Over the last few weeks we have had a huge increase in members Lifestyle Referencing at Landlord Referencing & have noticed that more and more members are those with just a few properties. We receive many requests each week about what is the best way to ensure when you let out a property that all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.
The first thing which is really important is to make sure you have documented everything in writing and have supported the documents with photographic and third party written statements, if you can’t prove it you can’t rely on it!! To some this may seem over the top but more court cases are lost by landlords because the benefit of the doubt is given to the tenant when the landlord has tried to rely on evidence which is solely based on “He said, she said”. You must always work on the principle if it’s not documented, recorded and photographed it will not be accepted as factual.
As Landlords we at Landlord Referencing use the following protocol for Tenancy Applicants:
If your new tenant does not declare a previous Landlord and you have no match with Landlord Referencing, always ask for a home owner Guarantor and carry out the same checks on the guarantor as you have so far on the tenant.
If you have been given a previous landlord or found a match with Landlord Referencing contact them and ask:
- How long have they been tenants?
- Is the rent paid on time?
- Are they in any arrears?
- Have they looked after the property?
- Would the Landlord recommend them as tenants and be happy to re-house them in the future?
Only if you are happy with their references should you proceed and take them as tenants and always remember whatever you don’t get in the way of money and guarantors at the outset will never be forthcoming once the tenant has moved in!
So get those guarantors and monies in place ASAP!
Make sure that they pay the Deposit/ Advance rent, etc that you require; prior to signing any documents.
Draw up a Tenancy Agreement; this can be for six months or a shorter period of three months if you are being cautious. However don’t be caught by this as it still takes a court action to get rid of a bad tenant no matter how long the tenancy.
Make sure it is signed in front of you and witnessed; you will need to give the Tenant a copy and have a copy for yourself, along with the initial notes on anything you agreed at the initial viewing.
If they are claiming Housing Benefit it is advisable to ensure your new tenant has filled in the benefit form correctly send them to the benefit office with a proof of rent form. It is also sensible to ask the tenant, when putting in the claim form to the Council that they bring you a receipt prior to issuing them with the keys; that way you ensure that the form is submitted on the day the tenancy starts.
- you have accepted the tenant after signing the agreement (before the tenant has moved in)
- and an inventory has been carried out you should:
- Make sure that all the appliances that are included within the property are working correctly and have current up to date certificates for fire and safety.
- Make sure all the smoke heads have new batteries and are in all rooms and make sure you have a co2 monitor within the kitchen area by the gas boiler. Smoke & carbon monoxide kill and you go to prison.
Have a look at the maintenance slips we use to document everything when a tenant goes in and when a job needs doing whilst in tenure.
- Always remember that a tenant who does not pay their rent will in most cases blame it on the landlord not carrying out maintenance issues, never give a tenant the excuse not to pay you the rent.
- Check all the points in the property like windows and doors to ensure they work and are safe.
- Carry out the tests on electrical appliance, gas safety, and provide a fire blanket for the kitchen.
- Thoroughly check the building for anything which needs repairing or replacing and if they do “DO IT NOW” before the tenant moves in!!
- Document the works you have done to show efficiency as a landlord.
If a tenant moves into problems they will become a problem!
- Make sure the decoration and cleaning of the property is done to a very high standard.
- Make sure you have at least 2 sets of keys for every lock and provide the tenant with 1 set and retain a set for yourself. If you wish to do regular inspections give the tenants at least 24 hours’ notice prior to entering the property unless it is an emergency.
- Carry out your professional inventory; make sure that you have a photographic Inventory of the flat and its contents, which the tenants can sign; so that you have a record of the condition of the flat when it was first let.
Also do meter readings so you have a record of their usage; from the start of the Tenancy & make sure you take photos of the meters with a date coded camera or get the tenant to sign a slip agreeing the readings?
- Inform your insurers of a change in tenure (not all insurers require this) ensure that all the documents required for rent guarantee insurance and legal fee insurance are in place in the event of a claim (all insurers will want this) the documents you will need to produce in the event of an insurance claim are “Insurance documents”.
Handing over the Keys:
This is the last chance to make sure you have done everything correct and checked everything in the property again before hand over:
- Show your new tenant them how the heating works.
- Show them where the electric consumer board is if a trip switches out
- Show them where the mains water stop cock is and then make a note that you have shown them about the utilities and get them to sign to say you have.
- Once your tenant is in tenure you will need to keep a record of the rent payments and the due dates; so make sure you supply either a receipt or a rent book and record all monies in and out giving a receipt for every transaction. If you receive a housing benefit payment make sure it’s written into a statement or payment book.
- Again once your tenants are in residence;
-remind them to report any maintenance issues to you straight away.
- Make a log (print out the slips) of when it was reported and when they work was carried out and gets the tenant to sign that it was done, take pictures of completed works.
- Register a log of times and dates of phone calls to your tenant. If there is any damage to the property it is advisable to take photographs so that you have photographic evidence to show exactly what damage has been done in case the tenants dispute it.
- Register your tenants deposit onto a registered deposit bond scheme.
- Make sure your insurances are all in place, get cover on rent guarantee and legal insurance if you need to evict your tenant.
Protocol for Vacating Tenants
Your tenants should be required to give you at least four weeks paid notice; this should be submitted to you in writing so there is no dispute over their Vacation date.
- Once you have accepted the notice, confirm the vacation date with the tenants; so all parties agree.
During the notice period you may wish to do viewings on the property, this is perfectly acceptable as long as you inform your tenants at least 24hours prior to the viewings.
On the day of the vacation arrange to meet the tenants for the return of the keys, once the keys are in your possession you will need to:
- inspect the property; check the inventory against the condition of the flat and once again do meter readings.
- Instruct an outgoing inventory, do not do it yourself and tick of what you do not like; it won’t stand up in court or with the deposit bond company.
- Do not agree to return any monies until after the inspection has taken place.
Don’t forget Housing Benefit tenants are paid four weekly in arrears, so if they are vacating in the middle of the four week period; remember that the money will not be paid straight away so it is normal practise to hold on to any returnable monies until the final payment has been received.
If you are completely satisfied with the property and its condition you can then arrange the return of any monies due.
If damage has been done it is advisable to price the cost of the repair with at least 2 tradesmen, so you can deduct the correct amount without leaving yourself out of pocket; remember to keep any receipts as these will prove invaluable should the tenants contest the repairs.
Remember to get a signed receipt for any returned monies, so that you have proof it was paid back to the tenant.
Register your final account details of your tenant at Landlord Referencing and merit them on the basis of their tenancy payment record.