Tips For Landlords With Empty Rental Properties Between Tenants

Empty Rental Properties Between Tenants

Typically, when tenants move out of their rental property there’s a period when the property remains empty before new tenants moves in. Every landlord should be trying to minimize that emptiness to limit the potential monetary losses. However, even when minimised there’s usually still a short void period; perhaps a few days, maybe even a few weeks.

In many cases, that void period is unavoidable. 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 there was no other choice because the entire property needed a complete makeover.

Anyways, I just wanted to share a few steps I took 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 tenants vacate, it becomes the landlord’s responsibility to pay the council tax. However, any property that remains empty and unfurnished *could* be entitled council tax exemption for up to 6 months. It varies depending on each local council on whether you’re entitled to exemption, a discount, or nothing at all (which is annoying).

I saved about £70 in 3 weeks while my property remained empty because I was entitled to full exemption in my area. All I did was contact my local council tax office and notified them that the property was empty.

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

2] Check insurance policy for unoccupied property clause

It might be worth checking your Landlord building insurance policy for a rule which stipulates how long your property can be vacant for before your policy becomes invalidated. Generally speaking, insurance providers enforce something known as a 30-day rule, which means if your property is vacant for longer than 30 days, your insurer will revoke coverage after that point.

If you’re planning a long renovation or you’re struggling to find tenants, you may exceed your limit, and could benefit from Unoccupied Rental Property Insurance to ensure you’re still covered.

3] 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.

On a side note, it could be the perfect time to find out if you can get better rates for your utility bills.

4] 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.

5] 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.

6] 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.

7] 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

8] 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?

27 Join the Conversation...

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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).

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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 :-)

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Andrew Mills 21st October, 2010 @ 16:26

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

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Aunty P 21st October, 2010 @ 16:50

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

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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 ( which basically helps landlords organise the process better to avoid a vacant period. It's free to use as well.

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!!

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

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Simon 3rd July, 2014 @ 13:57


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.

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alan jones 28th September, 2015 @ 22:28

had mine empty for a while,yes you lose money,but id rather do it myself,the times ive employed people start 9-5,turn up 930 sorry im late,got a brew on guv,ok no problem,wants to go 330pm to pick the kids up then wants full days rate,works at minium speed,lost my thread here

good tip,install a wireless alarm,2 pirs are enough,mention to neighbours, the thought of people breaking in and settling down,send shivers down my spine,its bad enough trying to get them out with section 21,when council and shelter tell them not to move or else!!!
another tip,get prepaid meters,no money for card,no like,i got caught when tenants did a runner,blighters left me with a £600 elec bill,only proof that it was a contract letter from lettings agents regarding dates,i could have spent some time in the nick

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jasper 10th May, 2017 @ 10:41

Just received a electricity bill for days a flat was empty which is a charge for supplying electric to the property not for any amount used as there wasn't any .Never had this before !!
any ideas

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Rob 25th July, 2017 @ 19:42

Who is responsible for keeping the gardens of lettings in trim whilst they are empty please? I live on a new Estate in the North of England that has houses 'to let', the gardens are unkempt and really are a disgrace, the bushes overhang a public walkway and the weeds are three foot high, not to mention the once manicured lawns that are seeding, overturned bins are in full view and the sinks smell, probably because of the decaying undergrowth that falls over into them. Surely the local council should have something to do with this but they say not as it is private property, so who can I make a complaint to, and tell them to get it tidied up, after all there are those of us who wish to move fom here and this lack of maintainence to the exterior of properties is a hindrance for sellers as these 'to let' exteriors are an eyesore for anyone coming to see these houses.

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Phil Smith 26th July, 2017 @ 10:22

jasper - This will be the standing charge surely?

Rob - I would have thought that the landlord is responsible - you need to find out who he is and argue that he is less likely to find a tenant if he leaves his gardens like this!
I don't understand your remark about the sinks. Kitchen sinks? Outside the house?

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Rob 30th July, 2017 @ 23:09

Where the washing machine etc empties into, sorry for that, we in the North of England call drains sinks,.

Really how do I find out who the landlord is, when the Letting Agency will not tell me, they say they are under no obligation to, but will pass the message on to the landlord, well I am still waiting.

No offence intended but I am sick to the back teeth of landlords, the reason myself and my wife moved home when in our sixties in the first place, and after nearly 40 years living there. Landlords bought properties that neighbours had moved from, some of our then neighbours passed on, and other people went into nursing homes and we were given these, for want of better words 'undesirables'. The straw that broke the camels back and compelled us to move was when a couple of these people renting these homes [now purchased by landlords] left a car they had bought in the street on an incline, and that car buried itself in our rear wall extension. The hand brake was found by the police to be useless, this after my wife called them on the phone and they attended

Who is accountable and who is it I turn to get to this line of accountability, for it seems to me all are untouchable! Surely I don't have to go and see a solicitor, surely not,but it seems when common sense should prevail it isn't, it is indeed absent here.

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Craig 15th January, 2018 @ 12:17

Does anyone know if there is an easy way for landlords to have a contract with one energy supplier for void periods? I do not want dozens of different suppliers claiming that `they supply the property now`. I appreciate that tenants have freedom of choice of provider, but surprisingly enough, I have no desire to open accounts with all of them!

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Sascha 6th March, 2018 @ 08:49

I'm also interested to know what happens if I don't inform the utilities and council about the place being vacant after tenants have gone? I don't know when the new owner will move in yet. Will I get a fine from the council?
Is it the last electricity/gas supplier that will try to bill me for the interim until the new person moves in etc etc? What should I do, can I just leave it and wait and see or is that unwise as I've now sold the property and waiting for completion/exchange date?

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Stealth Bomber 6th March, 2018 @ 18:04

@Sascha. Your tenant should have informed the council of their departure, obviously they should now be paying council tax on their new address. Anyways, YOU are responsible for FULL council tax whist it`s empty, sorry! The council know you own the property so expect a bill very soon. If you have sold the property it`s not worth messing around with utility providers, you might as well stay with the existing one your tenant has left you with, it can take weeks to transfer providers sometimes. See the energy provider is what it is now, they supply the address, regardless of who owns or rents the place, so it`s not worth swapping providers, you wont be using a great deal of energy anyway if it`s empty. Just stay with the same one, give them the readings from when you took possession, and get a simple contract with no exit fees. It might compromise your buildings insurance policy if the property is empty for a length of time, here`s where I too could do with any brains that have experience in this area. It`s a real pain if places are empty for any length of time. Hopefully your sale and completion will go through quickly, good luck.

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Sascha 6th March, 2018 @ 18:17

@Stealth Bomber thanks for confirming what needs to be done and all the information. I couldn't find anything to say I wouldn't be covered on my insurance although I do seem to remember that you're normally asked if the property will be vacant for over a month with most quotes that I got in the past. So I guess it would need to be re-quoted by the insurance company and adjusted if it's likely to go over a month uninhabited. I have a landlords insurance which seems a better choice than standard insurance.

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Stealth Bomber 6th March, 2018 @ 18:39

@Sascha. Happy to help. Most insurers will switch to what`s called reduced cover, after a certain period. Usually things like attempted break ins, windows broken and such like, may not be covered. They usually ask that the property is attended to at least once a week. You may still be covered for things like roof damage, pipe leaks and such, just have to read the small print. Sorry on the council tax, but you have more chance of escaping death, than not getting the bill, no exemptions whatsoever now, truly awful part of void property. You should get a welcome letter from the utilities, introducing them as your provider, easy peasy. Relax and enjoy the sale!

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Trie 23rd September, 2020 @ 17:15

I have a small residential property. I had a void period between tenants several years ago. A utility provider engaged by my tenants immediately before the void period (who had a direct contractual relationship with my former tenant) initially tried to pursue my current tenants. I got in touch with the utility provider and they are now pursuing me for costs during this void period. The utility provider never made any attempt to contact me during the void period and has not made any attempt to get in touch with me in the 4 years since.

I understand that I would be liable if there were charges for electricity and gas used but there was no electricity used. The charges that they are claiming are standing charges. Am I liable for the standing charges given that there is no contract between me and the utility provider.

Would appreciate your thoughts.

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Shelly 29th September, 2020 @ 02:11

My tenant vacated the property a few days ago & all electricity was turned off/disconnected that day. The property has a British Gas pay as you go smart meter & I have been trying to get the electric turned back on. I need to complete decorating & maintenance (check oven/shower/lights working etc) before the next tenants go in.

It has been absolutely impossible to contact British Gas. The PAYG helpline 03301000303 just cuts me off as the account is not in my name, the live chat doesn't work & I can't contact them online anywhere.

Does anyone have any ideas of what I can do in this situation?I only need the electric on for a week or so.

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David 9th January, 2024 @ 17:20

Do you think the main water cap should be kept off while vacant to avoid any flooding also do you think this is the management company’s obligation?

















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