Tips For Landlords With Empty Properties Between Tenants

Empty Room

Typically, when a tenant moves out, there’s a short period when the property remains empty before the new batch moves in. Every landlord should be trying to minimize that emptiness because it costs money. However, even when minimized, there’s usually still a short empty period; perhaps a few days, maybe even a few weeks. That’s perfectly natural for various reasons. It recently happened to me.

A tenant of mine moved out 3 weeks ago, and the property has been vacant ever since. Yes, it meant I lost out on one month’s rent, but it was kind of unavoidable because as I’ve previously mentioned in another blog post, the entire property needed a complete makeover due to cowboys (the previous vendor) getting creative with a paint roller. They either had a fetish for shitting all over the walls, or feces coloured paint.

However, more often, BTL properties remain temporary vacant between a tenant changeover because it’s extremely rare that a tenant’s timetable will be in-sync with a landlord’s- most tenants have a notice period to serve with their current landlord, and tenants usually start looking for new accommodation a few weeks prior to their move out date.

Anyways, I just wanted to share a few of the things I did while the property was empty for 3 weeks. Perhaps you should also be doing the following, whether your property remains empty for a few days, or even a few months…

1] Benefit From Council Tax Exemption

As soon as tenant’s vacate, it becomes the landlord’s responsibility to pay the council tax. However, any property that remains empty and unfurnished is entitled to be exempt from council tax for up to 6 months.

I saved about £70 in 3 weeks while my property remained empty. All I did was contact my local council tax office and notified them the property was empty.

More details: Landlords Are Entitled To Council Tax Exemption If They Have An Empty Property

2] Transfer utility bills to landlord’s name

Like with council tax, the landlord also becomes responsible for all utility bills incurred during the vacant period.

It’s important for you to take readings of the water, gas and electricity meter on the day the tenant vacates the premises, so you can contact the utility service providers with the latest meter readings. They should change the accounts over to your name.

You should then take the meter readings again when the new tenants move in, so you’re only billed for what you used.

3] Take the opportunity to fix what’s broken

From my experience, tenants always leave behind some form of destructive trial after vacating a property.

Many landlords just leave things broken until tenants complain. That’s an extremely impractical way of handling the issue, because eventually the landlord will have to fix what’s broken.

It’s a lot easier to maintain a property while it’s empty because it saves you from having to give the tenant notice and arrange a convenient time between your tenant and labourers. At least you can attend to issues at your own convenience when the property is empty.

4] Ensure all electrical and gas appliances are off

To reduce costs and for safety reasons, make sure all gas and electrical appliances are switched off. I usually just unplug all appliances and switch off all plug sockets.

Some plug sockets have fuse lights; I always ensure they’re flicked off, even if no electrical appliance is feeding off it. The LED in the socket is still draining power (even if it literally costs pennies).

If the property has white goods, then it might be a good idea to turn those appliances off and leave open the fridge, freezer and washing machine doors to avoid any nasty odours.

5] Disable hot water and heating timer

Ensure the timer settings for the hot water and heating are disabled. There’s a good chance your tenant would have set the timer, or used the existing settings.

Failing to turn off the timer could result in utility bills for services that you never needed, or realised were being used.

6] Don’t leave the heating completely off in the winter

If your property is going to remain empty for longer than a week during bitter winter periods, it’s a good idea to occasionally allow the pipes to warm up by turning on the heating. This is to prevent the pipes from completely freezing over, consequently making them vulnerable to burst. The heat bill is quickly offset by the cost of repairing a water pipe and cleaning up water damage

7] Make sure the bins are empty

Your previous tenants should have emptied all the bins before they vacated, even the wheelie bins. However, I wouldn’t always count on it.

It’s best to make sure every bin, in and around the property, are completely empty and clean. This will avoid any nasty smells and/or infestations when you return a week later.

Anyone else got any other tips?

If you’ve had experience with empty properties during the tenant transition, do you put into practise any other procedures?

Like this post? Then maybe you should sign up to my FREE newsletter so you receive more like it!

14 Comments- join the conversation...

Guest Avatar
Andrew Mills 21st October, 2010 @ 14:06

As it's nearing winter and getting colder, it may be worth having the heating come on for a short while each day so the property doesn't start feeling cold/damp when prospective tenants come to view it.

Also if it's that cold, it may be worth setting the heating to its "frost" setting (if it has it) so the risk of burst pipes is lessened. If you are in the middle of a block of flats, this is obviously less likely to happen.

I don't know the ins and outs, but short term lets may be worth looking into. Sometimes business peeps visit various towns/cities for varying reasons and prefer to stay in a flat/house than a hotel. Whether or not renting the property out for a couple of days or weeks is worth the hassle, I don't know, but it could be better to have some income rather than feck all.

Hire it out for other purposes. Photographers are always looking for locations to do photoshoots. If the property is in tidy enough condition and well decorated, you can hire it out for a day. It needn't be for anything "unsavoury" either (if that worries you). A photographer can pay a minimum of £150 for a small studio for a day, so you could charge that or more (I know of one place in Bristol who charges £1000 per day for their properties, but personally I think this is a rip off for the smaller guy).

1
Guest Avatar
Aunty P 21st October, 2010 @ 15:51

Don't forget to leave the doors of the fridge and freezer open after you unplug them to avoid nasty niffs :-)

2
Guest Avatar
Andrew Mills 21st October, 2010 @ 16:26

Good point Aunty P - perhaps the washing machine should also be left open?

3
Guest Avatar
Aunty P 21st October, 2010 @ 16:50

Well done Andrew, I forgot the washing machine! I think The Landlord has got everything else covered.

4
Guest Avatar
property lady 21st October, 2010 @ 20:20

I recently had the same experience - my property was vacant for a month before the next tenant moved in. This frustrates me every time because for about a few months (when the tenant is about to leave and a prospective tenant is being sought), my life has to revolve around going to letting agents and multiple questions from them about my property (if they don't take thorough details about my property). I'm busy, I could do without all of that.

I have now started a company called Property Leaders UK (www.propertyleadersuk.com) which basically helps landlords organise the process better to avoid a vacant period. It's free to use as well.

5
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 21st October, 2010 @ 20:34

Andrew & Aunty,
Many thanks for your comments. Great suggestions. I've updated the article to accommodate your tips!!

6
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 21st October, 2010 @ 20:36

Hey Andrew,
Hiring out the property to small businesses (e.g. photographers) sounds like a really neat idea. But where do you find those contacts? Do you just advertise in local papers or classified portals like gumtree.com?

7
Guest Avatar
Neil 22nd October, 2010 @ 11:01

Depending on the property and whether it's in a central town location, you might consider turning it into serviced accommodation - basically very short term accommodation that costs less than a hotel room (but more than normal rent) and is more homely.
Just get in touch with a friendly local cleaner who can pop in once a week to hoover, dust and change bed-sheets. You can charge a higher rent to cover the extra cleaning cost.
Travelling executives looking to save on hotel expenses will be keen. Not sure where you'd advertise, maybe Gumtree.

8
Guest Avatar
Phil Smith 22nd October, 2010 @ 17:58

Don't forget to arrange for an energy performance certificate
( EPC ) to be prepared by a qualified and accredited domestic energy assessor. If the tenant has occupied the accommodation since before October 2007 then the property will require one by law before a new tenant moves in.

See my web site at www.wirralepcs.com and use someone like myself who has local knowledge/expertise and who charges approx 50% of the price that an estate agent will charge.

The EPC may highlight possible optional improvements to the property and often the tenant may qualify for a grant thereby saving the landlord money for installation costs and himself in running costs.

9
Guest Avatar
jeffo 24th October, 2010 @ 22:24

Dont forget to check what they have dumped in the loft.

Always good to spend enough time there to find the leaky tap or faulty light switch.

In the summer time, spark up the boiler and heat the radiators. If you dont do it the pump or valves will cease up.

Test all the smoke alarms. Maybe for the sake of a quid, lash in a new battery anyway. I always write the installation date on the battery. Shows I have taken all precautions I can.

If empty for more than a month it is likely to invalidate the insurance. Call them and notify.

10
Guest Avatar
Andrew Mills 27th October, 2010 @ 22:56

@Landlord - to be honest I am looking from the photographer's perspective and don't have a property to hire out and don't have any specific contacts ATM. However, there are agencies and various services dedicated to this, and I expect you can advertise on Gumtree, etc.

This thread on MSE talks about it, with some links, etc. http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?p=6564449

11
Guest Avatar
Anthony Collins 11th December, 2010 @ 21:31

During the summer, leave a few windows open to ventilate rooms from the heat and so that when people come for viewings, it doesn't feel stiflingly hot.
These windows should, of course, not be easily accessible from the outside or obvious that they are open.
Close curtains to about 75% too.

Some windows, like mine, can be locked while leaving the window ajar.

Also, consider buying special fittings to a few ceiling lights, which turn the lightbulb on and off during the evening at random to mimic normal usage as if someone was home.

12
Guest Avatar
Mike 14th January, 2011 @ 11:34

As Anthony says...Please be careful of the idea of leaving the windows open - even in unfurnished property. Perhaps a better idea would be to arrive a reasonable period of time before your viewer & air the property at that time. Use of blackout curtains could help on the upper floors

My main concern is squatters. I understand that you have less legal remedy if the squatters have entered the property without "breaking and entering"? Especially as you will very likely be advertising the property as empty by placing a big "to let" sign in front of it.

Never had it happen, never want to.

I'm told there are sites on the web giving potential squatters signs to look for, which include open windows, to let signs, and piles of mail behind the front door.

13
Guest Avatar
Simon 3rd July, 2014 @ 13:57

Hi

I find setting a light to come on and off also makes it looks less obviouis that the property is vacant.

you can now buy ones which fit over the light siwtch and can be removed when the tennants move in.

14

Please leave a comment...

I'm a nobody

I'm a nobody

Landlord

Landlord

Tenant

Tenant

Letting / Estate Agent

Letting / Estate Agent

Legal

Legal

Buyer

Buyer

Developer

Developer

Enthusiast

Enthusiast


Leave a comment

Want FREE Landlord/Tenant advice from experienced Landlords?

Join our active Landlord community by registering to our Landlord Forum.
Learn, share and resolve your problems!