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Landlords see void periods shorten in ‘healthy’ market

Lengthy void periods are something every landlord wants to steer clear of, and 2022 has been a top-performing year when it comes to money lost through empty rental homes.

One of the major measures of the viability of a buy-to-let property investments is the length of void periods experienced by the landlord. This is when a property sits empty in between tenancies, and the longer this happens, the more the landlord loses in rental payments.

New research from Total Landlords Insurance has found that the national overall void period average for 2022 so far is 2.6 days less than was recorded in 2021. This is estimated to have reduced costs for landlords by an average of -7.4%, which is a particularly significant saving in the current climate.

It shows that the country’s rental market is continuing to return to full strength after some difficulties faced during the pandemic, including lockdowns and eviction bans, with tenants moving more freely. The heightened demand being seen in the current market is also seeing homes being snapped up apace.

How long do most properties sit empty?

The latest data from Total Landlords Insurance reveals that void periods in England are currently an average of 16.8 days. This is the time it takes from the date of a previous tenant moving out until the new tenant moves in – so just over two weeks.

In terms of how much this costs the landlord in lack of rental payments, the average monthly rent at the moment of £940 equates to a date rate of £31 per day, bringing the void period penalty to £518 per year for landlords.

Regionally, some areas fare better than others in terms of how quickly landlords’ properties are snapped up by eager tenants, and the amount void periods have reduced on an annual basis also varies greatly. For example, in the north west, void periods have reduced by the largest amount, down by 4.9 days to 17.4 days.

For landlords operating from this region, this means a cost saving of 15.2% based on Total Landlord Insurance’s figures, which is extremely significant.

The shortest void periods overall can be found in London, where most landlords see their properties sit empty for an average of 13.3 days. Due to the fact that yields can often be lower in the capital than in England’s regional areas, this will make a big difference to the landlords operating there.

Keeping void periods down

Ensuring your rental home is occupied at all times – unless undergoing renovation work – is key to its profitability. A well-presented, appropriately priced property in an area of high demand is likely to be taken off the market quickly, although there are other factors at play.

Property investors are therefore advised to select their property locations carefully with this in mind. Not only that, but offering adding extras can make your property stand out from the rest and could ensure even shorter void periods.

For example, energy efficiency is a key selling point for many tenants at the moment, so landlords should use any related features when marketing their homes. This could include double glazing, draught proofing or energy efficient appliances. You could also have your EPC updated if you believe it could be higher than is registered.

Steve Barnes, associate director of Total Landlord Insurance, said: “The viability of buy to let property as an investment relies heavily on void periods being kept to an absolute minimum.

“Under normal circumstances, this can be done by ensuring a top tenant experience and utilising astute property management. The pandemic, however, was anything but normal which meant that 2020 and 2021 were some of the most void-heavy years in recent memory.”

Barnes concluded: “It’s great to see the numbers declining across every region of England this year. We just have to hope that the current cost of living crisis doesn’t cause voids to once again rise as more and more tenants start to struggle to keep their heads above water, financially speaking.”

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