Have you just bought a buy-to-let property? Are you eagerly anticipating your first tenant and rent cheque? Then read on. Borthwicks property management service will screen your property and potential tenants and save you time, trouble and possibly a lot of heartache. We typically have long-term relationships with our landlords and many ask us to manage the properties as well. In the meantime, here are our top tips to get you started.
Know your rights, and those of your tenants
Make sure you have at least a basic knowledge of the relevant law and the legal requirements imposed on residential landlords, before you start letting any property. Also inform your lender and get consent where necessary.
HMO or not?
Do find out if your property can be classified as an HMO (houses in multiple occupation). This is a property constructed or adapted for occupation by individuals who do not form a single household, or who have separate tenancies, or who pay rent for only part of the property. If this is the case you will need to comply with the HMO Management Regulations and may need a license from the local authority.
Don’t be hasty when choosing your tenants. Once they are in possession of the property, it will take time and possibly a court action to get them out again, if they prove unsatisfactory.
Maintenance and safety
Don’t skimp on safety. As a landlord you have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment for your tenants. Keep your property well maintained and ensure the furniture and other contents comply with safety regulations. Stay on top of maintenance and repairs.
Gas and electricity
Get your gas appliances inspected and certificated annually. Give the certificates to your tenants when they move in and annually thereafter. You should also get the electricity (equipment, appliances, plugs, sockets etc.) checked regularly.
Don’t be greedy
Do not set too high a rent – be realistic and in tune with market conditions. It is better to have a tenant paying a realistic amount than to have the property empty because the rent is too high.
Ensure you have a proper tenancy agreement which sets out all the obligations of the tenants and protects your position as landlord. Ensure all the tenants sign it before they move in. Be aware that older forms of tenancy agreement may not now comply with current legislation.
Have an accurate inventory or schedule of condition prepared for the property and contents. Go through this with the tenants both when they go in and when they leave. This may prevent arguments about deductions from the damage deposit later. Note - it is often a good idea to get your lettings or management agent to do this. Update your inventory when the tenancy changes.
Don’t wait to take action if the rent hasn’t been paid for two months. Take immediate steps to serve a Section 8 notice and consider bringing proceedings for possession. Remember that if the tenant pays no further rent, arrears of at least four months will have accrued by the time a possession order is obtained. Can you afford to trust them?
Keep it clean
See that your property is clean, tidy and in good decorative order. It will be more attractive to quality tenants and easier to achieve a good level of rent. Would you like to live there? If not, then chances are quality tenants won’t either. Think about checking out the competition and view a number of similar properties for rent. We can arrange this for you.
Furnished or unfurnished?
Don’t automatically fill it with furniture. Part furnished or unfurnished is just as desirable depending on the tenant. As a minimum you should provide decent quality carpets, curtains and light fittings. You need to accept that there will be wear and tear on the property and contents. Do not leave items which are irreplaceable or have personal sentimental value.
Folder of useful information
Do have a fact file about the property and include location of fuse boxes, metres, stopcock, rubbish collection and emergency numbers. Include photocopies of any manuals and instructions for appliances. Also include useful and emergency contact numbers of your managing agent or else numbers for plumber, handyman, electrician etc.
What about insurance?
You must inform your insurance company of any proposed letting as your cover and or premiums may be affected. Failure to tell your insurers might mean they refuse to pay any subsequent claim. Ensure that your policy covers you for third party and public liability so you are covered for claims against you following accidents etc due to defects at your property.
What is the tenant responsible for?
Tenants are normally responsible for paying their own Council Tax, gas, electricity, phones and water – direct to service providers. Generally, landlords will pay for buildings insurance and tenants for contents, but tenants may need cover for buildings and landlords contents. Other bills should be agreed between landlord and tenant and clearly stated in the tenancy agreement. Do confirm important issues in writing and keep a copy.
If you decide to appoint a management agent, Borthwicks will advise on all of the issues above and, if required, we will manage the tenancy with your best interests at heart. But don’t take our work for it – see what our landlords have to say about us - client testimonial.