Renovating a rental property

Rental properties are a great investment for landlords. By renting out property not only does the value of the property tend to increase over time, but also the monthly rental yield can be a reliable source of income - that is assuming you are able to find tenants.

One of the ways to help attract tenants and encourage them to stay is by maintaining your property well, or even renovating it entirely. You might purchase a property with a view to renovating it to create more space, or to attract a higher rent. Whatever your ambitions for your property, apply our tips below to ensure you make the most out of your investment.

When to schedule your renovation

You’ve been given notice by a tenant that they are moving, so an empty property is the perfect time for renovating rental property. If it falls in the summer then pick jobs that benefit from dry, warm air, such as plastering and painting. Be realistic about how long jobs take.

If you’ve only got a weekend between tenancies then you might have time for filling in some gaps in the paintwork, checking the light bulbs and perhaps giving your property a lick of paint before new tenants arrive. Give yourself a few days more and you might be able to tackle a bigger task like sanding down and varnishing floorboards or give the garden a good going over.

How to apply for council tax exemption

If your second property is likely to remain unoccupied for a period, it may be worth approaching your council to see if yours can be exempt from council tax for that time. However, councils can still charge for empty properties, though you may be able to pay less.

If you are carrying out a major refurbishment on an empty property then your council will issue you with a completion notice citing when you will be expected to begin paying again. For more information on council tax reduction or exemption, visit the government website.

Consider repairing before replacing

As a landlord you are running a business, therefore you are likely to be cautious about your overheads. You are entitled to claim tax relief on purchases like replacement furniture, replacing fixtures or fittings, or on any maintenance costs, such as ground keeping. The Wear and Tear Allowance applies most to fully-furnished properties for which furnishings, appliances and kitchenware require placement. However, landlords can’t just upgrade all items and claim the relief; rather items must be exchanged like-for-like, or for the nearest modern equivalent. More details can be found on the government website .  Be sure to keep receipts for any expenditure on property maintenance.

Don’t forget that a little bit of time spent on the occasional repair can be worth more than shelling out for new items, especially if the old item cannot be replaced easily.


If you’re short of time, then calling in the professionals to help with renovating a property can be worthwhile. Don’t struggle solo with large jobs that need more than one person, painting a stairwell for instance. Paying for someone to paint it who is equipped with the right ladder or scaffolding is a far better option than risking your own health and safety if you’re not equipped to tackle the task. Jobs like roof maintenance and rewiring usually require professional expertise. If you’re dealing with gas supply then it is a legal requirement to use a certified gas engineer.

Make materials work harder

When you’re refurbishing or updating a rental property think longevity. It’s no good furnishing your place with expensive materials that will see a lot of footfall and will wear quickly. Consider using tiles rather than carpet. Choose good quality flooring that can survive a lot of traffic, particularly in hallways and on stairs.

Mould-proof areas like bathrooms and kitchens. If you have more than one property it might be worth buying materials like flooring, carpets, paint, door locks, bathroom fittings and anti-mould products in bulk. And don’t scrimp on safety. As a landlord it’s your legal duty to supply furniture and furnishings that are fire safe. Make sure windows aren’t painted shut and that there are clear pathways to exit a building or property. More on this later.

Decorate for your target audience

Consider carefully who you are targeting with your property. It’s no good furnishing a trendy studio space in London in wall-to-wall chintz - or anywhere for that matter. Idiosyncratic interiors are likely to estrange rather than attract tenants. In general, the rule should be to go for neutral colours and unfussy designs so that tenants can make their home their own (within the parameters of your tenancy agreement, of course). 

In smaller, often more urban properties, investing in storage can be attractive to prospective tenants. Consider features like parking areas. Alternatively, a garden might be preferable to a drive, which might be better used by a young family. Getting your refurbishment right can add a 10% yield to your rental income, so it pays to spend a bit of time thinking carefully about how you’d like your property to attract that sum. Consider too the expenditure required to attract that income and whether it will pay off.

Your legal responsibilities and commitments

As a landlord you have certain legal responsibilities relating to the safety of your tenants. It’s important to keep up to date with your responsibilities and duties as legislation is regularly updated. If your property is powered by gas central heating then you are legally responsible for ensuring regular safety checks by registered gas safe registered engineer. Read more about fire safety in our article. 

The benefits of properly insulating property are generally known and they not only benefit renters but the environment too. From 2015 onwards, private landlords were required by law to make ‘reasonable energy efficiency improvements’ in rented homes. The new powers are published in the Energy Bill and are further outlined in their press release.  

Green touch

Whether you’re just giving your property a little update or a total refurbishment, be sure not to neglect outdoor spaces too. Gardens add curb appeal, provide a social space and are attractive to renters - particularly those in urban areas where space is in short supply. If you’re planning new structures be aware of building regulations that relate to garden buildings and sometimes even decking areas. Keep planting low maintenance and make sure trees are under control and not interfering with any building structures or pipework.

There’s more to looking after a rental property than simply doing it up. Be sure to have the right level of landlord insurance cover to guard your investment against the financial impact should things go wrong. Get a quote today.

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