In all the thousands of landlords I have met I have not found one that would not prefer long term tenants so long as they are good tenants who pay their rent in full and on time, respect the neighbours and the property.
This made me think about how a landlord might go about attracting long term tenants and thus avoid the cost of churning tenancies every six months or so. I have analysed my own tenants, some of whom have been with me for years – long may that continue.
When I first became a landlord I let to students, who of course will never become long term tenants, and I provided every item they might need except bed linen and towels.
Over the years I found my crockery, cutlery and pans under the stairs and gradually I provided less and less, enabling my students to bring their own personalities to their temporary homes.
Long term tenants prefer unfurnished properties
When I expanded into other client groups I offered fully furnished properties and it was not until I realised that the landlords I spoke to who had fewer problems and longer tenancies were those who let unfurnished properties.
I began by removing the furniture from one property and eventually removed it from many of my properties, except those that are let to companies or to those who are on short term contracts and need to move around the country.
There were indeed less problems, mainly because I did not have to deal with breakdowns, repairs and replacement nor to fall out with tenants at the end of the tenancy because of damages or losses. But the biggest difference I have found is the length of those tenancies.
When tenants have to consider the cost and upheaval of removing furniture they are less likely to want to move and I think perhaps they feel more “at home” surrounded by their own belongings. By letting to long term tenants I had increased my profit by reducing my repair and replacement costs and avoiding void periods and this enabled me to keep my rents down to affordable levels – everyone wins.
With this in mind I began to let long term tenants put their pictures and posters on the walls just so long as they were not fixed with Bluetac or sticky tapes. A nail hole is easy to fill and to paint over and bare white walls are not homely at all. If they want book shelves I have them fitted by my own contractor to make sure that they are safe and that my walls are not damaged by the fixings.
All this has helped to increase the length of time my tenants stay with me and I have some who have moved from property to property as their circumstances changed and particularly those who went from being love birds to being parents. There is one more thing that has increased the length of my tenancies more than anything else, it is accepting pets.
Accepting pets encourages long term tenants
We are a nation of animal lovers and yet so many landlords advertise “No Pets” and indeed I have been one of them, but tenants often find it very difficult to find a landlord who will accept them and their pets so they wait until they are ready to sign the Tenancy Agreement before admitting “We have a tiny dog, it that ok?” or “We’ve got a really old cat and she would die if she went to a cattery” This is how I began taking tenants with pets and these tenants really do become long term tenants.
A simply way to cover any additional costs would be to advertise that pets are welcome and increase the rent a little to give yourself a margin for extra repairs, tenants who are struggling to find a landlord who will accept their pets are prepared to pay a higher rent and once they are letting from us they are less likely to move because they know that it will be difficult a new home.
When advertising my holiday homes in Devon I say on my website
“All your family will be made welcome, including your furry friends”
I do this because I realise that people are prepared to pay a little more to rent my properties because they are saving the cost of kennels and the upset of leaving their pets behind.
We all need to make decisions about what we are prepared to accept when taking a new tenant but it’s important that we don’t just make a knee jerk decision without considering all of the options. It might just be worth rethinking in order to attract long term good tenants who turn our properties into their homes.
Mary Latham, Landlord
Follow me @landlordtweets
See also: Short Term Rentals – 5 Common Pitfalls