There are some interesting parallels between landlords and Santa Claus. For a start, you’re often making a list and checking it twice, only yours is full of to-dos for repairs and maintenance at your rental property. Then there’s deciding if your tenants have been naughty or nice, and whether they look after your property and pay the rent on time.
The comparisons don’t end there and the festive season can be as busy for landlords as it is for Mr Claus, with the colder months bringing chilly calls from tenants when their heating doesn't work.
If your property is empty, you might be wondering how to get it rented during the winter, or whether you should take the opportunity to make improvements: could updating the presentation and upgrading the fittings help you achieve a higher rent in the new year?
So there’s a fair bit for a landlord to think about over the holidays, and this week's blog is full of festive tips for managing your empty or occupied rental property this Christmas.
TIDINGS OF COMFORT & JOY
Although renting your property is a business transaction, there's absolutely no harm in spreading some Christmas cheer to your tenants.
It's a small thing but a large gesture to drop them a text to wish them well, to see how they're doing at this most unusual of Christmastimes, and to let them know who to contact in the event of an emergency. If they've been particularly excellent tenants then a small gift like a bottle of wine or seasonal treats can generate goodwill that lasts long beyond their consumption.
While you're messaging, it's worth checking that everything is running smoothly at your property as well. If any equipment or appliances have shown even the faintest signs of playing up, it's far better to get onto it now before it becomes more urgent and inconvenient.
Strong landlord-tenant relationships are important and they improve the chances of your tenants staying in your property for a longer term, meaning less time, hassle and costs in finding new people, showing them round, taking up references and arranging inventories.
Really, there is no better time to check in on your tenants than Christmas, and particularly in 2020.
HOME (OR AWAY) FOR THE HOLIDAYS?
Winter 2020/21 is unlike any other with severe travel restrictions introduced in response to Covid. Ski resorts are snow-covered ghost towns, while jetting off for a Caribbean Christmas will have to wait for another 12 months. But even with fewer people going away, there’s still a chance your tenanted property could be empty over the festive season.
When the government announced tighter restrictions, lots of families brought forward their travel plans to beat the new deadline. And because we don't know for sure when the latest travel restrictions will end, it's very possible that people will be gone for much longer than they originally thought. Anyone who's been missing their family and is able to work from home could take the opportunity to stay away until a new announcement is made.
This means your rental property could be vacant for a number of weeks, which may affect your insurance, so it's definitely worth checking in with your tenant. They might simply not have thought about contacting you in the rush to get away, and may appreciate the reminder so they can check their own cover and inform their provider.
And if they are away, perhaps a neighbour could be asked to keep an eye on things and given a number to call in case of emergencies.
DECK YOUR HALLS
Is your rental property going to be vacant over the holidays? Empty homes are the perfect canvas for decorating or repairs and, with Christmas one of the quietest periods for lettings, you couldn't wish for a better time of year to carry out the works.
Is the paintwork looking a bit tired? It can happen after a couple of tenancies and changeovers. Check the walls and woodwork for scuffs, scrapes and chips and treat them to a fresh coat for a gleaming interior to welcome new year viewers. And if you want to be thoroughly on-trend, take a look at 2021's colour predictions from paint companies including Farrow & Ball, Dulux and Benjamin Moore.
Vacant periods are also an excellent time to attend to little jobs, and not just the repairs you already know about. Check for door handles that need tightening, taps that drip, and grout or sealant in the kitchen and bathroom that's either worn away or discoloured.
These are the small things that may go unreported or even unnoticed during someone's tenancy, but that can and do build up over time. Rarely does a tenant call us to say their grouting isn't as white as it was, but it will certainly be more noticeable to a viewer with nobody's Rituals products to hide it.
NEW YEAR REVOLUTIONS
Have you been thinking about how to achieve more rent or fewer vacant periods?
With people staying longer and longer in rented accommodation - average tenancies are now around 4 years - they are paying more and more attention to the quality of presentation and fittings. So is there any equipment at your property that's either showing its age or that you could upgrade to attract a higher rent?
Being faced with new, stylish and high quality fittings can really swing it for tenants in search of somewhere special, so take a look around for upgrade opportunities.
It could be a big job like replacing a freestanding monster boiler or an old washing machine, or something smaller like a new tap or shower fitting, or even a loo seat that isn't from 1984 and falling off its hinges.
Little things can often make big impressions and, if your property is vacant, you can carry out improvements without having to work around tenants or their belongings.
Even with the rental market slowing down at this time of the year, there are still people looking for a new home. In fact, anyone viewing during the cold season is likely to be extremely serious about moving, so you’ll want to make them feel welcome.
The natural greeting from a vacant property in winter can be on the frosty side, so turn the heating on in good time for any viewings. It really is no fun walking around cold and empty interiors - nobody wants to stay when it feels colder inside than out!
Regardless of viewings, having the heating on a timer will keep the chill off and reduce the chances of frozen pipes. Plus you'll know that everything works… A flustered call from your tenant on the day they move in to discover they have no heating, is not a call you'll enjoy.
There is plenty to consider for landlords over Christmas whether your rental property is vacant or occupied.
Showing your tenants you care, making sure your insurance is valid and taking the opportunity for improvements and maintenance are all a worthwhile use of your time.
If you have a rental property in Southampton and you'd like to talk about making the most of the festive period or of being a landlord, why not get in touch with our team? Call us for a chat on 02380 987720 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to hear from you.