Landlords Guide to Property Letting
PREPARING FOR LETTING
Various factors have to be taken into account when we advise a landlord on how they should best proceed with their letting. Location, condition and size are important but also prevailing market forces must be taken into account.
A comprehensive assessment of your property can be undertaken by our experienced members of staff visiting your property. During this visit you will have the opportunity to discuss relevant issues in detail and ask any questions you may have. This service is provided free and with no obligation.
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Should it be Furnished or Unfurnished?
Unfortunately there is no general rule. As a rule of thumb smaller properties which appeal to younger people should be furnished and larger properties which usually appeal to more mature families who often have furniture should perhaps be unfurnished. We do however let many properties which do not follow this rule so it must also depend upon the landlords’ situation.
Whether furnished or unfurnished all properties should usually include carpets/flooring, curtains/blinds and be in a clean condition.
Furnished properties will also include the furniture found in most homes – beds, tables, chairs, lounge suite and white goods. If furnished then of course the better the standard and presentation of furnishings the greater opportunity to maximise the rent achievable and letting the property quickly.
Linen and towels are not normally included and we strongly advice against leaving television, video or hi-fi equipment other than in executive lets. A major consideration for Landlords who have the choice whether let a property furnished or unfurnished is that there are regulations which must be adhered to specifically on furnished properties.
Tips on Presentation
You should keep in mind that prospective tenants often decide on the property within the first 45 seconds of stepping through the door, so a welcoming presentation is paramount. Neutral décor works best and painted surfaces are easier to maintain than wallpaper. If the property is furnished keep it simple and choose modern contemporary styles. Avoid any “clutter” to make it spacious.
Gardens should be neat and tidy.
Always leave photocopies, not originals, of instructions for appliances and central heating.
The tenants should have one complete set of property keys. We require keys to the front door only. We strongly recommend that the landlord retains one complete set of property keys.
As part of our comprehensive management service we arrange an Inventory and Schedule of Condition – even if the property is unfurnished there should be a detailed Schedule of Condition for the property itself.
Carpets and curtains can be very expensive to replace and unless the condition of these soft furnishings and interior décor is properly documented, you will be unable to claim recompense for any damage at the end of the Tenancy.
THE LEGAL POSITION
Energy Performance Certificate
From 1st October 2008 it is a legal requirement for all landlords to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for any property that they rent out. This certificate has to be available for prospective tenants.
An EPC is a certificate that shows in detail the energy performance of a building. The certificate will give the properties an easy to understand rating of its energy efficiency using a scale of A-G (A being the most efficient and G being the least efficient) along with any recommendations to improve the properties efficiency and save money following an on site survey carried out by an accredited Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA)
What does the on site survey involve?
The Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA) will conduct a survey of the property which will involve looking at, and detailing the following:
- The construction type of the external walls
- Ascertaining the properties age
- The types of windows and doors
- All room and water heating systems
- Loft space (to measure loft insulation levels)
- The properties fuel meters
- Any fixed lighting
What do I need to do as a landlord?
As a landlord you must ensure that an EPC is provided for your properties. We can help you with this whether we manage your property or not by instructing our fully accredited Energy Assessor Contactor to carry out this on your behalf. By instructing us we can ensure that your EPC survey is conducted in a professional and consistent manner at very competitive prices and you will be safe in the knowledge that you are working with a well established and highly respected company.
We will prepare an assured shorthold tenancy agreement for you and will usually create an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) which entitles the Landlord to seek possession of the property at the end of the fixed term. The tenancy agreement details the areas of responsibility between you, your tenant, and ourselves, as your agent. It confirms to all the parties who is liable for what in connection with the property.
With all tenancies the minimum initial period is normally a six month let and the maximum we would advise at any one time is twelve months. Renewals can be any length of time if either the landlord or the tenant specifically so wish. We normally suggest the tenancy goes periodically with no fixed end date after the initial commitment.
The signing of a tenancy agreement is not sufficient in itself to regain possession of your property and as a managing Agent we will prepare various Housing Act notices which must be served in the correct format and at the appropriate time. The execution of all documents both initially and on any renewals is part of the service we provide on your behalf, including signing such documents for you as Agent of the Landlord.
One of our main duties is to find quality tenants for your property. We will extensively market your property using both internet advertising and direct contact with a wide range of ‘blue-chip’ companies and relocation organisations.
We will take references on every individual tenant who is to be named in the tenancy agreement, which will normally mean everyone over 18 intending to reside in the property.
To ensure this vital process is carried out as objectively and thoroughly as possible we use an independent professional referencing company. The report sent to us by the credit referencing company will be actioned on the basis that the conclusion deems the applicant to be a suitable tenant. This process will include full referencing and, providing they can be obtained, various financial references such as current and previous employment references, current lender or previous Landlord reference and a bankers reference. To further strengthen your position we may decide to also take a Guarantor to back up the tenants’ ability to meet their commitments to you.
Depending on which service you require, we regularly visit the property during the tenancy and provide you with a report. These visits are usually carried out quarterly. From our extensive experience we know that if the tenant understands that the property and their occupancy of it is being closely monitored they are more likely to maintain a higher standard of care in that property.
When a residential tenancy is agreed we take a deposit from the tenant to cover any rent arrears or damage caused to the property. This sum is held by the Deposit Protection Service.
Wilsons Lettings Ltd. ensures that all landlords’ monies are held in separate, fully protected client accounts. From 6th April 2007, all deposits taken by landlords and letting agents must be protected by a government authorized tenancy deposit protection scheme to safeguard tenants deposits/bonds.
Tenant Find Only
Unless the landlord can prove that they have joined one of the three schemes, Wilsons Lettings Ltd. will transfer the deposit to the Deposit Protection Service on their behalf.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: THE PENALTY FOR NOT CONFORMING TO THIS LEGISLATION WILL MEAN THAT LANDLORDS AND AGENTS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ISSUE A SECTION 21 NOTICE REQUIRING POSSESSION OF THE PROPERTY AND MAY INCUR A FINE OF UP TO THREE TIMES THE VALUE OF THE DEPOSIT/BOND.
Inspection and Routine VisitsDuring a letting period, one of our experienced staff will conduct a regular property visit to your property. Following each visit, a report will be produced and communicated to you. When tenants are checked out of a property an assessment is made, by comparison against the original inventory, of any redecoration or minor repairs which cannot reasonably be accepted as fair wear and tear. We will negotiate and agree with the tenant the amount that may be withheld to cover for dilapidation. We will arrange for any necessary work to be carried out prior to installing the next tenant.
The GardenBefore the Tenant moves into the Property arrangements should be made for the garden to be in good order. We can make arrangements on your behalf for a gardening contractor to carry out any necessary work. Tenants are generally responsible for the upkeep of the garden and you should provide sufficient gardening tools and a mower for their use, these items will be included in the inventory. Alternatively, you may wish us to arrange for a regular gardener during the tenancy and reflect this cost in the rental charged.
Repair and MaintenanceRepairs are of course necessary to each and every property throughout the length of the tenancy and Landlords must be prepared for this eventuality plus, of course, repair and/or replacement of major electrical items such as cookers, washing machines, fridges; freezers and boilers as they age. We will make arrangements, on your behalf, with our local contractors or contractors of your choice to carry out any such necessary works. We will agree in advance the level of responsibility you wish us to have in arranging repairs and replacements and then proceed accordingly. Some Landlords are prepared to accept responsibility themselves for such matters once they have been informed about them, and this is perfectly acceptable to us. Where there is an emergency repair, such as a burst pipe or a gas leak, there are different legal obligations on all parties and we may well need to instruct on the work immediately to prevent any further damage to the property or health and safety risk to the tenants. In such circumstances we may need to act first and then report to you, and common sense has much to do with such decisions.
Gas SafetyThere are now some very important obligations placed upon Landlords to ensure that all gas supplied appliances in a rented property have a certificate of safety. This means central heating boilers, water heaters, cookers, fires etc. All such appliances must be properly maintained and serviced and are subject to an annual inspection and safety checks by an engineer who is registered with GAS SAFE for domestic appliance work. The Gas Safety Certificate has to be renewed annually. Non compliance with the Gas Safety Regulations could result in a heavy fine or imprisonment, or both. As these provisions apply equally to the managing agent as well as the Landlord, you will understand that we must take a clear stance in this matter to the extent that we are unable to accept and/or retain a property on our books unless, in respect of all appliances, either: A current certificate is already in force OR The Landlord is obtaining a certificate which is given to us before we install a tenant OR The Landlord authorises Wilsons Lettings Ltd. to take the necessary action and obtain a certificate via one of our authorised maintenance personnel.
The landlord is responsible for ensuring that all electrical appliances supplied in the accommodation must be safe for use and all electric appliances must be fitted with a manufacturer’s plug. New requirements for electrical installation and/or repairs in rented accommodation came into effect January 2005. We are happy to arrange for the necessary electrical inspections to be carried out on your behalf.
The law requires that all new houses built after June 1992 must have electronically linked, mains operated smoke detectors installed on each floor. Although older properties are exempt from this requirement, we strongly recommend that smoke detectors be installed on each floor in all rental properties.
Furniture & Fire Safety
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amended) Regulations 1993 require that all upholstered furniture and furnishings in rented properties pass the “cigarette test”. If any property is found not to comply the landlord faces fines or imprisonment, or both. Any Landlord placing a property on the rental market must comply with these regulations immediately, and any furniture not complying must be removed before the tenancy commences.
You should request a closing telephone bill from BT or your usual supplier before leaving your property. Tenants should make their own applications for a phone and/or broadband connection.
Audio Visual Equipment
If televisions, videos, hi-fi equipment etc. are left in the property, it is the responsibility of the landlord to maintain them. Whether or not a TV is left, an aerial is essential. When the television licence expires, it is the responsibility of the tenant to renew it.
If you reside abroad, the Inland Revenue holds us responsible for the payment of any tax liability from rental of your property. In this case, income tax will be deducted at basic rate from any rental payments we make to you. To avoid this, you can apply for a tax exemption certificate. Forms are available from Wilsons Lettings Ltd. or the Inland Revenue. If the property is jointly owned, a certificate is required for each individual.
You must ensure that your household insurance policy covers your property for lettings.
Utilities & Council Tax
Wilsons Lettings Ltd. will ensure that electricity, gas, water and council tax accounts are transferred into the tenant’s name from the commencement of the lease. Final accounts can be forwarded on to you or we can pay them on your behalf.
A Landlord has a legal responsibility to ensure tenants or occupiers are not exposed to bacteria which cause Legionnaires disease.
Since the L8 Approved Code of Practice (3rd edition) (ACOP) was published in 2001, there has been a requirement for landlords of both domestic and business premises to assess the risks from exposure to Legionella to their tenants.
We have competent contractors who would carry out this work if requested.
- If your property is subject to a mortgage, have you informed your mortgagor?
- If your property is leased, have you informed the head leasor?
- Are you fully covered for Buildings and Contents insurance?
- Have you arranged to forward your mail?
- Have you notified the telephone company of your departure?
- Is the house clean and tidy?
- Is the garden in seasonal order?
- Have you made copies of all appliance instructions?
- Have you provided us with a complete set of property keys and two extra front door keys?
- Have you informed your local council offices of your date of departure and your forwarding address?
- Have you closed the telephone account?
- Have you ensured that all regular payments for mortgage, insurance premiums, water rates etc. are arranged?
- Have you completed and signed our Management Agreement Form?
- Have you arranged a safety check for all your gas appliances or instructed Wilsons Lettings Ltd. to do so?
- If you are an overseas landlord, have you applied for a tax exemption form?