Landlords good practice guide

Insurance

Tenants are typically viewed to be of higher risk than owner-occupiers, and for this reason regular homeowner insurance policies are often invalid for tenanted homes.

Most mortgage lenders will require you to have buildings insurance in place. Landlords building insurance will cover you against a number of eventualities, and is specifically tailored to offer a policy that covers damage that more frequently occurs in tenanted properties. Each insurance policy differs, and you should ensure that you are aware of exactly what is covered by your own policy.

Landlord contents insurance covers the cost of any damage to contents owned by you, the landlord. It also generally protects you in the event of a theft committed by the tenant.

As a landlord you can also protect yourself against tenant-related incidents. If a tenant refuses to pay rent or attempts to hold you liable for a personal injury, the following insurances will provide cover.

• Public Liability Insurance – This covers you if a tenant holds you liable for an injury caused by a fault in your property and includes your legal expenses and damages awarded to tenants.
• Legal cover – This will cover your expenses if you need to take your tenant to court.
• Rent guarantee – This will ensure you’re still paid, even if your tenant defaults on the rent.

To receive a selection of no-obligation quotes from landlord-specific providers, please click here.

Mortgage consent

If you property is mortgaged, you must ensure that you have the correct consent to let the property, and that your let complies with their criteria.  You should speak to your mortgage company regarding their specific requirements.

Safety and energy performance certificates

You are required by law to have both a gas safety certificate (CP12) and EPC for any property which is let.

A gas safety certificate is extremely important, and ensures that all gas appliances at the property are in good working order. As a landlord, you are responsible for the safety of your tenants, and as such a gas safety certificate must be renewed every 12 months.

An EPC provides information about a property’s energy efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions. It is accompanied by a report that gives suggestions and recommendations on how to reduce your property’s energy consumption and emissions. It is valid for 10 years from the date of issue.

While electrical safety certificates are not required by law, landlords should conduct and keep a record of periodic inspections of fixed electrical installations (such as sockets and light fittings), as well as annual testing of all portable appliances (such as kettles, toasters etc), known as PAT testing.

We are able to arrange for any certificates you may require in order to be legally compliant.

Smoke detectors / carbon monoxide detectors

ALL rental properties must have at least one working smoke detector on each floor. This applies to ALL tenancies, whether new or existing.

A property with a solid fuel appliance must also have a working carbon monoxide detector. These must be tested on the first day of the tenancy.

NOTE: While carbon monoxide detectors are not currently a legal requirement for gas boilers or other gas appliances, it is strongly advised that you have carbon monoxide detectors fitted for each installation.

References

A good reference will include an identity check to ensure the tenant is who they say they are, confirmation of their employment status and current salary (and therefore their ability to pay the rent), as well as their history of paying rent in the past. It will also include both employer and landlord references, details of any bankruptcies & County Court Judgements (known as CCJ’s – a formal court decision that money is owed) and their previous credit history.

If your tenant can not pass referencing on their own merit, they may be able to offer a friend or relative as a guarantor. This guarantor should also be reference-checked to ensure their suitability to pay the rent and any other bills, should the tenant default.

We offer a reference checking service that provides the information necessary for you to assess whether an applicant is suitable. This can be utilised whether or not we have advertised your property to let. Please contact us on 03300 883973 to find out more.

Right to rent checks

It is a legal requirement for landlords to check that all tenants over the age of 18, whether named on the contract or not, have the right to live in the UK.

You must check the original documents in the presence of the holder, and check that these documents are genuine.

You must take a copy of the documents, noting the date that the checks took place, and keep these for the duration of the tenancy and for a further 12 months after the tenancy has ended.

If the tenant is subject to a time-limited right to stay in the UK, you must re-check the documents either annually or when they are due to expire (to check that they their right to stay has been extended).

If you have doubts about your tenant’s right to live in the UK, or the authenticity of the documents, you must report this to the Home Office.
If you have any queries about the right to rent checks, please contact the government’s landlord helpline on 0300 0699799.

Contract

Having a contract is vital. It is important to read through the contract and make sure you are in agreement with the terms and conditions of that contract. You may find that an “off the peg” contract does not cover individual requirements. You should amend the contract as necessary. Ask the tenant to initial each page, and sign and date as appropriate.

Alternatively, we offer a bespoke contract writing service, which provides you with a contract specific to your property.

You should ensure that you are in receipt of a signed contract prior to allowing your tenants access to the property or giving them keys.

Documents to provide at the commencement of the tenancy

All tenancies (including renewals but not tenancies that continue on a statutory periodic basis) that started after 1 October 2015 are now subject to new regulations associated with the service of Section 21 notices.
You must provide your tenants with the following documents at the commencement of the tenancy:
An AST
A valid gas safety certificate (CP12)
A copy of the EPC
A copy of the “How to rent” checklist
You will not be able to serve a valid Section 21 notice if you have not provided your tenants with these documents. It is strongly recommended that you ask the tenant to sign to confirm that they have received these documents.
You are no longer able to serve a Section 21 notice in the first 4 months of a tenancy (or any subsequent renewal). When you serve a section 21 notice, you must give two months’ notice, but these two months do not need to correspond with the rental periods of the tenancy.

Deposit

Before giving tenants access or keys to your property, you should ensure that you have received your deposit and first month’s rent as cleared funds (either cleared funds in your bank or cash, but never a cheque presented to you on the day).

You should not charge more than two months’ rent as deposit. If you do, your tenant may be automatically entitled to sublet the property.

Once you have the deposit, you must place it with a government-backed deposit protection scheme, and notify your tenants within 30 days of taking the deposit which protection scheme you have used, and issue the prescribed information.

You should ensure that you are in receipt of the deposit and first month’s rent as cleared funds prior to allowing your tenants access to the property or giving them keys.

Should you require assistance, we are able to lodge the deposit with the DPS on your behalf, and issue the legally required documentation. This service is available whether or not we have found your tenants.

Inventory

The inventory is a thorough record, with documentary evidence and photographs, which demonstrates the condition of your property at the commencement of any tenancy.

This document then forms part of your contract, and provides a standard to which the property should be kept. The inventory should be signed by both tenant and landlord, and be sufficiently thorough that it can be used to settle any dispute about the condition of your property that may arise at a later date.

You can download a free inventory from our documents and guides, which you can adjust as necessary to ensure it is relevant to your property. You should take pictures/video footage of each room to ensure that there is no doubt as to the condition of the property, or its fixtures and fittings.

Should you require it, we are able to provide an independent inventory of your property.

Check-in

On the tenancy commencement date, you will meet your tenants at the property, and provided that they have signed the contract and paid the appropriate deposit and rent, you will hand over the keys to the property.

You should walk them around the property, going through the inventory as you do. Take a camera with you, so that if the tenant wants a particular thing noted, you can take photographic evidence (for example, they might notice a mark on the carpet that they wish to be noted in the inventory).

Check the meter readings with the tenant present, and also take photographs of the meter readings.

It is always a good idea to show the tenant where the stopcock and electricity consumer unit (fuse box) is.

Once you have shown the tenant around, it is important that you ask the tenant to initial each page of the inventory, and sign to say that they are in agreement with information contained within the inventory, the meter readings, and that they have received the sets of keys you have given them.

We offer an independent check-in service, should you require it.

Interim checks

It is always prudent to make periodic checks of your property to ensure it is being kept in an appropriate manner.

You should give your tenants notice that you will be making a property check, and give them the opportunity to be present at the time of the check.

During the check, it is useful to have a copy of the inventory with you so that you can compare the standard at the tenancy commencement to current day.

We offer an independent interim check service, should you require it.

Check-out

At the conclusion of the tenancy, it is important to meet the tenant on their final day at the property to check that it is being left in a condition which is on par with the inventory. Take final meter readings with the tenant present, and include photographic evidence of each meter reading.

It can often be prudent to attend the property (by prior arrangement) a week or so before the end date of the tenancy. At this point, any issues can be highlighted, and potentially dealt with before the tenancy conclusion (for example, carpets which need cleaning, walls which need filling/painting). This can allow the deposit to be handed back to the tenant at the end of the tenancy without deduction or dispute. In the event the tenant fails to make good any necessary works you are able to demonstrate that you have given the tenant sufficient warning of the works required.

The difference between the original inventory and the property’s condition at the end of the tenancy will form the basis of any claim to withhold the deposit. It is important for you to attend the check-out with the original inventory and a camera, and for the tenant to be present.

We offer an independent check-out service, should you require it.

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