It is a daunting task, letting out a property for the first time, so here are some tips from practical advice to legal responsibilities.
As a first step, undertake any maintenance which needs to be done. Your property will be more attractive to prospective tenants if it’s had a fresh lick of paint, all repairs are done and if necessary, new flooring has been installed. Next, you should decide whether to let the property furnished or unfurnished. If possible offer both options, so that the agent can market it to a wider audience.
Get to know your market. Research similar properties in the local area and find out how much they are being let for per month. If your rent is set too high, or too low, prospective tenants will steer clear. Think about your target demographic and consider for whom your property would be suitable; for example, young families, students or single professionals. Set a competitive price and aim to keep it filled at all times to minimise rental voids.
With your new status, comes great responsibility. In the first instance, check that your mortgage allows you to let out your property, as some agreements include caveats to prevent homes from being rented. If you are unsure, speak to your mortgage lender and they will be able to advise you accordingly.
Being a landlord is a 24/7 job, so you should be prepared to receive calls from your tenant at any time during the day or night, as some issues will need immediate attention such as a gas leak or broken boiler. You will be accountable for all repairs and maintenance and refurbishment of the interior and exterior of the property when required, unless you agree for your letting agent to manage the property – in which case they will deal with minor issues.
Your existing buildings and contents insurer must be made aware of your intention to let your property, as it’s likely that your policy will need to be amended. While specific landlord insurance isn’t a legal requirement, it is advisable as the policy will protect the building, your tenants and your investment as a whole - some policies will also pay out if your tenant misses their rent payments.
You may wish to meet potential tenants before agreeing to let them your property, or you may prefer to leave it to your letting agent, if you use one. If you do choose to use an agent, they will perform reference and credit checks on potentials tenants to ensure everything is reliable. Otherwise, you will need to do this yourself.
There are currently around 150 laws that landlords need to adhere to while letting a property.
At the start of a tenancy agreement, landlords must carry out right to rent checks in line with immigration laws, protect deposits and have all the essential paperwork in place.
Whilst not a legal requirement, it is certainly a very good idea to have a written tenancy agreement so that both you and your tenant understands their rights and responsibilities.
The safety of your tenants is very important, so you must undertake a Gas Safety check every year. It’s also a good idea to make sure all electrical appliances and wiring are tested regularly too. Finally, it goes without saying that your rental property should be fitted with smoke alarms on every floor and carbon monoxide protectors where necessary.
By law, you will need an EPC (energy performance certificate) for your rental property, and from 1st April this year, it will need to be EPC grade E which your letting agent can help you to organise. You won't be able to market the property without one, so get it sorted as soon as possible - they're valid for 10 years.
If you want to make the process pain-free, use an agent to manage your property and guide you on everything you need to know. A good agent will take away the stress of finding suitable tenants and also ensure your property complies with any regulatory changes. Propertymark Protected letting agents are experienced and trained professionals who work to a code of practice in order to help landlords manage their homes.
David Cox, ARLA Propertymark chief executive, said: “Whether you’re a first-time landlord or have let properties before, there are some things every landlord should know. Regulations change often which means that not checking the rules, can result in a landlord unwittingly breaking the law. We’ve put together these tips to ensure you understand your obligations and responsibilities as a landlord, and how to protect your property, keep your tenants happy and deal appropriately with any issues as they arise.”