Ideally, your investment property should always be occupied. In the real world, however, that is not likely to happen, even in the residential rental market and it is even less likely to happen in the short-term lettings market.
However you will need to learn how to manage an empty investment property. Here are some tips.
Decide what security you need
If your property is likely to be empty for an extended period, e.g. it needs significant repairs/refurbishment or it’s a “seasonal” property such as a holiday let, then you may want to implement some fairly robust security measures, such as boarding-up windows and adding extra security doors.
If, however, you are just “between tenants” then these kinds of measures are probably going to be more hassle than they’re worth and you would essentially take the same sort of precautions as you would if you were going on holiday.
On that note, if you are planning on upgrading your front door at any time, then you might want to remember that solid doors, by definition, stop people seeing what is on the other side of them, e.g. if there is any mail built up on the other side. It also helps to use an insulated letterbox to make it harder for people to peek through it.
Make sure you get all bills directed to you
In principle, you could have your tenants end all utility contracts, but in practice it is usually more sensible to leave them in force, unless you are very sure that the property will be uninhabited for an extended period and even then it could be worthwhile to keep the heating and hot water running to a certain extent to stop damage caused by cold.
In particular, it usually works out a whole lot cheaper to keep a bit of warmth in the property than to have pipes freeze and then flood.
On the other hand, you probably want to unplug all appliances, partly for safety reasons and partly because they will generally consume electricity even on standby.
You’ll also want to let the local council know that your tenants have vacated the premises, under current rules; if a property is empty it can be exempted from Council Tax for up to six months. You may also need to let your insurers know although this would depend on your policy.
Take the opportunity to give the property a general spruce up
In addition to taking care of repairs/maintenance, this is a great opportunity to give your property a thorough clean, literally top to bottom, inside and out, especially the latter. Your tenant was responsible for keeping the house in reasonable order but they were definitely not responsible for jobs such as cleaning roof tiles.
You can take advantage of your tenant’s absence to use the bins for any rubbish this generates and, on that note, make sure that the bins are emptied. Your previous tenant may not have taken them out before they left.
Last but by no means least, think about giving your property a bit of a cosmetic upgrade, even if it’s only a coat of paint.