New Landlords:

Are you new to lettings, do you want to rent-out your own home for a time, or have you bought a buy-to-let and you’ve never let one before?

If you are really nervous about doing this for the first time you should think about using a good professional letting agent, one that’s qualified, and a member of one of the key professional associations: RICS, ARLA UKALA, NALS and NAEA etc.

This article applies primarily to English law. Although tenancy laws are similar in other jurisdictions, there may be significant differences. Always seek professional advice before making or not making important decisions.

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Otherwise, you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself, but you must pay attention to a few absolute basics. If you don’t you could find yourself with a heavy fine, or you will be stuck with a bad tenant, unable to evict, not paying rent and wrecking our property.

This article applies primarily to English law. Although tenancy laws are similar in other jurisdictions, there may be significant differences. Always seek professional advice before making or not making important decisions.

  1. Make sure the property is safe – that there are no obvious hazards and that it complies with basic letting rules and regulations. It’s a really good idea to do a simple written risk assessment:
  2. You need an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before you can market your property. These cost in the region of £100 and last for 10 years. They give an energy rating from A to F, and after April 2018 the overall property rating must be a minimum of E. You must issue a copy of this certificate to the tenant at the start of the tenancy and on renewal.
  3. Make sure you have any gas and electrical systems and appliances in the properly checked, and a Gas Safety Certificate issued by a Registered Gas Safe Engineer. Plus the gas appliances must be serviced annually. These certificates last for 12 months, and they must be current at the start of the tenancy, a copy must be issued to the tenant, and on renewal.  There is currently no legal requirement in England to have professional electrical checks and reports – unless the property is multi-occupied (HMO) – but this is recommended.
  4. Smoke Alarms must be fitted on each level of the property, preferably in the stairwell, along with Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors in rooms where there are solid fuel appliances – including open fires.  The alarms / detectors must be tested at the start of every tenancy and tenants should have instructions to test and report faults during the tenancy –
  5. Make sure you have done Legionella checks, especially if the property has been vacant for a period – these are basic checks which can be part of the safety risk assessment –
  6. Issue your tenant with the latest version of the Government’s “How to Rent Guide”, a legal requirement:  This document can be served as a pdf. via email if a clause in your tenancy agreement allows for documents to be served by electronic means.
  7. Screening and Selecting Tenants. This is perhaps the most important thing you do to make sure you have a successful tenancy. Make sure you do property checks using this 20 point check-list provided by TenantVERIFY: “A 20 Point Checklist – TenantVERIFY® Recommended Checks” –
  8. Protecting Deposits. Since April 2017 all security deposits taken (maximum of one month’s rent) must be protected in one of the Government approved schemes and statutory information (section 213 notice) served on the tenants or any other person that paid the deposit.
  9. Inventories. Since the advent of the Deposit Protection Scheme, without a good inventory you will not stand a chance of winning a claim against the deposit for damage to the property. You need documentary evidence to show before and after and ideally an independent inventory company should be used.
  10. The check-in. Checking-in a new tenant is a very important process. There a lots of things to remember, so it’s wise to have a check-list in front of you so you don’t forget anything important. Find the Check-in-Check-Out Checklist here:
  11. Operating Instructions. You should supply a folder to new tenants with safety and operating instructions and emergency procedures for everything: how to operate the cooker, defrost the fridge, light fires, locate stop taps and electrical fuses, alarm settings etc. Also other information such as when and where the bins are emptied, where post should be forwarded to, and where the local amenities, entertainment, good pubs and restaurants, and transport routes are; this will always be appreciated.
  12. Administration. Don’t forget to record all your income and expenses for the year which will be needed for your annual self-assessment tax return. A simple spread sheet will do for this if you have just one or two properties, otherwise think about investing in one of the landlord software packages – It’s a good idea to keep all the paperwork in one place relating to the property / tenancy and keep a journal which records all communications, dates, times and conversations with tenants.


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