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Maintenance and security – those are the twin concerns about any property that is left empty and unoccupied for any significant length of time.

Appearances may also have a notable impact on those issues of maintenance and security. And if your property is empty because you have been unable to find tenants willing to occupy it, then appearances may also be the root cause.

So, let’s take a closer look at those three issues – maintenance, security, and appearances – to see how they might be impacting your property.

Maintenance

Adequate and appropriate maintenance is essential to keeping your property in a good state of repair. That is how you help to look after its value and prevent repair and maintenance issues from causing damage to the structure and fabric of the building.

In any property insurance contract, therefore, the insurer is entitled to insist that you maintain your property in a good state of repair – whether it is occupied and in use, or whether it is temporarily empty and unoccupied.

Landlords and your unoccupied property

Like it or not, there may be times when your property is going to sit unoccupied.

If you are a landlord of buy to let property, you may encounter a delay in finding new tenants or perhaps another circumstance might involve you needing to close your property to letting in order to undertake conversions, refurbishment or simply to do some redecoration.

In all these circumstances, your property may be at additional risk while it is unoccupied due to a couple of inescapable facts:

  • day to day problems such as leaking pipes might go unnoticed and uncorrected; and
  • unoccupied properties are typically more tempting to people such as burglars, vandals, and squatters.

For those reasons, your insurer is likely to restrict your level of cover, or even regard it as having lapsed altogether, once the property has been unoccupied for longer than a period of between 30 and 45 consecutive days (the exact interval varying from one insurer to another).

Unoccupied property insurance and your obligations

Your first course of action, therefore, is to get a quote for standalone unoccupied property insurance to maintain the protection your empty property continues to need. Even so, it remains your responsibility to maintain the property in a good state of repair and keep it secure even with that unoccupied property insurance in place.

In the spring, summer for instance, it might be advisable to switch off the water at the mains. You might want to do the same for most of your electrical circuitry other than perhaps your lighting circuit if you have some timer lights on it for security reasons.

In winter, it might be advisable to try and leave the central heating on a low and level, just to avoid the build-up of damp in unoccupied property.

Refer to your property insurance contract as to what actions you should take at certain times of the year. For example, your insurance contract may stipulate that a constant temperature needs to be maintained within the property during colder months.

Visit the property regularly – or arrange for someone to do so on your behalf

Make sure that you visit your property regularly – this will typically be a condition o your empty property insurance. Look around for obvious signs of deterioration or problems and fix them before they become serious.

Odours can become a serious issue in unoccupied property and might make it more difficult for you to let it again in due course.

It might be sensible therefore to invest in some deodorizers and possibly also dehumidifiers.

Finally, pests can quickly move into any unoccupied property, so you may wish to consider taking whatever steps you think to be necessary to minimize such risks. Remember that once established, it can be exceedingly difficult to remove pest infestations.

Security

Burglars, vandals, and squatters love unoccupied property. They usually prefer properties that offer a reduced chance of being disturbed – which is why they typically find unoccupied properties so attractive. They may look for signs of occupation before deciding whether or not to try and enter and anything that indicates change might discourage them.

Appearances are all-important as far as your empty property goes. Take all reasonable precautions to ensure you are not obviously advertising the place as unoccupied. You can help to achieve this through some fairly common-sense measures:

  • don’t let your builders hang advertising boards or notices outside your property if the reason for your property being unoccupied is because they’re working inside it;
  • don’t let accumulating post build up to become visible from outside;
  • avoid the accumulation of rubbish outside;
  • pay attention to gardens that move from being well-kept to looking untidy and unloved;
  • open curtains and no lights on at night is something that might be an invitation to burglars – so avoid it through the use of timer switches;
  • periodically change the appearance of your property from the outside (e.g. opening or closing the curtains);
  • try to avoid talking widely about the fact that your property is sitting unoccupied – and don’t advertise the fact on social media; and
  • if possible, arrange with a neighbour to keep an eye on your property.

5 ways to improve the appearance of your empty property

We have mentioned the importance of appearances as far as security goes, but what if your property remains unlet because its appearance is putting off tenants? Here are five tips and suggestions:

  1. Initial external appearance
  • a significant number of tenants might do a drive-by inspection of your property from the outside before they even decide to ask for a viewing;
  • if the outside looks tatty, ill-kept and run-down, then there is a fair chance that tenants will keep on driving and never bother to come back;
  • so, invest some time and a little money in tidying up the garden, using a little paint to brighten up woodwork and perhaps investing in some modern-looking and clean curtains;
  1. Entrance halls
  • once you persuade a tenant to actually visit your property, this is typically the first internal area they will see;
  • make sure that it is bright, fresh-looking and with some form of decent floor covering down – what you do not want tenants to see after opening your front door for the first time is tatty carpeting, broken lino or wallpaper peeling off;
  1. Light fittings
  • make sure that your property is well-lit and all lights fully working – there is no excuse for bare light bulbs hanging from ceilings, broken lampshades or even worse, rooms without a bulb and which cannot be illuminated;
  • equally, dirty, old, and tatty lampshades should be quickly consigned to the bin and replaced by modern equivalents;
  1. Furniture – including beds
  • broken, stained and past-it’s-sell-by-date furniture (particularly a bed) is a real turn-off for potential tenants;
  • true, even modern flat-pack furniture tends to be expensive, but you may be able to replace unacceptably poor-quality items in your property by visiting local antique and second-hand property auctions;
  • it is perfectly possible at such venues to pick up excellent pre-used furniture at a fraction of what you would pay for it new;
  1. Plants and flowers
  • little is more effective in generating a sense of homely attraction than indoor plants and flowers;
  • these can be picked up in markets or garden centres for relatively small amounts of money and they may make all the difference to a viewing’s outcome.

If your property has been sitting unoccupied for some time due to letting difficulties, don’t forget the importance of an unoccupied property insurance quote – but remember that you continue to bear responsibility for keeping the place in a good state of repair and for maintaining all due security precautions.

Further reading: Guide to unoccupied property.

Here is our monthly round up of news and views from the property market …

Are there legal issues with the six-month notice period for possession claims?

The latest legislation, introducing varying periods of notice which landlords must give tenants of any notice to quit, has sown a certain amount of confusion, according to a report by Landlord Today earlier this month.

Eviction and repossession proceedings against tenants were suspended during lockdown until the 20th of September. Before that deadline was reached, the government introduced new legislation on the 29th of August effectively requiring landlords to give tenants a full six months’ notice in most cases.

Rather than a blanket requirement covering all circumstances, though, the new legislation makes an exception for some reasons that may be given for repossession.

If tenants are being evicted following their anti-social behaviour, because they are guilty of domestic abuse, have made false statements, or have fallen more than six months’ in rent arrears, the required period of notice varies between two and four weeks.

If tenants are being evicted because of their breach immigration laws under the Right to Rent scheme, the period of notice is three months.

The absence of uniformity in the six-month period of notice is considered confusing by some legal analysts.

Shock 58% increase in licensing fee imposed by council

Some landlords in the London Borough of Enfield face a 58% increase in the licence they need from the local council to let their private rented accommodation, revealed Letting Agent Today on the 3rd of September.

           
In a move that the council insists is designed to improve the quality of let accommodation, it has extended the need for licensing to an additional 8,000 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that are occupied by three or more unrelated households. HMOs that accommodate five or more unrelated households are already subject to mandatory licensing requirements.

Not only has the need for licensing been extended, but Enfield Council has at the same time increased the application fee for a mandatory licence from its current £697 to £1,100 – an increase of 58%.

The best areas with regeneration projects for investors

Urban regeneration brings with it a new sense of hope and expectation to previously rundown areas. In the train of those heightened expectations, new business opportunities thrive – including those for buy to let and other property investors.

In a recent article, Property Wire went one better and identified some likely hotspots for eager investors in regeneration areas.

Ranked by the rental yields the areas are currently achieving:

  • property investors in Dundee’s Waterfront regeneration scheme are reportedly achieving yields of 7.2% – in an area where properties may be bought for £146,000 and average rents charged at £881 per month;
  • runner-up in these investment stakes is Liverpool’s Ten Streets scheme, where yields are 6.4%; and
  • investments in Tribeca Belfast and Destination Bootle regeneration schemes are both achieving around 6%.

UK floorplan mismeasurement scandal

Beware the figure you are given for the total floor area of a property advertised by an estate agent or other seller. That is the message from a story published by the Express newspaper last month.

The article reminds readers that the floor area of any given property is frequently quoted in the marketing literature released by hopeful sellers. The problem is that the figure is often wrong – and frequently gives a false and misleading impression by overestimating the figure by an average 54 square feet.

Such misleading statements about a property’s floor area could be costing unsuspecting buyers thousands of pounds, says the story, leading to a scandal bigger than the mis-selling of PPI (payment protection insurance) some years ago.

Admittedly, the claims of widespread miscalculation are informed by a company manufacturing digital measurement tools which it says are “99% accurate”.

If you are having difficulty in letting your property, particularly in a fairly buoyant market, you might want to re-think your marketing and management strategies.

You are soon likely to discover that there is rather more to being a landlord than finding tenants for your property and then just collecting the rental income. You need to be able to manage your property efficiently while at the same time taking heed of regulations, as well as obligations that you may have to your tenants.

In short, getting the right sort of tenants for your property is by no means easy, even if the market is buoyant and in your favour.

You may wish to review our comprehensive Guide to Marketing your rental property – and, in the meantime, here are a few tips and suggestions to start the ball rolling.

Marketing

Consider where you are advertising and whether or not your chosen outlet makes sense in terms of your target tenant segments. For example, if you are keen to let to students then advertising on the internet and special student sites may be more successful than, for example, using conventional establishment newspapers.

Aggressively review your advertising approach. Once again, advertisements stuck in the local paper might be fine but if you are looking to attract tenants from other areas or move your property upmarket, then that might not be the best approach. Make sure that your advertising environment matches your letting aspirations.

Image

Different people want different things out of a rented property. Young professionals may typically incline towards modern clean lines and decor. Families may prefer rather more traditional and homely comfort type surroundings and perhaps a garden. Think about the image your property is presenting and whether it is appropriate for your target market segments.

Make a real visual impact statement – and in a positive way! Potential tenants may make a snap decision within a few seconds of seeing your property from the outside alone. Even if that impression is favourable, they may do likewise again within a minute of entering the front door. Therefore, make sure that externally your property is in tip-top appearance and that first-impression internal areas such as entrance hallways also have an equally favourable impact.

Viewings

Remember that viewings are a form of marketing and avoid making apologies. Potential tenants may be easily put off if they are greeted upon an initial viewing by a lengthy list of apologies for things that are wrong with the property. Make sure that nothing is so bad that you have to apologise for it.

Ooze professionalism on the phone and during viewings. Landlords who can’t find their draft tenancy agreement, are not sure what the utility costs are, don‘t know where the boiler is or who seem hazy on local amenities, simply do not help to market their properties. Have all your documentation and facts to hand and at all times appear to be in relaxed but total control of your business.

Be cautious with humour and storytelling. Jokes and banter do not always communicate well to other people and you may risk looking either flippant or offensive. It is also wise to avoid reciting past battles you have had with tenants or associated traumas. You want potential tenants to associate your property with the concept of hassle-free renting and not past problems.

Remember that tenants are your customers, so avoid lecturing or patronising them. Don’t attempt to lay down the law to insist from the outset just who is boss. That comes with the tenancy agreement if you reach that stage. Stay polite, professional and think of your activities as a business.

External appearance

If you are getting initial enquiries but find that these are not translating into viewings, it may be that the external appearance of your property is letting you down. Many potential tenants will do a walk or drive-past before arranging an internal viewing, so make sure that your property looks smart and tidy from the outside.

Internal appearance and amenities

Little is likely to discourage potential tenants more than a property that looks tired and tatty once they enter it. This may be particularly a problem if you are targeting families or young professionals. Getting out the paint and putting up some new wallpaper is neither expensive nor hugely time-consuming – but it may make a huge difference.

Make sure that appliances and lights are all fully working and in the case of gas appliances, that they have been subject to the legally required safety inspections.

Having home comforts that are more than minimalist may make all the difference in your success rate. Doing things such as fitting dimmer switches and adding a microwave to the kitchen, may increase people’s perceptions that you care about their comfort and suggest things such as lifestyle benefits.

Your duties and obligations as a landlord

Keeping yourself up to date with safety regulations which may typically include having all gas and electrical appliances serviced and certified at the start of each tenancy and annually thereafter (every five years in the case of electrical inspections).

If you are letting your property out on a furnished or partially furnished basis then you may have to ensure that all upholstery and soft furnishing fabrics conform to fireproofing regulations.

When you let your property out you have certain responsibilities regarding its condition and its general maintenance and adhering to those responsibilities may involve significant amounts of your time – and not only at times that are convenient for you.

You also need to be fully aware of the rights that your tenants may have and this may include the fact that you may have to give them adequate notice before you enter the let property to carry out repairs.

Further reading: Landlord legislation guide.

Protecting your property

Whether you manage and maintain your let property or use a letting agent or management company to help you out, you may be naturally concerned to protect your asset as much as you can. Suitable and sufficient landlord insurance provides just those safeguards.

Making sure that your landlord’s insurance provides you with cover sufficient for your needs by looking at features such as public liability cover, how to accurately assess the insurance value of your property and its contents etc. may be extremely important – or feel free to get in touch – we’d be very happy to help;

If you have a mortgage on your property, then you may need to inform your lender of any change of use of the property. Buy to let mortgages are obviously specifically designed for you as a landlord but if you have a regular mortgage then its terms may have been based on the assumption that you were living in the property yourself and this may need to be renegotiated if you decide to let.

Failing to meet your obligations as a landlord may not only have legal consequences for you but may also invalidate your insurance cover, putting your investment in your property at risk.

If you own buy to let property, landlord insurance is more or less bound to be a concern. You will want the cover to provide the protection and safeguards you need but at a competitive price.

So, let’s take a brief look at the typical profile of landlord’s insurance, how to home in on cheap landlord insurance quotes, and while we’re at it, also consider some of the other common issues landlords invariably find themselves thinking about.

Typical landlords insurance

At the core of the typical landlord insurance package is cover for three broad elements:

  • cover for the building;
  • cover for your contents; and,
  • landlord liability indemnity insurance.

For anyone running a business, taking care of the tools of your trade may be your number one priority. If you lose these or they are damaged, you may not be able to work and if you cannot work, you cannot earn income.

In much the same way, the building that you rent out is how you earn your income. If it cannot be rented out because it has been damaged, for example, then until you can make repairs your income stream may stop. If your property has been damaged by an insured event, landlord insurance will typically step in to help cover the associated costs.

Landlord buildings cover

  • buildings cover, as part of your landlord insurance, can provide financial backup that can help keep any interruption to your income generation as short as possible;
  • your buy to let property can suffer damage from a number of events that may typically be covered by buildings insurance – including damage from fire, flooding, storms, lightning, and earthquakes, for example;
  • some but not all, buildings insurance policies may also cover subsidence as standard – you’ll be pleased to know that we provide subsidence cover as standard with our let property insurance;
  • it is important that the level of cover for any buildings insurance is high enough to provide for the complete rebuild of your buy to let property (plus costs relating to clearing the site, surveyor’s fees etc.) if the damage is such that this is required;

Contents insurance

  • the extent to which you may need contents cover as part of your landlord insurance will depend upon whether you rent your property as furnished or unfurnished – if your property is unfurnished then your fixtures and fittings will typically be covered under buildings insurance;
  • if your rental property is furnished or part furnished you may opt for contents cover. How much cover you need will depend on the nature and value of the contents;
  • you typically have two options – new for old replacement or market value replacement – with the former more expensive than market value replacement for obvious reasons;

Landlord liability indemnity insurance

  • as the landlord, you are responsible if anyone is injured or has their property damaged, through some connection with your premises;
  • if you are found to be negligent in some way then the awards for damages against you could be substantial and landlord liability indemnity insurance protects you against those potential losses (subject to policy limits, terms and conditions);

Compensation for loss of rental income

  • if an insured event leaves your let premises temporarily uninhabitable pending repairs and reinstatement, you stand to lose valuable rental income;
  • landlord insurance may incorporate an element of compensation for that loss of rental income.

Cheap landlord insurance quotes

It is important when choosing your landlords insurance not to underestimate the value of your investment and belongings. Not having enough landlord insurance might prove an expensive mistake. If something does go wrong, you may be left in the lurch.

Tempting as it may be – especially at renewal time – to concentrate exclusively on what seem to be cheap landlord insurance quotes, be careful to ensure that they still provide you with the cover that you may expect or need.

So, what may be cheap insurance for one of your contemporaries may not be cheap buy to let insurance for you.

One of the problems with landlord cover that proclaims itself to be cheap is that the price you see may bear little or no resemblance to your final quote. This difference may be due in part to you having to add on features of cover not typically included as standard in cheap landlord insurance quotes.

With other quotes though, you may find that there are a lot of features already included in the price as standard. These may include things such as:

  • subsidence, we have mentioned already, and may be included in some landlord insurance policies – such as the ones we have arranged – but not with others;
  • similarly, not all policies incorporate compensation for loss of rental income – or, if they do, you might consider it to provide an inadequate level of cover;
  • restrictions on the type of tenants you can rent to – some policies may exclude certain categories of tenant, like students or DSS, from their landlord cover;
  • cover for malicious damage by tenants may tend not to appear in all landlord insurance quotes but it is available;
  • the repair of damage caused by tradesmen trying to locate the source of a problem may not always be included in some buy to let house insurance. The cover is known as ‘trace and access cover’ and may be applicable in cases, for example, where there is a leak behind a wall. Having your leak repaired but being left with a hole in the wall to deal with may not be your idea of appropriate insurance cover.

You will be pleased to know that when you get a buy to let insurance quote from us, the price will typically include all these products and features as standard, so you know exactly where you stand in terms of pricing.

While so-called cheap landlord insurance quotes are all well and good, you need to know what you’re looking for. Using our online quote and buy service, or by giving us a call, may help you find buy to let insurance that fits your budget and your expectations.

More things for a landlord to think about

Being a landlord involves a bit more than just finding a tenant, collecting the rent, and ensuring that you have adequate landlord insurance.

There are now legal obligations and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants and you, as a landlord, may need to know about these – and, more importantly, comply with them.

Your relationship with your tenants

A formal tenancy agreement may not be obligatory in all types of lettings (and also depending on where the property is situated in the UK), but you may find that even if there is no legal requirement for you to enter into such an agreement with your tenants, it may be in everyone’s best interests.

An agreement can formalise things such as:

  • the length of the tenancy and its start and end dates;
  • the rent to be paid, the dates on which it is due and how it is paid;
  • the deposit and how it is protected – the law is clear on the protection you must provide for deposits received from your tenants; and
  • who is responsible for bills such as utilities, council tax and such like.

This may mean that in the event of a dispute there will be no uncertainties of the type that may arise if you have entered into some kind of verbal, informal or implied agreement with your tenants.

Read our Guide to tenancies for more information.

Your property and its safety

Most properties, even those which are not furnished, may typically be let with appliances such as gas boilers, water heaters, cooker, and so on. As a landlord, you have a legal obligation to ensure that these are serviced once a year and at the beginning of each rental. Safety certificates – for both gas and electricity – are now required and these have to be issued by a qualified and certified professional.

If your property is let on a furnished basis then the fabrics used for your soft furnishings must all conform to fire safety regulations.

For more free information, tips and guides, please browse the rest of our website. Or, if you have a question relating to your landlord insurance, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01702 606301.

The English language seems to be lacking somewhat when it comes to words to describe that inner contentment, stability, and peace of mind we typically refer to as “wellbeing”.

Maybe it’s for that reason, therefore, that from time to time we look to borrow from other cultures to find just the right word to convey a lifestyle approach that summons up a sense of wellbeing a sense that, somehow, we can make everything that little bit better with the world.

Home furnishings website SCS has shared some of the tips and secrets of interior design that might bring greater wellness and wellbeing into your home.

Feng shui

Feng shui – literally “wind” and “water” in Chinese – is an ancient Eastern practice with a history stretching back at least 5,000 years. It has long been used to bring good health, prosperity and general wellbeing into people’s lives and homes.

2020 is an especially important year for feng shui, advises the Feng Shui Store, since this year of the Rat marks the very start of the cycle of the 12 animals in Chinese astrology – so you can expect major shifts in all manner of lifestyle energies.

Feng shui practices that can bring positive energy into your home include:

  • clearing the path to your front door or weeds, rubbish, and clutter;
  • place sofas and chairs where possible with their backs to the wall and a clear line of sight towards the door of the room;
  • concentrate on the sensitive use of colour and light – and remember that any mirrors should be hung to reflect the good and attractive rather than the bad;
  • fresh flowers add a positive and vibrant energy to any room – just remember to remove them once they begin to wilt and fade.

Hygge

Britons seem to have taken the Danish concept of hygge – pronounced “hoo-guh” according to Marie Claire magazine – is all about feeling warm, comfortable, and safe. As winter draws nigh, think cosy log fires, the flicker of candles, and comfy dressing-gowns.

As the concept has gained ground in this country, there have been endless arguments about the precise meaning of the word – and how to achieve it. Warmth and a laid-back and relaxed friendliness seem to lie at the heart of it – as you continue to strive for:

  • cosy intimacy in the furnishings of your home – candles lit and slippers ready by the door for visitors to step straight into;
  • natural colours, natural materials, natural fibres, and textures – a little bit of nature itself brought into your home;
  • maintain a cosy atmosphere and brighten things up with neutral rather than garish colours.

Lagom

Some would argue that the Swedish concept of “lagom” has overtaken the Danish inkling for hygge, according to an article in Country and Town House magazine recently.

It is another of those words that has no exact or precise translation in English but is popularly interpreted to mean “not too much, not too little, but just right”. In place of the cosiness of the Danish hygge, lagom seems to stress that there is virtue in moderation and that enough can often be as good as a feast.

In terms of interior decorating and lifestyle choices, therefore, lagom is most likely to involve:

  • simplicity – few accessories, no clutter and easy on the loud feature walls;
  • practicality and accessibility – that coffee table needs to be placed just within an arm’s reach; and
  • natural lighting, uncluttered windowsills, to let in the light – with colour and texture given by plants and flowers.

The ambience and atmosphere you create in your home may go a long way to encouraging your personal wellness and wellbeing – and concepts from other cultures may help you achieve those lifestyle goals.

If you are a landlord, you are almost certainly aware that some private rental tenancies specifically exclude benefits claimants or so-called ‘DSS claimants’ (despite the fact the Department of Social Security no longer exists).

A landmark court case – in a judgement issued by York County Court and reported by the charity Shelter on the 14th of July – ruled that the specific exclusion of such claimants may amount to discrimination and is, therefore, unlawful.

The grounds for discrimination

Legal action has been threatened before from tenants who have fallen foul of landlords’ ‘no DSS’ policies. In previous cases, however, they were settled out of court. The current ruling – involving a single mother given the fictitious name of “Jane” – is the first to have come before the courts.

In her ruling, the District Judge found that landlords who exercised a blanket ‘no DSS’ policy – in this case, rejecting applications solely because the prospective tenant receives housing benefit – are acting unlawfully. They are exercising unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sex and disability, ruled the judge. In contravention of the Equality Act 2010, explained a report by the BBC on the 14th of July.

Letting agents, OpenRent offered an explanation on the 27th of July. They said: “The issue is not the wording, but whether the landlord or lettings agent is universally rejecting all applications from tenants who claim benefits.”

Also, they noted that advertising ‘no benefits claimants’ or ‘no DSS’ could be interpreted as discriminatory. This is because women are more likely to receive child care benefits and any exclusion of tenancy applications from women might, therefore, be considered to discriminate against women.

A question of wording

The letting agents also make the point, however, that there is no suggestion of landlords being denied their right to pick and choose the tenants they want.

It is invariably a question of the landlord considering any tenancy application on its individual merits. Where the landlord may fall foul of the law – and the Equality Act in particular – is by adopting and specifically advertising a blanket prohibition against prospective tenants from any specific class or group, such as benefits claimants.

Still, other landlords, suggests the letting agent, may not overtly advertise a ban on tenants claiming benefits, but who are nevertheless exercising a “secret” ban on such applications.

According to Shelter, as many as 63% of all private sector landlords say they do not let to – or prefer not to let to – tenants who receive housing or other welfare benefits.

What can landlords do?

To stay on the right side of the law, look at your advertisement wording carefully and focus on who you do want to attract. By focusing on who you do want, you are allowing any potential tenant to self-select.  If, for example, you welcome tenants who receive benefits, then including that on the wording – ‘Accept DSS income’ or ‘DSS welcome’ type wording – means tenants in that category will quickly be able to identify you as someone who may accept them.

Finally, don’t forget to inform your lettings agents too of any updated wordings etc.

If you are a landlord, it naturally makes sense to have a good understanding of landlord insurance. After all, protecting the investment in your property may be high up on your priority list and buy to let cover may help you do just that. (In fact, if you have a mortgage on your property, then typically it will be a condition of the cover that you have adequate buildings insurance at all times in order to protect both your financial interests).

Landlords insurance doesn’t have to be either complicated or horrendously expensive. In fact, simple landlords’ insurance is available – and it may provide all the protection you need.

By the same token, though, it’s important to recognise that everyone is different. So, understanding that what is the best let property insurance for someone else may not be the best landlord insurance option for you is key. One of the ways to find the most appropriate let property insurance (in terms of the cover offered and at a price that meets your budget), is to compare landlord insurance quotes.

With that in mind, we share some tips on what you may need to consider when choosing your landlord insurance cover.

Comparing your cover options

Making a landlord insurance comparison isn’t as hard as it may sound, and it may result in your obtaining more suitable cover. Using our service, you can quickly access landlord insurance quotations to find the most suitable solution for you.

Although the price of the premiums you pay may be an important consideration, it is by no means the be-all and end-all of landlord insurance. Your property is a major financial investment and what may be far more important than a few pounds is finding cover that meets your needs.

The key message is to try and take a broader perspective than price alone. Remember that if you have a problem and wish to make a claim, the price you’ve been paying for your policy will not be a priority for you – only the cover it provides will be.

A cheap landlord insurance quote for someone else may not, in the final analysis, prove to be cheap or suitable for you.

Landlord insurance in outline

From the outset, remember that if you commence letting out a property or even part of a property (including your own home) you may find that you have invalidated your existing home buildings and contents insurance policy. The risks encountered by the landlord of a let property are of a different scale and nature to those faced by an owner-occupier. Any existing owner-occupier insurance you normally have may require replacement by an appropriate form of alternative cover – for example, simple landlord’s insurance.

The cover provided by such let property insurance should be relatively familiar – typically encompassing buildings, landlord’s contents cover (if required) and third-party liability protection.

How much landlord’s buildings insurance do I need?

It is important to note that the amount of your buildings cover may not be the same as any mortgage held, your buying price or indeed what you could expect to sell the property for – so getting professional advice on a suitable level might be a sensible idea.

The amount of landlord insurance buildings cover you opt for may be a contributory factor in the price of your buy to let cover. This ideally should be sufficient to cover all of the costs including architects, surveyor, legal fees, searches, and site clearance etc, of a complete rebuild of the property.

When calculating the amount of building insurance you need, also consider whether your policy incorporates cover against subsidence. Unlike ourselves, who offer subsidence cover as a standard element of a buy to let insurance policy, not all let property insurance policies provide buildings insurance cover for subsidence. Given that the cost of resolving subsidence can be huge, this is something it may well be worth checking.

Comparing landlord insurance

Other elements you might want to include in any comparison between landlord insurance policies might include:

  • Loss of rental income. Your property may be damaged to the extent that it is rendered uninhabitable by one of the events covered by buildings insurance, such as earthquakes, fires, floods lightning strikes, and the like. With most providers you’ll typically be covered for the repair costs, but can the policy also provide you with cover for loss of rental income when your tenants have to move elsewhere?
  • Malicious damage. Hopefully, it will never happen to you but if your tenants decide to maliciously damage your property, some landlord’s insurance policies – again, including ours – may cover that (limits apply) and others typically won’t;
  • Tenant restrictions. Not all insurers may be willing to offer cover for all types of tenant and may exclude students, the unemployed and benefits claimants, for example – other policies have no such restrictions, allowing you the freedom to do business with whomever you chose;
  • Flooding. Some policies may have special provisions relating to flood risks for properties located in areas with a known history of flooding;
  • Trace and access cover. Sometimes, tradespeople may need to cause damage to your property while they endeavour to find and repair the source of a problem (e.g. leaks) – some policies may cover such situations under what’s called Trace and Access cover, but other policies may not;
  • Contents. To make a landlord insurance comparison, you’ll need to look carefully at the policy’s position concerning landlords’ contents cover. Some may offer market value replacement – others may offer new-or-old. Both may have their advantages but it important to ensure that what is being provided actually meets your needs. Also, not all landlord contents insurance policies may offer the same levels of cover for some high-value items like entertainment systems, computers, and the like. Some let property insurance may have upper-value limits that may (or may not) offer adequate cover in your particular circumstances;
  • Accidental damage. Is there an option to have accidental damage cover included in the insurance for landlords?
  • Third-party cover. Court awards following a successful third-party claim against you may prove to be staggeringly high. Not all policies offer the same levels of cover and it’s something to look at;
  • Policy terms and conditions. Some policies providing landlord insurance may contain special provisions relating to things such as safety and security on your property. For example, they may require that you fit additional anti-burglary devices such as security locks and alarms and so on;
  • Unoccupied property insurance. Remember that typically a landlord’s policy won’t cover what’s called an unoccupied property, typically defined as one that has stood unoccupied for more than 30-45 consecutive days. Special empty property cover is required for that situation and it is worth checking the policy’s position.

Getting the most appropriate landlord insurance deal

To understand the cover provided by landlord’s insurance, it is necessary to spend a few minutes studying the policy details – preferably without being overly influenced by low prices alone. You will soon discover that not all landlord insurance policies offer the same types or levels of protection and you may find that some are more in keeping with your situation than others.

It is a fact of life that all insurance policies, including landlord insurance, will contain terms and conditions plus some exclusions – it is very important that these are read thoroughly and understood before making a purchasing decision, as they may significantly affect your ability to make a successful claim in certain situations.

Keep in mind when reviewing a landlord household insurance quote, that the quotation may be only an initial view of the final cost of the policy and it may also not necessarily contain full details of the final policy’s terms and conditions – to get a final price you may need to complete a full application and it will be important to read the full policy conditions before making a decision. Or, if you are unsure, you can speak to your insurance provider.

Some quotations may be illustrative and, in advertisements, it may not be unusual to see a clause alongside the headline figure stating that the price is subject to conditions – in practice advertised prices may be very much a best-case scenario and are not, in reality, a quotation as such.

The best landlords’ insurance quote for you may prove to be the one that you feel most closely matches your particular requirements for financial cover and which also offers you a cost-effective solution.

We hope these quick tips have given you some pointers on what you need to consider when choosing the landlord insurance policy that’s most suitable for you. If you have any questions relating to this or need assistance with your landlord insurance quote, please contact us. We’d be delighted to help.

Widespread approval from homeowners and buy to let landlords greeted the introduction of a stamp duty “holiday” when it was announced in the mini-budget or summer statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on the 8th of July.

So, what does that stamp duty holiday amount to and what do you need to know about it?

What does a “holiday” mean?

The stamp duty holiday simply means that the tax will be temporarily suspended. The suspension takes immediate effect and will last until the 31st of March 2021.

Is stamp duty lifted from the purchase of all properties?

The tax holiday applies only to property with a purchase price of up to £500,000.

The rate of stamp duty applied on purchases of property costing more than £500,000 continues to attract the tax at the normal rate. That is to say, 5% on homes costing between £250,001 and £925,000, 10% on those costing more than £921,001 and up to £1,500,000, and 12% on any property costing £1,500,001 or more.

Why has a stamp duty holiday been introduced?

The introduction of a stamp duty holiday is intended to kickstart the housing market, aid its recovery from several months of lockdown, and inject new energy into a sluggish economy, explained Landlord Today in an article on the 9th of July.

How much do buyers stand to save?

In an article dated the 15th of July, Property Reporter cited estimates prepared by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) suggesting that buyers might save an average of £4,400 on any property purchase – the exact savings, of course, depending on how much the home cost to buy.

As a result of the savings available, CEBR further calculated that an additional 101,000 property sales might be expected between now and the end of next March.

The article illustrated its calculations by showing how someone (not a first-time buyer) buying a property for £400,000 would normally be liable for stamp duty of £10,000. That figure is made up of the £2,500 that would usually be payable on the part of the purchase between £125,000 and £250,000 and a further £7,500 on the balance between £250,000 and £400,000. With a stamp duty holiday, therefore, the buyer makes a saving of the whole of that £10,000.

Since first-time buyers are in any case exempt from stamp duty on the first £300,000 of the price of their home, they would normally pay 5% on the balance between £300,000 and £400,000 – in other words, £5,000. Thanks to the stamp duty holiday, they now save £5,000.

To make things easier still, the Money Advice Service has published an online stamp duty calculator (incorporating the recent tax holiday).

Does the tax holiday also apply to buy to let property?

If you are a landlord purchasing a buy to let property or someone buying a second home, you enjoy the benefits of the current stamp duty holiday but must still pay the 3% stamp duty surcharge that applies to all such purchases.

Are the rules the same throughout the UK?

It is important to stress that the changes announced by the Chancellor on the 8th of July apply only to property transactions in England and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland and Wales – where property in any case tends to be cheaper – the threshold at which the local equivalents of stamp duty will be levied are raised from the current £145,000 to £250,000 until the 31st of March 2021, according to the Financial Reporter on the 15th of July.

You don’t necessarily have to be a perfectionist to want the best of something. When it comes to the best landlord’s insurance, you may just want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have done all you can to protect your asset.

The “best” though, can mean different things to different people. Landlords may have different views on which aspects of let property insurance cover are important to them and which aren’t.

So, in answer to the title, what is the best insurance for one landlord may not be best for you. The best policy for you depends on a number of issues and may be different from what constitutes the best policy for another landlord. No two landlords necessarily have the same attitude to risk and property management nor the same attitude towards what represents good value for money. For one landlord, a low cost, budget policy that gives basic cover at a cheaper price may be the “best” for him. While for another landlord, an all-singing-all-dancing policy that offers lots of benefits at a realistic price may be “best” for him.

That is why shopping around for the most suitable landlords’ insurance may be a preferable approach to just picking a policy out because it had the lowest price tag.

Here are some tips on what you need to know when looking for the most suitable let property insurance for you.

Building and contents insurance

Making sure that you have appropriate cover for your building and its contents is understandably important.

Although policies we arrange here at Cover4LetProperty offer a wide range of features and benefits as standard, not all policies do so – make sure to look out for cover such as whether trace and access cover is included. So if, for example, your plumber has to rip up some floorboards to find a leaking pipe, are these repairs covered?

Check:

  • if your property is damaged by an insured event and your tenants have to move out while work is completed, does your landlord’s insurance provide loss of rent cover;
  • whether the policy provide cover for all types of tenant or are some, like students, benefits claimants, or the unemployed. excluded;
  • is subsidence cover is included;
  • is the risk of malicious damage caused by your tenants or their visitors also included and, if so, is there a policy claim limit; and
  • that are you happy with the level of public liability cover provided by the policy.

The need for unoccupied property insurance

It is not just about your building, its contents, and landlord liability indemnity cover, however.

If your property is unoccupied then you may have to take special steps, in the form of unoccupied property insurance, to ensure that you have the most suitable landlord building insurance protecting you.

Unoccupied property insurance may be one of those things that you think you may never need. However, it may be easier than you think for your property to come into the “unoccupied” category and this applies equally to owner-occupier and buy to let properties.

In insurance terms, that may happen if your property stands empty for a period of typically 30-45 consecutive days or more for reasons such as:

  • refurbishment work may overrun through no fault of your own and in circumstances which are beyond your control;
  • you might encounter difficulties in finding new tenants, with the result that there is an extended gap or “void” between lettings;
  • probate or divorce proceedings;
  • you may have the opportunity to add a few weeks onto your annual leave and take an extended holiday; or
  • a business trip overseas may be extended, or travel plans might be significantly delayed.

You may need unoccupied property insurance cover because, when your property is empty, it is more vulnerable to different types of risk such as:

  • a minor problem going unnoticed and being allowed to get worse over time thereby causing more damage; and
  • unlit windows and uncared-for gardens that might be a giveaway for thieves and vandals who take the opportunity to carry out their work unobserved.

Unoccupied property insurance may incorporate terms and conditions, which may require you to take specific actions to try and help keep your property that bit safer when it is unoccupied. Typical measures, for example, might include:

  • visiting the property regularly to carry out ongoing maintenance;
  • keeping a log of visits and work carried out;
  • making sure heating and water systems are drained down and/or minimum temperature requirements are met (during the Winter months);
  • making sure that the garden is kept tidy.

In any situation where your property stands empty for more than 30-45 consecutive days and you do not have unoccupied property insurance, then even the best landlords insurance (or owner-occupier policy) may not provide cover for events after the 30-45 day limit and any claims may be rejected.

Information needed when you get a landlords insurance quote

Getting those landlord insurance quotes to fit your exact set of requirements can typically be easy and straight forward. With our service, for example,  you can use our online landlords’ insurance quote engine or get in touch via email or on the telephone. We will be more than happy to help you find appropriate cover.

It is important you have to hand the following information to enable your insurer  to provide a quote:

Finding out about you

  • in order to arrange the most suitable landlord insurance policy, any insurer needs to confirm your identity and take details such as your name, date of birth, address, and electronic contact details;

Finding out about your property

  • next, so as to give you an accurate quote, insurers typically need to build up a picture of the property you let;
  • those details are likely to include the full postal address of the property to be insured;
  • details of its method of construction (whether it is standard or non-standard);
  • information about the present condition of the property and whether it has been well maintained; and
  • whether the property is in an area that has suffered from flooding problems;

Value of cover needed

  • depending on the cover you are looking for, you may need to name figures for the buildings and contents elements of the policy;
  • the figure for buildings may relate to total rebuilding costs, including site clearance and professional fees. If you have recently had a survey done of the property – for a mortgage valuation for example – you may find that rebuilding figure is quoted there;
  • to accurately and comprehensively value the contents, you need to make a list of the things that you have inside the property that you are responsible for in your capacity as a landlord – in other words, you need to conduct a detailed inventory;
  • while making your inventory, also calculate the costs of redecoration and furnishings – this will enable you to make an informed decision as to how much landlords contents insurance you may need;
  • don’t forget to refer to any inventories that might have been prepared already – for further clarification as to what you need to get insured.

Who will be living in your let property?

This question is not just the insurer being nosy. Instead, it gives them an idea of the kind of tenant base your property attracts, and how risky a group of people they are.

The level of consideration given by any insurer to this aspect of cover may vary, but you may find that some insurers prefer to insure properties that are to be let to a certain type of tenant (for example, employed, professional or retired tenants only).

At Cover4LetProperty, however, the good news is that we have no restrictions on the type of tenants you let to. For an inside view on insurers’ attitudes towards different types of tenant, you might want to watch your video: Why are tenant types important to insurance companies.

Getting the best landlords insurance cover

To be certain of getting the best landlords insurance cover it is also worth your while spending a short time reading through the terms and conditions of any policy to ensure that you completely understand what is and is not covered.

If you are looking for the best landlords insurance, using a specialist website such as ours – backed up by telephone help, advice and support – may typically allow you to access specialist cover at a competitive price that matches your particular needs and circumstances as a landlord.

With house-hunters out and about, first-time buyers active, and government doing its best to stimulate the housing market, things are beginning to look brighter once again for anyone with an interest in property.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the news items shaping the present course of events.

Buyers leave London for more space

Now free to spread their wings and enjoy some time outdoors once again, house-hunters are looking to escape central London locations. Instead, a reported 83% are looking for homes in villages and 90% in countryside locations in the west and southwest, according to Property Industry Eye on the 25th of June.

The trend is confirmed by the number of new buyers signing up with estate agents outside the capital – 32% currently have addresses in London, compared to 21% of such house-hunters in 2019.

The most affordable homes to buy in Britain

With the property market on the move once again, it might be time to consider just how affordable your next home is likely to be.

In some parts of the country, for example, you might be able to get a foot on the property ladder for little more than twice your salary, reports the Mirror in a story on the 7th of July. Contrast this with other parts of the country, warns the newspaper, where you may have to spend up to ten times’ your salary just to afford a two-bedroomed flat.

The article lists the most affordable places in which to buy a home in the UK. Most of these are in the north of England (particularly County Durham) or Ayrshire in Scotland, plus the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. In all of these places, homes may be bought for prices as low as between 2 and 3 times local salaries.

Temporary Stamp Duty cut

During his mini-budget on the 8th of July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a temporary Stamp Duty holiday from now until the end of March next year.

For this period only, no Stamp Duty at all will be payable on properties purchased for less than £500,000. In its report on the mini-budget, the Times newspaper estimated that the Stamp Duty holiday is likely to save buyers an average of £4,500 on the purchase of their home.

As we reported last month, cutting Stamp Duty is expected to provide a kickstart to the re-emerging housing market and, because it is only a temporary holiday, buyers will be expected to act sooner rather than later when the full rate of the tax is re-applied.

Included in the same mini-budget, the Chancellor also promised a total of £2 billion in “green homes” grants. Households will be able to apply for grants of up to £5,000 for up to two-thirds of the costs of fully insulating their homes. Low-income households will qualify for grants of up to £10,000 to cover the full 100% of such costs.

Increase in demand for overseas properties

Online property agents Rightmove recorded a record one million searches in a single day from site users for overseas property, according to a story in Property Wire last week.

The sites highest number of searches peaked in June and reached a year on year increase in volume of 28%. The overseas section of its website has been 41% busier than in June of 2019.

Property-hunters were looking either for holiday homes or ones to which they planned to relocate. The most popular locations were Spain, where searches are up 25% compared with last year, France (32% up), Portugal (24% up) and Italy (17% up).

A spokesman for the website conceded that a somewhat fickle British clientele meant that searches for holiday homes dipped when the UK was enjoying sunny weather and bounced back again when skies at home turned grey.