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A Guide To Letting Your Property

If you’re considering renting out a property you own, buying a property to rent, or if you’re already renting out a property you own, you may be wondering what you need to consider and what your responsibilities are in relation to being a landlord. Well don’t worry; using our years of knowledge and experience we have compiled a guide to give an overview of letting your property out. The items we touch on below are the main elements you’ll have to consider in the cycle of renting out your property, from preparing the property and finding tenants all the way through to the day they move out.

Preparing Your Property For Rental

Once you’ve decided to let your property spending some time getting it prepared will go a long way. The first thing to do is to ensure that any items which will not be left at the property when your new tenants move in are removed. This goes for external spaces as well as internally.

With all the excess clutter removed from the property you are now in a position to cast a critical eye over the appearance of the property, again look at this both externally and internally. First impression count and you only have one opportunity to get this right. Undertake any repairs that are needed, ensure the property is well cleaned throughout, including kitchen appliances and cupboards, the bathroom is appealing and free from mouldy sealants and grout. Clean the windows and frames. If necessary give the property a coat of paint to freshen up its appearance. Above all else remember that your prospective tenants will most likely be looking at more than just your property and for that reason you want your property to stand out from the crowd.

Safety Inspections

It is the landlords responsibility to ensure the safety of Gas Installations and appliances. A safety inspection must be carried out at least once every 12 months by a certified person who is registered with the Gas Safe Register. A record of inspection dates should be kept and a copy of the Inspection Certificate must be available for tenant also.

In addition to any gas installations and appliances at the property it is also the responsibility of the landlord to ensure any electrical appliances supplied at the property are also safe which includes heaters, cookers, kettles, fridges and freezers.

Smoke alarms must be fitted to each level of the property and CO2 detectors need to be installed if any solid fuels are being used the property.

Finding Tenants

There are a number of potential ways to find tenants including word of mouth and independent adverts in the local shops or via social media, however in our experience these methods can be hit and miss both in respect to how often they secure tenants but more importantly in respect to the quality of tenants which pick up on them. Advertising on leading industry websites such Rightmove or OnTheMarket advertises your property to the largest audience possible and are without doubt the go to places for prospective tenants looking for a property to rent.

Vetting Tenants

Vetting prospective tenants before agreeing to let your property to them is essential. Undertaking credit checks provides you with piece of mind regarding their past credit history. Have they been subject to County Court Judgements, bankruptcy or any court based voluntary financial agreements? What do they do for a living and are they able to afford the weekly or month rent? Do they have references they can provide from former landlords or employers? Are they smokers or pet owners? Ensuring you know as much as you can about your prospective tenants before agreeing a tenancy with them can help ensure you do not unknowingly end up with problematic tenants further down the line.

Tenancy Agreements

Tenancy agreements form the contract between you the landlord and your tenants. It stipulates the terms upon which the property is let, the amount the rent is set at and the timescales the rent should be paid on, whether it’s weekly, fortnightly or monthly and how the payment should be made.

Once your tenant is in occupation of your property you cannot force them to sign an agreement that varies the terms of the tenancy. With a formal Tenancy Agreement you are able to insert clauses which regulate the tenant’s usage of the property, for example you can stipulate ‘no pets allowed’ or ‘no smoking in the property’. By inserting these clauses in your Tenancy Agreement you protect your position as the property owner and help ensure your rights are safeguarded further down the line.

Standard Tenancy Agreements usually take the form of a 6 month contract which then becomes a rolling 6 month agreement after the initial period has been completed. Tenancy Agreements can be made for longer fixed term periods however as long as it is agreed upon by both parties.

Deposit Protection Scheme

Since the 6th April 2007 any deposits taken in regard to renting your property out must be placed into and held by an authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme within 30 days of its receipt. The schemes ensure the tenant’s deposit is protected and also provide procedures for the resolution of disputes at the end of any tenancy.

Upon placing the deposit in the scheme tenants must be notified with the appropriate information about the scheme and their rights which includes:

  • Contact details of the deposit scheme used.
  • The landlords or agents details.
  • How to apply for the release of the deposit.
  • Information explaining the purpose of the deposit.
  • What to do if there’s a dispute about the deposit.

Moving In Day

When moving in day arrives you’ll want to greet your new tenants and show them any specifics at the property such as how the boiler or heating system works. Obviously you’ll also want to provide them with keys for the property along with any contact numbers you need them to have for yourself or for your agent.

Additionally, you’ll also want to ensure you take gas and electric meter readings as your tenants move in. Once you have your readings you’ll need to inform the utility provider(s) for the property that the new tenants are now responsible for the bills. The utility provide will then be able to provide you with a bill for any usage or standing charges you’re due to pay up until the date your tenants move in.

Along with notifying the utility provider of your new tenants you’ll also want to let the Council Tax department know you are no longer responsible for the council tax payments on the property. Once again the department should be able to issue you with a final statement of the council tax account on the property which will either request an outstanding payment or issue a refund if you’ve paid more than is due.

Inventories

An inventory outlines everything that is provided at the property when a tenant moves in. It should include items of furniture, white goods and fixtures and fitting along with a description of their age and condition. The inventory should be agreed, signed and dated by both the tenant(s) and the landlord and a copy retained by each party.

Collecting Rent

The collection of rent can be undertaken on any agreed timescale, weekly, fortnightly or most commonly monthly. Stipulate a time frame and specific date, for example the 1st of every month or Friday of every week, in the tenancy agreement and how the payment should be made. Payment can be made however you wish along as it agreed by both parties. The most common and securest way of making and receiving payment is to have the tenant setup a standing order from their bank account directly to yourself as the landlord or to your agent who will them process the funds and transfer on to the landlord. By processing the rental payment electronically you are ensuring a ‘paper trail’ is maintained as evidence of payments made and received.

Maintenance & Repairs

The maintenance and repair of residential properties is the responsibility of the landlord and covers both internal and external repairs. The Landlord & Tenants Act 1985, section 11-17, stipulates that landlords must keep the property in a state of repair, this includes walls, floors, roof and windows along with fixed heaters, electrical wiring and gas piping. In addition it also includes repairs to plumbing, basins, sinks, toilets and baths etc.

In general it is a good idea to maintain your property in a good state of repair, not only for the sake of the property itself but also for the relationship with your tenants. A landlord tenant relationship is a two-way street, acting as a good landlord, maintaining the property for the enjoyment of your tenants will help build and foster good relationships and in turn help retain happy tenants who will hopefully appreciate the standard of the property with a greater intent to maintain it that way.

Tenants are usually only required to take reasonable care of the property which means carrying out minor jobs such as gardening and general housework, beyond that it is the responsibility of the landlord.

Insurance

As a Landlord you are responsible for insuring the building. It is also advisable to have contents insurance to cover items included in the tenancy agreement, but not including the tenants own belongings.

Periodic Property Checks

It is advisable to schedule regular checks of the property to ensure it is being looked after by the tenants, it also an opportunity to pick up on any minor repairs that may not have been noticed or reported to you. Checks are usually done on a six monthly basis, however you may prefer to initially undertake checks on a three monthly basis and once you’re happy and comfortable with the tenants extend it to 6 monthly periods and potentially annually thereafter if you are satisfied everything is being kept in order. Inspecting annually could also be tied in with annual gas safety check allowing you to streamline your involvement with the requirements of being a landlord.

Notice To End Tenancy

The notice to end a tenancy can be given by either the landlord or by the tenant in line with the terms of the Tenancy Agreement. With a standard Tenancy Agreement the notice period a tenant needs to give is usually four weeks or one calendar month from the rent due date and should be submitted in writing to the landlord or agent, dated and signed so there is a record of the documentation should a dispute occur later.

If the landlord wishes to give notice to the tenants you must inform in them writing also. In some circumstance you may be able to take back the property without providing a reason; however certain criteria needs to be meet in order to do so. With an Assured Shorthold Tenancy you must give your tenants at least 2 months written notice that you would like the property back and stipulate the date by which they must leave. The date provided must be at least 6 months after the original tenancy began or, if they have a Periodic Tenancy or Fixed Term Tenancy you aren’t asking them to leave before that period expires.

If you wish to give notice during the fixed term you can only do so if you have a reason for wanting the property back such as your tenants are behind with rent payments or your tenants have used the property for illegal purposes.

If your tenants do not leave the property after you have provided the correct notices you are not allowed to remove tenants by force, rather if the notice period expires and your tenants do not leave the property you may start the eviction process through the courts.

Moving Out Day

When your tenants moving out day arrives there will again be a few jobs you’ll want to undertake, much like on moving in day. Meet your tenants at the property to undertake the return of your keys and ensure everything is in order. With a copy of your inventory in hand undertake an inspection of the property to ensure only items which were on the inventory are being left and equally that all those items on the inventory have been left. If there are any deviations from the original inventory ensure an agreement is made as to what needs to happen.

Inspect the property room by room detailing any issues of damage that has been caused above and beyond reasonable wear and tear, this may include damage to carpets, fixtures and fittings or appliances, even to decorating that has been undertaken without agreement and needs remedying. The property should be returned to you in the same state it was handed over to the tenants, it should be cleaned (on the assumption that it was clean when you handed it over on the moving in date).

Upon a satisfactory inspection of the property you are able to inform your agent or the Deposit Protection Scheme that you are either happy for the deposited amount to be return in full to the tenants, or if you wish to submit a claim for a portion of or for the full amount of the tenancy deposit then this is your opportunity to do so.

Tenants will have the opportunity to challenge any claim submitted for portions of the deposit to be retained and should an agreement between yourself and the tenant not be forthcoming as to what is acceptable the Deposit Protection Scheme will have procedures in place to arbitrate and ultimately to make a final decision.

Once again, take a note of the gas and electric meter readings in order to inform the utility suppliers that the tenants are no longer responsible for the bills from this date forward and you will also need to inform the council tax office again that the tenants have moved out and you are now responsible for any bills due from the said date. If your tenants have already informed the council tax office they are leaving you should automatically receive notification of any charges you will now be liable for.

 

We hope you have found our Guide To Letting Your Property useful and informative, many of the items we have touched upon are much more complicated than we have chance to explain here and as we’re sure you’ll appreciate every circumstance of letting out a property is slightly different to the next so please be sure to do all your research into each area comprehensively to ensure you are well protected and compliant to all the regulations and situations you may encounter.

If you would to have an agent act on your behalf for any of the elements covered in this guide then we, at Alan Slater Property Services, are more than happy to happy and offer a selection of services which can tailored to your needs from a simply finding and vetting tenants to drawing up a Tenancy Agreement and processing a tenancy deposit into a Deposit Protection Scheme all the way through to a comprehensive Property Management Service where we take care everything on your behalf allowing you to simple enjoy the benefit of receiving your rental income without any hassle.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to us regarding your rental property please contact our office on 01274 271745.

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