When it comes to managing properties to rent the common understanding is that you advertise your property, find a tenant, do a few simple checks, write a tenancy agreement (that you probably downloaded for free 5 years ago and re-use the same one every time a tenancy changeover happens), take a deposit, take some photos before they move in, handover the keys and done. Does that sound about right?
Well yes, in theory you are correct. But if they are the only steps you have taken you are leaving yourself wide open to a whole host of laws and legislations that you haven’t complied with which ultimately may lead you to being unable to evict your tenant when it comes to a time when you need to. This post is going to give you 5 Common mistakes that Landlord’s make… and Newhaus’ advise on how to avoid them!
Before moving your tenant in most landlords just drop their tenant an email saying “Hi.. property is ready from “x” date. What time do you want to meet us there to handover the keys?” INCORRECT – if that is all you do prior to moving a tenant in then you have failed to comply with a handful of legislations that now means you are unable to serve notice on your tenant.
So what should you be doing? CORRECT – Prior to move in you need to serve your tenants with the following; Copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (confirming it is rated a Band E or above), Copy of the (in date!) Gas Safety Certificate, Copy of the Government issued (up to date!) “How to Rent Guide”, Deposit Terms & Conditions and Prescribed Information and you must confirm ON THE DAY that all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors have been tested and are working and record this. On top of this you really SHOULD be getting a full detailed Inventory it protects YOU at the end of the tenancy ensuring that the property is returned in the condition it was released in.
When your tenant contacts your via Gumtree or through the local paper ad or the post on Facebook Marketplace you have done saying “Mr/Mrs Landlord/Landlady I would like to rent your property I can pay “x” rent amount and can move in on “y” date”. You all instinctively thing YAY! FAB! New tenants, next to no void period between my tenancies and they will pay the FULL asking rent. Lets just swap contact details so I can write the tenancy agreement and lets get the ball rolling. INCORRECT – if that is all you do prior to selecting an applicant you fall foul of the “Right to Rent” Legislation which forms part of the Immigration Act 2014.
So how do you comply? CORRECT – When an applicant applies to live at your property you must take certain forms of ID (you must see the original form and take a copy) a list of the acceptable forms can be found on the .gov website. You must also confirm whether this person has a permanent or time limited right to rent within in the UK. If it is time limited you must schedule closer to the time when their allowance expires to re-carry out the checks. You must NOT renew the tenancy until this has been completed.
Mistake No. 3
So your tenant has moved in, you’ve correctly served all the right documents before they moved in and you confirmed that they have a right to rent within the UK under the guidelines set by the Home Office. Winner. You are doing well. So 3/4 months go by and you decide it’s time to visit the property and check that they are looking after it well and the two cats you allowed them to have haven’t yet scaled the curtains you provided and tore them apart! So you drop them a text on Monday confirming you are popping round to visit on Friday at 6pm to have a quick look. They text back and everyone is in agreement. You then get a notification that your inbox is full so you delete all your messages. You pop round Friday everything looks to be in good order, there is a mattress on the floor in the living room next to the gas fire but they’ve advised they have got their Mum visiting for a few weeks from a different country and she will soon be gone. You go upstairs and there are two beds in both the 2nd and 3rd bedroom but you presume this is just in case their children have friends to stay over. No holes in the curtains! Everything is fine.. INCORRECT – you have failed to confirm to note that the additional 3! beds within the property are not their temporarily and raised this as a concern. You’ve failed to identify that you cannot have a bed positioned next to a gas fire. You’ve also failed to check the ID of the current occupants against the ID of the ones you’ve moved in and finally you’ve got no written record that you gave the tenant the required notice to attend the property and you have no written record of your findings that potentially you may have a House Share on your hands with occupants that haven’t passed the right to rent checks.
Where do we go from here? CORRECT – When you notify your tenants that you are going to be attending to carry out an inspection you should ensure you keep a record of this. If you confirm by telephone conversation you should record the time, date and nature of the phone call and follow up with an email or a letter. Secondly you should record the condition of the property upon inspection photos and notes ARE allowed as long as they are specific and not generic. If you have genuine cause for concern you are certainly allowed to take photos and a written record of what you see is crucial as well. When you identify that the tenants are using the living room as an additional bedroom you should firstly advise them this isn’t allowed due to health and safety regulations then you should also arrange to cap off the gas appliance until the situation has been resolved. You should arrange a follow up visit so you can confirm that the room still isn’t being used and it also gives you the opportunity to check whether all 4 beds upstairs and being regularly used. I would also advise to arrange the visit for a different day and time of day (perhaps a Saturday!) when more of the occupants are likely to be home. You should create a full report that you keep on file and give a copy to the tenants so they can see the concerns you have raised. If on your next visit the occupant you found downstairs is still there – request to see their ID to confirm of their eligibility to rent within the UK. If they cannot/do not provide ask the tenants for them to vacate the property. Again record all conversations.
Your tenant calls you on a Monday morning to advise that some damp areas have appeared around the window frame and the ceiling line in their back bedroom. You tell them that condensation is a tenants responsibility so they need to make sure they open their windows, ventilate well and the issue should go away. They contact you again a month later to advise the issue still hasn’t disappeared and now covers the majority of the ceiling area and has started to creep down the walls. You advise them over the phone that it’s the middle of winter and it is a cold property perhaps they should try cleaning the walls and see how they get on. A month later you receive a document from your local council advising that the t
enants have put a complaint in regarding the condition of your property and they have advised you of some steps that you need to take. You think it’s just condensation these tenants aren’t looking after my property correctly so I’ll serve them a section 21 notice to get possession back. INCORRECT – what you have just done is known in the rental industry as a retaliatory eviction. The tenants would have been advised by the council that if you were to serve them notice in light of their report to advise them. The council will now inform you that you have breeched the Act that covers retaliatory eviction, you have no records of what you have asked the tenant to do to try and remove the issue and you haven’t followed the steps the council have requested. More than likely they will now issue you with an improvement order which means you HAVE to complete the works they request oh and you won’t be able to re-issue your Section 21 for another 6 months. Wonderful….
How should it be done? CORRECT – upon receipt of the initial complaint (ensure you request it in writing if it received by phone call) you should respond in writing acknowledging the issue and providing advice (we would send a mould and condensation guide out) encourage them to have the heating on at a mid/low temperature throughout the day to prevent peeks and troughs in the temperature which would encourage excess moisture and therefore likely lead to condensation. Ensure that any extractor fans in the nearby area are working effectively and ask the tenants to report back if they are not and remind tenants to ensure they are not drying wet clothes inside the property if there isn’t adequate ventilation in place. (This should all be done in either email/letter format so you can keep a log). Schedule a follow up call to the tenants to see if they area has improved. If it hasn’t perhaps visit the property yourself take photos of the area – check the gutter lining above isn’t blocked causing the water to sit and soak into the brick work. Ensure there is adequate heating and ventilation in the property. Again making a record of any recommendations given. If the issue persists instruct a professional company to carry a damp survey out on the property and provide the tenant with a copy afterward to ensure that they have a full understanding of what advice has been provided to you.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to record EVERY maintenance job that is reported to you. Always ask for a follow up email/letter if the report is given over the phone.
So you chose to Let your property out on 2nd April 2018 you purchased the property in the January of that year and it had an EPC that came with it, it had also had a gas certificate done before you purchased it. As above you’ve served all your documents correctly and you’ve now dealt with the maintenance issues correctly but the tenancy just isn’t working out and you decide to give them notice to expire on June 1st 2019. You work through your checklist to ensure you have done everything correctly and then you realise that the gas certificate expired on 23rd February 2019. But they are leaving anyway so not to worry you’ll just get it done
before your new tenants move in. INCORRECT – you have failed to comply with the gas safety legislations which means that your section 21 notice is now invalid.
How many more things are there for you to comply with? CORRECT – Diarise the month before the Gas Safety Certificate is due to expire to book in a contractor. You must ensure that the Gas Safety certificate is renewed on time and is passed. Also remember that you can complete your certificate in advance and have it dated from the renewal date. Your Energy Performance Certificate also has a 10 year expiry date – remember to check this before marketing the property to let for your new tenants.
Now we have BRIEFLY touched on 5 areas in which Landlords may have made mistakes but they aren’t the only areas and they also aren’t the only answers to solving the problems they are just suggestions. The Residential Lettings market is a minefield and is ever changing. Unless you are working as a full time landlord you will struggle to keep up with all the new Legislations and updates. We hope this post gives you a few ideas of how to improve your service to your tenants alternatively if you read this and think “OH NO!” give Emily a call 01284 488010 and she can sit down with you and go through your current letting and help you get compliant again.