Making rental income passive (enough)

“For every minute spent organising, an hour is earned.”

Benjamin Franklin

I hate stress, but I really hate it. I’m not mentally wired to handle the smallest amount of it. I’ll worry about the smallest thing. That’s why I try to engineer an easy, stress-free existence. Earning a rental income is often considered to be a hassle and not considered passive which many strive for. I used to think that too, but like anything, once you educate yourself, you realise it’s not true. There are ways to make rental income pretty much passive. My aim is to have an income stream that allows me to be location independent. Assuming you’re organised then rental income facilitates this. Here are my top tips for making rental income as passive and stress-free as possible so you can continue reading your book on the beach without worrying about a boiler breaking down.

1. Don’t use a letting agent to manage your property

Don't use letting agents if you want passive rental income

This might sound counterintuitive, however, not only do letting agents create problems, they use overpriced contractors and charge a monthly fee. Most issues that arise in your property are forwarded to you anyway, so cut out the middleman and save money to boot. You’ll do a better job because you care about your property, whereas, inexperienced property managers don’t. Another key advantage is you build a relationship with your tenants so they’re more likely to look after your home and renew the tenancy.

2. Know who to contact

When something breaks or needs a repair, make sure you already know who to contact versus frantically scurrying around. This would include, who to contact when appliances break down, boilers, central heating and pest control. Doing the research now and checking reviews will save you time and stress when you need to get someone to your property urgently. Here’s a list of situations and who I’d use:

Situation Action
Boiler stops workingI have an electric and gas boiler and know exactly who I call if either has an issue.
Appliance breaks downI have the serial numbers of each appliance (so I know the sizes) which makes ordering replacments on ao.com straightforward. If the appliance is new/ish then I would consider calling out Domex (an appliance specialist) for repair.
General maintenanceThis can be anything from painting, fixing doors/cupboards. ..any odd jobs. For this I normally post on MyBuilder.com. I now have a few contacts that I can contact directly.

3. Use vendors that work directly with tenants

Anyone that’s been the person in the middle when trying to arrange a convenient date and time between two parties knows it’s a pain in the backside. There are companies that are “landlord friendly” and work directly with your tenants which makes things much easier. This way the supplier and tenant work directly with each other and you receive the invoice once finished.

4. Give tenants a prepayment card

Payment cards help with passive rental income

To get the best deal with repairs, sometimes you need to pay cash and occasionally a supplier needs paying on-site. A workaround so you don’t have to be there is to leave your tenants with a prepaid card that allows them to withdraw cash and pay for things. It’s easy to transfer money on and off the card. There’s a list of prepaid cards on moneysavingexperts.com

5. Give tenants a 24-hour emergency contact

I have landlord insurance with Homelet and as part of their service, they offer a 24-hour contact number for tenants to call in an emergency. Homelet state that this phone number should only be used in “situations when not dealt with quickly, would make your home unsafe or insecure, damage or cause further damage to your home, cause risk or difficulties for the tenant.”

Additional 24 emergency contacts for tenants include:

  • National Gas Emergencies: 0800 111 999
  • Electrical outages: 105
  • Emergency services: 999

6. Write documentation

This can save frantic emails and phone calls in the future. I write “just moved in” documentation that includes things like where the bin sheds are, access codes and contact numbers. I also recommend writing “who to contact” documentation that covers a whole bunch of situations. If you’re travelling or going “off-grid” then you can add this to your email vacation response. Here’s a list of “who to contact” examples that I use:

SituationWho to contact
BoilerContact me to arrange, if you haven’t heard back from me within 24 hours then contact [SUPPLIER PHONE]
Gas leakCall National Gas Emergencies: 0800 111 999
Emergency (not gas)In a situation that isn’t dealt with quickly and would make your home unsafe or insecure, damage or cause further damage, cause risk or difficulties then call Homelet insurance: [HOMELET EMERGENCY NUMBER] and quote this policy number: [POLICY NUMBER]
Water leakIf there’s a leak from an upstairs neighbour then please knock on the neighbour’s door to stop the water leak. Also contact the property managing agent: [PHONE NUMBER] and me.
Front door lock needs replacingIf there’s been a forced entry and the front door lock needs replacing then contact: [INSERT NUMBER]. If required mention the lock uses a standard “euro cylinder”.
Replacement keysKeys are sent next day delivery, contact Ultion: [PHONE NUMBER] with your key serial number [SERIAL NUMBER ].
General maintenanceContact me to arrange
Electricity outage: Phone: 105 (Electricity helpline or your supplier’s helpline)

7. Fit Ultion/smart locks

If you’re overseas and a tenant gives notice then you’ll want to get a key to a letting agent for viewings. If you have a Ultion cylinder then you can phone Ultion with your key’s serial number and they will send a key next day delivery to an address of your choosing. I’ve recently been experimenting with smart locks which gives you added flexibility. I was recently contacted by a tenant who wanted to collect a spare key because she was locked out. An advantage of smart locks is tenants are less likely to get locked out, your door can be opened by installing an app on any smartphone.

8. Replace appliances before they break

It’s not unusual for appliances to last 10+ years. If you’ve had your money’s worth then consider replacing appliances before they break. It’s less stress for you and tenant when the oven or fridge-freezer being replaced isn’t an emergency. Tenants will like you for this too.

9. Prevent common maintenance issues

Under the incompetent management of Winkworth and PurpleBricks I was paying for similar issues to be fixed. I was frequently paying for re-painting in bathrooms and bedrooms that had mildew damage caused by excess condensation. I have since installed a condensation detecting extractor fan in the bathroom and purchased a tumble drier which has helped significantly. Other examples include replacing cheap internal door handles that were frequently breaking and replacing a shower curtain with a screen to prevent water damage on the floor. Preventive maintenance will save you money and reduce the number of times you get contacted.

Summary

Assuming you’re organised then rental income can be passive (enough). Sending the odd email really isn’t much hardship. All the tips above require you managing your property and not a letting agent. You will be able to implement systems and preventative measures that a letting agent will never do, moreover, you save money. If I’m on a beach somewhere and a tenant gives notice then I’ll begrudgingly pay a letting agent for finding a new tenant but I’ll always do the on-going management myself. Finally, if you have any tips of your own then please leave them in the comments below. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Making rental income passive (enough)

  1. Your ideas are definitely clever.
    I rent a flat directly from the owner, a friendly but deaf octogenarian. He did just the same. In the basement he has stuck on the boiler, the heater and the washing machine big labels with the repair service phone number, the serial numbers and the last maintenance date. If he is absent and there is a problem we can call directly.

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