Looking for a step-by-step guide to legally let your property? Look no further!
There's a lot to remember when your property comes up for rent.
From picking the perfect tenant, to making sure your paperwork is in order, to finally getting to the stage where you are able to confidently hand over the key, the process of letting can feel like a minefield.
Join Urban.co.uk's Adam Male and the Landlord University's Polly Rivers as they guide you through a full checklist of requirements to make letting your property as simple as 1,2,3...
Listen back here:
Q. I'm a little confused about the new privacy requirements. What do I have to do?
A. The easiest way to familiarise yourself with the GDPR regulations is to check in on the specific webinars dedicated to this tricky topic – there’s quite a lot to take in, so it is worth familiarising yourself with the basics to make sure you are fully briefed. You can view the webinars here (link to webinar) and download all of the paperwork that you need from within the NLA member zone.
Q. When should the privacy notice be handed to a potential new tenant (before or after referencing)?
A. It is a good idea to make sure the tenant has a copy of your privacy notice before you undertake referencing. The sooner you can equip them with this document, the better. You can get it to the tenant via email, post or in person, so don’t panic if you are unable to make it to the tenant in person, an email is fine.
Q. If you are acting as a managing agent on behalf of a family member, is it both yourself and the family member (as the official landlord), who have to register with the ICO?
A. The ICO needs the details of every organisation who process personal data, and a fee must be paid in order to be catalogued on their system. In this instance, it is likely that both you and your family member will be considered businesses, acting as a landlord and a managing agent. Only businesses that handle data need to register and pay the £40 fee, so you should decide if one or both of the organisations in question have access to tenant data. If both have access, it would be wise for you both to register.
A. If you are just relying on the agent to find the tenant, but you are still managing contracts, referencing etc, you should certainly provide your Privacy Notice to your tenant as you will be handling their personal data. A proforma privacy notice is available in the NLA member zone.
Q. How far back should you go with a reference?
A. Whilst it is tempting to go as far back as possible, do bear in mind that situations change quickly, and probing into your tenant’s history may not paint a realistic picture of their affordability or status as a tenant now. Going back twelve months, or to the start of their previous tenancy (whichever is longer) should give you a clear picture of their life now, and a credit check will pick up any financial discrepancies that could have an impact. Referencing agency time scales may vary.
Q. What is the affordability calculation?
A. For tenants, most referencing agencies like to see that the individual has an annual household income of 30x the monthly rental rate (for a £500 a month rent, the tenant would have to earn £15,000 a year). This is a household figure, and can be split between multiple tenants if required. For a guarantor, this figure increases to 36x the monthly rent (guaranteeing a £500 a month rent, the guarantor would have to earn £18,000 a year).
Q. Should I get a separate guarantor for each tenant?
A. It is a good idea to consider this. Using one guarantor to oversee the potential debts of all parties is absolutely fine – this is known as taking ‘joint liability’ – and certainly cuts down on the paperwork for you, but it is a big liability for the guarantor, and they should be made aware of the role that they are taking on.
Right to Rent
Q. My potential tenant is refusing to let me carry out right to rent checks. How do I proceed?
A. Very simply, you don’t! This is a vital legal step in the lettings process, and if the tenant is refusing to let you carry it out, it is important to protect yourself legally and step away from the situation. Whilst frustrating, you should consider the potential ramifications of a hefty fine for failing to comply, and question if it is worth the risk. Have a chat with the tenant and make them aware of the importance of the checks, they may not be aware of how vital they are. If they still refuse, look for a different tenant.
Q. I am taking my property (and tenants) back over from an agent, who previously fully managed it. They carried out initial Right to Rent checks, but will not provide evidence of the checks. Should I carry out a new check?
A. Yes, it would be a good idea to redo the checks, as you have no actual proof that the checks have been carried out (other than the agent’s word) and it is too important a legal process to run the risk of it not having been done correctly! If you carry out the checks yourself, you can be sure that they are correct and that you could not be left liable.
Q. Do I need to check my tenants visa status during the 12 months after they stop being our tenants?
A. No. Once the tenancy comes to an end, you no longer have an obligation other than to store the data. However, if your tenant’s visa is up for renewal whilst the tenancy is in place, you have to make a secondary check at the time of expiry to make sure that their right to reside has been renewed, or that renewal is in progress.
Q. Some of my tenants cover their head and face for religious regions. What is my position with regards to carrying out a right to rent check? I really don’t want to risk causing any offence, but appreciate the checks must be carried out.
A. In this situation, you are legally obliged to ask the tenant to remove their headscarf or veil and show their face, so that you are able to verify that the image on the ID document is them. It may be a good idea to ask if the tenant would prefer is the person carrying out the checks is female, offer to carry out the checks in a private room or quiet area, and suggest that your tenant has someone with them if it makes them feel more comfortable.
Q. If you are dealing with an agent and there is one assigned tenant for all communication, does prescribed information only have to be sent to this one lead tenant?
A. No, the prescribed information must go to everyone who has paid into the deposits. If there are multiple tenants who have all contributed, they must all receive a copy of the information.
Q. My agent received the deposit money from my tenant deposit weeks ago. It hasn’t yet been sent to me. Do I still have 30 days to register it?
A. Your agent should have sent the deposit over to you straight away, as the 30-day countdown will have started when the funds left the tenant and were received by the agent.
Q. What are the implications if I am late in putting the deposit into a scheme?
A. if the deposit is not registered and the prescribed information set to everyone who contributed within 30 days, the tenant is able to make a claim for the return of the full deposit, as well as a penalty of between one and three times the sum of the deposit. This amount will be decided by the county court. Previous tenants also have the right to a penalty award, even when a tenancy has ended. In addition, failure to serve prescribed information leaves you unable to issue a section 21 notice. You are unable to issue the notice until you gave returned the deposit in full (or with deductions that the tenant agrees to) or if the tenant has taken proceedings against the you for failing to protect the deposit and those proceedings have been concluded, withdrawn or settled.
Q. If I am letting a large house to a family, how can I make sure that they do not sublet rooms to other individuals and make it into an HMO without my knowledge?
A. There is no sure-fire way of making sure this does not happen, but you can take steps to help prevent it. Make sure that you have laid the legal groundwork to prevent the situation occurring wherever possible with a solid tenancy agreement, schedule checks on the property to make sure you are aware of any potential changes, and maintain a good relationship with the tenant so they are more likely to discuss the issue with you. Keep your eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary whenever you visit the property – beds in living space etc – and don’t be afraid to confront your tenant if you are concerned.
Q. What if your agent does not give the tenant/s a copy of the 'How to rent' booklet?
A. Their actions could leave you unable to serve a Section 21, as you have not fulfilled the pre-tenancy obligations - this is a vital step and you should make sure that they are carrying it out.
Q. If you have not served your tenants with a Gas Certificate, EPC and How to Rent guide, can you retrospectively issue it to safeguard yourself?
A. Ideally all of this information should be provided to the tenant at the start of the tenancy, however, if you haven’t sent it, you should get it to your tenant as soon as you can! The government have just issued a new copy of the How to Rent guide, so you can reissue everything under the guise of sending this new document. It’s easy to forget a vital step, so in order to make sure you carry out all the relevant processes in the correct order for your next let, the Ultimate Checklist (available for download here) is a handy tool to guide you through the process, and provides a tick list for every element that needs to be carried out
Q. When will electrical certificates be required in the same way gas certificates are?
A. We’re not 100% sure yet, but it’s expected any time soon, and it’s definitely on its way for landlords in England. When the law is in place, all private sector landlords will have to have all electrical installations in a property inspected and certified every five years, bringing it in line with Scottish regulations.
Q. Is Pat testing a mandatory for rented properties still? If mandatory, are landlords only responsible for any portable they provide and not for all items tenants own?
A. PAT testing is not compulsory, but it is best practice. If you choose to carry out PAT testing, this must be carried out on all portable electrical appliances – including a fridge and microwave – once a year. You are only required to test items that you have provided (look to your inventory for a detailed list) and are under no obligation to test items belonging to your tenants.
Q. My gas safety engineer always leaves the tenants copy of the certificate with the tenant. Is this good enough?
A. Whilst this should ensure that your tenant receives a copy of the certificate, it may be a good idea to also send a copy, via email or post with proof of postage, just to make sure that you can prove that the document has gone to the tenant and build your own paper trail for audit purposes.
Q. If I utilise the ‘MOT style’ changes, and carry out my gas safety check early should I issue the certificate to the tenant on the date that the old one runs out, or the date that the new one is completed?
A. You should issue the certificate to the tenant as soon as the check is completed – whilst the check will not take over until the previously one has expired you still only have 28 days to issue the certificate to the tenant, so if you wait two months you’ll be non-compliant!
The National Landlords Association has a full checklist available for download within the Document Suite, to help guide you through the entire process. Further one-on-one help is available via the Advice Line, which is free for all members
For membership contact the NLA at 020 7840 8900.
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