Saturday, 7 August 2010

13 Top Tips for the Student Landlord

13 has always been my lucky number so here are 13 of My Top Student Landlord Tips.

1. Invest in the fabric of the building, it needs to be robust, durable, dry and fresh. Water is the Landlord’s biggest enemy so make sure the chimney, roof, leadwork, gutters, windows, drains, ventilation, heating and plumbing are all well designed and maintained. Electrical wiring should be checked and certified at least every 10 years and Gas supply/appliances tested annually.
2. Join a good Landlord’s Association. I use The Guild of Residential Landlords for excellent information on Tenancy Law, HMO guidance, Fire Safety in HMO’s and legal advice/back up all for a modest annual subscription.
3. Rent – check out the best student locations in your targeted area and the ‘Let By’ boards to identify the most proactive Agent dealing in student lets. Pay them a visit and establish how to get the maximum rents, where and how much to invest. Speak to the University’s Accommodation Officer who will give you guidance in rents and other useful information but bear in mind they are on the Student’s side and not the Landlord’s so treat the information with a certain amount of healthy scepticism.
4. For ‘shared houses’ get a Joint and Several tenancy, whereby the students are jointly responsible for the total rent and bills. Save yourself hassle, don’t include bills in the rent. Students are adults and need to learn to be responsible. Get Parental Guarantees from each tenant and keep the parents informed of any late or missing rental payments – peer pressure works wonders with late payments.
5. Gardens and outside spaces – keep them low maintenance and provide an area where they can sit and socialise. Provide plastic chairs, a table, secure bike storage and an outside drying area (preferably covered). A few basic tools such as shears, secateurs, trowel and fork will leave them no excuse to avoid keeping on top of weeds and shrubs/hedge growth.
6. Carpets and flooring – A good quality carpet will last 8-10 years if cleaned each year. A commercial carpet cleaner can be hired quite cheaply and are excellent at bringing the dirtiest carpets back to nearly new. Floor tiles are a great investment if fitted correctly – tiles laid on flexible floors without the correct adhesive can crack and come loose.
7. Beds – A good quality clean, second hand bed is worth so much more to a student landlord than a cheap new one which tend to last just a couple of years. The quality second hand ones last many more years. Always use mattress protectors – the waterproof ones are horrid and will be removed by the students so I don’t advise using these.
8. Other Furnishings – each room should have lined curtains and/or blinds which should be washed each year, bedside table, chest of drawers, wardrobe, mirror, bookshelves, desk, chair, worklight and at least 2 double sockets. Ikea Malm furniture is cheap, durable and looks smart. I recommend good quality second hand office desks from an office furniture supplier and upholstered office chairs with four legs rather then adjustable chairs on wheels which tend to break easily.
9. Lounge and Dining – provide sufficient comfortable fire retardant lounge seating for the number of tenants in the property together with a dining table and chairs. A breakfast bar is acceptable but where possible a table is better. It is usually unnecessary to provide a TV. If you do then you must ensure there is a TV license for the property. Students’ families usually have a TV they no longer require - I have never been asked to provide one for them so save yourself the hassle of being responsible for another appliance.
10. Kitchen – provide a clean fresh kitchen with sufficient hygienic worktop space, washer/dryer (no indoor airers to avoid mildew), fridge/freezer sufficient in size for the number of tenants, oven, hob, microwave (counts as a second cooker for HMO purposes), toaster, kettle, iron and ironing board. Pots, pans, crockery, glasses or cutlery are unnecessary. Students bring their own and it saves dealing with breakages and inventory issues associated with numerous small items.
11. Cleaning Equipment –If you want a clean house back then invest in a good quality vacuum cleaner such as Henry or Hetty, don’t go giving them your old ones no longer working at their best. Provide a mop, bucket, broom, dustpan and brush, cleaning/microfibre cloths and gloves if you want a proper job done.
12. Advertising – the University’s Accommodation Office will advertise your property on their list for a small fee, usually around January for the start of the next Academic year but you will usually have to do your own viewings and tenancy set up unless you come to a deal with a Letting Agent on this. Your chosen Letting Agent will also work on a ‘find and tenancy set-up’or full management arrangement. I prefer the latter as I have an excellent Agent who gets me the best tenants -probably as he knows he will have to deal with any issues that arise now he’s on full management! He also gets me the best rents, sorts deposits and much more. You can also advertise online with organisations such as Accommodation for Students or Upad who offer different levels of service.
13. Added Value - Can you add an extension, loft conversion or conservatory (only suitable for non sleeping accommodation) to increase the number of tenants accommodated? Can you split a very large room into two? Look at all options that might increase your rent but do your sums – for me an extra student might mean additional income of £4-5k so £55k is the maximum I would spend to gain an additional student. This also helps me determine how much I would spend on a house in the first place.

Enjoy the job - it's very rewarding if you do it well.