James Davis

Q.Dear James, my tenants will be moving out in two months, and I want to ensure the property remains full. What advice do you have for me?

A.We call this “avoiding the voids”, and it’s one of the most important issues of being a landlord. You have to be on the case and advertise the property as soon as your tenant gives notice – don’t wait for them to move out, which some landlords do. By that time, it’s costing you.

How you advertise is also very important. Some landlords try the free option first, which is the local paper, then try a website like Gumtree. But you need to get your property into as many places as quickly as possible, to find the best tenants. People aren’t going to look at just one website so get your property on as many as you possibly can.

You should make sure that you advertise with photographs, and make sure they’re good ones too – borrow someone’s digital camera if you have to, get the place tidy, and make sure that they are as professional as possible.

We did a survey of tenants, and they said the living room was the most important photo to have on there. For some reason, a lot of landlords seem to think it is the exterior that people want to see but it’s what’s inside that counts.

Then there’s how you price it. We’re seeing rents beginning to increase at the moment, and demand has been picking up in January. But don’t get greedy. You need to price yourself a bit more competitively than the market – it’s a safer position to be in.

If most of the properties in your area are advertised at £300 a week, advertise at £290. You’ll only lose £500 a year, and you’ll increase your chances of avoiding a much more costly void period.
The more desirable and well-priced the property, the better a deal it will seem – you want to get 10 people to view it so you can choose the best tenant, rather than having to settle for the only one interested.

Q.Dear James, my contract is coming up for renewal, and I think I’m paying too much rent for my property. How can I find out what the right price should be, and what can I do about it?

A.You need to do your research. Have a look at what the demand is in your area, and get some comparables – don’t just look them up online, go and see some properties of similar size and quality, so that you can justify a rent reduction to your landlord.

You need to be able to put a good case forward, so think it through. If you have been paying your current rent since before the recession, prices have come down but you need to be able to demonstrate that to your landlord.

Explain that you would like to stay in the property, but that there are better deals out there. For the landlord, the incentive is that they won’t then have to find someone else to fill your place – which is a hassle – or have no tenant.

Emphasise how marketable and reliable you are, that your job contract is settled, that you’re not sinking in debt, that you pay on time. Sit down with the landlord and make a sensible business case – don’t get into an angry email exchange.

If you have a good relationship with the landlord, you may be able to come to an agreement. But make sure you have a case, otherwise it could backfire on you.

James Davis is managing director of online lettings agent www.upad.co.uk. You can also follow Upad on Twitter: @avoidthevoid.