Property investment isn't easy. Some of the self-proclaimed gurus with their "free" training courses will tell you otherwise. But let me assure you, there's much more to property investment than buying a property and letting out.
Being a property investor and essentially becoming a landlord comes with a wealth of regulations you need to abide by. It's a common occurrence for first-time landlords to get caught out with mistakes. So, what are these common mistakes most landlords make, and how can they be avoided?
Property investment is more than just purchasing a property and putting a tenant in it. That passive income doesn't just earn itself. You (or a manging agent) need to nurture the process to ensure everything goes according to plan.
You need to have a back up plan should your actual plan not work out the way you wanted. And a back up for that. Failing that, an exit strategy.
Property investment is all about learning what strategy suits you best, how to adapt to that and how to execute it.
If your investment strategy is based on letting your properties to tenants, whether you're a first time investor or a seasoned portfolio landlord, there are a series of common mistakes that can impact your strategy and your income, with potentially undesirable legal consequences waiting behind the next corner.
There are a number of common mistakes that landlords make, which can easily be avoided:
What are the most common mistakes landlords make?
1. Forgetting to secure a deposit
Deposits play a crucial part in a tenancy; yet many landlords forget to lodge the deposit with a Government backed scheme.
Lodging a deposit is one of the most important things you can do as a landlord. If you fail to secure a deposit in a scheme within 30 days of the tenancy commencing, then your tenants will gain a major advantage.
As a landlord who fails to lodge a deposit correctly, your tenants can prosecute you for three times the amount of the deposit. Failing to lodge a deposit also means that your tenants become immune to Section 21 notices, making the ability to regain possession of your property so much more difficult.
Ensuring you lodge your tenant's deposit safely within an approved scheme is one of the best safety nets for the end of a tenancy, particularly if it ends on a negative note.
2. Offering long-term contracts to new tenants
No matter how gleaming a reference may be for a tenant, whether that be a previous landlord or their employer, you ought to ask yourself how much do you really know about your tenant?
You will never truly know how good or bad a tenant can be until they're in your property. By that point, it might be too late to change your mind.
Offering long-term contracts without truly knowing your tenant is an ill-advised idea. By offering an initial short-term contract, you can get a general feeling on how the tenancy is going and ask yourself important questions.
- How committed are the tenants to a long-term stay?
- Have rent payments been on time?
- Have they taken care of your property?
You can discover a lot about your tenants in an initial six month contract, and that is the perfect foundation from which to base your next move. If you are both happy to commit to a long-term arrangement following the initial six month contract, then there is nothing stopping you from committing to that,
However, if problems occur within six months and you have signed a longer tenancy agreement, you are stuck with your obligation to fulfil that contract. You should always look to get to know your tenant as best as possible, as well as their circumstances, before committing to long-term.
3. Failing to carry out an inventory
Since the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme, property inventories have been crucial for landlords, yet it still doesn’t seem to be high up on the pecking order.
Why is it crucial?
Because no longer is the tenant’s deposit in the fate of the landlord, it’s now in the fate of an impartial adjudicator, who will assess the situation by the evidence that he or she is provided with.
Should a tenant cause destruction to the property and refuse to take responsibility, you as the landlord will have to prove to the adjudicator, appointed by the deposit scheme, that the property was never given to the tenant in the condition he/she left it in. Without an inventory, it’s extremely difficult to do that.
Inventories don’t take long, and they don’t have to cost anything more than a limited amount of time, so excuses are difficult to find.
4. Not carrying out property inspections
Property inspections are a vital part of a tenancy, as they allow you to determine how your tenant is treating your property, and giving you the foresight into the trajectory of the remainder of the tenancy.
Your property investment is likely to be one of your most expensive assets, so surely you will want to ensure it is being cared for? Carrying out a property inspection every few months takes little time, yet saves you time in the long run.
Not only does it allow you to identify any issues with the tenancy, but also with your property itself. There may be issues that your tenants haven't identified that could escalate into costly fixes in the future.
Use a property inspection as the ideal opportunity to communicate with your tenants and check up on your property. Ensure your tenants are happy and identify any issues they may have, whether that be in their own lives and circumstances, with your property or the local area.
5. Allowing rent arrears to escalate
I've lost count of how many times I have come across this, whether in person or online landlord forums.
"My tenant is in six months rent arrears. What should I do?"
Allowing a tenant the opportunity to bypass paying rent in any shape or form without an arrangement in place is essentially opening the floodgates to a mountain of debt.
The longer a tenant doesn't pay, generally, the less likely you are to see that money. Your passive rental income no longer exists, and your investment property has gone from being a valuable asset to a financial burden.
It is important to communicate with your tenants at all times through a tenancy, particularly if the threat of rent arrears bubbles up to the surface. The biggest trap a landlord can fall into is believing a tenant will pay their arrears, regardless of the amount. The larger the arrears, the less likely the amount is to be fully paid back.
How can I avoid these mistakes?
The simple fact of the matter is that to become a successful property investor, you will need to make mistakes. It is these mistakes that you will learn from, and define the type of property investor you are.
It is better to learn from your mistakes and shape plans in the future to be able to counter them ,than just to let them go by without any form of intervention.
Communication plays a crucial part in any tenancy, and can help you as a landlord to avoid many mistakes. Transparency and communication are both valued by tenants as it shows that you care as a landlord, and aren't just using them as a wealth enforcer.
Communicate with your tenants. Find out their intentions, ensure they are looked after (and in turn, they will look after your property), and provide them with a service and property they will want to treat with respect. That is perhaps one of the best ways to avoid these common landlord mistakes.
If you're a first-time investor and are perhaps concerned at the potential of making any mistakes with being a landlord, I'd be more than happy to reassure you and help identify how to avoid these mistakes in your strategy. Just drop me a message or call me on 07494237716.