Landlord's guide to letting a property



When deciding to let a property there are many things to consider including the amount of rent you should expect, what type of tenancy to create, your legal obligations and safety obligations to name but a few. Whether you have a single property, or a portfolio of properties, Simply Lettings will be able to assist you with all aspects of letting and management of your property. We offer three main services: Letting Only, Rent Collection and Full Management. We can also tailor-make a service to suit your own personal requirements.




Property condition


The lettings' market is very competitive, so in order to attract the most suitable tenants at the best possible rental value it is essential that your property is presented in the best possible condition.

Decoration

We recommend easily maintained, wipe-clean neutral paint finishes be used as it will be much easier and cheaper to freshen-up between tenancies. Any small decorative defects or marks which detract from the appearance of the property should be made good prior to letting. In some cases it may be advisable to re-decorate individual rooms or even the entire property to ensure to best possible standard is set. It is also essential to leave the property thoroughly clean throughout, including the kitchen and bathroom fittings, carpets and curtains. This will help to secure a tenant more quickly and indicate to tenants that the property is well cared for and they are therefore more likely to look after it during the tenancy.

Furnished versus unfurnished

Most properties are let on an unfurnished basis as provision of furnishings is unlikely to significantly increase your rental income and there will be less wear and tear. Unfurnished properties should include floor coverings, curtains and light fittings. Most tenants will also expect a cooker. Furnished properties should include suitable furniture for each room (a bed in each bedroom, a dining table and chairs in the dining room, sofa in the sitting room etc.). Kitchen white goods would be expected also. Should you decide to let the property with furniture and equipment then this must be safe to use and comply with current legislation.

Garden

A garden should be left in the condition you would wish to find it. Once the property has been let a tenant is usually responsible for the general up-keep of the garden to include cutting of the lawn and weeding. Any large hedges or trees may require special attention for which the tenant is not usually liable. Increasingly, landlords are arranging garden maintenance themselves and including the cost within the rent in order to retain control and quality. The garage (if any) should be swept and tidy.




Consents


The first thing you must do when deciding to rent your property is to obtain the necessary consents from any other interested parties and these may include:

Mortgage company

If you have a mortgage or other loan secured on the property you must obtain permission from your lender before you enter into a tenancy agreement. We require a copy of the lender's written consent and details of any specific terms before we can arrange a tenancy on your behalf.

Insurance

As landlord you are responsible for buildings insurance during the tenancy. It is also advisable to have contents insurance even if the property is largely unfurnished because the buildings policy will not cover your carpets and curtains etc in the event of a fire or flood. It is essential you advise your insurance company that the property is to be let, and ensure that you are adequately covered with your buildings and contents insurer. We can provide you with details of a specialist landlord's buildings and contents insurance company if required.

Joint ownership

If the property is owned by more than one person, consent for letting must be obtained from each joint owner. Each joint owner must sign our Terms of Business.

Leasehold

If your property is leasehold (usually flats and apartments) you may need to obtain permission to let from the freeholders or management company. You will need to check the terms of your head lease for this information and also provide a copy to us to ensure any relevant obligations are passed on to your tenant. You should also make arrangements to continue to pay any service charges directly.

Tax

Rental income is subject to tax. If you are a UK resident you will need to declare the income on a Self-Assessment Tax Return and if one is not issued automatically you have a legal obligation to inform the Inland Revenue of any liability. Your liability could be reduced by taking into account deductible expenses such as insurance costs, service charges, letting agent fees, legal charges etc. As the Inland Revenue assesses your income individually, a Self- Assessment Tax Return must be completed for each legal owner. If in doubt it is in your best interest to seek qualified advice from the Inland Revenue or a tax advisor.

Moving overseas?

If you are planning to live abroad or be out of the country for more than six months out of twelve, whilst your property is rented you are likely to be classified by the Inland Revenue as Non-Resident for tax purposes. Simply Lettings has a statutory obligation to deduct basic rate tax from rental income received before accounting to your bank. However, you can apply to the Inland Revenue for approval to be exempt from tax deduction at source. We can provide you with a copy of the relevant application form or it can be downloaded from the Inland Revenue's website (www.hmrc.gov.uk). An application form must be completed for each individual.




Tenancy preparation


Tenant guide

It is good practice to provide a folder of useful information to assist tenants during their tenancy. This will help them settle in more quickly and gives them a good impression. Some essential items would include instruction manuals for any appliances/heating system, details of any current guarantees/maintenance contracts, location of meters, stop taps and hints about any particular features at the property (e.g. how to work alarm, dealing with condensation etc). Other helpful information may include local doctors, dentists, refuse collection day, bus services, contact details for window cleaners, takeaways etc.

Mail

If appropriate, arrangements should be made by you with the Post Office for redirection of your mail. We are unable to undertake this service on your behalf as the Post Office requires your direct instruction

Utilities

The tenant will be responsible for the utilities during their tenancy and we advise the utility suppliers of the new details when the tenancy commences. However, we would recommend that you take your own meter readings when you vacate and instruct the utility companies to forward your final accounts to your new address. We are unable to arrange disconnection of the telephone service or cable/satellite TV service. You must contact the relevant supply companies to do this.

Council Tax

Whilst your property is let then the tenants will be liable for the Council Tax. Should your property be unoccupied between lets you will become liable to pay the Council Tax. There may be some relief for unfurnished accommodation however you should check the situation with your Local Authority.

Viewings

In order for the property to be marketed we require keys to enable viewings to be conducted. We recommend you supply us with three sets of keys in total. Each adult to occupy the property will need one front door key. Should we require additional keys to the ones you supply we will arrange to have these cut at your expense.




Tenancy details


Tenancy Agreement & Legal Documentation

The Tenancy Agreement clarifies the responsibilities of both landlord and tenant, and will need to be used should a dispute arise between both parties. It is therefore essential that a Tenancy Agreement is properly prepared to comply with current legislation. An Assured Shorthold Tenancy for an initial six month term is commonly found to be the most convenient form of tenancy and we will organise the necessary legal documentation as required. In order to obtain possession of your property (even upon expiry of the agreed term), you will need to give the tenant the agreed notice in writing, stating your proposed intentions. As part of our Managed Service we can serve this notice on your behalf.

Inventory & schedule of condition

As part of our Managed Service we will prepare an Inventory & Schedule of Condition. This document is essential as without one you will not be able to prove the condition of the property as at the start of the tenancy and may not be able to obtain compensation from the tenant either through any Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme or through the County Court for dilapidations or repairs that may be required at the end of the tenancy.

Rent

Once a tenancy has commenced the rental is payable on the same date each month and we will usually arrange a Standing Order for this purpose. Under our Rent Collection or Full Management Service we will receive the rent from the tenant and forward it to you after deducting any authorised expenses. You will receive a statement from us itemising payments received and any deductions made.

Rent arrears

The greatest care is taken to select reliable and responsible tenants including the undertaking of formal credit and reference checks. As a result there are very few instances of serious disputes occurring. Occasionally, however, tenants may find themselves in genuine difficulties and unable to pay their rent. Should you be dependent on rental income to pay a mortgage we would recommend that you always maintain a reserve fund. Should a tenant be in rent arrears and/or in breach of their tenancy agreement Simply Lettings can serve the necessary notice to terminate the Tenancy if appropriate. However, this does not guarantee that the tenant will actually leave. If the tenant refuses to go you will need to take further action. Unless you have arranged legal insurance you will need to instruct a solicitor to start possession proceedings by obtaining a Court Order and to recover sums outstanding.

Repairs

The landlord is responsible, by law, for most repairs and maintenance of the property. As part of our Full Management Service we maintain a list of reputable contractors who can deal with repairs on your behalf. If you have your own choice of preferred tradesmen we may be able to instruct them provided they are easily contactable and reliable. If any equipment is covered by a service contract or guarantee we must have the details in our office before the letting commences. As landlord you are also responsible for maintenance of 'white goods' (kitchen appliances) and all other fixtures, fittings and equipment provided for tenants' use. Tenants will be responsible for keeping the interior of the property clean and be expected to undertake minor maintenance (such as changing light bulbs) as well as pay for any material repair of any item which has been damaged through their actions.

Property inspections

As part of our Full Management Service we will visit your property on a regular basis to ensure that your property is being properly cared for and report to you any matters requiring attention. Whilst we do not carry out a comprehensive inspection or survey we can highlight to you any obvious matters of concern during the tenancy including maintenance issues.

Security deposit

We will collect a security deposit from the tenant (minimum equivalent to one month's rent) at the start of the tenancy and register the deposit with The Deposit Protection Service. The deposit will be held against any breach of the tenant's obligations (e.g. non-payment of rent or damage to property or furnishings). Any deductions to be made from the deposit upon termination of the tenancy must be agreed by both parties. If agreement can not be made the case will need to be submitted to an Independent Case Examiner for adjudication.

Re-Letting

If you wish to re-let your property once a tenant has vacated we would be obliged if you could give us 2 months notice before the expiry date of the tenancy. If it is NOT your intention to grant a further tenancy or relet the property it would be appreciated if longer notice could be given (three months minimum).

Vacant property

If there is an extended period after you have vacated or you have bought the property before the tenant is due to move in, you should ensure that the appearance of your property does not quickly deteriorate due to accumulation of junk mail or swiftly growing lawn. During colder weather heating should be left on a low setting or water and central heating system should be drained down to prevent frost damage. Please be aware we are unable to accept responsibility for these matters, or for the safety and security of your property during periods when it is unoccupied.




Safety regulations


When letting a property you are legally obliged as a landlord to ensure that your property is safe for any prospective tenant prior to their occupation.

Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended)

There are strict safety regulations in respect of the fire resistance of soft furnishings included in any rented accommodation. This applies to all soft furnishings (upholstery and upholstered furniture including loose fittings, permanent or loose/stretch covers, beds, mattresses, headboards, pillows, settees, armchairs, futons, cushions, bean bags, nursery furniture, garden furniture etc). Carpets and curtains are not included. Any furniture of this type left at a property must comply with the safety regulations and be marked with a label to show compliance and should it not comply it must be removed.

Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1994 (as amended)

These regulations relate to all gas appliances, fittings, pipework and installations whether served by mains gas, propane or Calor gas. Landlords are required by law to have all gas equipment safety checked on an annual basis by a Gas Safe registered contractor. Records must be kept of any work carried out on appliances and a Gas Safety Record must be obtained. As a landlord's agent we must provide the tenant with a copy of a Gas Safety Record prior to the tenancy commencing. Without the copy of the Gas Safety Record we cannot allow a tenancy to commence. The landlord should also ensure instructions are available for all gas appliances at the property.

Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994

This regulation imposes an obligation on the landlord to ensure that all electrical appliances and installation left as part of a let property are safe. In the event of an incident in a property involving electricity the landlord must be able to demonstrate that the electrical supply and appliances are safe. We recommend that all electrical appliances are regularly checked and serviced. This test is called a Portable Appliance Test (PAT). You should ensure that all electrical installations are safe and have them checked by a suitably qualified engineer.

Smoke detectors & carbon monoxide detectors

All new homes must be fitted with mains operated smoke detectors which must be installed on each floor and interlinked. We would advise that a minimum of one smoke alarm per floor is installed regardless of the age of the property. It is not the law for carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted to the premises but we advise you to consider installing alarms to protect the tenant and in order to prevent any legal action being brought against you. You should check that any alarm is in working order prior to the commencement of any tenancy.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s)

From October 2008 it is a legal requirement for any residential property offered for let to have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This is prepared by an approved Domestic Energy Assessor. Failure to supply one is a criminal offence punishable by a fine. If you already have an EPC (for example because you recently purchased the premises) you should supply us with a copy. Otherwise it will be necessary to produce one. Please note that we will be unable to market your property until we have a compliant EPC.

Legionnaire’s Disease

In order to comply with the Health and Safety Executive’s Code of Practice, you are strongly advised to carry out a risk assessment at the premises prior to entering into a Tenancy Agreement. This is especially important if there are open water tanks, cooling systems or a swimming pool.

Houses with multiple occupancy

The Government has now introduced licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)'s. By doing this they are hoping to raise the standard of accommodation for people living in HMO's. A HMO must be licensed if it is a building consisting of three or more storeys and is occupied by five or more tenants in two or more households. Failure to register for a licence is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £20,000.




Lettings' Checklist


•   Complete Simply Lettings paperwork
      -   Terms Of Business
      -   Landlord & Property Information Form
      -   Provide two forms of ID
      -   Ensure all joint owners sign paperwork
•   Apply for mortgage lender's consent if required
•   Notify insurance company
•   Apply for tax exemption if moving overseas
•   Arrange EPC
•   Arrange gas safety check
•   Arrange electrical safety check
•   Check all furniture to remain in property is fire compliant
•   Compile Tenant’s Guide including instruction booklets
•   Arrange re-direction of mail
•   Clean property throughout particularly kitchen, bathroom and carpets
•   Ensure garden is neat and tidy
•   Ensure gas, electric, water and central heating system are turned on
•   Ensure alarm codes and instructions are left
•   Provide meter readings to utility companies
•   Provide Simply Lettings with three full sets of keys (two for Let Only)