Becoming a landlord for the first time can be quite daunting. Legislation aimed at protecting tenants has given landlords (rightly so) more responsibility in ensuring their property is both safe and habitable. Self-managing your rental property can save you money, but it can also be time-consuming and fraught with issues and uncertainty. So being the helpful chaps we are, we thought it would be useful to write a quick guide to keeping you on the right side of your tenants, and the law:
Before you start looking for tenants
- Get the property ship-shape
Before you market your property you should ensure it’s in the best condition possible. This will help maximise the amount of rent you can achieve, and it also helps you identify and manage any damage. We always recommend a lick of paint and a professional clean as a minimum.
- Make sure the property is safe
As a landlord you have a responsibility to your tenants. You must do everything in your power to ensure the property is safe. Before a tenant moves in, you must organise a gas safety certificate, which includes servicing the boiler. You should also fit a smoke alarm and CO2 detector. Ideally you should have the electrics checked, although this isn’t mandatory.
- Draw up a professional tenancy agreement
Always make sure you have a professional tenancy agreement in place. You may want to have one drawn up professionally to ensure you’re covered.
- Arrange a professional inventory
It’s worth having a professional inventory drawn up. The inventory company will take detailed photos of the condition of the property, and will detail every item that could potentially be damaged or removed. The tenant has to agree to this inventory when they move in.
- Apply for an energy performance certificate
Arrange for an energy performance assessor to visit the property and issue an energy performance certificate. This is law, and you must have one before advertising the property.
Finding the right tenant
- Carry out the right checks
Even if you decide to self-manage, I would always recommend you ask an agent to find a tenant, and carry out the appropriate checks. Before you take on a tenant, you should ensure they pass a referencing and affordability check. UK legislation also states that they must pass a “Right to Rent” check, which requires all letting agencies and landlords to check whether tenants are eligible to stay in the UK.
Once you have found a tenant
- Tenancy deposit scheme
By law you must register all deposits in case of disputes, and hold them in a ring-fenced bank account. If not done within the first 30 days of a tenancy, then you could be fined between 1 and 3 times the original deposit.
- Issue them with the correct documentation
You must give your new tenant the following documents when they move in. Failure to do so could result in you being unable to serve notice or evict them:
- “How to rent” government guide
- Gas safety certificate
- Tenancy deposit paperwork
- EPC energy performance certificate
- Tenancy agreement
- Inform utility companies and council
Before the tenant moves in, it’s good to inform the council (council tax) and the relevant utility companies (gas, electricity, water, phone and internet) of the change of occupancy. Provide the utility companies with up-to-date meter readings. They will immediately mail the new tenant, ensuring they are the named bill payer.
- Dealing with issues
There will be times when the property ticks along nicely, and all you have to worry about is the rent arriving on time. But that won’t always be the case. Be prepared for the fact that you may get a call on a Sunday night with an issue you must resolve. Or a number of issues cropping up at once, requiring a logistical exercise of organising access for various tradespeople. For issues that adversely affect the tenant, such as no hot water or heating, you should ensure these are fixed within 24 hours – especially if your tenant has young children or a medical condition. Always respond promptly to problems. And if the problem can’t be fixed quickly, keep them regularly informed of what is going on.
- Carry out property inspections
It’s a very good idea, and well within your rights, to carry out regular property inspections (usually every 6 months). This ensures you pick up on any issues such as damp problems, or structural issues.
The best piece of advice I would give any new landlord is to be aware of your obligations, and respect your tenants. Think of them as your customer. The better you treat them, the longer they’re likely to stay with you, which ultimately saves you time and money.
For more information on how to meet the legal requirements of being a landlord, visit https://www.gov.uk/renting-out-a-property/landlord-responsibilities
And if all of this feels like too much hassle, give us a call. My Property Consultant offers a property management service that beats most high street estate agents.