Guide For Landlords

Before you let your property it is vital that you carry out the following a pre-tenancy checklist:

  • Update your insurance policy, taking into account the fact that your property is going to be let out to a third party.
  • Obtain the requisite permission from your mortgage lender.
  • If you're planning on making any alterations to the property obtain approval from the council's planning office.
  • If you're planning on letting as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) you must inform the council's environmental health department.
  • If you're planning on letting as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) you must inform the council's environmental health department.
  • Make sure all furniture and furnishings comply with the latest fire regulations.
  • Ensure that all gas appliances and equipment have been serviced by a CORGI-registered engineer and that safety records are kept in a safe place.
  • Make sure that you have had a fixed wiring test carried out and have the subsequent Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) as proof that the wiring in your property meets all current guidelines.
  • Inform the council tax department and utility suppliers that the property will be let (relevant if you plan on being a non-resident of a self-contained property).




Health & Safety

To let your property successfully and safely, there are a number of health and safety guidelines you have follow. These guidelines will prevent tenants from being injured and, if successfully put in place, will prevent you from being liable for prosecution should any accident arise.

Tenancy Agreement and Inventory

Before you let your property there are a number of crucial documents you need to have drawn up. The most important is the tenancy agreement. This is the legally binding contract between you and the tenants that will lay out the conditions of the let. It also specifies tenants' right to live in the property for the agreed term and your right to receive rent for letting the property.



Furniture & Furnishings

There are stringent regulations concerning fire resistant furniture for rental accommodation. It is your sole responsibility to ensure that all relevant items meet the guidelines set under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Amendment Regulations 1993. As a general rule, furniture made before 1988 is unlikely to meet the standards and should be replaced before letting your property.

Any items which contain upholstery and could be used inside the property should be checked, including:

  • Beds, headboards, mattresses, futons and sofa beds
  • Children's furniture/nursery furniture
  • Garden furniture that might also be used within the property
  • Cushions and pillows

Items that are exempt from this legislation include:

  • Sleeping bags, duvets, pillow cases and blankets
  • Carpets and curtains
  • Furniture made before 1950

To check individual items for fire safety standards, look for a permanent label stating the regulation it conforms to. Bed bases and mattresses are not required to have this label attached, but they should have a label stating compliance with ignitability tests.

If you're in any doubt over any item of furniture then replace it. It is much better to be safe than sorry!



Gas safety

The major consequences of not servicing or maintaining gas equipment is a serious explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required by law to service all gas-related equipment at least once every 12 months. Landlords must also keep a record of regular checks and the condition of equipment. You must also provide tenants with an annual gas safety certificate. If you do not provide your tenant with an annual gas safety certificate, you are breaking the law.

As a landlord you are responsible for providing your tenants with instructions for the safe use of gas appliances and equipment.

What used to be called a CORGI gas safety certificate has been replaced with a Gas Safe Register. Instead of being run by an independent body (i.e. CORGI) the Government implemented its own system of registration for gas engineers. If you are a landlord, any gas appliances such as boilers and heaters within your property must be inspected by a Gas Safe registered engineer once a year. If your appliances are deemed fit and safe for use, you will be given a certificate. For any appliances that do not comply to current standards, you will be advised on the measures you need to take to bring them into line with current guidelines.
This report must be given to your tenants within 28 days of being completed.



Electrical Safety

The electrical wiring in your property must be safe and in good working order throughout. You must also ensure you have enough sockets to meet the need of tenants. Contact an electrician approved by the National Inspection Council for Electrical Inspection Contractors.

Wiring that is more than 15 years old should be inspected on an annual basis. Wiring that is more recent can be left for longer periods if there are no indications of any problems. An electrician's report is likely to recommend a re-inspection anywhere between 2 and 10 years.

If you are planning on providing electrical equipment to your tenants, you should ensure that all items have been tested for safety and labelled accordingly. Get an electrician to carry out a Portable Appliance Test (PAT Test). This involves the testing of any portable appliances, machinery or equipment that your tenants will have access to. Keep all electrical testing reports for your own records.

The Landlord Inventory

This is one of the most important documents in the letting process. It details the contents of the property you will be letting and the condition they are in on the day the tenant moves in. It should also include any existing cosmetic blemishes, such as peeling wallpaper or flaking paint. You should be extremely thorough with this property condition inventory and give it your full attention. On the day the tenant moves in, both the tenant and agent will be expected to agree the exact condition of the contents of the property and sign the document. This should avoid any unnecessary disputes about any damage that may be caused by the tenant during the tenancy.

When should the property inventory be checked again?

It is recommended that the landlord/agent schedule regular three monthly inventory checks at the property in order to assess any damage that may have occurred. You must provide the tenant with sufficient notification of your intention to visit the property for this purpose (24 hours should be sufficient). It is most common, however, for a final inventory check to be scheduled on the day the tenant moves out.



Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement

Since the late 90s, the AST has been the most common form of tenancy agreement. It sets out the obligations of both tenant and landlord. The most important aspect of this agreement is that the landlord has the right to repossess the property at the end of the agreed term. Despite its name, the agreement does not have to be short and can continue as long as both parties are happy for it to do so. There is no minimum term specified, although the tenant has the right to remain in the property for at least six months. However, if the fixed term is for three or more years, a deed must be drawn up by a solicitor. There are specific requirements linked to an AST that include:

  • The tenant(s) must be an individual
  • The property must be the main home of the occupant
  • The property must be let as separate accommodation
  • The landlord is normally obliged to provide the tenant with two months' notice if they want to terminate the agreement.


  • The agreement will most likely contain the following information:

    Your name; the tenant's name; the address of the property which is being let; the date when the tenancy will commence; the duration of the tenancy from the start to the agreed finish of the occupation; the amount of rent payable and when and how often it should be paid – and when it can be increased. The agreement should also state what other payments are expected, including Council Tax, utilities, service charges, etc. You will also need to state what services you will provide, such as maintenance or the refurbishment of common areas. The AST will also contain the notice period which you and your tenants need to give each other if the tenancy is to be terminated.





    Deposits

    It is common practice to request a deposit from the tenant prior to them moving in. Such a deposit protects you from damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear on the premises. It also protects you in the instance that a tenant leaves without paying the rent. Some agents will handle this on your behalf. It is usually equivalent to one month's rent and is taken along with the first month's rent in advance.

    The tenant should be provided with a receipt and a clear understanding of what the deposit is for and the conditions for its full return. If there is no damage to your property or its contents, this deposit must be returned to the ex-tenant within a reasonable period of time after they have quit the property.

    If you do decide to withhold some or all of the deposit, you must notify the tenant, in writing, as soon as possible. Your correspondence must state how much money you are retaining and why. If possible, provide receipts of estimates or costs incurred to repair damage to the property. Also include photos of stated damage.

    The Tenancy Deposit Scheme

    From 6 April 2007, new legislation was introduced to help tenants and landlords avoid and resolve disputes relating to the return and use of a tenant's deposit. Under the legislation, if landlords fail to protect the tenant's deposit, they may have to pay the tenant three times the value of the deposit.

    Why are deposits protected?

    The Deposit Protection Scheme is designed to make sure:

  • Tenants get all or some of their deposit back when they are entitled to it
  • Any disputes involving landlords and tenants over the return of the deposit are easier to resolve
  • Tenants are actively encouraged to look after the property they are renting
  • Whenever a deposit is taken from a tenant as part of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, either by a landlord directly or a managing agent, it must be protected in one of the government-initiated schemes.
  • There are two types of scheme, described as 'custodial schemes' and 'insurance-based schemes'.


  • Custodial Scheme

    The deposit is held by the scheme for the duration of the agreement and repaid at the end of the tenancy. It is also free to use. Within 14 days of being paid the deposit, the landlord or agent must provide details to the tenant of how the deposit is protected, including:

  • The contact details of the chosen Tenancy Deposit Scheme
  • The landlord or managing agent details
  • How they can apply for the return of the deposit
  • The detail concerning the purpose of the deposit
  • What to do if a dispute arises regarding the return of the deposit
  • At the end of the tenancy, if an agreement is reached between both parties, the deposit will be divided up (if required) and returned accordingly. If a dispute arises, the scheme will hold on to the money until the courts or the dispute resolution service solves the disagreement.




  • Insurance-based Schemes

    As with the custodial scheme, the deposit is held by the scheme for the duration of the agreement and repaid at the end of the tenancy. However, instead of passing the deposit directly to the scheme, the landlord retains the deposit and pays an insurance premium to the scheme.

    Within 30 days of being paid the deposit, the landlord or agent must provide details to the tenant of how the deposit is protected, including:

  • The contact details of the chosen tenancy deposit scheme
  • The landlord or managing agent details
  • How they can apply for the return of the deposit
  • The detail concerning the purpose of the deposit
  • What to do if a dispute arises regarding the return of the deposit

    At the end of the tenancy, if an agreement has been reached by both parties, the landlord returns some or all of the deposit to the tenant. If a dispute arises, the landlord must hand over the deposit to the scheme until a resolution is reached. If the landlord fails to comply, the scheme returns the deposit to the tenant, if they are entitled to it.

    There are three providers offering an insurance-based scheme, Tenancy Deposit Solutions (TDS), The Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) and Mydeposits.

    Discrimination

    As a landlord, it's important you are aware of your rights and the rights of those with disabilities when it comes to letting your property. According to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, it is an offence to discriminate against individuals with a disability in the selling or letting of a property. The act defines the term 'disability' as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial or long term effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'. Some examples of discrimination include:

    Refusing to let or sell a property to a person because they carry a disability Imposing higher rental or deposit charges Offering less favourable terms of tenancy Evicting a person because of their disability

    Although landlords are not obliged to alter a property to accommodate a person with a disability, they must not prevent a tenant with a disability altering the property to improve its access.







    Preparing For Your Tenants To Move In

    So, you're now ready for your tenants to move in. Here are a few pointers and reminders to help you organise the smooth transition for you and your tenants.

    BEFORE the tenants move in:

  • Make sure the property is clean and presentable
  • Redirect your mail (if you used to live there)
  • Arrange for all utility accounts to be transferred to the tenant
  • Arrange for the council tax to be paid by the new tenant
  • Make sure instructions are on all relevant appliances
  • Make sure all relevant equipment is labelled correctly
  • Prepare a number of spare keys for your tenants (if required)


  • ON THE DAY your tenants move in:

  • Take final meter readings and give them to the tenants
  • Conduct, agree and sign the inventory with the tenants
  • Provide your tenants with the gas safety certificate and maintenance book
  • Demonstrate the workings of relevant equipment - alarms, locks
  • Explain how to use any safety equipment - extinguishers, blankets
  • Provide emergency contact numbers and written explanations of how to deal with an emergency in the property
  • Allow the tenants to ask you any questions they have
  • Hand over the keys





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