Void periods are one of the biggest dreads of landlords. An empty property brings with it stress, additional workload and, most damaging of all, increased costs.
When your property is empty, the utility bills fall on you and, with the weather becoming decidedly chilly around Camberley as we head towards Christmas, keeping the heating running in an empty house is frustrating yet an absolute necessity to avoid the perils of frozen pipe work.
Follow our guide to easing the pain of an empty buy-to-let property, though, and you can protect yourself financially or, better still, avoid void periods altogether!
WHAT COSTS COULD I BE FACED WITH DURING A VOID PERIOD?
1 Mortgage payments
2 Utility bill costs
3 Local authority taxes
4 Marketing and advertising costs to find a new tenant
HOW FINANCIALLY DAMAGING CAN A VOID PERIOD BE?
Extremely damaging, but how much so will largely depend on how long the void period lasts, how much your mortgage costs are and the extent of your other costs.
As an example, perhaps you have a buy-to-let property with the following costs:
Mortgage: £600 per month
Electricity, gas, water: £80 per month
Council tax: £120 per month
All of that would mean you need to find £800 per month just for your property to sit empty. And that's even before you factor in additional marketing costs in a bid to find a new tenant, not to mention any routine maintenance bills as you keep the property up to scratch for those viewing.
WHAT CAN I DO TO ELIMINATE VOID PERIODS?
The chance of being hit with a void period is, unfortunately, extremely likely at some point during your property rental journey.
Research conducted by Statista found that the average void period between tenants was 2.7 weeks in the second quarter of 2018. That's a fair amount of time to be dealing with the costs mentioned above.
SO IF I CAN'T ELIMINATE THEM, HOW DO I MINIMISE VOID PERIODS?
The best way to avoid an empty buy-to-let property is to work hard on keeping your tenants happy.
Some buy-to-let landlords have managed to keep the same tenant for up to a decade! No void periods for a whole 10 years... imagine that!
However, that is the rare side of property investment. The laws of probability state that your property will be empty at some stage, but there are things you can do to minimise the impact - and keeping good tenants is key.
Ensure you keep on top of maintenance issues and make sure your property is well looked after. A huge issue for tenants is a landlord who doesn't respond quickly to problems, so keep the lines of communication open.
Try to avoid an increase in rent unless absolutely necessary. An extra £50 per month from your tenant might not seem a huge amount, but if your tenant is against a rise and moves out, you could be looking at that £800 void period we mentioned earlier.
It can also be worth actively marketing your property even with tenants in situ. The cost of doing so could be less than the cost of a void period, and could mean getting a new tenant in quicker and avoiding an empty rental property.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE RESERVES - AND INSURANCE
Move some of your rental income into a 'void fund' when you have a long-term tenant. Keep this separate from any maintenance or emergency funds you also may have so you are not tempted to dip into it to fix an issue at your property.
While landlord insurance might not always cover your standard void period between tenancies, some policies include a clause that protect you against a tenant not paying their rent. So, if you have to evict that tenant, the insurance can also protect you against the subsequent void period.