Things to know before becoming a landlord

Things to know before becoming a landlord

With the current condition of the UK housing market it is no surprise that many people can be tempted to think about buying their first buy-to-let property. We have put together some of the key risks and costs that becoming a landlord could entail to ensure you feel fully prepared to become a landlord.

UK housing market

It is no secret that the UK housing market has been booming the last few months with the biggest rise in house prices in 17 years, this has got many people thinking about purchasing an investment property. So, what should you know before taking the plunge and becoming a landlord?

Types of Landlords

The general definition of a landlord is a property owner who rents that property out to another party in exchange for rent payments, however the number of properties that you own and how you come to acquire the properties will change the type of landlord that you are. Below we have listed some of the key types of landlords.

Buy to let Landlords - These tend to be first or second time landlords. Buy-to-let properties are usually residential but also includes student property investments.

Professional Landlords – This involves a landlord with a property portfolio, the portfolio is run like a business and this is the landlord’s main source of income.

Accidental Landlords – An accidental landlord has fallen into the role most likely due to inheriting a property from a relative.

Limited company Landlords - If you are a business owner of a limited company there is also the option to purchase a buy-to-let through your company.

Risks of becoming a landlord

Along with any type of investment there is an element of risk involved, an investment property is no different. There are a number of factors that you need to consider before purchasing a buy-to-let.

Bad tenants

The most obvious risk to landlords is the possibility of renting to the wrong type of people. Having tenants that will not pay reliably firstly causes a lot of stress to landlords and secondly, can easily land yourself in financial difficulty if you are using the rent to cover the mortgage repayments on the property.  Tenants can cause financial problems other ways than not paying/paying rent late, causing deliberate damage to the property and/or leaving the property in a bad way when they leave. Although you will have a deposit as a safety net there is the possibility in extreme cases that it might not be enough to cover all the cleaning/repairs leaving you out of pocket.

Although troublesome tenants can be evicted, this is a lengthy and costly process that can take a number of months and thousands of pounds not to mention the sleepless nights and stress involved. To minimise these risks there are a number of things that can be done, before allowing a tenant to move in, a thorough tenant screening should be conducted. These checks should focus on the individual’s credit, criminal records and eviction history; although you can not guarantee the tenant’s future behaviour, this will allow you to form a better picture of their background.

Investing in an undesirable rental property

Deciding to purchase an investment property is one thing, choosing a property that is going to attract the right tenants is another. The last thing you want as a landlord is to end up with an empty property because no tenants are interested in moving in.

Ensuring that you choose a property that is going to appeal to potential tenants is important. Firstly, you need to understand your budget and what kind of property you are able to afford.  You also need to look at the kind of tenants you are hoping to attract and the kinds of amenities and facilities they will require. E.g. if you are hoping to attract a family, are there schools nearby? If you are wanting to attract uni students, are there good transport links to the university and town centre?

When you have found the perfect property for your ideal tenant it is important to undertake research of the local property market and understand what you should be charging as rent. Charging too much and you risk having an empty property, charge too little and you could be missing out on potential revenue making the mortgage payments more difficult to meet. Speaking to a mortgage advisor who can organise a valuation of the property can give you a very good idea of the rental income that you can expect to receive from the property.

If you are struggling to find a good location to purchase an investment property take a look at our blog – top 10 places to live in Somerset for some inspiration.

Economic downturn

Without being an expert on the UK economy, it can be very difficult to predict whether another recession is on the horizon but it is important to bear in mind when thinking about purchasing an investment property. If the health of the economy takes a dramatic downturn and unemployment starts to rise then there is the chance that your tenants could lose their jobs, if this were to happen how would the rent be paid?

This is where it would be better to have more equity in your property, this would mean that your mortgage payments will be smaller so even if you have to reduce the rent for your tenants it could still cover the mortgage. Similarly having a number of rental properties that are spread across the UK in different locations means that there is likely to be some areas that are less affected than others balancing out the risk.

Unexpected damage and maintenance

Whether that be malicious damage or accidental damage it can be costly as these types of damage can include anything from a broken window up to a fire in the property. Although malicious damage can be covered by some insurers it can be difficult to prove that the damage was caused with intent and it is likely also needed to be reported to the police which can be added stress. As the landlord it is your legal responsibility to repair any damages to your property, although some of the cost can be offset by deducting tenant deposits if the damage is costly then it is unlikely that the deposit will cover the whole amount. With this in mind it is essential that you have comprehensive insurance cover.

Costs of becoming a Landlord

Buy-to-let Mortgages

The biggest cost of becoming a landlord is inevitably purchasing the property. If you are going to be purchasing an investment property that you will not be living in then you will need a buy-to-let mortgage instead of a standard residential one. Buy-to-let mortgages tend to be more expensive than residential mortgages with regards to higher interest rates and requiring much larger deposits as these kind of mortgages are seen as higher risk to lenders. Mortgages for a buy-to-let property usually require a minimum deposit of 25% whereas for residential mortgages deposits can be as low as 5% with some lenders.  Speak with one of our experienced buy-to-let mortgage advisors to discuss how much you could borrow.

Landlord Agency fees

Depending on whether you have time to take on the daily running of your property/properties it may be required to employ an agency to manage your property. Most agencies will charge between 10-15% of the rent requiring payment on a monthly basis which will take a chunk out of your profits.

Safety certifications for your rental property

Before your first tenants can move in there will be a number of safety inspections and tests that will need to be carried out, some of these will also require annual renewals such as gas safety inspections which must be carried out by a registered engineer. It is important to keep up to date with these as you can fall into legal trouble if you are not getting the required certifications for your property.

Insurance for buy-to-lets

It is important to do your research on the kinds of insurance you will need as a landlord. Although there is no legal obligation for a landlord to take out a dedicated insurance policy, a conventional home policy will not cover you for rental elements. Despite it not being a legal requirement most lenders will not lend without adequate insurance being in place. Confused about the insurance you will need? Speak to one of our advisors who can guide you through the process.

Marketing your investment property

Another cost of becoming a landlord will be marketing the property. Unless you will be continually letting your property to individuals that you already know e.g. friends and family then you will need a budget for advertising your property in order to attract potential tenants. There are a number of ways you can choose to advertise, some more budget friendly than others. You can decide to use a letting agent, advertise on websites or in local newspapers although prices can vary. If you have a limited budget then advertising on social media can also work well.

 

Getting the right advice before becoming a landlord

Speaking to an experienced buy-to-let mortgage advisor can help you to assess your viable options. Our advisors have a wealth of experience dealing with first time landlords all the way up to professional portfolio landlords. If you are thinking about buying your first investment property or considering adding another to the collection, chat with one of our advisors on 01225 962 456.

The FCA does not regulate valuations and some forms of Buy to let mortgages.