There’s no getting away from it, being a landlord involves a lot of work. The first stages of letting a property are commonly the busiest and potentially the most stressful. There are an abundance of things to think about when preparing a new let for tenants – some to do with legal obligations, some to do with marketing and some to do with property maintenance.
With this in mind, we've compiled the below landlords checklist, to give landlords preparing a new let a firm idea of some of the main things they need to know before opening their doors to new tenants.
Make sure the rental property is safe
Safety is paramount. Landlords have a duty to keep their tenants safe, and a failure to do so could lead to hefty fines or even prison. Landlords are required to install a smoke alarm on every floor where there's a room being used for living space while a carbon monoxide detector must be installed in every room where there's a solid fuel-burning appliance. Regulations if you’re renting a HMO (house of multiple occupancy) are even more strict. Read the government guidance here
It is also a legal requirement that tenants are provided with a valid Gas Safety certificate, also known as a CP12, at the start of their tenancy.
You also must make sure:
- the electrical system is safe, for example sockets and light fittings
- all appliances you supply are safe, for example cookers and kettles
Arrange an EPC
All landlords are required to be able to provide tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate, better known simply as an EPC, on the day they move in. From 2008 it became law that all advertisements must contain the property's EPC rating. With this in mind, it's essential that if they don't already have one, landlords order an EPC before marketing their property to let.
An EPC must be provided every time you subsequently let your home to a new tenant. It's used to show tenants how energy efficient the property is. If you fail to provide your tenant with an EPC before they move into the property, it can affect your ability to evict your tenant in the future. A Section 21 notice is not considered valid unless the tenant has received (and you can prove they have received) a valid EPC.
It's also good practise to take meter readings at the start and end of each tenancy (take a photograph for your records) and contact energy companies so they're aware of who is responsible for the bills going forward. Your tenants don't have to stay with your choice of energy provider (unless you're paying their bills) so they'll be likely looking to find the best deal on their energy.
How to Rent Guide
As with an EPC, the ‘How to Rent guide’ is an essential document that you MUST give to your tenants prior to them renting the property. You can read more and download a copy of this from the Gov.uk website here.
Your tenants are also legally entitled to know who you are and where you live, as their landlord. You must provide your tenants with this information within 21 days of starting the tenancy or you could be fined.
Give your property the right exposure
Whether you choose to rent out your property through an agent or off your own back, a good advertising strategy will be crucial. Even if you’re not planning on using a letting agent to manage your property, it could be worth considering an agent's tenant-find service.
Agents – including online agents have access to the major property portals such as Zoopla or Rightmove (to name just two). These days, most people start their property search online, almost always through one of the major property portals. In fact, according to our survey of almost 15,000 tenants, 55% of respondents first found their rental property through Rightmove.
To get tenants in place quickly, you’ll need to ensure your ad is web-friendly – sharp, snappy and to the point – and that the photographs you use are of the highest quality. Poorly lit or badly styled photographs of the property - not showing it in its best possible light could significantly reduce the number of enquiries you get from prospective tenants.
Carry out a Right to Rent check
As of February 1 2016, the pre-tenancy process will also incorporate the Right to Rent scheme, which requires landlords to check whether prospective tenants have the legal right to rent in the UK.
Immigration status can be identified by checking and taking copies of tenants' identity documents. The Government has identified which documents will be considered legitimate. These include UK passports, European Economic Area passport or identity cards, permanent residence cards or travel documents showing indefinite leave to remain.
Also accepted as proof of a right to rent are a Home Office immigration status document or a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen. Landlords will be able to carry out the checks themselves or request a letting agent to do the additional work on their behalf. Those that are found not to be carrying out the checks could be fined up to £3,000 per tenant.
For those landlords who will be asking their agent to carry out Right to Rent checks, we have created the HomeLet Verify tool which helps agents to cope with the increased responsibility and paperwork which comes with making immigration checks.
Reference your tenants
Tenant referencing is not a legal requirement but it can help to minimise the risk of letting the property.
A tenant reference usually includes all of the tenant’s basic information as well as previous or current employment details, addresses, bank statements and references from their current landlord. It's important that landlords have the opportunity to make an informed decision about who rents their property and here at HomeLet we provide a comprehensive tenant referencing service.
Additionally, if you intend to take out Rent Guarantee insurance you will need to have referenced your tenants satisfactorily. HomeLet's Rent Guarantee pays your rent for a set amount of time and evicts your tenants should they fail to pay the rent. Find out more about our Rent Guarantee product.
Arrange a tenancy agreement
When a tenant agrees to rent your property you must supply them with a tenancy agreement – this is the official contract that gives the tenant the right to live in your property, and you the right to receive rent from them.
The most common tenancy type is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), which includes the basic information of the tenant, landlord and property. It will also contain the proposed dates and duration of the tenancy, a breakdown of payments and required notice periods should the tenancy be terminated by either party.
To make any changes to the terms of a tenancy agreement, you must first get the approval of the tenant. If you don't have your own tenancy agreement, many letting agents or rental sector firms provide templates for sample agreements.
When it comes to renting property, things will sometimes go wrong, costly repairs may need to be made, or matters outside of a landlord’s control could occur (i.e. flooding) and that's why it's important to always consider the insurance you have in place. Whilst it’s not a legal requirement to have landlord insurance in place, it may be a condition of your buy-to-let mortgage (if you have one) so it’s always best to check.
Landlords insurance offers a variety of cover options, from Buildings, Contents, Legal Expenses and Rent Guarantee, so you can choose the cover type that suits your circumstances.
Protect your tenants' deposits
Every landlord must put the deposit they receive from a tenant into a Government-backed tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days. The three Government-approved schemes are the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. To find out more read our Landlords tip: Tenants Deposits: How and why you should secure them.
Following the Tenant Fees Act coming into force in June 2019 there are strict limits on what deposits you are legally allowed to charge your tenants. To ensure you stay within the law, read up on our guide: ‘How does the Tenant Fees Act impact tenants?
Ensure the property's clean
This might sound obvious, but it’s something that could get overlooked in a mad rush to get tenants in-situ. A clean, attractive home will be much more appealing to tenants, so it’s vitally important that your rental property's been given a thorough clean and tidy.
Similarly, you must decide whether your rental property will be furnished, unfurnished or part-furnished. You should also remove any items of personal value or things that will be of no use to tenants.
Conduct an inventory
One of the most important steps when it comes to letting property, carrying out an inventory before and after a tenancy means you can make sure everything's accounted for. It also lessens the chances of a deposit dispute further down the line. You can conduct inventories yourself, ask your letting agent or an independent inventory clerk are available if you need their support.
So there you have it, some of the things you need to be thinking about before letting your property. There are, of course, many other things to consider before renting your property to tenants so, if there's anything you're not sure about it could be wise to speak to a rental property expert or experienced letting agent. Or you could read our Landlords Tip: Guide to moving in day for landlords for more helpful advice.