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To furnish or not to furnish - that is the question

Posted on Sunday, 15 September 2013 10:52PM by Artful Lodger
When renting out a property , one of the first things landlords will need to ask themselves is whether or not to kit out the space with furnishings or leave it as an empty dwelling for tenants to suitably fill with what they choose.

Legal implications
When making decisions about a property-to-let, you will want to know any legal ramifications of decisions you make, as property law can be extremely complex at the best of times.
Fortunately, there are no legal implications in terms of security of tenure for the tenant in England and Wales. There isn't even a legal definition of what exactly a 'furnished' or 'unfurnished' property is, which doesn't help.

Nevertheless, paying council tax and the ten per cent depreciation allowance could be affected by what you decide to do. This is because if your property is empty but unfurnished, you will not have to pay council tax for the first six months - but nor will you be able to claim the ten per cent allowance.
If you do promise furnishings - or even work on the property - to prospective tenants, it is imperative that this is complied with. Failure to do so could see the tenancy agreement being voided on the grounds of misrepresentation - a situation in which nobody wins.

Safety issues
Along a similar legal vein, as a landlord wanting to furnish your property - perhaps to be able to charge more rent - the responsibility will lie with you to ensure that all furniture and furnishings meet the legal requirements required or you could get in trouble further down the line, should there be any accidents.

Even an unfurnished property can come with certain items - such as the carpets, curtains and perhaps white goods, like a fridge. It will be your duty to ensure that any electrical and gas appliances that you provide are not only checked at the start of a tenancy, but also serviced appropriately.
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It is also worth mentioning here that if you rent an unfurnished property, tenants are likely to be more stable if they have settled with their own things. It will be harder to pull a midnight flit with a bed, two sofas and cupboards worth of crockery.

To furnish or not to furnish?
When people look to rent, most will have a clear idea in their mind of whether or not they are looking for a furnished or unfurnished property. Therefore, if you change your property from being furnished to unfurnished, you are unlikely to attract the same people plus others, but a completely different pool of tenants. This could be more or less extensive than those looking for one that's decked out with all they need - it is hard to know which as it depends on the type of property and your target market.
It goes without saying that the inventory for an unfurnished property will be far less problematic. However, if you are renting out a student property, it is highly unlikely they are going to own a house or flat's worth of furniture, and so you are far more likely to let your property to students if it is at least part-furnished.
When showing people around, however, it could be beneficial to be seen to be flexible. If they do not seem particularly keen on an item of furniture, it may help your prospects if you offer to remove it - minimal effort for potentially maximum gain. Similarly, if a prospective tenant likes the look of your property but they are muttering about wanting a bigger kitchen table, you might consider indulging them.