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4 tips for becoming a more ethical landlord

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Business Accountants in London

Do you wish you had better working relationships with your tenants?

When buy-to-let investment is a numbers game, and so much of our time, money and effort goes into building profits from our portfolios, it can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of the people who are actually generating your rental income for you.

Being an ethical landlord isn’t just about ‘being nice’ to your tenants. It’s about providing a service that ultimately benefits your tenants and your community as much as it benefits your bank account.

But why should you bother? Well, tenants who feel welcome and respected are more likely to stick around for longer rental terms; not only reducing lost income from vacant periods, but also the agent fees, compliance work and other costs that come with tracking down new tenancies.

Plus, they’re likely to keep the property in good condition, and they’ll be happier to discuss and negotiate if any issues or disputes arise; saving you both unnecessary stress.

Here’s are four tips on how you can become a more ethical landlord for your customers.

#1: Be reachable, responsive and communicative

This first one is just common sense; but you’d be surprised at how many landlords struggle with it.

Poor communication will quickly turn any relationship sour. Here’s a few ways you can improve communication with tenants:

  • Allow them to contact you whenever they need to; and make it easy for them to find your contact details. For example, you could leave a card or label with your phone number on the kitchen noticeboard.
  • Respond to repair requests swiftly. Keep the tenant informed of any repair bookings you’ve made; and if there will be delays, say so!
  • Never make promises that you don’t fully intend of keeping, or aren’t sure you can realistically achieve. When you give your tenants realistic expectations and deliver on your assurances, you build their trust and keep their lines of communication open.
  • Give advance notice of any maintenance visits or inspections. Turning up unannounced can make tenants feel like their privacy isn’t respected; and in regards to surprise inspections, they can feel like they aren’t trusted.
  • Keep records of your interactions with tenants and any work carried out on their property. This can help you both untangle messy disagreements when memories get foggy.

#2: Make contracts clear

This is effectively the same point as the one above. Contracts may be formal documents, but ultimately we’re still talking about communication.

Contracts exist to set expectations between both parties, and to provide solutions and protections for both if things go wrong. They shouldn’t be designed to catch out the other party, or confuse them into accepting terms that’ll cause you both problems down the line.

Contrary to popular belief, contracts don’t have to be written in dense legalese. Choose plain language when drawing up tenancy agreements, and make sure renters can contact you if they have any questions.

#3: Don’t discriminate against DSS

Many landlords still refuse to rent to those who rely on benefits to get by; fearing that they’ll clash with lenders’ rules, or that their tenants will struggle to pay the rent.

That’s despite court rulings in 2020 which actually found ‘DSS discrimination’ illegal. Since then, landlords and lenders are no longer able to universally ban renters who receive benefits; and the number of lenders who are explicitly ‘DSS friendly’ has been growing.

Plus, the reality of renting to ‘DSS’ tenants can often be quite different to the stereotypical view that some landlords still hold.

Individuals in this situation often cannot afford to lose their tenancy, because their financial situation limits the alternative options they can turn to if they do get evicted.

This means renters receiving benefits are often more reliable with payments and more motivated to keep the property in good condition.

#4: Seek out more ethical buy-to-let purchases

Perhaps you already treat your tenants well, but you’re looking to extend your positive impact to your wider community and society?

If that’s the case, you might like to examine your current investment strategy and portfolio, and think about the changes you could make.

Perhaps instead of buying up ready-to-rent properties, you could go after run-down, uninhabitable properties and return them to habitable status? It can sometimes be trickier to secure mortgage finance, and the renovation requires time and effort; but instead of taking a home off the market from potential buyers, you’ll be creating a new home and making use of existing disused land.

Plus, these sorts of properties are typically on the market for bargain prices; so you could end up with stronger returns in the long run.

Looking for more tips on becoming a more ethical landlord? We’ll be posting a part 2 to this article soon, so keep an eye out!

In the meantime, if you’re having trouble juggling your commitments to tenants and your finances, our team of specialist property accountants can help. Call GNS Associates on 0208 090 2604 or email us at info@gnsassociates.co.uk to arrange a consultation today.

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