Digital gadgets set to revolutionise landlord life
If you’re making New Year’s resolutions this January, you might want to make getting to grips with landlord gadgets one of them...
Just as digital technology has transformed our lives over the last ten years - revolutionising everything from shopping to finding a potential partner - so the relationship between landlords and tenants is set to change, and buy-to-let is set to go high-tech.
Technology has already changed what tenants expect from the properties they rent – with Wi-Fi now ranking as the single most important priority for tenants. Landlords must now confront the possibility that lost internet connections could provoke as much upset as a leaky ceiling or a broken boiler!
Students are increasingly demanding high speed internet access for their studies, wide-screen TVs and Sky subscriptions; while at the other end of the market people are beginning to look for full apartment sound systems, remote central heating control and other home automations.
But technology is also starting to change how landlords manage their properties, and communicate with their tenants. The market is already being targeted by several apps to help landlords do anything from keeping online inventories to dealing with home emergencies.
Tenant communications, property management and repairs
For instance, US firm Tenant Loop has developed a system which combines instant messaging with broadcast messages and document storage, letting both landlord and tenant to manage all communications via the comfort and convenience of their smart phones.
The app also allows the user to survey their tenants and build up feedback.
Many apps offer some form of property management, giving landlords the opportunity to store and manage their documents and information – like one stop shop The Landlord App or World of Rental.
Others help landlords deal with repairs, and allow you to contact, manage and track suppliers, while tenants can submit requests and log promises and deadlines.
In effect, these apps have the potential to turn situations, which often cause dispute and bad feeling, into a quick, easy and transparent process.
Safety, security and inventories
As well as removing some of the headaches of being a landlord, a new app can also help with critical safety inspections. Gas Tag Ltd offers an app that a gas inspector can sign-in to an inspection with, that gives a true record of inspection dated and geo-tagged, and even provides photographic evidence.
A landlord’s own inspections can benefit from mobile-friendly inventories, like Inventory Pro, which lets the user keep an eye on a property’s condition with updatable, storable and easily replicable reports.
Security has also been boosted by technological innovation – and you’ll find apps like Frontpoint and Lifeshield. Motion detectors, door and window sensors, cameras - and even such elaborate precautions as sirens and water sensors - can now all linked into a central hub, awaiting the user's commands.
These devices can be customised so cameras are activated the second motion is detected in a property that is supposed to be empty – sending alerts to the landlord and/or tenants. More advanced systems can even alert the authorities, removing another headache in the event of a break-in.
And when a smoke detector is triggered, all the doors can be automatically unlocked to give your tenants the best chance for a swift and safe exit.
Landlords and tenants can also benefit from apps which keep track of utility usage – like Meter Readings. The spread of smart electricity and gas meters let know tenants how much power they might be using, with accurate and timely updates that are relayed to their phones.
Anything which helps a tenant budget more effectively is only to be welcomed, as it is sure to reduce the change they will need to use some of that month's rent.
Whether it's for a financial reasons, or for environmental motives, the ability to monitor energy usage also makes it much easier to make sound comparisons of offers and switch suppliers.
The other thing technology is set to change is how landlords are rated and reviewed, with apps coming along to be the specialist ‘Trip Advisor’ of the buy-to-let world. Poor comments could cause problems for landlords, but they could also benefit from tenant reviews, tracking previous behaviour and reliability online.
As more and more data is compiled about us, and becomes available to be searched online, landlords and tenants alike must prepare for increasingly public profiles.
Making it work for you
Alex Huntley is Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance. She says: “Digital technology could reshape the private rented sector in the way it’s already disrupted taxis (Uber), subletting (Airbnb) and television (Netflix) – basically in ways we can't yet imagine, as apps and communication technologies continue to evolve.
“Of course whether or not landlords do chose to take the 'technologically-enhanced' route is down to them. A lot of it will come down to the demands of the tenants each landlord is targeting - but technology for its own sake is not something that should distract landlords from their day-to-day business. Certainly investing in fancy systems over and above quality basics would be a mistake, and means there’s more to go wrong in your property.
“Having said that, diversification and innovation have always been what keeps successful landlords ahead of the game - so it’s well worth keeping an eye on the latest technological developments, and considering how they could work for you, your properties, and your tenants.”
Check out our 15 top apps for landlords here