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Renting Out a Property for the First Time: Everything You Need to Know

February 18, 2020

Thinking about letting a flat or house? Despite tougher tax and legislative changes, demand for short and long term rentals is continuing to increase and has more than doubled since 2001.  While the prospect of maximising your property investment is exciting, many first-time landlords make mistakes that can lead to trouble. 

Scroll down to learn all about your legal rights and responsibilities as a landlord. We’re also including tons of helpful tips for protecting your property while keeping your new tenants safe and happy.  


Landlord legal responsibilities

UK law defines a landlord as anyone who rents out a property. That’s you! As a landlord, there are certain responsibilities you’ll be required to meet. We’ve curated a quick checklist for your convenience. If you would like help on complying with any of the following points, we have our own in-house London handyman team who can help with all your property rental maintenance needs. 

Safety and energy performance

  • Your rented property must be safe.
  • Rental properties must be free from health hazards.
  • Water supplies must be in working order. You must have the water tested to assess the risk of Legionella exposure.
  • Gas and electrical equipment must be safely installed and properly maintained.
  • Gas safety certificates must be provided at the start of a new tenancy and within 28 days of annual gas safety checks.
  • Fixed appliances and electrical installations should be checked every five years. This will soon be mandated by UK law.
  • Portable appliance testing (PAT) of any provided electrical appliances should be carried out regularly.
  • Tenants should be supplied with a record of all electrical inspections that have been carried out.
  • All electrical work must be carried out by a registered electrician.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms must be fit in any rooms with solid fuel appliances such as wood burners, coal stoves, or fireplaces.
  • Smoke alarms must be installed on every storey.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms must be checked on the first day of every new tenancy, and the tenant must be notified that they are in good working order.
  • All properties must have Energy Performance Certificates.
  • Fire safety regulations must be met for the property in question. See fire safety regulations for purpose-built flats and for houses and/or property adapted into flats.
  • Check into HHSRS health and safety regulations, which cover 29 health and safety areas that your council inspects and scores. if a serious hazard exists, your council may stop anyone (including you) from using all or part of the property. They might issue an improvement notice, or they may opt to fix the hazard on their own and bill you for associated costs.
  • If you are supplying furniture for your rental property, it must carry required labels and have the appropriate fireproofing.
  • It’s important to ensure that tenants know how to operate all appliances including the boiler.

Repairs 

  • You or your agents are normally responsible for any repairs to your property’s structure; basins, baths, sinks, and other sanitary fittings; hot water and heating systems; and anything you inadvertently damage while carrying out repairs.
  • If your property includes common areas such as a foyer or staircase that serves a block of flats, then you’re responsible for maintaining and repairing these. 
  • If you have multiple rentals (i.e. a block of flats) and one tenant damages a property occupied by another tenant, you are responsible for those repairs. 
  • In the event your property is seriously damaged by a disastrous incident such as a flood or fire, you are not required to renovate or rebuild. If you do make repairs following a serious incident, you cannot normally charge your tenants for the cost of repairs.
  • A landlord’s refusal or failure to carry out repairs grants tenants the right to initiate a claim in the small claims court when repairs are under £5,000. 
  • If a tenant is willing to carry out repairs themselves, both of you can agree to deduct the cost from the rent. This agreement should be done in writing. 
  • When major repairs are required, you can ask tenants to move out temporarily. Agree in writing concerning the time frame for repairs, the details of alternative accommodation, and the tenants’ right to return to the rental. 
  • While landlords may not repossess properties in order to carry out repairs, courts will sometimes grant a request for a court order requiring the tenants to leave, particularly if you can provide an alternative accommodation such as a similar flat. This type of court order is normally granted for substantial refitting or redevelopment. 
  • When disruptive repairs render a rental property unusable, tenants have the right to ask for rent abatement, which is a temporary rent reduction. 

Related: A New Buy-to-let Refurbishment Mortgage And The Benefits Of Renovate To Rent



Tenant-specific responsibilities 

  • Your tenant must be checked to ensure that they have the right to rent your property.
  • Tenants must receive a copy of the Government’s How to Rent checklist when they begin renting your property. You may email it to them instead of printing it.
  • Your tenant’s deposit must be placed in a government-approved scheme and the tenant must receive notice concerning the scheme, how to apply for the deposit’s release, what to do in the event of a dispute, and an explanation of the deposit’s purpose.
  • Written tenancy agreements are the norm. If you opt not to use the Government’s downloadable model tenancy agreement, you may draw one up on your own. If you do this, it is best to do so with help from a legal professional.
  • It is best practise to provide complete contact details including an emergency phone number. You can protect your privacy by working with a lettings agent

Financial responsibilities 

  • If your property is mortgaged, your lender must grant you permission to let it. If you are purchasing a property with the intent to let it, consider a buy-to-let mortgage rather than an owner-occupier mortgage.
  • You must carry Class 2 National Insurance if your property rental counts as a business.
  • You must pay income tax on your rental income, minus certain associated costs. 

Landlord legal rights 


UK law protects landlords, just as it does tenants. We advise seeking legal counsel if you have any questions about your rights as a landlord. 


What is a tenant responsible for?


Tenants are only responsible for taking reasonable care of your property meaning general housework and minor tasks such as gardening. The terms of a tenancy agreement may stipulate any other responsibilities such as asking for permission prior to major redecorating. 
Tenants are also responsible for:
  • Paying the rent on time
  • Paying other bills that they are responsible for on time; i.e. gas, electricity, water, and council tax.
  • Being considerate toward neighbours.
  • Obtaining permission prior to taking in any lodgers or sub-letting. 

When can you enter a rental property?


Tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment. As a landlord, you have the legal right to enter your property in order to carry out an inspection or make repairs. While you may be able to have immediate access in case of an emergency, you must provide your tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice under normal circumstances. Your tenants have the legal right to remain on-site during any repairs. 


Can you increase the rent?


The terms of the tenancy agreement often determine whether you have the right to increase rent after improvements or repairs have been completed and at other times. 
  • During a periodic tenancy, i.e. weekly or monthly basis, rental increases are normally allowed once per year.
  • During a fixed-term tenancy, rental increases are normally allowed only if previously outlined in the tenancy agreement. Otherwise, you must wait until the end of the fixed term to raise the rent, which typically means that new tenants will pay more than the last tenants did.
  • If your fixed-term tenancy agreement provides for a rental increase, you both must agree to and sign a Landlord’s notice proposing a new rent form. The tenant must be given at least one month’s notice. 
UK law states that rent increases must be “fair and realistic” for the current rental market. Tenants have the right to ask the First Tier Property Tribunal to decide on the proper rent amount if they feel that a proposed rent increase is unfair. 


What happens if a tenant fails to pay the rent?


Your most important right as a landlord is the right to have your rent paid on time. Your tenancy agreement will outline the terms of the rental. 
  • If your tenant breaks their contract before their rental term is up, you have the right to collect all the rent for the entire term, and you are permitted to bring legal action if the tenant doesn’t pay. 
  • Consider having a break clause inserted into the tenancy agreement. This can give you and the tenant the right to end the contract at any time during the first six months of tenancy. It’s essentially an “easy out” that protects both of you in the event that either of you feels that any aspect of the rental relationships isn’t the right fit.  
Nobody wants to think about eviction but the fact is, evictions happen. 
The first step in an eviction is serving notice. 
  • Section 21 notices ask tenants to leave the property at the end of the initial fixed-term rental period, and can only be served to short assured tenants. You must provide at least two months notice. Use Government form 6a to begin proceedings. 

Note: Section 21 is being scrapped, though changes will not come into effect until late 2020/early 2021. Read about changes to the eviction process and how the changes will affect landlords and the eviction process here.

  • Section 8 notice provides either two weeks or two months for tenants to get their affairs in order and leave your property even if the fixed term hasn’t ended. You must have legal grounds for eviction to serve a section 8 eviction notice; in most cases, grounds are either damaged property or two months of late or unpaid rent. Use Government form 3 to start proceedings. 
It’s always a good idea to obtain legal advice before carrying out an eviction, as it’s vital to ensure that all legal procedures are handled properly and the situation is handled fairly.


Preparing your rental property to let 


You’ve covered all the bases concerning health and safety. You’ve documented everything and prepared copies for your eventual tenants. What’s next? 


  • Ensure that you’ve got everything organised and that you are prepared to keep proper records outlining revenue and expenses.
  • Ensure that the property is absolutely spotless.
  • Dripping taps, burnt-out lightbulbs, and other petty annoyances can signify that you aren’t serious about maintaining the property, so double-check to ensure that any maintenance issues have been looked after. Double-check for:
  • Draughty windows
  • Loose plug sockets
  • Cold spots on radiators
  • Proper toilet flushing
  • Proper shower functioning
  • Damp or mouldy spots, particularly in the kitchen and bath
  • Tripping hazards
  • Proper heat functioning 
  • Consider obtaining landlords’ insurance so that the building is covered in the event of a flood or fire.
  • Think about obtaining a guaranteed rent scheme.
  • Make sure you have prepared a tenancy agreement that protects your property and looks after your rights. Verbal agreements almost always lead to trouble and make disputes very difficult to settle.
  • Decide whether you will accept pets and if so, which pets will be allowed. Determine if you will charge more rent to tenants with pets. Ensure that all rules concerning pets are outlined in the tenancy agreement.
  • If you are leaving furnishings for your tenants, ensure that you clear anything that has sentimental value. The property and furnishings should be cleaned to a professional standard, photos with time and date stamps should be taken, and a full inventory with a description of all items including their condition and age should be checked, agreed, and signed with the tenants.
  • Decide how you will collect rent. 

Finding tenants for your rental property 


Most landlords decide to use an agent at this stage so they can have access to a large pool of tenants across the major property portals.
But, if you’re going through an online letting agent or doing the process on your own, you’ll need to write an appealing description of your rental and taking attractive photos then start advertising!

Next, you'll have to show interested parties around and explain any special features. Give them a chance to look around on their own and ask them if they have any questions. Spend time chatting! It’s always a good idea to get to know prospective tenants and let them get to know you. Once you’ve found prospective tenants, it is standard practise to carry out reference checks and conduct a credit check. When you’re ready to rent, read through the tenancy agreement with your tenant. When both of you are satisfied, they will sign the lease and agree on a move-in date.

Before move-in day, either you or your letting agent will give the rental a final walk-through. Give your tenant a copy of the inventory and go through it together. Both of you should sign and date every page. 

Provide your tenant with contact information and include the best times and methods for them to reach out. Be sure to let them know that you or your letting agent will happily help in the event of an emergency.  It’s also a good idea to touch base with your tenant/s a few days after they’ve moved in. Do they have questions for you? Remind them that you’re available if they need anything else. 


Final thoughts


New landlords often feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities associated with letting a property – and no wonder! Becoming a landlord can be a full-time job - especially without an agent or the help of online letting services. The good news is that our letting agents can help with various aspects of property management, saving the time and headaches that come with ticking off all the boxes required for managing a rental property on your own. 

We offer three unique packages designed to simplify and streamline your life as a new landlord. Our Essential landlord package will get you up and running with everything from comprehensive marketing to tenant referencing and rent collection. 
The Comprehensive landlord package covers all the basics plus rent guarantees, dedicated ARLA qualified maintenance and property management, plus legislation and tax advice. 

Finally, our Concierge landlord package is completely personalised, with a dedicated property concierge who looks after your rental as if they were their own. You get all the benefits of the essential and comprehensive packages, plus free maintenance between tenancies, prompt tenant assistance with move in and maintenance, tax returns for landlords, and more. 

As a first-time landlord, you need all the help and guidance you can get! If you’re interested in our property management packages or if you’d simply like to ask questions, give us a call today on 0207 099 4000!!!!!!!!!!. We’re always happy to listen and lend friendly advice to help you maximise your property’s potential. Find out how much rent you should be charging with our rental valuation tool




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