Apart from agency fees and mortgage costs, the principal overheads associated with a property portfolio relate to maintenance and landlords insurance. If this sounds like we are mixing together two separate topics, then you might like to consider that maintaining your property in a good state of repair is an important factor in keeping down the costs of landlords insurance.
It is not that landlords' insurance premiums are directly related to property condition; however there is an indirect link that can make considerable difference to you. This is because the total cost of insurance is not just the premium, but also how a claim is settled. Failing to keep your property well looked after might not directly increase your landlord insurance premiums, but insurers may not wish to cover a poorly maintained property at all. And when it comes to paying a claim, the insurance company will look carefully at the state of the property to ensure that there is no degree of “betterment” in the settlement.
In other words, if premises already needed significant repairs before they suffered fire damage, the insurance company, when considering how much it will pay out for your fire claim, would take into account the money you would have had to spend on making them good in any event.
It is no good thinking that the building will be so badly damaged that the insurance company will never know – the majority of claims are not for total loss but for partial damage so there is likely to be plenty of evidence about. And even if the premises are totally destroyed, the underwriters may well look at the balance of your portfolio for an indication of how good the level of maintenance was.
If this sounds a bit too much like “big brother” for your taste, it is worth remembering that the money insurance companies pay out in claims comes from your landlords insurance premiums, so you do not want them paying out more than necessary to other people, or you will end up paying for their largesse.
Of course, it is important to ensure that you have the right landlord insurance in the first place. For residential buy-to-let properties, a standard home insurance policy will be unsuitable, partly because there is likely to be a condition that you are occupying the premises yourself, but also because some of the covers you will require are likely to be missing.
For example, only a special landlord's insurance policy is likely to include insurance for loss of rent and to cover the cost of re-housing a tenant following damage (this is typically up to 30% of the buildings sum insured).
Similarly, most conventional home insurance policies will not cover extended periods of unoccupancy between lets, whereas a specialist landlord's insurance policy will be more flexible, albeit subject to some sensible precautions being taken.
Specialist landlord's insurance policies are also likely to be more accommodating when it comes to property construction; imposing additional charges only on exceptional properties such as those constructed substantially from timber or with a thatched roof. They will also include employers' liability insurance, which is essential if you use direct labour for cleaning, repairs and so on.
Many of the landlords associations provide insurance schemes designed especially for buy to let investors and offering enhanced benefits and reduced costs for members. For many landlords, it is worthwhile joining one of these associations simply to take advantage of the competitively priced insurance deals.