General Residential Landlord - Questions & Answers about renting residential property:
Should I use an agent to let and manage my property or can I do it myself?
There is a lot to learn about letting property. Whilst it is perfectly possible for you to let and manage your own property you may prefer to use the services of a managing agent to avoid the pitfalls that often arise.
It may be advisable to use an agent until you are confident about doing it yourself, or if you live a long way from your property.
Remember however, not all agents are all they seem - beware of an agent who is inexperienced. Look for a well-established agent who can prove a good track record with properties similar to your own. Ask people to recommend agencies, if they have had a good experience chances are you will too.
It is unadvisable to rely on relatives and friends to manage your property. It is a considerable responsibility that only a committed landlord or a qualified letting agent should take on.
Do not do it yourself purely because an agent will not accept your property if it does not meet the basic letting regulations. You are taking big risks if you let a property that does not meet the basic requirements. A quality lettings agent will advise you on how to bring your property up to standard. See Rights & Obligations.
What is the downside of buying and letting a property - what is the most I can lose if things go wrong?
If you invest in bricks and mortar, unlike stocks and shares, it is unlikely that you can lose all your money - in fact there is a good chance you will make a considerable capital gain over time.
This is providing that you buy a property free from structural defects, other factors affecting property values remain positive and that you keep the property properly insured.
You will also need to do your research and ensure that you buy in a location where there is steady demand for renting. Our lettings agents are happy to give advice on this, just call our offices.
By far the biggest risks come from poor management. Allowing hiccups can lead to cash flow problems if the rent isn't paid on time or the property is damaged.
You can be held responsible if you do not comply with the law, particularly on safety issues or tenant harassment, which carry heavy penalties - see Landlord's Obligations.
You are also vulnerable if you don't carry adequate insurance to cover letting and public liability risks - it is surprising what claims are now being brought, particularly for accidents and personal injuries.
What is the upside of letting a property - what can I gain?
Aside from financial considerations, becoming a landlord (many private landlords do it as a sideline) can be very rewarding. Landlords can get a real buzz from owning and letting their properties and they are providing a valuable service to their communities. But make sure you are suited to "Landlording" - not everyone is.
The financial gains can be substantial. Total returns (income + capital gains) have been as high as 25% recently, and 16% overall returns have been common. Bear in mind that this may not always be the case - the property market goes in up and down cycles.
However, successful landlords are able to make good returns in good times and in bad!
You should work on an initial yield (income return on outlay) of 5-10%. This should be sufficient to cover your mortgage with something to spare. Doing it yourself and saving agent's fees will maximise your gains and could mean the difference between a good profit and a loss.
Letting a house or flat - what is the law?
When you let your residential property the tenancy will now automatically be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) - unless you specifically agree another form of tenancy in writing. This means:
You have a guaranteed right to get your property back after a fixed term
You can charge a market rent
You can get your home back before 6 months if the tenant does not pay the rent (must be at least 8 weeks owing)
Tenants can be evicted if they cause a nuisance to neighbours or damage your property.
What about tenancies that started prior to 28 February 1997?
Most tenancies that started before 28 February 1997 will be either Assured Shorthold Tenancies, or Assured Tenancies.
If you agree a new tenancy with an existing Assured Shorthold tenant it will automatically be a shorthold - you do not have to serve notice that it will be a shorthold tenancy, as you did have to do before this date.
If you agree a new tenancy with an existing assured tenant, it will automatically still be assured - you do not have to give notice that it is not a shorthold.
An assured tenant has greater security of tenure than a shorthold tenant.
If the tenancy is an old Rent Act one (granted before 15th January 1989) it will be a regulated tenancy. This means that it is very difficult to evict tenants or to charge a market rent. It is not possible to turn a Rent Act tenancy into a shorthold by having the tenant sign a new agreement. For more detail see Residential Tenancies.
How long must an assured shorthold tenancy last?
The AST is normally for a minimum of 6 months. You can agree that it lasts for a set term, for example 6 months or 12 months, or you can leave the term open ended. Once the initial six-month period ends you have the option of renewing for a fixed term or allowing the tenancy to continue running on a periodic (monthly) basis, this being the rent period monthly.
Could I get my property back if things go wrong?
You can end the tenancy at any time after 6 months, provided any fixed term you agreed has ended. You only need to give your tenant 2 months' written notice that you want your property back.
You can end the tenancy at any time on certain grounds set out in the legislation. These include rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and damage by the tenant.
What do I do if the tenant won't leave?
Most tenants will. But if yours won't you must not under any circumstance try to evict or pressurise the tenant into leaving, this can be construed as harassment (see Harassment). You have to apply to the county court to get your property back - see Repossession.
Can I leave my property empty?
Obviously, a property is far better let than being empty. It can cost several thousand pounds per year to have a property empty - in rent loss, council tax, additional insurance charges, deterioration and extra security. There is also a considerable risk of vandalism, squatting and complaints from neighbours.
As a quality agent, if your property stands empty, we will do everything we can to ensure the security of your property between lets by doing regular checks and drive-bys.
As a Landlord, what would I be responsible for?
Repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating and hot water installations, basins, sinks, baths, toilet installations, pipes and service supplies to the property.
The safety of gas and electricity installations and appliances.
General safety and fire safety of furnishings and furniture that you provide.
Arranging and paying building insurance and your contents, but not tenants' contents.
For more detail see Landlord's Obligations
What would my Residential Tenant be responsible for?
Being honest and truthful in their tenancy application.
Paying a fair (market) rent.
Paying the rent as and when agreed.
In most cases paying the council tax and water/sewage charges; but if you pay these, you can include the cost in the rent.
Utility bills, such as gas, electricity, telephone and TV license. This should be clearly stated to the tenant at the outset.
Taking proper care of the property.
Arranging insurance for their contents.
For more detail see Tenant's Obligations
What if my property needs renovation before I can let?
You may qualify for a Local Authority Renovation Grant. Housing Associations sometimes help by providing grants and managing the property for you. If you are not eligible for the grant, Tailor Made can recommend good quality and reliable contractors to carry out some works.
Who do I need to inform before letting my residential property?
Your mortgage lender, if you have one.
Your freeholder, if the property is leasehold.
Your house insurance company.
Your own landlord if you are a tenant yourself.
The local planning and building department, if you are changing the use of the property or part of it, or you are altering the structure.
If you are going to let your property on a multiple occupation basis ? five or more independent tenants sharing one property - then you may need to register your property with the local authority as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).