The ultimate guide to being a multi-property portfolio landlord - Total Landlord Insurance

April 26, 2024
The ultimate guide to being a multi-property portfolio landlord - Total Landlord Insurance

Read an interactive and user-friendly version of this guide below.

Landlord surveys often give conflicting information about how many properties landlords own and whether they own them purely with cash or with a mortgage. Up until 2021, a lot of surveys showed that most landlords only had one property.

However, The last government landlord survey, which was carried out on private landlords in England in 2021, revealed that more than half owned more than one rental property, with almost a fifth owning five or more. Interestingly, it is this 18% of landlords that represent nearly half of all tenancies:

Source: English Private Landlord Survey 2021

Having multiple buy to let properties can be very profitable, but every additional purchase obviously brings more administration, more management, more maintenance and repairs – as well as a greater financial commitment.

In this guide, we look at what you need to do to build a portfolio and the benefits of being a multi-property landlord, as well as how to protect yourself financially with a multi-property landlord insurance policy.

The benefits of building a property portfolio

Property investment delivers returns in two ways: rental profits can provide ongoing income and then you should get capital gains over time through the asset growing in value.

The basis of a successful buy to let business is positive cashflow. That means each property generates sufficient rental income to cover all the associated costs – e.g. mortgage payments, maintenance and insurance – and also delivers an income for you (less tax).

While the profit from one property might be modest, when you start to multiply that as you buy more properties, it can quickly become a significant figure. And if you are able to negotiate better prices for your products, services and labour as your ‘buying power’ grows, that reduces the average expenditure per property, increasing your profits further.

One of the big benefits of investing in property is it’s the only asset class where you can leverage the bank’s money and profit from it.

If you buy a property – or any other financial asset, such as stocks - with 100% cash, if the market goes up by 10%, that’s a 10% return on your investment (before tax and any fees).

But borrowing via a mortgage allows you to put in a relatively small percentage of the property’s purchase price yourself, with the bank putting in the rest.

For example:

You’re buying a property for £240,000

All cash purchase:

Your capital input: £240,000

10% growth: £24,000

Return on investment: (£24,000 ÷ £240,000) x 100 = 10%

Buying with a 75% mortgage:

Your capital input: £60,000

10% growth: £24,000

Return on investment: (£24,000 ÷ £60,000) x 100 = 40%

So, the benefit of building a property portfolio, rather than investing in another type of financial asset is that you can make your money stretch further and generate a much better return.  When the property increases in value, even though you only own a percentage of it, you get to keep all of the equity growth (minus any tax you need to pay on your profits, of course).

But beware - although you can make money from property, you can also lose money. Rents and property prices don’t always rise in line with inflation, so although they can rise, they typically need to do so by three per cent each year. In the recent cost of living crisis, mortgage costs rose rapidly, causing the property market to stall and causing some landlords’ properties to become loss making.

And, if the property market crashes, just as prices and rents can rise, they can fall and when they do so, it can happen within a matter of months.

How many properties do you need to become a full-time landlord?

Many landlords invest with the goal of retiring early – being able to quit their ‘day job’ and support themselves through income from a property portfolio.

How many properties you need to ‘retire’ will depend on how much you currently earn and how much you will need to live the lifestyle you want.

The average buy to let property costs around £260,000 and generates about £1,200 a month in rent, according to Zoopla (April 2024).

A 75% interest-only mortgage at 4.2% (fixed for two years) equates to a repayment of around £683 a month. Add another £200 for maintenance, insurance and a five per cent annual void allowance, and that’s roughly £880 in costs, giving a £320 monthly positive cashflow, £3,840 pre-tax profit a year.


That profit figure can be increased if you invest in HMOs (multiple occupancy properties), which is what many portfolio landlords do. Although they require more work to operate, the fact that successful HMOs can generate two or more times the monthly income of single-let properties makes them a popular choice, particularly for self-managing landlords. Find out more about investing in HMOs in our ultimate guide to letting an HMO property.

So, if you invest in single lets, you might need ten or more properties to replace your salary, while if you invest in HMOs, you may be able to leave your day job with just four or five.

As with building any kind of investment portfolio, it’s important to talk through your plans and the risks associated with them with a qualified financial adviser, who can help make sure they are realistic and achievable.

How to build a property portfolio

The first step is to have an investment strategy and create a business plan. You should have a good idea of the financial and lifestyle goals you’re aiming for and work out the time it’s likely to take and the money you’ll have to invest to get you there.

For each property purchase, assuming you are a lower rate tax payer, you could expect to have to invest a minimum of around £83,000:

25% deposit on a property worth £260,000 (average) £65,000

Stamp duty (£10,000 at five per cent, £260,000 at three per cent £8,300

Other buying costs (legals, survey, mortgage fees, etc.) £5,000

‘Ready to rent’ costs (assuming only light redecoration required) £3,000

White goods £1,700

(Also see our ultimate guide to preparing your property to let)

If you are furnishing the property or it is an HMO, then you should expect to have to invest another £20,000-£30,000.

If you are a higher rate tax payer, you may have to invest a lot more, depending on the rent to mortgage ratio – in some cases you may require a 40 to 50% deposit.

Property investment is considered a medium-risk business, so it’s important that you not only understand the risks but also take expert advice on how to mitigate them:

  • Discuss your investment objectives with a wealth manager or financial adviser, who can look at all your income and investments and advise you on how best to move forward with a property portfolio
  • Speak to a legal professional who can help make sure you own and pass on your property assets in the best way
  • Consult a property tax specialist. Even if your wealth manager or financial adviser knows something about property tax, it is a particularly complicated area, so it’s well worth taking advice from a specialist before buying

Also make sure you prepare a Lasting Power of Attorney and will to make sure if anything happens to you, the properties can still be looked after. It’s also not easy to leave property tax efficiently, so do take specialist will and trust advice.  

If you don’t take these important first steps, you could end up with inheritance issues and paying more tax than necessary.

For more on creating a property investment strategy, see our ultimate guide to buy to let property investment, and to find out all about taxation for landlords, see our dedicated guide.

Multi-property buy to let mortgages

One very important thing to know is that if you have four or more properties, mortgage lenders consider you a ‘portfolio landlord’ and you will be subject to specific ‘portfolio lending’ criteria. This usually means:

  • The average loan to value (LTV) across the whole portfolio cannot exceed 75%
  • The rent cover – that’s the minimum amount by which the rental income must exceed the mortgage payments – may be higher than for a single property
  • The loan may be ‘stress-tested’ at a higher interest rate
  • There is likely to be a maximum loan size across the portfolio
  • There will be a limit on the number of properties you can own as an individual
  • The lender may limit the number of properties you can own in the same postcode

The criteria will vary between lenders, so it’s well worth consulting an experienced buy to let mortgage broker, ideally one that specialises in arranging loans for portfolio landlords. They can make sure you understand exactly what measures will apply to you and help secure the most appropriate product.

How many properties can you own to rent?

All lenders have limits on the number of buy to let properties you can own with mortgages and/or the total amount of mortgage borrowing you can have with them.

This can vary significantly from one lender to another, for example:

  • Virgin Money permit a maximum of five mortgaged properties within their group, with maximum total borrowing of £3 million, and a maximum of ten mortgaged properties across all lenders. There is also a limit of five properties within the same postcode.
  • Monmouthshire Building Society will accept up to 20 properties mortgaged with themselves, but total borrowing must not exceed £3 million
  • The Mortgage Works doesn’t limit the number of properties, but it does limit total borrowing to £5 million

If you want to buy more properties or borrow more than is permitted by an individual lender, you should consult a financial adviser or wealth manager who can advise you on the best legal way to proceed.

How to manage multiple rental properties

While some portfolio landlords use a letting and managing agent, some will self-manage in order to reduce their overall costs, especially if they do this as a full time business.

Managing just one property may not be very demanding, but once you have three or four, you certainly need to have reliable systems and processes in place for all aspects of the letting process and understand all the national and local lettings laws, including:

  • Screening and referencing tenants
  • Monitoring, reviewing and renewing tenancies
  • Responding to tenants’ queries and complaints
  • Keeping track of rental income and regular expenditure
  • Staying on top of maintenance and repairs
  • Keeping up to date with legal changes and making sure all your properties remain compliant

For more detailed information on what’s required to successfully manage a buy to let, see our ultimate landlord’s guide to rental property management.

How to set yourself up as a professional self-managing landlord

Many landlords with multiple properties have set up a professional letting and management business of their own.  

Depending on the size of your portfolio, you might want or need to bring in other people to help you and build a small team – whether that’s because of your own skills gaps or simply because you don’t have enough time to do everything yourself.

Here are some of the key questions you need to ask yourself:

Where are you going to base your business?

Is there a suitable room in your home or would it be better or necessary to rent dedicated office space?

How organised are you?

Keeping track of all the paperwork, renewals, etc. for one property might not be too challenging, but when you have multiple properties, you’ve got to have excellent administrative skills. Is this something that comes naturally to you, or should you hire someone to help?

What software do you need?

These days, there are numerous property management software packages that can help you stay on top of all your property and tenancy information and administration, bookkeeping and accounting. They let you manage everything in one place, set reminders for things like gas safety checks, and you can even automate some tasks – all of which saves you time and reduces the margin for error.

Two of the top-rated UK providers are Arthur and LandlordVision.

How are you going to communicate with and respond to tenants and contractors?

Responding to enquiries, dealing with issues and arranging appointments can be time-consuming and sometimes challenging. Who is the best person to deal with this aspect of the business?

How are you going to make sure you stay legally compliant?

The vast majority of self-managing landlords join a landlord association that can give them appropriate training, advice and legal support. Our article highlights the benefits of joining a landlord association.

Will you need to belong to a Property Redress Scheme? Be qualified?

If you set yourself up as an agent and take on other people’s property lets, you will need to abide by a new set of rules and regulations. Visit the Property Redress Scheme for more information.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) is the UK’s largest membership organisation, providing:

  • Free expertise and resources
  • Discounted products and services
  • Free networking events and regional support
  • Free legislative updates and webinars

It’s also well worth joining a local landlord organisation to help you stay up to date with specific local authority rules and other developments in the property market in your area.

How much can you afford to invest in your business?

Having a business plan not only for your properties but also for your management system is key to making sure your property portfolio delivers the profits and returns you need. As well as taking advice from a wealth manager or financial adviser, it may be worth speaking to a business coach who can help you establish and grow your property management business in the right way.

Multi-property landlord insurance FAQs

Landlords who have more than one rental property can benefit from taking out multi-property portfolio landlord insurance. Here are some of the most common questions about it:

What is multi-property ‘portfolio’ insurance?

Portfolio insurance is where all your properties are insured on the same policy, with one premium to pay and one renewal date.

What are the benefits of multi-property portfolio insurance?

Because all your properties are under one policy:

  • It is easier to administer as there is only one policy number and one renewal date
  • Because there’s only one policy, you’ll only pay one admin fee

What does Total Landlord’s portfolio landlord insurance cover?

Our comprehensive Premier policy cover includes:

  • Damage to the building from standard perils, including fire, storm, flood, subsidence and escape of water
  • Both accidental and malicious damage to the property and contents by tenants and/or guests
  • Theft by tenants and/or guests
  • Theft of keys or replacement locks
  • Landlord’s gardening equipment stored in an outbuilding
  • Loss of rent or alternative accommodation for tenants following an insured incident
  • Property owner’s liability up to £5 million – protection against your legal liability to pay compensation, claimants’ costs and expenses, in case someone injures themselves in the property and pursues you in court

See full details of our multiple property portfolio landlord insurance.

How much does multi-property insurance cost?

The cost of multi-property insurance will depend on the type of cover and how many properties you need to insure. If you are a landlord with a rental portfolio, you can insure over 15 properties online with Total Landlord or alternatively call the team on 0808 109 8335 to discuss your requirements and to find out accurate costs.

How can I add another property to my portfolio insurance?

You can easily add or remove a property simply by calling your provider. At Total Landlord, while you can add up to 15 properties on our website, we are also happy to receive a spreadsheet with all the property details to save you time  and then have a telephone conversation to gain any extra information that will assist us in reducing your premium, while giving the protection you require!

What if any of my properties are unoccupied?

If your rental property is unoccupied for 30 days or more, you must inform your insurer, as you are likely to require unoccupied property insurance.

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