Tips for first time Residential Landlords
Becoming a residential landlord can be extremely rewarding. However, with the role comes various challenges.
There is a fast-growing problem that many landlords within the United Kingdom are being faced with unexpected and challenging situations in relation to either their property or tenants. Statistics have revealed that more individuals are becoming landlords or taking out buy-to-let mortgages in order to keep up with the current housing market.
With housing law constantly changing and imposing harsher obligations on landlords, we have put together a checklist for first time residential landlords to try and ease the process.
- Ensure you have a basic understanding of the relevant law
There are many laws which apply to residential landlords. Before you start to let any property, it is important that you are familiar with your legal obligations. The key thing to remember is that it is your property, therefore you are responsible to your tenants if you get things wrong or breach your obligations under the tenancy agreement. By familiarising yourself with the law, you are able to comply with your obligations, avoid disputes and breaches and ultimately become a responsible landlord. Being ignorant to current laws is not a defence.
- Ensure that you have an up to date and well-drafted tenancy agreement
Having a tenancy agreement that is corrected completely, contains the relevant information and sets out the obligations of you and your tenant will protect your position and allow you to comply with your legal obligations. For example, it is important that both you and your tenants sign the agreement, you provide your address and contact details for notices to be served on you, state the names of all individuals involved as well as other important information relating to the tenancy. Having a clear, well-drafted tenancy agreement is crucial in order to protect the parties involved and prevent disputes arising in the future.
- If you have taken a deposit in relation to the tenancy, ensure it is protected correctly
It is a legal requirement for landlords to protect any deposit in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. This involves protecting it within a government approved deposit protection scheme and providing the tenant with certain prescribed information. If you fail to do so, it could restrict you when you come to regain possession of your property or give rise to a claim being made against you for between two and six times the amount of the deposit.
- Provide your tenant with required information
It is a requirement of the Deregulation Act 2015 that you provide your tenant with a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate, Gas Safety Certificate, electrical safety certificate and the MHCLG How to Rent booklet. If you have not done so, it can cause difficulties if you wish to serve a Notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 on your tenants to regain possession. Under the MEES Regulations, from 1st April 2018, any Energy Performance Certificate for a property must be at least Grade E i.e. Grade E or above, as it is unlawful to rent any property which breaches this requirement unless an exemption is registered.
- Check your tenants and complete a right to rent check
It is always beneficial to carry out reference checks on your tenant as this can identify any credit issues they may have, confirm details they have provided you with and allow you to understand their previous rental history. If any problems were to occur, for example if your tenant was in rental arrears, trying to regain possession of the property could be timely and costly once the tenant is in occupation. Also, landlords should take steps to prevent any illegal immigrants from entering into occupation of their rented property, therefore landlords must carry out checks to prove the tenant is legally allowed to reside in the UK. This is known as a right to rent check. If the landlord fails to carry out a right to rent check on tenants that require it, they could face a hefty fine and/or prison sentence.
- Check the property is in good repair
As a landlord, you are responsible for most repairs that are required in your property. Your obligations in relation to repairs should be set out in the terms of the lease. Landlords are also responsible for keeping any equipment for supplying gas, electricity and water in a safe and working condition. Ultimately, by checking the property is in good repair and promptly dealing with any disrepairs that require attention, you are abiding by the terms of your lease and preventing disputes arising between you and your tenants.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and our specialist landlord and tenant lawyers can offer a range of further advice. If you are at all concerned over your legal obligations, we recommend that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.