Accidental landlord needs help

by Readers Question

11:28 AM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Accidental landlord needs help

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Accidental landlord needs help

Firstly I must state I am not a BLT landlord and nor do I see myself making my millions from letting properties. My girlfriend and I live in separate properties and she has recently fallen pregnant so I’ve decided to move into her property to help support her during the pregnancy and bring up our baby.accidental landlord

I have written to my mortgage lender who have granted me consent to let my property.

I have also contacted a local letting agent who has been out and seen my property and confirmed a possible rental figure.

As I’ve never let out a property I’m a little unsure on a few things and I was hoping I could get some guidance from the many helpful and knowledgeable people on this site;

* Do I charge rent per calendar month or every 4 weeks after the move in date?

*There is a stove in one of the rooms but I’m not sure I want the tenants to use it due to the obvious health and safety risks. The stove is in full working order with chimney swept periodically and carbon monoxide alarms throughout. Can I request them not to use it?

* What should I do with the bond? I hear I need to put it in a safe holding account?

* Can I request access to the property for inspection and maintenance purposes?

* What do I do if the rent is late or isn’t paid at all? Is there a protocol you should follow?

* What do I do if something is broken or damaged during tenancy?

* And the golden question – How do I find good tenants and safeguard myself from potential troublesome tenants?

As you can probably tell from my somewhat elementary questions, I’m very new to this so any help is much appreciated.

Thanks

Sharm



Comments

Jerry Jones

12:01 PM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

My advice would be to find a competent letting agent (get recommendations from other local landlords if you can - whereabouts are you?) and they should be able to give you sensible answers to all these questions, which are perfectly reasonable ones.

Robert Taylor

12:08 PM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

It is best to charge rent per calender month as it is easier to keep track of payments.
As you are new to letting property you should as a minimum ask the letting agent to provide a tenant find service for you which will cover most of your questions for you. I suggest you check on Rightmove to see what similar properties are being offered for rent in the area and make a note of the letting agents and then ring them up to find out what they charge and what is included in their tenant find service. They may try to persuade you to take their full management service which includes collecting the rent and dealing with maintenance issues but if you consider this check out LettingSupermarket.com on this website.
If you do not want the stove to be used by the tenants, this can be written in to the tenancy agreement but you may also need to see if the stove can be disabled.

Landlord Lucan

12:42 PM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

If you wanted to have a go at managing the property yourself, the UK Government's model tenancy agreement is a good place to start. It is free to use, and it explains most of your rights and obligations as a landlord.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/model-agreement-for-a-shorthold-assured-tenancy

I found my current tenant by joining a local community Facebook page posting an ad. Since the rental market is quite buoyant in my local area, I was able to do a few viewings within a short space of time and pick the most promising one based largely on gut feel and personal circumstances. Many different online providers will do a credit check for around £15 (which I would recommend for your peace of mind).

If you have any gas appliances, then you'll need to get a gas safety check done annually (£70-£100). You'll also need to make sure you have smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide alarm (compulsory if you have a solid fuel burner).

There are two government-approved tenancy deposit schemes, and you'll have to use one of them. I recommend protecting the deposit as soon as you receive it. You'll then need to send your tenant a pack of 'prescribed information', which includes copies of:

* The tenancy agreement;
* The UK government's 'Right to Rent' guide (see link above)
* A valid EPC certificate;
* A gas safety certificate (if applicable);
* Details of the protected deposit.

None of it is rocket science, so I would recommend reading up on what to do (both on this site and elsewhere) to see if you could save both yourself and your tenant some fairly hefty fees.

Good luck!

Pam Thompson

13:01 PM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

I signed up for email alerts with letting supermarket but only got a couple of properties that did not fit my search criteria so I am not sure how effective they would be. The other online agent is upad but I haven't tried them out in the same way. My advice would be to just sign up for tenant find and start a list of local and reliable trade contacts who you can call upon. Be warned letting agents charge a lot of money to set up new tenants in addition to their monthly fee - in sussex this can be around £300 for each tenant change.

philip ellis

16:02 PM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

I couldn't agree more. A good letting agent will advertise, find a tenant, do all the credit checks, carry out full photographic inventories and arrange the contract. I pay Connells a one-off fee and couldn't be happier.

Gary Nock

16:18 PM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

As a landlord who uses Letting Supermarket for all my tenant find properties I find them excellent. You can also ask them to manage it for 4% of the rent plus VAT and they have local property managers who take the pictures and do the viewings. As a new landlord I would not recommend you go it alone as yet. Use an agent. When you get more experienced then by all means self manage but do you want the hassle for 4%?

And I am not Mark Alexander under an alias!

Commercial Trust

16:52 PM, 30th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Good afternoon Sharm,

* Do I charge rent per calendar month or every 4 weeks after the move in date?

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/15-16/20/section/61 - unless you specify otherwise in the tenancy agreement, a month is always taken to mean one calendar month, and this is the most commonly used time frame for a tenancy period.

That said, how often you charge rent is up to you. Some landlords who let to tenants in receipt of benefits charge rent four-weekly, as this is how frequently housing benefit is paid. Bear in mind that if rent is payable weekly, you are obliged by law to provide a rent book.

*There is a stove in one of the rooms but I’m not sure I want the tenants to use it due to the obvious health and safety risks. ... Can I request them not to use it?

Landlord gas safety obligations:

- Install a smoke alarm on every floor and a carbon monoxide alarm in every room with a fuel-burning appliance. (You should also make sure that the alarms are in working order at the start of the tenancy.)
- Keep all of your gas appliances, fittings and flues in good repair by instructing Gas Safe registered engineers to inspect, repair and service them.
- Have a Gas Safe registered engineer conduct annual gas safety checks, keep a record of the checks for two years and issue a copy to each tenant before they move in (or within 28 days of the check, in the case of an existing tenancy)

If you do all of this, you have met your legal duties. You should also know if the appliance is safe to use. There’s nothing to stop you from politely requesting that your tenant doesn’t use the stove. If you are still concerned, you could move the stove for the duration of the tenancy – but this counts as work that will need to be undertaken by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

* What should I do with the bond? I hear I need to put it in a safe holding account?

You are correct; you need to protect the bond with one of three approved deposit protection schemes within 30 days of receipt. You must also issue your tenant with certain 'prescribed information' within this period. See this page on the government website for more information: https://www.gov.uk/deposit-protection-schemes-and-landlords/overview

* Can I request access to the property for inspection and maintenance purposes?

You may, and indeed must, request access for maintenance and inspection purposes. Your tenant's 'right to quiet enjoyment' means that you require their permission to enter, and must also give at least 24 hours' notice.

You are legally obligated to keep the property safe and in a good state of repair, which necessitates regular access. If your tenant does not wish you to enter the property, then you cannot – doing so is prohibited under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. But if they are persistently obstructive you may need to inform them in writing that they will be liable for any deterioration of the property that arises as a result of your inability to discharge your obligations. Keep copies of these letters in case of any claims of neglect. And contact your local council about the issue.

* What do I do if the rent is late or isn’t paid at all? Is there a protocol you should follow?

Absolutely. Firstly, there are a number of things you should not do under any circumstances, as they constitute harassment:

- Behave in a threatening manner
- Change the locks or otherwise obstruct your tenant’s access
- Cut off utilities
- Enter the property without permission or the required 24 hours’ notice
- Evict your tenant illegally
- Remove your tenant’s belongings

First, send a formal reminder of overdue rent to your tenant. You can suggest a repayment plan at this stage if amenable to and appropriate for both parties. If your tenant has a guarantor, and the rent remains unpaid, inform the guarantor in writing that your tenant is in arrears and that you will take legal action if the rent remains unpaid. Follow this up with a final demand for overdue rent and a warning that you will begin legal proceedings.

If all else fails, once the rent is in arrears by at least two months, you can serve notice under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 and begin eviction proceedings.

* What do I do if something is broken or damaged during tenancy?

First, it’s important to realise that there’s a distinction between damage and natural wear and tear of goods, for which your tenant is not liable.

Your tenancy agreement should outline which party is responsible for what repairs. As a landlord, some repairs are automatically your responsibility; see this page for more information: https://www.gov.uk/renting-out-a-property/making-repairs

If a repair arises as a result of neglect or malicious damage on the part of your tenant or a friend or family member of your tenant, they are liable to pay for it. If you are forced to pay for it yourself, you may be able to withhold part of the deposit at the end of the tenancy or recover the cost through small claims court.

You may also be able to evict your tenant under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, citing Ground 13. But this is not a mandatory ground for possession, so even if you can prove that your tenant has damaged your property, a court may still not rule in your favour.

* And the golden question – How do I find good tenants and safeguard myself from potential troublesome tenants?

The following can help safeguard against a bad tenant:

- Verify your tenant’s identity with a photographic ID.
- Obtain address and employment histories. Verify their current address with a council tax, utility bill or current tenancy agreement.
- Confirm employment by obtaining an employer’s reference, or if your tenant is in receipt of benefits, ask them to provide a letter from the Job Centre or council to confirm this.
- Also obtain references from previous landlords, so far as possible. Some landlords worry that a landlord might give a bad tenant a glowing reference to get rid of them; taking a reference from the two most recent landlords can allay this fear.
- Perform a credit check on the prospective tenant.

Also worth noting is that under the Immigration Act 2014, you’re required by law to check that your tenant is legally required to reside and work in the UK. More information on referencing can be found here: https://www.commercialtrust.co.uk/btl/landlord-advice/tenant-referencing/tenant-referencing-guide/

One final point:

The regulations and rules around property management are numerous, complex and varied, and even experienced landlords frequently encounter difficulties. As a self-confessed novice and ‘accidental landlord’, you should strongly consider instructing an accredited lettings agent to take care of the management.

Also consider joining a landlords association. Membership of such a body can give you access to invaluable seminars and networking events and can help you remain abreast of developments in landlord law.

I hope this information was of use to you.

All the best,
Ben

Pam Thompson

21:59 PM, 31st March 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Gary Nock" at "30/03/2016 - 16:18":

Can I ask where your properties are as I have never seen letting supermarket advertise on rightmove in sussex

Gary Nock

22:35 PM, 31st March 2016
About 3 years ago

Pam my properties are in the West Midlands. Letting Supermarket advertise on all the online portals like Rightmove and Zoopla but it makes no difference to the area. It may be that they did not have any properties in Sussex at the time you looked.

Andrea Collins

15:16 PM, 21st April 2016
About 3 years ago

* What do I do if the rent is late or isn’t paid at all? Is there a protocol you should follow?

Register their details at LandlordReferencing.co.uk (the UK's one and only legal 'bad tenant list'). I’ve used it for many years and its the best referencing in town, mainly because I can't find the same calibre of Tenant Histories any where else on the market.

Oh, by the way, they also have some cracking deals to let your property, reference your tenants AND get RGI through their new residential lettings service @ http://www.trlettings.co.uk .

Hope this helps and good luck! 🙂


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