Residential landlords can enjoy a rewarding and profitable way of creating income. Renting out your property can be an excellent way of maximising your investment, or indeed help with paying the mortgage on property. However, as a landlord you may also be well aware of numerous horror stories on “when renting goes wrong”. Landlords often receive bad press when it comes to managing their properties, whilst tenants get an unprecedented amount of support and advice on how to challenge their landlords and defend any possibility of leaving the property, for example. Not to mention how to obtain maximum compensation from their landlord if they fail to repair an issue at their property. And, sometimes, landlords know nothing about certain repairs until they attempt to obtain their property back. Sound familiar?
I have worked with landlords, providing support and legal assistance for some time now. I have become accustomed to receiving those calls from landlords at the end of their tether, not knowing which way to turn as the tenant seemingly has them wrapped up in a legal wrangle or is simply making threats about something they didn’t realise they had even done wrong. Most of the time, the landlord has no idea how to remedy the matter. This article is written by way of support to those landlords who just want to get things right but would greatly appreciate a few pointers for keeping ahead of their legal requirements. So here we go – these are my top ten tips for residential landlords.
Understanding a landlord’s responsibilities
Before you even get to letting your property ensure you carefully consider whether you are the right person to manage the property on a day-to-day basis. Do you have the time to meet the demands of letting a property? Do you have the knowledge to ensure all legal requirements and obligations are met? Do you understand what legal obligations you have? Should you answer no to any of these questions, then it may be worth considering using an agent to manage. While this may seem like an additional expense or drain on profits, in the long run it could save you a lot of money should a tenant raise a claim against you for failing to meet obligations. For example, a good reputable letting agent should be a member of a redress scheme with transparent information on their fees, along with information on which deposit schemes they regularly use. Should you decide against this, it would be essential to at least take legal advice from a specialist professional in this area to ensure you are fully aware of all requirements.
Have a thorough vetting process for tenants
Vetting is necessary for a landlord’s own protection. For example, you might want to check whether the tenant can afford the cost of not only making the rent payments but also keeping the property in good order and, to confirm this, you could ask for proof of their employment and rental history. Should you find a tenant you like but are unsure regarding their renting history or indeed if they are in receipt of benefits, then perhaps consider a guarantor. There are legal requirements to follow for this.
Ensure tenants have the right to rent
It is a legal obligation to ensure that your tenant has the right to rent your property. This can be done by checking passports to ensure they have the right to remain in the UK and verify their identity.
Follow the letter of the law
Having found your tenant, now is the time to ensure all your initial legal obligations are met. This is the point whereby if things are not done exactly by the book, it could come back to haunt you later down the line, with the possibility of large unnecessary expenses to remedy. Always ensure:
- You have a written tenancy agreement in place, signed by all parties.
- Any deposit received MUST be protected in a government approved scheme within 30 days. The certificate and prescribed information MUST also be provided to the tenant within 30 days.
- Ensure the tenant has a current EPC, gas safety certificate, electrical safety certificate, and “How to Rent Guide” BEFORE they move into the property. Keep a record of having provided these, signed by the tenant.
Make a record of the property’s condition
Always carry out a schedule of condition of the property before your tenant moves in. Documenting the condition of the property at the outset is vital to protect your position should damage be incurred to the property after the tenant leaves. Without this you could find it difficult to establish any damage claim or recover any damage expenses, regardless of what terms you have in a tenancy agreement.
Maintaining consistent and positive communication with your tenant is crucial. While this might seem obvious, being an unapproachable and unreachable landlord could make your tenants less likely to report repairs or keep you informed of any financial difficulties, for example.
Carry out regular inspections
Inspect the property. There is a balancing act required here to ensure the tenant is still afforded their right to quiet enjoyment of the property but to also ensure that your property is protected and checked for damage. Again, maintaining communication helps. Always ensure you provide your tenant with 24 hours’ notice of requirement to carry out inspection. Never just turn up at the door unannounced. Should your tenant refuse access, you do not have right of entry without following proper channels, even though your right of entry is most likely included within your tenancy agreement.
Handle arrears sensitively
Should your tenant fall into arrears it is essential to approach to find out why. Simply sending an arrears letter with a demand for payment usually results in the tenant burying their head in the sand and avoiding the issue. While reminder arrears letters are needed as a record for you, communicating with a tenant to attempt to resolve can be far less costly than jumping to issue notices as a first action.
Always follow-through with repairs
Keep the property in good repair. Landlords have a statutory obligation to ensure that certain repairs are carried out by them. Failure to carry out these repairs can result in a tenant not only approaching a local authority for inspection, but also the possibility of them making a claim against you for disrepair. Having defended landlords on these claims, they have the potential to be extremely costly beyond your imagination. Prevention is most definitely better than the cure in this instance.
Keep on top of admin
Keep good payment records and general tenancy files, including communications with the tenant. This is essential should you later need to take action. Evidence is key to not only any claim but also to any defence.
To Wrap Up
There you have it – my top tips for residential landlords. While some may be obvious, you’d be surprised at how many landlords forget the basics. Follow these guidelines to prevent any issues with your tenants. Should you need any professional tailored assistance, I am always contactable on the details below. At PM Law, we are currently designing a package to make landlord’s lives easier, by way of a possible retainer system for regular access and advice for any issues as and when required, as we firmly believe such quick direct access would be a valuable asset to any landlord. Please feel free to contact me to discuss this. We appreciate the costs landlords incur, so we have ensured that where possible we offer comprehensive transparent fixed fee packages available should you require our legal representation.
Landlord and Tenant Specialist Executive at PM Law Solicitors
Tel: 0114 220 1795 Email: email@example.com
PM Law Limited is a private limited company registered under number 05455941 in England and Wales, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority number 421374. Registered office: PM House, 250 Shepcote Lane, Sheffield, S9 1TP.