Before a property can be let, there are several matters, which the owner will need to deal with to ensure that the tenancy runs smoothly, and also that he/she complies with the law. We provide summarised information below. If you require further advice or assistance with any matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.
What is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy?
Since 1997 all private residential property tenancies granted to private individuals for a term of less than 21 years and at a rental of less than £25,000 per annum will generally be assured shorthold tenancies. There is no minimum requirement for the fixed term. However, landlords cannot recover possession under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 during the first six months of an agreement. When approved by both landlord and tenant, a tenancy agreement is a legally binding document.
Our outline agreement, which can be used both in respect of houses and flats, is suitable for tenancies granted for terms of three years or less. Additional considerations apply to agreements for tenancies of longer than three years – such as the need for rent review and insurance provisions. The outline documentation also includes a guarantee document (to be used where compliance with tenants’ obligations is to be guaranteed by a third party) and explanatory notes. Landlords should read the outline agreement, guarantee and explanatory notes carefully before customising and finalising the content. They should seek legal advice on any aspects of the documentation which is unclear. Although the agreement is suitable for use in most tenancies, any landlords with special circumstances or considerations relating to their properties or tenants are advised to seek legal advice before completion.
Do you require our “Tenant Finder only Service” or “Full Management Service”
Our “Tenant Finder Service” means we will endeavour to find you a tenant for your property. This includes:-
- Rental advice and rental valuation of the property
- Advertising of the property of rental by whatever means the agent deems suitable and effective with the aim of seeking to find a prospective tenant
- Assessing prospective tenants and arrange accompanied viewing of the property
- Notifying to and discussing with the landlord those prospective tenants which the agent considers may be suitable for the landlord to consider
- Arranging an inventory and schedule of condition of the property and those contents that are to be included within any tenancy
- Preparing tenancy document for signature by all relevant parties
- Execution of the legal documents including signing tenancy agreements (where the landlord requires) on the landlord’s behalf as his duly authorised agent.
- Receiving the initial rent payment on the landlord’s behalf from the tenant
In addition to seeking to find you a tenant, our Full Management Service also includes the following:
- Check the tenants into the property at the beginning of the tenancy.
- Collect the rent and forward statement regularly with the release of rents collected to the landlord as and when they fall due for the tenants accompany of the property notwithstanding that the tenants may have paid in additional payments in advance.
- Inspect the property quarterly or more frequently if required by mutual agreement (see below).
- Handle tenant’s enquiries.
- Arrange for any repair work on behalf of the landlord when authorised by the landlord to do so or on using the discretion granted to the agent by the landlord in this contract in pursuance of protecting the property and landlord’s interest.
- Have the discretion to carry out any emergency or urgent repair works up to maximum cost of £200 without prior reference to the landlord.
- Check the tenants out at the termination of the tenancy.
- Advise gas, electric and water board and council tax office as appropriate of any changes of tenants.
- Handle general accounts enquiries.
- Negotiate rent increases and tenancy extension / renewal with the same tenants.
- Handle insurance claims on behalf of the landlord, organise estimates and arrange for works to be completed.
- Locate new tenants if required in which case the property will be advertised as being available by whatever means the agent deems suitable and effective.
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Presentation of the Property
A well presented and maintained property appearing to the tenant to be in a good decorative order will maximise the rental figure you achieve. Tenants are also more inclined to treat such a property with greater respect. We recommend that interior decorations should be in good condition and preferably plain, light and neutral colours with white ceilings and magnolia walls.
The Inventory & Schedule of Condition
In order to properly record the contents and condition of the property at the commencement of the tenancy, an inventory of contents and schedule of condition should be prepared in order to assist in any misunderstanding or disputes at the end of a tenancy. Without such safeguard, it will be more difficult for the Landlord to prove any loss, damage, or significant deterioration of the property or contents. If we are appointed on a Fully Managed basis, our staff will prepare an inventory and schedule of condition. We can provide this at additional cost if we are only appointed on a Tenant Finder Service.
Full and Part Furnished
Your property may be offered in fully furnished, part furnished or unfurnished condition, depending on the type of property, local market conditions and the price to be sought. We can advise you on whether to furnish or not and to what level. Obviously if you have furnishings available, this may influence your decision, although bear in mind the eventual tenant may require furniture to be removed to allow them to bring their own. Tenants will expect to see decent quality carpets, curtains/blinds and light fittings. Remember that there will be wear and tear on the property and any items provided – so do not leave your prized personal possessions in the property.
Lawns should be freshly cut, neat, tidy and cleared of any rubbish on handover. Tenants are expected to maintain the gardens to a reasonable standard, although you may wish to arrange visits by your own gardener. We can provide a contract gardening service if required.
The property must be in a thoroughly clean condition to permit viewings and on handover to the tenant and at the end of each tenancy it is the Tenants’ responsibility to leave the property in a similar condition. Particular consideration should be given to kitchens (especially appliances), bathrooms and floor coverings. Where Tenants fail to leave the property in a clean and tidy condition, cleaning will be arranged at their expense.
Information for the Tenant
It is helpful if you leave information for the Tenant, e.g. on operating the central heating and hot water system, washing machine and alarm system, and the day refuse is collected etc. We recommend you consider a central heating service contract in case of heating system breakdowns, and provide the Tenant with the contact details for the engineers.
You should provide one set of keys for each adult Tenant. We will also require an additional set for ourselves for viewings, and where we manage the property we will need to keep these for the duration of our appointment.
Important Issues for Landlords:
Before agreeing any tenancy, it is important to check the following:
That furnishings are clearly labeled to prove that they meet fire and smoke prevention standards required under the Fire and Furniture Regulations 1988.
That smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are fitted, and that there is a clear means of escape in case of a fire.
That the property has a valid CP12 Gas Safety Certificate (issued within the last 12 months) which confirms the safety of each gas appliance such as boilers, cookers and fires. Again, we would recommend that you arrange a central heating service contract.
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required for all rental properties before any contract is issued. It remains valid for 10 years.
The electrics meet acceptable standards and the installation and appliances where provided have been tested as per current regulatory requirements.
If your property does not have any of the above, we can arrange this at reasonable cost.
If you have purchased your property with the assistance of a mortgage, you ought to obtain your mortgage company’s written consent to the letting. They may however require you to transfer your mortgage to a “buy to let” mortgage which will probably be at a more expensive lending rate and lower Loan to Value lending figure. Your mortgage company may also require additional clauses in the tenancy agreement of which you should pass to us before the agreement is issued.
If you are a Leaseholder, you should check the terms of your Lease, and obtain any necessary written consent from the Freeholder before letting.
It is important you notify your insurance broker or insurance company that the property is to be rented. Ordinary household policies may not pay up in the event of a claim. You should also notify them when the property is vacant and when re-occupied. Failure to inform your insurers may invalidate your policies.
A rental property will also be subject to mandatory registration if it is categorized as an HMO (ie a house of multiple occupation). An HMO is assessed as a property built on 3 or more levels (even if only one level is tenanted) and let to 5 or more tenants who comprise of 2 or more “households”. This means the tenants are not all of the same family. Licensing has to be undertaken by the local authority in which the property is situated. Whether mandatory licensing as above applies or not, if there are 3 or more tenants not all related in any property, the property is still likely to be an HMO, and whilst mandatory registration does not apply, special rules apply particularly with regard to fire and gas protection.
Bills and regular outgoings
We recommend that you arrange for regular outgoings e.g. service charges, maintenance contracts etc. to be paid by standing order or direct debit. However where we are managing the property, by prior written agreement we may make payment of certain bills on your behalf, provided such bills are received in your name at our office, and that sufficient funds are held to your credit.
Council tax and utility accounts
You should notify Council Tax departments and utility providers (gas, electric, water) to transfer accounts to the Tenant. Meter readings should be taken, allowing opening and closing gas and electricity accounts to be drawn up where meters are available for inspection. We will arrange these notifications if we are appointed on a fully managed basis. British Telecom however require instructions directly from both the Landlord and the Tenant in any event.
When completing your tax return, Landlords have sole responsibility to inform HM Revenue & Customs of rental income received, and to pay any tax due. For Landlords resident overseas, you will require an exemption certificate from HM Revenue & Customs before you can receive rental balances without deduction of tax. For further details see here. Where we are managing the property, we will assist you when applying for such exemption.