When setting up a new Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) it has always been important to pay attention to the paperwork, which provides vital evidence should there be a dispute during or after the tenancy.
But since the Deregulation Act 2015, with measures that came into force for new ASTs from 1st of October 2015, and for all ASTs from 1st October 2018, including existing tenancies, it became a whole lot more important. And it's a whole lot more onerous on landlord's and agent's administration systems to find the time to have comprehensive documentation.
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.
Without evidence, having the correct paperwork, and having served it correctly and carried out other procedures: (1) it is likely you won't be able to serve a valid section 21 notice. This is the two-month no fault notice informing the tenant that you will be applying to the court for a possession order. That's if they don't vacate at the expiry of the notice, and (2) you are unlikely to be successful in any court possession claim.
Here is our recommend 20 Point Document Checklist:
1. A documented Risk Assessment, Fire Safety, Furniture, Appliances, Legionella.
2. Tenancy Agreement -your tenancy agreement should be up-to-date taking into account the latest changes in the law.
3. Telephone & Interview Checklist - used to take details during initial enquiries. This makes sure you don't miss important things, you treat every applicant equally and avoid charges of discrimination.
4. Tenancy Application Form - the most important document after the Tenancy Agreement - gives all the background information you should have on every adult tenant in your property.
5. Tenant Credit Checks & References - a report from a reputable referencing agency such as www.tenantverify.co.uk
7. Check-in / Check-out Checklist - an itemised list and checklist so that nothing is missed when checking a tenant in and out.
8. Inventory report, smoke and CO alarms tests before each tenancy, all meter readings, keys and photos etc.
9. Deposit Protection Details and s213 notice - the deposit protected within 30 days and the statutory notice served and receipted obtained.
10. Letters to all utility providers - informing the them in writing or online of tenancy change overs, meter readings etc.
11. Tenant's Information Pack - includes all appliances instructions, safety instructions - copies provided to the tenant/s.
12. EPC - a ten year certificate which must be in place first when marketing a property to let or for sale.
13. Gas Safety Certificate - annual Gas Check carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer and a copy issued to the tenant.
14. The Government's 'How to Rent' Guide - the current version must be issued to tenants at the commencement of every new tenancy.
15. Electrical Safety Certificate (checks made every 5 years)
16. Rent Book if rent is paid weekly.
17. Regular Inspection reports - landlord's insurance policies usually specify that regular inspections are carried out.
18. Licensing Details - if the property comes under any of the local authority licensing schemes.
19. Tenancy journal - keep a journal for every tenancy which records every contact and tenancy event for use as evidence in the future.
20. Tenant's File - keep a file for every tenancy / property which contains all of these documents and property purchase, capital costs details for capital gains tax purposes when you come to sell the property.
Make sure you have a good comprehensive landlord's insurance policy in place from a reputable supplier - www.totallandlordinsurance.co.uk
Make sure you keep proper accounts to record all your Income and Expenses from every property you own.
Seems a whole lot to think about and quite a bit of work.
But if you want things to go smoothly, and just in case there's a problem where unfortunately you need to evict, landlords and agents now need to arm themselves with this sort of comprehensive documentary evidence.