If you are already a landlord, you will know about the endless rules and regulations you have to abide by. If you are not yet a landlord but are thinking about becoming one, this article will help keep you on the right side of the law!
At the last count, there are 178 different pieces of legislation that affect landlords and the letting of properties. And breaking these rules could land you in serious hot water, with some having unlimited fines and others carrying prison time!
You can't wing it, and you can't mess it up.
A landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is in a 'lettable' condition, with rules and regulations in place to ensure that a tenant has a warm, dry, and safe property. If your property doesn't meet the requirements, you could be forced to improve it with formal notices and legal action. You are asking a tenant to pay you for the privilege of living in your property, so it must be up to scratch.
The only way to know that you are 100% getting things right is to employ professionals, who know the laws, have completed the qualifications and deal with this every single day. This way, both you and your tenants are protected.
I have seen many landlords that have dealt with their properties on their own for years. Half of them didn't even have tenancy agreements when they came to me. The majority didn't have deposits protected or up-to-date safety certificates.
At best, these landlords would struggle to evict the tenants if they needed to, but they could have ended up in prison at worst.
A letting agent will help you stay on the right track. In reality, their fees are minimal when you consider they could keep you out of jail.
There are far too many pieces of legislation to itemise here. So I have covered the most critical items to ensure that your tenant is safe and your property is up to standard.
Professional certificates: One way to ensure that a property is safe for a tenant is to have safety certificates carried out. As a landlord, you must have all gas appliances and electrical systems in every property checked, a 'pass' certificate saved on file and a copy given to the tenant. If the contractor can not pass the system, you are legally required to do any remedial work to make it safe. This could mean a hefty bill and maybe a delay in moving the tenant in. Perhaps, if they are told there is a delay to moving in, they realise that they can't wait and don't move in at all? You now have a hefty bill to pay and no rental income. You have to start back at the beginning, remarketing the property and referencing new tenants. Disaster! The loss in rental income, the monthly payments for the property to sit empty, and a significant repair.
I would advise that you don't leave the legal certificates until the last minute for this reason.
Before marketing the property for rent, you will need an EPC or Energy Performance Certificate. These certificates have a 10-year life span and are required when any property is marketed. So if you bought the property within the last 10 years, you might already have one. As part of the Governments' plans to improve the quality of rental properties across the board, they will soon introduce a rule that the EPC grading must be a D or higher to let the property. If the rating is E, F or G, you as the landlord will have to improve the property's energy efficiency before you can let it out. This could mean improving heating systems, windows or insulation, or maybe adding solar panels or something more substantial, to get that rating up high enough to allow it to be let.
Pre-tenancy checks: Before a tenancy can begin, you or your agent must obtain copies of ID for all parties to hold on file as part of the referencing process. This is to ascertain that there are valid forms of ID and that the tenants are who they say they are. You also need to know if they fall into the category of a person of special interest.
Right to rent: A landlord must confirm that the prospective tenant is legally allowed to sign a tenancy agreement and must check the immigration status of all prospective tenants. This can be done by taking copies of identity documents for all occupants over 18. If a prospective tenant lives in the UK on a visa, you need to know that they will have the right to stay for the duration of the tenancy agreement. You must carry out this check on all tenants. Even if they tell you that they are British citizens, it is against the law to only check those that you think are not British citizens.
Structural maintenance issues: Of course, no one 'expects' a major structural defect, but if the worst should happen and there is a significant issue at your property, you must deal with it. The tenant should not have to suffer because you don't want to repair something or perhaps can't afford to. Unfortunately, a lack of funds is not an excuse. The Local Authority will not accept this as a reason for not carrying out repairs. This is why it is vital to have a robust insurance policy to quickly deal with unforeseen problems.
You are expected to provide a warm, dry, and safe property, regardless of budget.
There are many challenges when renting out a property, but nothing is insurmountable with a qualified agent in your corner. An agent is the perfect middle-person, ensuring that repairs are reported and dealt with promptly. Many repairs only get to a point where the Local Authority is involved because the tenant has no choice if something has been a problem for a very long time. This really is a last resort.
I always advise landlords to have a few months' outgoings for the property in the bank account to prevent unnecessary stresses. If there are any issues with rent payments or unforeseen repairs, you have the funds to cover them.
Rent guarantee insurance and landlords' insurance can go a long way to protecting your tenant and the property. Having insurances in place can give you and your tenant peace of mind that repairs can be dealt with swiftly. And you won't have any worries about any surprise invoices.
If you are anxious about the management of your rental property and would like some help or guidance to make sure that you get it right, get in touch with our expert lettings team.