Landlords are being given fresh advice to make sure they don’t lose money because their properties are standing empty.

The advice comes from the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) which is urging landlords to take action and introduce measures to reduce ‘void periods’ (when their property is unoccupied.

The latest research from the association reveals that average void period for a UK rental property now stands at three weeks, the longest period since the first three months of 2011.

Ian Potter, operations manager at ARLA, said: “Void periods can cause uncertainty and affect overall rental yields. While they are a fact of life in the rented sector, there are simple steps that landlords can take to help reduce the chance of a property being untenanted for extended periods.

“These periods without occupancy can also give a landlord a useful window to carry out routine maintenance and any additional work designed to make a property more attractive for incoming tenants.”

ARLA recommends five key points to consider: Set realistic rents While rental properties are in high demand in many parts of the UK, this should not be taken as a guarantee of back-to-back tenancies.

As well as asking the advice of a letting agent, it is also worth doing your own research to find out if the level of rent you are charging is suitable for the area.

Remember that the overall cost of an extended void period can outweigh the perceived loss associated with setting a sensible rent, which may also make the property quicker to let.

Foster good tenant-landlord relations A tenant’s right to reside, undisturbed, within a property during their tenancy period is enshrined in law.

This means that, except in an emergency, a landlord must give tenants 24 hours notice before requesting entry to the property for viewings or maintenance work. By upholding basic obligations, landlords have a greater chance of establishing a good relationship with tenants, and they may be more likely to stay in the property longer.

Make the property desirable Ensuring the property is in good order could help make it more desirable, meaning it will be easier to let and may even mean tenants want to stay longer.

While tenants have a duty to look after internal fixtures, landlords are generally responsible for the repairs, unless the damage is caused by the tenant, as well as the structure of the building, the exterior and the roof.

In addition to this, a landlord must ensure heating and hot water installations, sinks, baths and other sanitary fixtures are maintained to a reasonable standard. But further decorating and furnishing the property appropriately, and to a good standard, may help it stand out to potential tenants.

See a void as an opportunity While it is important for landlords to keep up to date with necessary repairs, a void period could provide a good time for non-essential, intrusive maintenance and improvement works to be carried out, with minimum disruption to tenants.

This could, in turn, make the property more attractive.

Hire a letting agent A good letting agent can help guide you through the day-to-day complexities of being a landlord and also share the work in finding prospective tenants, meaning you will have less work to do when a tenancy comes to an end. However, as there are no restrictions on who becomes a letting agent, there are some unscrupulous agents who may not have a landlord or tenant’s best interests at heart.

For peace of mind, seek advice from a lettings agent affiliated to a professional organisation like ARLA.