In their different ways, national government, local government, landlords and aspiring landlords all share an interest in improving the quality and volume of the nation's housing stock.
Although grants for this are available to landlords, however, the picture may be confused at times because of the different policies at national and at local level.
A good illustration of the potential for confusion is in the grant funding available to bring empty or abandoned housing back into use.
According to the Homes and Communities Agency, empty housing accounts for no less than 3% of England's total housing stock - that represents more than 700,000 dwellings. Within the government's Affordable Home Programme for 2011 until 2015, therefore, some £100 million in funding is being made available by the Homes and Communities Agency to help bring back empty housing into use.
The amount of funding is allocated on a regional basis, so it may depend on just where you intend to do business as a buy to let landlord as to whether you take advantage of this particular grants scheme.
Once again, depending on where you intend to buy to let, you might also apply for the type of improvement grant offered by a number of local authorities.
Some of these schemes - such as one run by Suffolk Coastal District Council - are specifically run with landlords in mind.
Not unreasonably, most of the local authorities that make grants available also impose conditions on their use. In the case of Suffolk Coastal District Council, for example, the principal conditions are that grants are used to bring properties to a "decent home standard" and are let at a "reasonable rent level". For landlords looking to cut costs, consider an online letting agent. Many online letting agents offer a wide range of services at low costs to landlords, from downloadable and editable tenancy agreements, to allowing landlords to advertise on Rightmove and Zoopla.
Interestingly, this local authority may have one of the most accessible improvement grant schemes for landlords and is prepared to make funds available for property that is already let, empty homes, the conversion of big houses into smaller units and for the conversion of commercial property to residential use. Other local authorities - to take Bournemouth Borough Council as just one example - may have funds available, but impose greater restrictions on the use of such grants.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
The government is concerned to maintain certain basic standards of houses in multiple occupation (HMO) - that is where 3 or more tenants form more than one household and share facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen.
A number of local authorities, therefore, earmark particular grants for bringing HMOs in their area up to government standards.
If you have bought to let such a property, you may want to ensure that your landlords insurance covers such premises since some insurers cover certain let properties but not others.
Green Deal: energy saving improvements
Grants are available from the government's Green Deal scheme for owners of any residential property (owner occupiers and landlords) for home improvements that lead to energy saving in areas such as:
- insulation - whether in the walls or the attic, for example;
- double glazing;
- draught exclusion measures; or
- renewable energy installations.
Provided the property as an electricity meter (including pre-paid meters), you may apply for a Green Deal assessment, which recommends any qualifying energy saving improvements that may be made and the amount you are likely to save in your energy bills each year.
You may also wish to visit the Government website which offers tax incentives by claiming a Landlords Energy Savings Allowance.
If you have a reasonably long-term tenant who is disabled, you may want to consider an application to your local authority for a grant to make the premises suitable for those disabilities.
You need to show that the improvements in question are relevant to the tenant's disability, that the particular improvements may reasonably be done given the nature of your property and that the tenant is going to be living there for the period of the grant, which at the moment is five years.