When lockdown measures were introduced in March 2020, the operational impact on landlords was huge. In April last year, our COVID-19 impact monitoring found that lettings were down 77% on the previous month, creating an estimated backlog of around 45,000 additional vacant homes.

Lettings activity did improve in subsequent months, but in March of this year the sector was struggling to catch up, and at year end vacancy rates were 46% higher than ‘normal’ times.

During the eighteen months we have been tracking re-lets and vacancies on a monthly basis, we have recorded a slow recovery towards pre-pandemic levels, with several bumps along the way. Whereas some landlords’ activities were able to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic, others have become embroiled in post-pandemic problems, and the issue of increased numbers of void properties has continued to challenge the sector. Our latest Monthly Pulse report showed that various issues ranging from residents not wishing to move to delays with council allocations services, combined with the problem of building materials and labour shortages, are holding back an increase in re-lets and a corresponding fall in vacancies.

The loss of rental income from void properties represents a very real threat to a landlord’s bottom line, which can have a knock-on effect on other areas of the business including repairs and maintenance, building safety and financial viability in the long run.

Additionally, when a home is left empty for a long period of time there can be a whole host of problems with the property including vandalism, illegal tenants and potential reputational damage.

Top tips for effectively managing voids

Put processes in place to help minimise delays

When a tenancy ends, carry out a pre-leaving inspection process where you find out why they are leaving, what repairs need to be carried out to quickly re-let and any damage that needs to be paid for. Have a standard checklist which you can go through to identify defects and works needed and consider what can be carried out before the resident leaves to speed up the process.

Listen to your customers

Listen to your customers and use this insight to help inform your voids management process. Discover why your residents want to leave a property and if a tenancy offer is refused, ask them for feedback on why and consider what actionable insight you can learn from.

Also speak to residents that live next to empty homes to understand the impact of void properties in their neighbourhood, and what you can do to address any concerns.

Harness the power of data and insights

Harness the power of data and insights by taking a deep dive into your voids performance. Analysis of your performance and cost data can help you to better understand the relationship between voids, routine maintenance and reactive repair spend, as well as how you compare in the context of the wider sector. We’ve worked with organisations to improve void turnaround times, resulting in increased rental income and reducing financial wastage.

To discover more about how our consultancy services can help you in this area, contact info@housemark.co.uk.

Join Housemark’s Voids Club

Our Specialist Clubs provide the perfect platform for professionals from across the housing sector to join a network that lets them access best practice, the latest thinking and unique networking opportunities. There’s still time to join our Voids Club for the final meeting of 2021 and explore solutions to maximise income and minimise risk. The preview programme for our online Club meeting on 25 November is available to view here. To join us, contact monika.edwards@housemark.co.uk.