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Tenancy void periods high but stabilised

Void periods for rental property remain high but have stabilised, according to new figures from the National Landlords Association supplied by research consultants BDRC Continental.

In March 2010, 52 per cent of landlords had experienced voids in the previous 12 month period. Although still posing a threat to landlord portfolios, this figure is a reduction from 55 per cent during the last three months of 2009. The data also showed that the average duration of voids dropped from 19 days to 17 days.

Voids level in properties

Despite a marked increase in tenant demand and a reduction in supply as ‘reluctant landlords’ are able to sell up, there is still only a slight improvement in rental voids.

Furthermore, the continuing lack of available mortgage finance for first time buyers, as well as the requirement for higher deposits, means that would-be buyers are renting for longer.

The strategy adopted by landlords for covering voids continues to vary depending on portfolio size. Although larger landlords are most able to offset the costs of voids with rent from other properties, 43 per cent of landlords claimed to use personal savings to plug the shortfall in meeting mortgage repayments.

David Salusbury, Chairman, NLA, commenting on the latest research, said:

“No landlord likes void periods. They can end up being very costly indeed. Although incidences of voids have leveled off, over half of the landlords questioned have experienced voids in the past year, albeit for a shorter length of time.

The best way to deal with void periods is to avoid them altogether. As with many issues in the letting of residential property, open and respectful channels of communications between landlords and tenants will pay dividends.”

The NLA has published its top tips aimed at helping landlords steer clear of rental voids:

  1. Price. Is your property priced sensibly? The aim is to let a property as quickly as possible, so consider whether holding out for the ‘right price’ is the best strategy. It might be worth accepting a lower rent in order to secure new tenants.
  2. Finishing touches and incentives. Not only should your property be in a good state of repair (including a well kept garden) but increasingly landlords have to think about the ‘added extras’ nowadays. It is often the finishing touches which show potential tenants you are letting a home not just a property. Have you considered garden furniture, flat screen TVs or wireless broadband?
  3. Marketing. Is your property being marketed in the right place? The overwhelming majority of tenants are looking for their next move using the Internet. Ensure photographs of your property show it in the best light: clean, tidy and looking like somewhere you would want to live yourself.
  4. Don’t be greedy. If you have good existing tenants, then think very hard before choosing to put the rent up. In the current market, as long as the rent is covering any mortgage repayments, you might want to think twice about rocking the boat.
  5. Communication. Your tenants are your clients. If you take your lettings business seriously, then you should be available and quick to respond to your tenants’ concerns. Organising repairs professionally and taking time to treat the smallest of problems shows the tenant you value them. In turn, they should treat your investment with respect.

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You can get more information on this report here, as well as general advice on landlord and tenant issues, on the NLA website.

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