landlords we speak to are doing all they can to do right by their tenants and playing a crucial role as housing providers.
We wanted to find out just how much landlords are doing to be the best landlords possible, so we came up with a quiz – who doesn’t love a quiz after all? Over 1,600 landlords answered our probing questions. Unsurprisingly the results showed that most landlords are doing everything they should be, and more. Here, we’ve pulled together the results, along with the ‘best practice’ responses to the questions we asked. We’ll also signpost you to further resources on our Knowledge centre throughout, to help you be the best landlord you can.
Property investment and being a landlord is a business. So, we were surprised to discover that over 60% of landlords who responded to our quiz don’t have a business plan. This might be because the idea of creating one seems like a daunting prospect – but it needn’t be. While you don’t need a 300-page tome documenting every last detail, you do need to think about the pertinent factors such as finance, landlord legislation, marketing your rental property - and your overall objectives.
A good business plan should outline your current situation and your strategy for reaching your goals. That’s the whole point of a business plan: it clarifies where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Without one, you’re effectively shooting in the dark - and that could be costly.
Most of your goals are likely to be financial, so it’s advisable to seek help from professionals who can help you create an effective business plan. And you can also read our guide, ‘How to make a landlord business plan (and become a better landlord)’, which contains a useful business plan template to download. You’ll also find lots of business tips for landlords in our ‘Ultimate guide to buy to let property investment’.
Landlord associations are good news - for landlords and tenants alike. They can help you stay up to date and compliant with ever-changing regulations and laws. They’ll also offer advice and assistance, which is useful if you run into problems with tenants or neighbours or need help on specific issues such as rent arrears, serving notice, or taking a deposit. Some landlord associations also offer discounts from suppliers and provide access to educational resources, as well as a network of supportive peers. In a nutshell, landlord associations help landlords become better at what they do, which is good for everyone. Although 57.5% of those responding to our quiz are not part of a landlord association, of those who are, 88% are members of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), who recommend Total Landlord as their insurance partner.
A tenancy agreement is a contract, and is therefore legal and binding. It’s one of the most crucial elements of being a landlord. Your tenancy agreement should clearly set out what is expected of both parties - the landlord and the tenants - in detail. This includes the length of the tenancy, payment of rent, details around the deposit, and criteria for ending the tenancy.
If your agreement is not detailed enough, in the event of a dispute the legal ramifications could be problematic and costly. So, we were delighted to find that only one per cent of landlords responding to our quiz don’t use a tenancy agreement. But while the vast majority feel their tenancy agreement hits the mark, nine per cent think theirs could do with some work. Our deposit protection partner, mydeposits, has put together a detailed guide, ‘What to include in your rental agreement’, featuring a mydeposits case study to illustrate the importance of having a tenancy agreement, and a short video explaining why tenancy agreements are so important and what to include in yours.
While there’s no guarantee that your tenants will be reliable and responsible, carrying out a tenant reference check will improve your odds. And if a bad tenant does slip through the net and causes malicious damage to your rental property, you’ll need to provide evidence that you carried out a robust referencing check if you need to make a claim on your landlord insurance.
A four-point check is a simple way of getting the information you need to make an informed judgement about whether or not to proceed. This includes photographic identification (ideally a passport), a utility bill or bank statement, a credit check, and confirmation of employment from the tenant’s employer. Find out all you need to know in our ‘Ultimate guide to tenant referencing for landlords’. Our quiz showed that over 81% of landlords carry out a four-point tenant reference check, which his great news. However, nine per cent never carry one out and 10% only ‘sometimes’, putting themselves at risk of invalidating their landlord insurance and increasing the chances of a bad tenant slipping through the net.
Many would argue that tenants with pets are loyal and make great long term tenants, and there is certainly much to be gained from having a pet – research by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home found that pet owners make 15% fewer visits to a GP and it has a positive impact on their wellbeing. But there are situations where it will always be reasonable for a landlord to refuse a request for a pet - this will depend on the type of property, the type of pet and whether the tenant is a responsible pet owner. Under proposals in the Renters (Reform) Bill, tenants will not have an automatic right to keep a pet if the landlord refuses, as some had feared. So, landlords won’t be forced to accept three large dogs in a studio flat with no access to outside space. But you will be required to fully consider all requests on a case-by-case basis.
Landlords should be open minded about pets in lets and exercise reasonable judgement - hopefully this will be easier if the Tenant Fees Act 2019 is amended to include pet insurance as a permitted payment, so that landlords can cover any damage. Responsible pet owners with well-trained pets are a win win. Tenants find a home with a welcoming landlord, and everyone is happy, including the pet. Only 16% of landlords responding to our quiz said that they would not accept a pet under any circumstances, which shows that the vast majority of landlords are open to allowing pets in their rental property – 47% would rather not accept a pet but would consider a reasonable request, and 37% are happy to accept a pet if the pet and the property are suitable. Read our deposit protection partner, mydeposits’, guide, ‘Pet rent and pet deposits: A landlord’s guide to lets for pets’ for more guidance on letting your property to tenants with pets. 6. Do you provide tenants with a welcome pack?
Part of being a good landlord is how welcome you make your new tenants feel in their new home. Of course, this is a business exchange, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for niceties. Our quiz found that over a third of landlords don’t provide their tenants with welcome packs. It might seem like a tiny thing, but providing a welcome pack can make a big difference.
A simple pack telling your tenants about their new home and including key information about the area will help them feel welcome and informed - and it will also help build a rapport. Your pack should include an inventory, information about safety, any gardening tips, a cleaning checklist, and damp and mould prevention advice.
Moving house can be stressful, so receiving something which tells them where they can find a gym, park or local restaurant could make all the difference. If you want to go the extra mile, a bunch of flowers, chocolates or a fruit basket is certain to put a smile on their faces.
Read our article on ‘Why you need a tenant welcome pack and what it should include’, which features a handy easy to use template for you to download.
Making a good return on your rental property is your best measure of success in the short-term. That means increasing rents from time to time. But in an economic climate where costs are constantly increasing and inflation is high, some landlords are finding that the level of rent they are charging is no longer enough to cover the running costs of the property and make a profit, however small, to make the business worthwhile. So how can you avoid this situation?
It’s important to get things right at the start of the tenancy and note rent increases in the tenancy agreement, so that your tenants aren’t faced with any nasty surprises. Small but regular increases in rent every 12 months in line with market rates is best practice, which 30% of landlords are doing, according to our quiz. But in some instances, keeping a good tenant will make you better off in the long run, so exercise your own judgement - 46% of landlords we asked said that they increase the rent on an ad-hoc basis, depending on their and their tenants’ circumstances. Our guide, ‘How to legally increase rents to align with the market level’, contains lots more useful information. 8. How flexible are you when it comes to rent payments?
Having a tenant fall behind with their rent payments and being left with no rental income is a landlord’s worst nightmare. And with the cost of living crisis, many landlords are understandably concerned about tenants falling behind with their rent, particularly as their own costs are also increasing.
Sometimes when tenants default on their rent it’s just an error, or something that can be resolved fairly easily. On the other hand, it could be more serious. The quicker you can find out what the problem is and whether it’s likely to become a bigger issue, the sooner you can decide on the right plan of action to make sure you minimise your losses.
If a tenant is simply going through a tough time, it’s worth trying to help them. Many of us experience temporary financial problems at some point in our lives and by being understanding, rather than rushing ahead with an eviction, you could end up with a loyal tenant for many years to come. We were pleased to see that the majority of landlords – 93% - said that they would listen to their tenants if they needed flexibility on rent payments, particularly if it was for extenuating circumstances. But seven per cent said they would offer no flexibility no matter the circumstances – up from just 1.1% when we last ran our quiz back in December 2020 (when we were in the midst of coronavirus pandemic).
We’d suggest that going down the legal eviction route should always be a last resort and mediation should be your first port of call if you’re having trouble reaching an agreement with your tenant yourself. But of course, you can’t afford to allow someone to keep living in your property rent free indefinitely. Should you need legal advice, our partner, Landlord Action, will be able to help. You can also read our article, ‘What to do if your tenant can’t pay the rent’, for more advice.
Renting to tenants on benefits is a contentious issue - 45% (almost half) of landlords the Government canvassed said they were unwilling to accept them. Our quiz revealed a slightly different picture, with 34.5% (around a third) of respondents saying that they would not be willing to accept tenants on benefits. Of the remainder, 41% either have previously or are currently letting to tenants on benefits, and 24.5% haven’t yet but would consider doing so for the right tenant.
With local housing allowances set to increase in April 2024, and proposed legislation in the Renters (Reform) Bill making it illegal to discriminate against tenants on benefits for housing, might more landlords be prepared to accept tenants on benefits? Given the current rental shortage, landlords will ultimately still be able to decide who they let to, but it’s worth knowing that tenants in receipt of benefits often stay longer, wanting the stability of a long-term lease, and with social housing supply insufficient to meet demand, there is always a queue of tenants looking for private landlords who are willing to accept them. Letting property in less desirable areas where rents are cheaper also means lower capital costs, often with higher rental yields. If you’ve previously ruled out housing benefit tenants, perhaps it’s time to reconsider? Find out all you need to know in our article, ‘Renting to tenants on Universal Credit and housing benefit’.
Tenants don’t want you intruding. While they’re living there, your property is their home. That’s why it’s best to give as much notice as possible before inspecting a property.
Landlords only need to give a minimum of 24 hours’ notice - but giving a little more notice might make your tenants feel more comfortable, and make sure the landlord-tenant relationship remains warm yet professional. Reassuringly, 60.5% of landlord’s responding to our quiz said they give a week’s notice before a property inspection and 25% give 48 hours. Only 13% give the minimum 24 hours’ notice, but one per cent give a few hours or none.
Find out all you need to know about carrying out an inspection in our ‘Ultimate guide to inspecting your property’.
Boiler checks are crucial. Apart from the obvious safety threat, a broken boiler in the middle of winter can leave your tenants without heating and hot water, just when they need it most. A healthy boiler should also prevent pipes from freezing and bursting and can help prevent damp, mould and condensation from causing damage. But do you carry out boiler checks well in advance, or ‘in the nick of time’? Our quiz found that the overwhelming majority – 73% - carry out boiler checks in advance. But 26% of those we asked said that they get their boiler checks ‘just in time’ and one per cent ‘tends to forget’, putting themselves at risk of a fine and compromising their tenants’ safety. Getting the boiler checked in good time will identify any issues early and prevent them from escalating. Our ‘Ultimate guide to preparing your boiler for winter’ contains lots of useful tips.
Gas safety regulations are some of the most important you need to comply with as a landlord – if you fail to meet the standards you could be fined thousands of pounds and even face a criminal conviction. So don’t put it off – read our ‘Ultimate guide to gas safety and landlord gas safety certificates’.
One of the most important aspects of being a good landlord is communication. After all, you are running a business, and your tenants are effectively your customers. If your tenants need your help with any aspect of the property, they need to know you’ll respond quickly. By making sure you set clear communication expectations you will be helping to maintain a positive relationship with your tenants, which will help the tenancy run smoothly. Luckily, a resounding number of landlords who took our quiz – over 95% - said they respond to a tenant enquiry within 24 hours, with 26% of those responding within one hour.
Make sure your tenants know if you prefer to use email, text or a property manager software, and aim to respond within 24 hours. If there is a maintenance emergency or a safety concern, prioritise it and respond as soon as possible.
The best landlords know that property maintenance is part and parcel of being a landlord. Your property needs to be safe and habitable for your tenants, so good landlords get ahead of the game to avoid issues down the line. If you don’t deal with it proactively, you’ll find yourself on the back foot, sorting out ten problems instead of one. We were pleased to learn that 80% of the landlords we asked deal with property maintenance proactively to prevent issues.
Of course, it can be challenging to find tradespeople to carry out maintenance and repairs, so take the time to find qualified, reliable tradespeople and treat them well. That way they’re more likely to respond quickly when you need them. Remember, it’s always better to fix something properly first time around, so unless it’s a very easy repair that you know you can make yourself, get a qualified contractor in.
Damp, mould and condensation are common issues in rented properties, and tenants are often blamed for not ventilating the home properly or failing to report problems at an early stage. But whose responsibility is it to deal with damp and mould issues in a rental property? Regardless of who you believe might have caused the problem in the first place, it’s your job as the landlord to put things right. That’s because, as a landlord, you’re legally obliged to maintain your tenant’s home in a good state of repair, and that includes making sure it’s kept free from damp and mould.
Government guidance explicitly states that tenants should not be blamed for damp and mould. So, landlords need to be sensitive to the needs of tenants and work with them to change behaviour where appropriate, but must also thoroughly investigate underlying structural causes behind problems. While 64% of landlords correctly answered that it is their job to deal with damp and mould issues, over a third of those responding to our quiz – 36% - said that if the tenants have caused the problem, then it’s their job to fix it.
Minimum energy efficiency standards mean that, for the vast majority of private landlords, you cannot let a property unless it has a minimum rating of ‘E’ on the Energy Performance Certificate. But it’s important to realise that these are minimum standards – a level of energy efficiency that a rented home cannot fall below – and there is a lot more you can and should do to go over and above this basic level.
Until September 2023 government proposals were that by 2025 it would be a legal requirement for newly rented properties, and by 2028 for existing tenancies, to have a minimum EPC rating of C.
The energy efficiency targets may be on hold for now, but a change in government could see them being reintroduced. And whatever happens, the more energy efficient and eco-friendly you can make your property, the better it is for the environment and the more desirable it will be to tenants that want not only low energy bills but also a low carbon footprint. We were delighted to discover that 45% of landlords we asked already have an EPC rating of C or above, and 19% are planning on bringing theirs up to a C, regardless of whether it is introduced as a legal requirement.
Find out more about how to make your property more energy efficient in our ‘Ultimate guide to having an eco-friendly property’.
There are significant penalties in place for landlords that don’t meet their obligations. This has resulted in standards being massively improved for tenants and hopefully a reduction in the number of bad landlords out there, which is great. We were delighted to learn that 78% of landlords are careful to make sure they’re compliant with all the rules and have never been fined. In fact, only 0.5% of the landlords we asked have ever been fined for failing to comply with landlord legislation.
However, with all the rules and regulations landlords have to meet to let a property legally – and the possibility of numerous updates every year – it’s very easy for a landlord to end up being fined for unintentionally breaking a rule they weren’t even aware of. So, we weren’t surprised to learn that 22% of landlords we asked worry about unintentionally falling foul of the law.
These days, to stay on top of your legal obligations and avoid penalties, you’ve got to be either extremely well informed yourself or engage the very best experts in the private rented sector. To help you stay on the right side of the law, read our guide, ‘Legislation for landlords: everything you need to know’, and our article, ‘Landlord fines: how much are the charges and how do you avoid them?’.
It’s no secret that landlord tax and legislation can be complicated. Apart from being numerous, landlord regulations are changing all the time, which can be confusing. But perhaps no more so than now. For the past four years, the Government has been promising a radical set of reforms for the private rented sector. The Renters (Reform) Bill, which was introduced to Parliament in May 2023, could significantly alter the way landlords and letting agents operate rented homes. Despite this, our quiz revealed that 15% of landlords are ‘not really’ aware of the changes proposed in the Bill, and only 50.5% are ‘fully aware’.
Perhaps the biggest shake-up to the private rented sector for over 30 years, the Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. There is a way to go before it becomes law, so to make sure you’re up to speed as it progresses, subscribe to our news partner, LandlordZONE. And to brush up on all aspects of the Bill, visit our Renters (Reform) Bill Hub.
Another crucial aspect of being proactive is having landlord insurance. The good news is that 86% of landlords said they do have insurance. Even if you only have one or two properties, you need to protect yourself from financial losses connected to your rental properties. Almost a quarter of those who responded to our quiz have had to claim on their landlord insurance, with the majority of claims being for ‘escape of water’, which includes burst pipes (43.5%), followed by storm damage (17%) and malicious damage (12%) – which wouldn’t be covered by a standard home insurance policy. So, if you’re one of the 14% who don’t currently have landlord insurance, it’s important to make sure you’re covered as soon as possible.
Landlord insurance is not a legal requirement, but a conventional home insurance policy won’t cover you for the higher risks associated with buy to let such as loss of rent, should your tenants have to move out after an insured event, or your liability if your tenant injured themselves on your property. If you let to tenants without dedicated landlord insurance, you could find yourself out of pocket if your property is left uninhabitable by tenants. Also, mortgage lenders usually ask landlords to take out a specialist landlord insurance policy. So, if you have a mortgage on your rental property, it’s important to check the terms of the agreement before you let your property.
Choosing the right policy will bring you peace of mind that you are covered. To help you, our guide to finding the best landlord insurance cover for you, provides an overview of the different features of landlord insurance so you can identify the best landlord insurance cover to meet your needs.
At Total Landlord we were delighted to win ‘Best Landlord Insurance Provider’ at the Insurance Choice Awards 2023. This is the sixth time we have won this award, which aims to recognise the best insurance providers in the UK through customer voting. This recognition from our customers shows our commitment to quality customer service and support. As an NRLA insurance partner, Total Landlord insurance offers comprehensive cover you can trust – find out more.
Whether you use a letting agent to manage your property or are a self-managed landlord, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest private rented sector news and regulations. Subscribing to a property news website is a great way to make sure you are the first to hear about breaking news and topical education, insight and opinion to help you make informed decisions about your buy to let business. The good news is that 61% of landlords responding to our quiz said that they do subscribe to a landlord news site. But that means that a significant number of landlords - 39% - aren’t taking advantage of the property news sites available.
Our media partner, LandlordZONE, has been providing property news and advice on the issues that matter since 1999, helping relieve the everyday pressures felt by landlords. In addition, LandlordZONE’s forum offers an interactive community where you can interact with other landlords and receive support. Visit LandlordZONE to subscribe.
We were reassured to learn that a whopping 98% of the landlords we asked rated themselves as either a ‘good’ (70%) or a ‘model’(28%) landlord. And this was broadly reflected in the overall results of our quiz: only 1.8% scored in the lowest category (if you’re a self-managing landlord, consider using a letting agent), 64.5% were in the middle category (there is some room for improvement, but you’re on your way to being a ‘total landlord’), and an impressive 33.7% scored in the ‘total landlord’ category!
We already knew that the vast majority of landlords are doing their best by their tenants, and our quiz confirms that this is the case. But there’s always room for improvement, and we hope we’ve provided you with some useful tips.
If you haven’t already done so, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter and subscribe to LandlordZONE to receive regular updates on all things related to the private rented sector. You may also like to read our article, ‘Nine steps to becoming a good and successful landlord’.