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.
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?
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.