Whether due to misbehaviour or needing the property back, many landlords find themselves having to take back their rental property. Sometimes the tenants leave voluntarily and sometimes it requires Court action (both of which Burtons can help with) but what are the next practical steps to take once the tenant has left.
Attend the property
It seems like an obvious thing to do, but many do not. Whether it is yourself or whether it is someone you trust, get an inspection done as quickly as possible and take these simple steps:
- Turn off any taps.
- Consider if you need to turn off the water totally.
- Set a temperature on the boiler heating; you want to keep the pipes in the house from freezing but do not want to heat it to 20 degrees every day with no occupant.
- If your controls separate the hot water and heating, you may also wish to consider turning off the hot water if there is no occupant.
- Take meter readings; this is important as you will be responsible for any electricity or gas used while it is empty.
- Check all necessary plugs and appliances are off (in particular check whether the fridge/freezer is on and whether it needs to be).
- Are all windows and doors locked? (see below for more on locks).
- Is the back gate, shed and/or garage locked (you also want to check the garage and shed are empty).
Change the locks
Yes this does come at a price, but it is always prudent to change the locks once the tenant has left and handed you back the keys; this applies even in the event of tenants who have left voluntarily.
Some doors may be able to be bolted from the inside so negating the need for locks, make sure these bolts are secured.
We always tell landlords that you have no idea if the tenant has kept a set of keys or someone they know has a copy of the keys. There is nothing worse then getting your property back only to find that “squatters” have moved into the premises.
If you are selling the property then you may also have a delay whilst the squatters are removed and depending on the transaction stage you could even find yourself in breach of your contract for sale.
Once the tenant hands back the keys, attend the property, inspect it and change the locks. A small price to pay for the security of knowing that nobody can let themselves in with keys while you are elsewhere.
If your property is to remain empty for an extended period of time, you may find that your insurance does not cover you; check your policy very carefully. Many insurance policies carry conditions to be enacted in the event of the property being empty, or may even not cover you entirely.
Check your policy very carefully and if necessary contact your insurance company and/or broker and look at whether you need empty property insurance. Also double check these policies as they require you to undertake certain actions as well and you do not want to invalidate your insurance.
The last thing you need is your insurance company not covering you in the event of a burst water pipe.
This property is your investment so you, or someone you trust, should attend regularly to make sure all is well.
Keep an eye on the condition of the outside of the property, nothing screams “empty property” more then a pile up of mail and an unkempt front garden in need of a mow.
Consider putting lights on a timer so that the property looks occupied or (if circumstances allow) use wi-fi enabled light bulbs so that you can turn lights on and off in the property to make it look occupied also.
If you are intending to sell, then you also want to make sure that nobody has entered the property and taken up occupation, when you sell a property there is a requirement (unless negotiated otherwise, in extremely rare circumstances) to give vacant possession; meaning nobody in occupation and no furniture or other items left in the property.