Our users tell us that one of their main worries as landlords is to stay on top of legal requirements (their landlord responsibilities). We wanted to help, so we’ve asked Tessa Shepperson at Landlord Law Services to come to the rescue with a “how to rent checklist”.
The result is the “Landlord duties” series, five articles to provide guidance for landlords at different stages of their tenancy. Each article is an abbreviated version of the content available on Landlord Law Services: if you want to delve deeper, you can access the full content by signing up to their service.
This first article is about what you need to do to get your property ready to rent.
Before you start
Your personal circumstances dictate what exactly you need to consider and what are your landlord responsibilities. Before you dive into our checklist, please make sure you’ve considered the following:
Is the property in England or Wales?
This is actually pretty important. Housing is devolved to the Welsh Assembly and there is starting to be quite a divergence in the regulations which apply to rented property.
Probably the most important thing is that you need to be registered with Rent Smart Wales, and if you want to manage the property yourself you must be licensed. If you are not licensed, you must use a licensed letting agent.
Is the property freehold, leasehold or on a boat?
If the property is leasehold – check your lease before doing anything else as you may need permission before renting it out. If you are renting accommodation on a boat, note that this cannot be a tenancy as you can only grant a tenancy for ‘land’. Which does not include boats.
Will you (the landlord) be living at the property?
If so, normally this will either be a lodger situation or an unregulated tenancy. Both of these situations require special agreements. (There’s a handy free guide for tenancy agreements here).
Are you considering ‘Rent to Rent’?
If so, take some advice before you start. Find out about the Landlord Law Rent to Rent Training here.
You need to be very careful with rent to rent as although it can work well, it can also go spectacularly wrong.
Have you protected your property at the Land Registry?
This is very important. See this short video clip where David Smith (a partner at JMW Solicitors) discusses this:
The website referred to by David is here.
Do you have permission to rent?
Before renting out your property you need to make sure that you have permission to do so. So consider the following:
- Does your lease permit subletting (if your property is leasehold)?
- Does your mortgage permit this (if you have a mortgage)?
- Do you need planning permission (e.g. if you are planning on converting your property to a House in Multiple Occupation – HMO)?
Are you going to use a letting agent?
Many, probably most, landlords use a letting agent to manage their property. This can work really well – but you need to be careful who you use.
Your property is one of the most valuable things you own, so you need to be sure that the agents you use to manage it are competent and honest. At the very least you need to check that they are registered with a Property Redress Scheme and carry client money protection insurance.
If your property is to be managed by your agents you may want to leave the preparation of your property to them. But read the rest of this article anyway!
How to get your property ready to rent
1. Check whether you will need an HMO license
This is generally where you will be renting to five or more tenants who are unrelated. But sometimes you may have to get a license for fewer tenants or even if your property is not an HMO at all.
Speak to your Local Authority about this. Find the Local Authority (or Council) for the property here.
2. Make sure your property is in good repair and ‘fit for human habitation’
This is now covered by legislation such as the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
It’s important that your property is in tip-top condition at the time it is let as it is not easy to do repair and improvement work if the tenants are in situ.
3. Carry out a fire risk assessment
All properties must be fire safe and we’re sure you will not want your tenants to be affected by a serious fire.
You’ll find guidance in the RICS clear guide to fire safety here.
4. Arrange for insurance cover
This is important. You need a policy designed for landlords and simply getting the cheapest one on the market may prove to be a false economy.
There’s a free guide here which you may want to read.
5. Get Certificates
You will need to get your property inspected and obtain certificates as follows:
- Energy Performance Certificate – (EPC) – your property must have an energy rating of at least E
- Gas Safety Certificate, and
- Electrical Safety Certificate (see the guidance here).
6. Portable Appliance Testing
This is not mandatory but if any of the electrical appliances (i.e. anything with a plug on it) in the property you are renting are not new, you should get a PAT certificate.
You can find plenty of places which do this on the internet and it is not expensive. Make sure you keep full records.
7. Instal smoke and CO alarms
This is now mandatory in England and you must test them on the first day of the tenancy – and keep a record of this.
8. Check for legionella
This is a disease which is found in water systems and can be dangerous if the water is stored at between 20 and 45 degrees. Landlords are now obliged to carry out risk assessments for legionella and keep records.
9. Ensure furniture is compliant
All furniture in rented property must be fire safe and carry the proper labels.
Many landlords buy special ‘packs’ of furniture which are specifically designed for landlords furnishing rented properties and which are all compliant.
10. Consider setting up a separate bank account
This is so you can keep all income and expenses connected with your property separate. The Hammock current account is ideal for this!
- Make sure the property is clean when you rent it out – you can only claim for cleaning at the end of the tenancy if you can prove the property is clean at the start
- Get a detailed inventory / schedule of condition prepared – it is best to use a specialist inventory company to do this
- Register with a tenancy deposit scheme
- Register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (all landlords need to do this), and most importantly
- Make sure you keep proper records of EVERYTHING!
The next post in this series will be on choosing and checking new tenants.
Tessa Shepperson is a solicitor and runs the legal information service Landlord Law at landlordlaw.co.uk. She also writes the Landlord Law Blog.
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