Post about "Commercial"

Letting Your Property: Getting Started – Some Things Landlords Need to Know

Becoming a Landlord for the first time is always a daunting experience. To help you prepare for Tenants letting your property here are some practice things you will need to know.

As an overview UK Landlords have a number of responsibilities, to include:

  • repairs to the structure and exterior of the property
  • repairs to heating and hot water installations
  • repairs to sinks, baths and other sanitary installations
  • safety of gas and electrical appliances that you supply
  • fire safety of furniture and furnishings that you supply
  • provision of an Energy Performance Certificate for the property
  • protection of your Tenant’s deposit in a government-approved scheme

Consent to Lease

It may be a purpose buy-to-let investment property or it may be your own home. Either way as the owner of this property if your current mortgage is a residential contract you will need to contact your lender and ask permission for the lender to “consent to lease“. Most lenders will happily agree to this, but some may ask for conditions to be attached. Failure to do this is a breach of your mortgage terms and conditions and could lead to the lender terminating your agreement.

Type of Property

Your Landlord obligations can vary depending on the type of property you are letting. In particular if you are letting rooms or flats within a single property this may be considered a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). This being the case you may need to apply for a licence. Regardless of the type of property as a Landlord you must keep your rented properties safe and free from health hazards and comply with all relevant health and safety requirements.

Health and Safety

Gas Safety Certificates are required by law and must be annually re-certified. All gas appliances within the property must be tested and approved by a gas safety registered engineer – formerly Corgi. This is to ensure that no appliances or heaters are leaking carbon monoxide, which is undetectable in the environment of the home. This is critically important as tragic results can occur and you as a Landlord would be liable. You should keep inspection records for at least two years and give copies of the reports to your existing Tenants within 28 days of each check. You should also give copies to new Tenants before they move in. Failure to obtain a Gas Safety Certificate at its extreme may result in loss of life, prosecution, an unlimited fine and imprisonment.

Landlords are also responsible for the safety of electrical appliances. A qualified electrician can provide the required tests. At the beginning of each new tenancy, you should ensure that electrical installations are safe and well maintained. Any electrical appliances you supply to Tenants (cookers, toasters, kettles etc) should be safe for them to use. As a Landlord you should carry out regular inspections of fixed electrical installations every five years. You should also arrange, at least once a year, for a qualified electrician to carry out portable appliance testing (PAT); a safety test on all portable electrical equipment you provide for Tenants, such as kettles. The PAT tester will give you a dated certificate and put stickers on the plugs of appliances to show that they are safe.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are required by law when any residential or commercial property is either sold or rented. An EPC provides information on a building’s energy efficiency shown on a sliding scale from ‘A’ (very efficient) to ‘G’ (least efficient). The EPC also contains a recommendations report showing how you could improve the rating and make the property more attractive to Tenants. The EPC is valid for ten years and can be used for all new Tenants in that period.

Depending on the age and type of your property it may be a legal requirement to have smoke alarms fitted. In the case of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) for example, there is a requirement for Landlords to supply a mains operated interlinked smoke alarm system. In the case of older single family rental properties, technically there is no legal requirement for Landlords to provide a smoke alarm. However, it is strongly recommended that Landlords do provide at least a battery operated smoke alarm or alarms in their rented properties. Where Landlords do provide battery operated smoke alarms they should have a clause in the agreement making it clear that it is the Tenant’s responsibility to check their operation and replace the batteries as and when necessary.

Some companies can provide both EPC’s and Gas Certificates.

Marketing your property to find Tenants

Deciding on the rental income you think the property can achieve can be done by looking at similar properties for rent in your area or looking on-line at property listing sites. You may wish to engage a traditional letting agent who will value and market the property for you. More Landlords these days are turning to online letting agents to find Tenants for them, because they offer tremendous value for money in comparison to traditional agents. Of course the Landlord has to take on a bit more work, but all services from managing a property to inventory check-ins can be arranged through online agents at very competitive rates.

Viewings can be done by an agent or by the Landlord. The advantage of this is that you actually get to meet the Tenants in person and this can provide re-assurance and peace of mind. Some agents offer a virtual viewing service where they will attend your property, make a short video of the key features and post the video in a YouTube style format on their site. Tenants can then view your property at any time from the comfort of their own computer.

Tenancy Agreements

It is now much easier to deal with all the legal aspects of letting with a lot of good free advice for Landlords on the Internet, in particular direct.gov.uk. A tenancy agreement is a property rental agreement, which is a legal agreement in writing that sets out the rights and responsibilities of both Landlord and Tenant in a contract. Landlords can either pay for a solicitor, estate or letting agent to draft a tenancy agreement, although it is possible to obtain free tenancy agreements and do them yourself. A tenancy agreement as a minimum should include:

  • the names of all people involved
  • the rental price
  • the deposit amount and how it will be protected
  • the property address
  • the start and end date of the tenancy
  • any Tenant or Landlord obligations
  • which bills the Tenant is responsible for
  • how to pay the rent
  • whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done
  • who is responsible for minor repairs
  • whether the property can be let to someone else (sublet) or have lodgers

Tenant Deposit Scheme

Deposits by law have to be registered with an appropriate holding scheme or indemnity scheme within 14 days of the tenancy commencing. This is a legal responsibility for the Landlord. The Tenancy Deposit Scheme is free to use and offers very comprehensive dispute mediation if this should occur.

Tenant Credit Check

As a Landlord you will want to make sure that Tenants can pay their bills. The best indicator to find out if Tenants are financially able to pay their rent is to obtain an assessment of their credit rating. Agents can do this as well as facilitating bank references, employment references and personnel references, although the best assessment will be a credit check report.

Inventories

It is strongly recommended that Inventory check-ins and check-outs are done. Another top tip is to have the property professionally cleaned before the Tenant moves in and they can pay to also have it professionally cleaned when they move out. This tends to avoid any disagreement over how clean the property is expected to be.

Full Property Management

You may want to manage the property yourself, but you may wish for this to be done by a third party. Full property management services can be responsible for monthly rent collections and any maintenance or repairs that may be required during the tenancy. This is especially helpful if the Landlord lives a long distance from the property or is abroad.

Ending a tenancy

Landlords can end an assured shorthold tenancy at any time usually after six months, but so as long as any agreed fixed term has ended. There is usually a two months’ written notice period for the Tenant of the date you want the tenancy to end.

If a tenant refuses to leave, you cannot evict them yourself, but you can apply to the county court for an order to get your property back. If you have a written tenancy agreement and you have given the tenant notice in writing that you are seeking possession, you can use an accelerated possession procedure, which avoids the need for a court hearing.

Access to your property

Remember that if at any time you need to visit your property then the usual requirement is to give the Tenant at least 24 hours notice. Landlords have no legal right to immediate entry unless there is an urgent necessity to do so, for example a flood or a fire. The key here for positive Landlord and Tenant relations is good, clear communication between the two parties. This will often prevent misunderstandings and lead to a successful rental of your home.