The accidental landlord

Landlord Victoria Whitlock discovers a little ruse - if you are nice to your tenants, then the taxman will be generous to you
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Sod’s Law dictates that if you advertise an unfurnished property, tenants will ask you to buy furniture but, if you furnish a place, a tenant will want it empty. They can sometimes be annoying like that.

I’d originally intended to let my one-bedroom flat unfurnished, as this was easier and cheaper for me at the outset. But my first-ever tenant requested a sofa, the second wanted a bed, wardrobes and two chests of drawers and the third asked for a table and chairs.

Eager to please I supplied everything they asked for, spending close to £2,000 in total, so now my flat is pretty much fully furnished.

My husband, with his businessman’s eye always on the bottom line, thinks I’m crazy to have bought so much stuff - he’d tell the tenants to buy their own furniture or find another flat - but there is method in my madness.

Landlords pay less tax on furnished properties because they qualify for a 10 per cent wear-and-tear allowance from the Inland Revenue.

After five years I will have recovered the cost of the furniture by cutting my tax bill and in year six I will be in profit. See, I’m not so crazy after all.

There’s a hitch, however. My latest tenant, who initially took the flat furnished, has now bought lots of his own stuff and he no longer wants the bed, wardrobes and sofa. He’d like me to get rid of them. I could say no, my husband wants me to say no, but the tenant is great and I don’t want him to leave.

Nor do I want to sell the furniture because it’s good quality and I don’t want to have to buy more if and when this tenant does move out, so I decide to stick it in a self-storage unit nearby in Wandsworth.

The monthly rent I’m quoted is way more than I’d pay for a unit somewhere off the North Circular, but when I tell that to the guy on the end of the phone he knocks 20 per cent off the price, so I reckon I’ve got a great deal.

I’ve still got to get the furniture to the storage unit and my husband doesn’t look too pleased when I suggest we hire a van and shift it ourselves.

Probably because when I say "we" he knows I mean "you". This calls for a man with a van. A few years ago, I came across, a sort of ebay-style auction site for delivery companies. You list what you want moving, when and where, and the delivery companies bid for your business. Like ebay, each bidder has feedback and a rating from people who’ve already used them.

The site reckons it can save movers up to 75 per cent on standard removal fees. I’ve used it before when I moved back to the UK from France and I probably saved about £350, although the delivery guy’s communication and timekeeping wasn’t great and he arrived at my flat in London a day later than agreed.

I list my job on Shiply and watch the quotes fall from £400 to £40.

This time I don’t go for the cheapest quote, having learnt my lesson from the French trip. Instead I choose the company with the best feedback.

I pay £80 for a couple of guys with a van who do a great job.

Best of all, a quick call to my accountant confirms that I can still claim the 10 per cent wear-and-tear allowance, even though the flat is now only partially furnished, and the rent on the storage unit is also tax deductable. Result.

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