When you’re setting out as a landlord, or even when you’ve been a landlord for a while, it can be difficult to know what you should put in unfurnished rental properties. Some of it is a grey area, depending on personal preference and target market. Others are legal obligations.
Undoubtedly, the more a landlord provides, the higher the start up costs and running costs when the item wears out or breaks.
However, it’s about getting the balance right so that the property doesn’t end up in a no man’s land of “part-furnished”, which is costly, and which might not be what your target renters are looking for. On the other hand, some little touches, like curtain poles and bathroom cabinets, do make settling in easier for renters.
In this blog post, I’m first going to explain what landlords must put into their unfurnished rental properties by law in England and Wales. Then I’ll discuss what landlords often provide, and finally what falls into the “nice to have” category, all while making sure we keep on the “unfurnished” side of the line.
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At a glance
- What are the “must haves” for unfurnished rentals?
- Proposal for a Decent Homes Standard for the English PRS
- Which items do most landlords provide in unfurnished rentals?
- Which other items do landlords sometimes provide?
- Final thoughts
What are the “must haves” for unfurnished rentals?
Let’s start with the handful of items that landlords are legally obliged to provide in unfurnished rental properties, beyond the basics like a boiler, heating, toilets and a bath or shower.
As you can see in the graphic and the text, the compulsory items relate to safety and the basic facility to cook.
I give more detail below on what landlords must provide in all rental homes in England as a matter of law.
The situation in Wales has become more complex since the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 came into effect in December 2022. However, the Guidance for Landlords in Wales is fairly comprehensive.
1. Smoke alarms
Smoke alarms must be fitted on every floor, and tested every year.
In England, they can be battery operated. In Wales, smoke alarms for new tenancies, now called occupation contracts, have needed to be hard-wired since 1 December 2022. Landlords with tenancies in place before 1 December have until 30 November 2023 to arrange the fitting of hard-wired smoke alarms. Click here for more information on occupation contracts in Wales.
Landlords in both England and Wales must provide least one smoke alarm on each storey of their properties with living accommodation. For instance, if the cellar or loft are not habitable space, smoke alarms are not necessary.
Do follow the manufacturer’s instructions but, as a rule of thumb, battery operated smoke alarms should be fixed to the ceiling in a circulation space such as a hall or a landing. Electricians can fit the hard-wired alarms.
Here’s a link to buy a single Kidde 10 year life sealed battery smoke alarm from Amazon. This link is for a Kidde pack of two. These are battery-powered and are suitable for single lets and serviced accommodation in England.
2. Carbon monoxide alarms
Landlords must provide carbon monoxide alarms in every room where there is a “fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers)”. In practice, this means boilers, wood-burning stoves and other operational fireplaces. They also must be tested every year.
For my properties, I buy the Amazon #1 best selling Kidde carbon monoxide alarm with a battery that lasts 10 years – here is a link to buy it on Amazon. It’s very good value and is easy to install. I make a note of the expiry date in my electronic calendar. For landlords with large portfolios, the dates can be entered in their property management software.
Click here for the government guidance on CO2 alarms.
3. Light fittings
Light fittings should be safe and in any event the property will need to have received a satisfactory EICR within the previous 5 years.
4. Cooker and hob
Technically, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which came into effect in England in 2019, refers to “facilities for preparation and cooking of food”. However, the landlord guidance doesn’t spell out exactly what this means.
Providing a cooker and hob would mean you definitely comply, and it could be a mini version, like this one from Amazon, in a bedsit for one. I think it would be difficult for a landlord to argue that a microwave alone is enough.
Equally, if a landlord supplies a cooker and hob (or a mini version if suitable), they wouldn’t be legally obliged to provide a microwave as well.
In Wales, the guidance for the equivalent legislation, ie Part 4 of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 , doesn’t state that “adequate cooking facilities” need to be provided. Instead, paragraph 16 says that “facilities should be of adequate size for the household with appropriate connections for fuel (gas or electricity)” for it to be fit for human habitation.
The landlord must provide appropriate flooring for renters. Exposed floorboards are acceptable, so long as they are safe to walk on. Leaving underlay and grippers for the tenants to put carpet on top of is not acceptable.
6. Secure doors
The external doors need to be secure and have locks that work properly. It’s good practice to change the locks in between tenants, and definitely after buying a property. The photo below is of a local locksmith changing the locks shortly after completion on one of my buy to lets.
Proposal for a Decent Homes Standard for the English PRS
In September 2022, the Department for Levelling Up launched a consultation into adapting the Decent Homes Standard used in social housing for the private rented sector in England. The proposal builds on previous law, with a new obligation to have reasonably modern facilities, as follows:
- a kitchen with adequate space and layout, appropriate to the property (sink, cupboards, cooker space, worktops etc)
- an appropriately located bathroom and WC
- adequate external noise insulation, and
- adequate size and layout of common entrance areas for blocks of flats.
The consultation ended in mid-October. Watch this space – I will update this post when the Department publishes the results of the consultation. It may be included in the much awaited Renters Reform Bill.
In Wales, the equivalent information for landlords is provided here: Fitness of Homes for Human Habitation: Guidance for Landlords. It came into effect on 1 December 2022.
Which items do most landlords provide in unfurnished rentals?
The next category is those items that landlords typically provide in unfurnished rental properties, without it being a legal requirement. The exact choice will depend on the type of tenant and what is usual locally.
Which appliances do private landlords need to supply in rented properties?
As mentioned above, landlords must supply a cooker and a hob for the property to be fit for human habitation. A microwave is a nice to have, and not a necessity.
If the kitchen is fitted with space for integrated appliances, these should be supplied by the landlord. A tenant does not usually buy integrated appliances for a fitted kitchen. For free-standing appliances, beyond the cooker and hob, it’s up to the landlord.
Appliances are expensive items and are prone to breakages. The more the landlord provides, the more “emergency calls” for when they break.
Most landlords provide a freestanding (or integrated) fridge freezer, although it isn’t compulsory. It’s a fairly low risk / high reward option to provide, although I would avoid one that chills water or is an ice-maker. I also choose one with a long guarantee, just in case.
It’s standard for there to be plumbing for washing machines and, increasingly, dishwashers. However, in my area of Kent, it is rare for a landlord to provide a washing machine or tumbler dryer in an unfurnished property, unless the appliances in the kitchen are integrated.
Additionally, if the landlord provides freestanding appliances and other “portable” electrical items, it is important to arrange regular safety testing. Having a regular portable appliance testing is an easy way of keeping on top of this.
If you do wish to buy appliances, I recommend AO.com as their prices are very competitive and they are easy to order on their website. I use AO.com for all the appliances in my buy to lets. In fact the image above is a photo I took when they delivered a lovely stainless steel effect Bosch fridge-freezer to one of my rental properties in 2022. Also in that delivery were a stainless steel Bosch electric oven and a Bosch gas hob. (I’m a bit of a Bosch fan – it’s an affordable yet high quality brand that renters recognise and value).
2. Windows: curtains, blinds, rails, poles?
Landlords are not legally required to provide curtains or blinds for tenants. However, most landlords do provide something to help tenants cover the windows in at least the bedrooms and living room.
It’s common practice for landlords to provide curtain poles, curtain rails, or blinds for the bedrooms and main front room.
Personally, I always provide curtain poles or rails in the bedrooms and front room. I supply curtains if they were already there when I bought the house, so long as they are of the right standard. However, I don’t buy curtains, because of the cost, and also because renters often want curtains to go with their furniture and pictures.
As well as being nice for tenants, it’s a wise decision to provide at least curtain poles or rails, and it prevents tenants from drilling holes to do it themselves, which could lead to wall damage. The photo above is of a curtain pole that I installed for a bay window. It was difficult to put up, and something I’d much rather arrange myself so I know it’ll be done properly.
Take care with blinds, as they need to comply with child safety standards.
3. Bathroom fittings
Landlords often provide bathroom cabinets, (heated) towel rails, hooks and loo roll holders. Again, it avoids the tenant needing to drill items into the walls. These aren’t legal obligations, but they’re a nice touch.
An extractor fan for the bathroom is very common and wise addition. Although it’s not compulsory to install an extractor, it’s definitely worthwhile as it helps reduce the risk of damp and mould.
Which other items do landlords sometimes provide?
There are a number of low cost basic household items that renters will need, and which can be easier and safer for the landlord to supply. Also, they all fall short of falling over the “furnished” line.
As well as the bathroom fittings mentioned above, landlords often provide lamp shades, door mats and a kitchen rubbish bins. These are are popular and inexpensive, which landlords can easily replace if need be.
I also provided the new Flymo mower for my last rental property that you can see in action in the photo above. The reason is that I’d had the lawn re-laid, and wanted to make it easy for the renters to cut the grass!
Apart from the compulsory items, there is no right and wrong regarding how much further to go. All additional items incur expense, which reduces net profits. On the other hand, the can improve the renter experience and give a great first impression. It is a good way to show that their landlord has their interests at heart.
If you’d like to understand how to be a good landlord, take a look at the 5 hallmarks of a good landlord.
Finally, being a good landlord and looking after renters, is good business. And it is about getting the balance right for you and the needs of your target market.
You may also find useful
Landlord Essentials: What to get for your buy to let
What Landlords in Wales need to know about Occupation Contracts
Fire safety rules for UK landlords
What all new landlords need to know
Which repairs must landlords carry out in the UK?
How to find renters without agents