Home » Landlord Guide: How to Self-Manage your Buy to Let

Landlord Guide: How to Self-Manage your Buy to Let

woman organising and managing herself

Are you thinking of self-managing your own buy to let property? With increasing interest rates squeezing landlords’ margins, managing your own rental property yourself is an easy way of increasing your profitability and net cash flow.

However, most letting agents will tell you that managing buy to lets is something best left to them. After all, the legislation keeps changing, and if you drop a ball, you could land in hot water.

That may be true. But you can save an average of at least £2,000 every year in property management fees if you manage your rental properties yourself. Sure it will take some of your time, but it’s not actually that difficult. Especially if your property has been recently refurbished.

An added benefit is that recent research from OSB Group shows that your tenants are likely to be happier if you manage your property yourself.

In this blog post, I go through the practicalities of managing your properties yourself, in this blog post. In doing so, I’ll share some tips from my four years of self-management, and show you that it really isn’t difficult to manage rental properties yourself. Provided you get organised.

>> Related Post: How to terminate the management agreement with your letting agents

>> Related Post: How to attract good tenants and keep them happy

This page contains affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking through, you’ll be supporting this free blog. Thank you!

Is it really feasible for landlords manage their buy to lets themselves?

self-managing landlord checking over a property

Let’s start by dealing head on with two common questions about property management.

Are landlords allowed to manage their own rental properties in England?

Yes! Some landlords don’t realise that there’s no reason they can’t manage their own rental properties themselves (once an agreement with a letting agent is terminated).

This means there is no legal reason why landlords without criminal convictions cannot self-manage their own buy to lets.

What should a landlord do to prepare for self-managing their buy to let?

There are no legal obligations on landlords of single lets to undergo any particular training, certification or accreditation before managing their own rental properties, unless their property is in a selective licensing area and the local authority requires it.

That said, I’d like to stress how important it is that you educated yourself about your landlord obligations. This applies even if you use letting agents, as the buck ultimately stops with the landlord.

However, there is no need to go on an expensive training course. You can become an Accredited Landlord with the NRLA after taking their Landlord Fundamentals module. The standard price is £64 for members, and membership comes with lots of other benefits. For instance, you’ll have access to their member helpline and get discounts from Carpetright and B&Q Tradepoint.

6 practical tips to help landlords self-manage buy to let properties

a landlord calling plumber Dave on iphone
Successful self-managing landlords create relationships with trades people who they can call in an emergency

Here are a dozen practical tips that help landlords manage their own buy to lets:

1. Prepare the property for letting

Repair everything that needs repairing before tenants move in. This will reduce the likelihood of being contacted to fix something after they’ve moved in. I do a thorough inspection of my buy to lets when they’re empty and make the necessary repairs then. This includes dripping taps, light fittings that have been knocked, plugs that don’t work and any obvious leaks.

I also go around with a paint brush to touch up the walls, and make sure everything is clean before the check-in inventory.

To save money on carpet cleaning, I decided to invest in this “Amazon’s choice” Vax carpet cleaner, which I and use to refresh the carpets myself in between tenants. It’s paid for itself many times over, and is less hassle than having to arrange a professional carpet cleaning company.

2. Establish how to communicate with your renters

Set up a way to communicate with the tenants.

I use WhatsApp groups for each of my buy to lets, and the tenants message me when they need a repair. I also use this to contact them when the gas safety certificate needs renewing or if I want to visit the property.

Tenant management software like Landlord Vision provide portals for tenants to log maintenance and communicate with landlords. If you don’t like the idea of having a WhatsApp group with tenants, yet still want to self-manage, it’s a good idea to use tenant management software to act as an intermediary.

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide: How to use technology to self-manage

3. Diarise when safety certificates are due

Make a note in your calendar for when the safety certificates are due to expire. I do this for 6 weeks before the expiry, which gives me time to contact the trades person and arrange for them to visit the property to do the test. Usually the trades person will contact the tenant and arrange a time direct.

Sometimes (for instance a single mother) my tenant may ask me to let myself in and be there for the person to do gas safety certificate.

Don’t forget to do a Legionella assessment once a year. The risk is likely to be low if the property has a combi boiler and doesn’t have a water storage tank. For more information, read the related post.

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide to Legionella Assessments

4. Carry out six-monthly maintenance visits

Carry out maintenance visits every six months yourself, in person. Make clear to new renters that you carry out maintenance visits every six months.

I really value doing the six monthly inspections myself. I call these ‘maintenance visits’, as it sounds more collaborative. Not only are they a great opportunity to see how the property is being looked after, they’re also time to check what should go on the maintenance to do list. I’m always on the look out for signs of damp and mould.

I always ask the renters if there is anything they’ve noticed that they think I should know about. And they invariably do mention something. I can also give them tips about the house. For instance, in a recent inspection, I explained why they should leave open the trickle vents in the cellar window.

I like to see the condition of the property myself, and not have it filtered through the eyes of a letting agent. If something needs repairing or replacing, I want to be the person who makes the decisions.

I usually arrange to visit at least 5 weeks before the gas safety certificate is due to expire, to see if any plumbing jobs need doing (eg dripping tap). It’s easy to add jobs to a gas safety inspection, and saves a separate call out

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide to Successful Property Inspections

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide: How to deal with damp and mould

5. Schedule planned maintenance and don’t penny-pinch

repairs and decoration to the outside of a freehold building
I planned the repainting of the exterior of this property a year in advance

If you keep on top of repairs and maintenance, not only will your renters be happier, you’ll also be looking after your valuable asset for the future. Don’t penny-pinch: do a proper job and don’t delay repairs. It won’t get any cheaper and won’t go away by itself.

Part of this is planning routine maintenance, for instance external painting, clearing of gutters, replacing windows. I have a running list of improvements that I plan for each property over the next 3 years. You can talk about your plans with your renters during the maintenance visits.

6. Get ready for emergencies

Emergencies do sometimes happen, like a water leak or a broken boiler. This is something that letting agents stress is the hassle of dealing with emergencies, and they use it as a reason for landlords not to self-manage.

I don’t get this. Sure, emergencies happen, but it’s hardly difficult for a landlord to call a plumber, gas engineer or locksmith. The letting agent or an owner occupier would do the same thing. If something goes wrong, I first call the regular trades people I use. If they aren’t available, I try the Checkatrade website, as they provide landlords with guaranteed trades people who will be happy to help.

Checklist of regular landlord safety checks

list of regular safety checks for landlords

In terms of safety, the graphic above shows the key regular safety checks that must be done for rental properties. Some need to be done once a year (eg gas safety certificate, carbon monoxide alarm testing, smoke alarm testing, PAT testing), and others every 5 or 10 years (EICR and EPC respectively).

To ensure all the safety checks are done on time, I put a reminder in my calendar for a month before each one is due. I then contact the tenant to arrange for the trade person to carry out the check by the due date, all from my mobile phone. I also have a list in an excel spreadsheet. It’s a question of getting organised.

The law imposes lots of repairing obligations on landlords. It’s not rocket science though. In a nutshell, landlords should ensure their rental properties are well maintained, fit for human habitation, and don’t contain serious hazards that may harm the people living there. And when a tenant reports an issue, it’s important to respond promptly.

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide to repairing obligations

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide to electrical safety

>> Related Post: Landlord Guide to fire safety

Using technology to make self-managing easier

There are lots of tech tools that landlords can use to mange their properties themselves, or by using a VA.

For instance, Alphaletz is a really user-friendly software platform that is even free for the first three properties. Landlords can also use tools like Asana and Trellow to manage tasks and projects. Finally, it’s easy to create a mini portal for tenants on a website.

For more details, look at my comprehensive blog post below:

>> Related Post: How can landlords use tech to manage their own portfolios?

Final thoughts

project dashboard

Being a successful self-managing DIY landlord requires organisation and a willingness to engage with tenants during six-monthly checks, and by phone/text. While this is not for everyone, I for one do not see that letting agents add value to the process for my small portfolio. Simple repairs are easy to organise, and anything more complex would require my approval anyway.

I would rather spend the £2k+ I save on the average fully managed fee on the repair and maintenance of the property, and spend a bit of my time organising the odd repair.

Some people don’t want to deal with renters directly, and value a buffer. Using a platform with a tenant management module like Landlord Vision can help. However, many have busy jobs and don’t want the hassle.

My decision to self-manage is made easier as I have the inclination (being a former lawyer!). I also have the necessary time on my hands. Having the properties near my home also helps considerably and I appreciate having Viewber as a back-up.

Finally, if you’re wavering, ask yourself whether you get value for money from outsourcing management. Maybe you’d be better off all round if you take control, and self-manage your buy to let investments.

>> Related Post: How to terminate the management agreement with your letting agents

You may also find helpful

How to self-manage your buy to let investment, woman with papers supervising decorators

4 thoughts on “Landlord Guide: How to Self-Manage your Buy to Let”

  1. Thank you Suzanne, this is really helpful. We have been thinking about self-managing our buy-to-let property for a while, as the letting agents seriously charge a hefty amount of commission for the most of work that can be done on our own. Your article simply gives me lots of confidence and the software you recommended is really what I have been looking for.

  2. Good morning Suzanne
    Lovely read on a breezy, wet Friday morning in Wrexham. I couldn’t agree more with your self manage breakdown. I have 4 properties and do all management & maintenance myself. If you get the property mint to start then it’s like you say regular inspections checking everything. I’m a believer the property has to breathe and educate my tenants that way. It’s a great business if your passionate about it so why would you ever give comminlsion to an estate agent !! Proactive is key 👍

    1. Thank you! I wish I had the skills to do more maintenance myself like you. I can do basic painting, but I have to shell out for the rest! Being proactive is so important, as is educating your tenants, in a nice way. I think a landlord who cares about the property can do that so much more effectively than letting agents.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top