Furnished or unfurnished lettings – a guide for landlords
To furnish or not to furnish? That is the question facing many landlords. The decision is a multi-faceted one, with many things to consider: the target tenant profile, health and safety, affordability and insurance cover.
Let’s think about some of the factors you will need to consider in deciding whether to furnish.
What does “furnished” mean?
It’s worth considering what we mean by “furnished” and “unfurnished”. In the UK, almost all rental properties are furnished to some extent; they are expected to have furniture such as a cooker, fridge and perhaps a washing machine.
Furnished properties might have everything a tenant needs: beds, tables, living room furniture, perhaps even smaller items such as saucepans, storage units and rugs. Part-furnished properties may offer only what a tenant needs or the landlord can provide – for example, a property might have beds but no sofa. An unfurnished property usually retains a few furnishings – curtains, carpets and flooring.
Letting unfurnished property
If you know your tenant profile well, there is much to be said for letting a property unfurnished. Renting an unfurnished property means the tenant will have to move existing furniture in, or purchase new items to fill the property. This is likely to be an incentive to take a longer tenancy on the property because moving would involve inconvenience and extra costs.
Letting a property unfurnished means you save yourself the headache of dealing with tenant complaints about faulty furniture, or possible legal claims resulting from furniture causing accidents. You don’t need to insure the tenant’s own furnishings and you will not need to keep replacing items as they wear out.
Target tenants for furnished property
Furnishings often mirror the lifestyle of the tenants who will be living in the property. Ideally, you will have a clear idea of the kind of tenants you want to attract: for example students, young professionals, families with children, older couples or individuals.
For students and families with young children, furniture should be robust and not too expensive, as there is a fairly high chance that it will be damaged. Young professionals want more stylish furnishings, typically something simple and plain so they can add their own finish with cushions, rugs and ornaments.
Older people are likely to have different taste from younger tenants, favouring traditional furniture and colour schemes rather than a stripped-back modern look. They may also place more importance on comfort than appearance.
Health and safety
This is a very important factor to consider in choosing furnishings. Firstly, if furniture is faulty and it causes an injury, you could be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. For example, a second-hand chair may have a faulty joint which collapses when someone sits on it.
Fire safety is also a major concern. As a landlord, you are responsible for ensuring that the furniture you supply is compliant with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. Each non-compliant item could attract a fine of up to £5,000 and you could also face criminal proceedings for manslaughter if non-compliant furniture is found to be a cause of death.
You should also make sure you comply with requirements to check gas and electrical appliances regularly, obtaining certificates where required. Fire blankets and extinguishers should also be provided within the property.
Affordability of furnishings
Of course, money might be influential in your decision whether to furnish a property. It can cost anywhere from several hundred pounds to many thousands to furnish a property, and not all landlords have ready access to these funds.
Buying low-quality furniture is likely to be uneconomic in the long run as you will need to replace the items more often. Furnishings should be easy to clean, with wipe-down surfaces and washable covers. Hard flooring is likely to be more durable and easier to clean than carpet.
Why you need insurance
If you’re investing in furnishings for your rental property, you will want to protect your outlay with a good insurance policy. Whether this is a contents policy, public liability cover in case a tenant injures themselves on some furniture, or a policy covering you for malicious damage to furniture, insurance will help you maintain the standard of the property.
Is it time for you to improve your insurance? Why not contact Stride to discuss your needs?