How to rent your property out in winter?

Does the market slow down in winter? Every winter we notice a slowdown in applications from prospective tenants looking for properties to rent. The obvious reason is that it’s winter, it’s colder, it gets dark earlier, and therefore tenants are less likely to move. In summer however, when it’s warmer and lighter for longer, and people are generally feeling happier, you will get much more movement in the rental market.

One way to combat the winter period is if you are fixing tenants, do not fix them to end over the periods of June through to August. By doing this, you can cut out the worst months and look to have you property go vacant over warmer periods and therefore you’ll have an easier time finding a prospective tenant to rent it. If you have a periodic tenancy, it is not as easy because a tenant needs to only give 21 days notice.

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Process after a natural disaster

If there ever is a natural disaster you want to look to take action if required. If you have a few properties, this isn’t such an issue because it’s simple for you to get in touch with each of your tenants and go around and see if there’s any damage to the property.

As you know, Wellington was recently struck by an earthquake of 6.5 magnitude and this resulted in a lot of damage around the region. It’s important that you do look to approach the tenants within a time frame of four to six weeks so that you can get them to have a look around to see if there is any damage. The tenant can’t do a detailed inspection, but what they can do is have a look to see if there is anything out of the ordinary that they did not notice previously.

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Use reliable tradesmen

When looking to get work done, don’t always shop on price.  Quite often you can look to get the cheapest tradesmen possible but the work you’re getting carried out reflects that.  You want to be using tradesmen that you can trust, that are going to do a great job, that are going to look after the rental when they’re going inside it, that the tenants can feel comfortable putting inside when they’re there or not there.  This is why you need to weigh up more factors than just price.

What we do at Rental Managers is we believe in offering a good service at a fair price for our clients.  What we do is utilise tradesmen that will offer a fair price but more importantly that we know we can give the job to and they’re going to give a great service. We know that we can leave them to get the job and report issues back to us if they’re more serious or to send us the invoice so we can pay it on behalf of the owner.

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Will your property go vacant if you put the rent up?

It’s a catch-22.  As a landlord, often you want to get the highest possible rent, but at the same time, being at the upper end of the market for where your property sits, you take the risk that once a tenant finds another property that is being rented at a lower price, they leave.

When you’re working out what you should rent your property for, you need to be realistic so that you’re not going to have a short term tenant who’s paying the rent you ask for now, but is always on the look out for another property.

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House insurance cover is changing

By now you should have heard that insurance cover for housing, including your rental property(s) is changing.

Before, most people were covered for a sqm market value or replacement value amount. Since the earthquakes in Christchurch, most, if not all insurance companies have changed their cover, and now you need to insure your property for a ‘sum value’.

To explain the changes, I have Chris Jecks from AJIB give some further details:

The Sum Insured Changeover – are you prepared

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Follow up in writing

Make sure that when you are managing your own property that you do follow everything up in writing. It is important that if any issues do occur, you have a timeline of events that you can provide should you have to go to mediation or the tribunal. Depending on the issue will determine how you follow up but essentially, you need to keep a log of phone calls that you have, you need to save text messages that you may receive and if there’s any sort of breach, you need to put it in writing and keep a copy of it.

Too often, private landlords will go to the tribunal and lose based on the fact that they don’t have the required information to prove that either any warning was given or that the correct processes were followed or even what dates these events did occur.

Here is our five step plan to ensuring that you keep adequate records and follow up accordingly:

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Breaching the Residential Tenancies Act

A tenancy can be terminated based on Section 56 of the Residential Tenancies Act, if the tenant has not paid rent or for other breaches according to the signed tenancy agreement. It is important that, if a tenant is breaching the tenancy agreement that they have signed with you, that you are following up with a letter stating that the tenancy can be ended if these breaches are not rectified.

Generally you will give 14 days for the tenant to remedy the situation. By giving them adequate time, you’re enabling them to tidy up, or sort out the issues for the breach that has occurred. Ensure, if you are using a property management company, that they have good processes and systems in place (i.e. they are proactive and not reactive to sorting out breaches such as missed rent).

Rent is possibly the most common breach of a tenancy agreement and you need to ensure that you are following up in a timely manner, rather than taking the tenants word that they will get their rent back on track. By following up you will be able to apply to the tenancy tribunal if the arrears are not repaid within the given time frame.

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Being Great at What you Do

What do I mean is this, when I’m talking to a property owner who possibly manages their own properties. What I mean is you want to be good at what you do. Don’t just go through the motions of being a property manager for your own properties ticking the boxes and getting by. Be great at what you do. Learn the Residential Tenancies Act so that you can be well informed at all times when making decisions on how your property is to be managed. You want to know exactly what the rules and regulations are when it comes to accessing the property, organising maintenance, issuing notices, collecting rent, applying to the tribunal, plus much more. There’s many different facets involved when it comes to managing a property, so you want to be good at what you do.

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Carrying out essential maintenance in a timely manner

If a tenant calls you to complain about a fault or something that needs addressing, you need to ensure that as a landlord, you are taking action to rectify the issue reported. If you do not do it within a reasonable time period, the tenant can issue you a 14-day notice and then apply to the Tribunal if you still have not done it.

One word of warning is that if the tenant is reasonable in the request that they’re asking and you do take a long time to get it sorted, the Tribunal does come down much harder on landlords than they do on tenants. We’ve heard stories about landlords that have been fined or tenants awarded compensation because maintenance has taken too long to be carried out.

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Can you require tenants to clean carpets at the end of a tenancy?

Currently, you are not able to incorporate a carpet-cleaning clause into your tenancy agreement. The reason for this is that it’s impossible for you to know what the condition of the carpets will be at the end of the tenancy. Therefore, the Residential Tenancy Act 1986 (RTA) prevents you from having this clause because how can you know what condition they are in when the tenant is to vacate.

In our opinion, tenants should have to clean carpets when they leave a property because there’s a lot of wear and tear that goes on with the carpets and it’s hard to monitor whether shoes have been worn inside, whether food has been dropped, or any other factor that may reduce the cleanliness and quality of the carpet. However, under the RTA, they are not required to. Even if you get them to sign a tenancy agreement with this clause in it, it does not mean that it can be upheld. It has been overturned numerous times at the Tenancy Tribunal.

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