8 common mistakes to avoid when renting out your property

Whether you're a new landlord or one who's done it and got the t-shirt, there are plenty of easy mistakes you can make when renting out your property if you haven't got your wits about you.

We've heard plenty of horror stories where landlords have ended up losing hundreds, if not thousands of pounds through unorganised and slapdash approaches, so we've put together a short list of the most common pitfalls and how they may be avoided.

1. Failing to follow up on tenants' references

Ideally, each new tenant will provide references from their current employer and landlord, as well as undergo a credit check. These checks are vitally important in gaining an insight into the person you're entrusting to occupy your home for a significant period of time. Not only do you want to be assured that they're able to afford the rent each month, you want to know they're in a stable job and have always paid their current landlord on time. Also ask how their current property is kept. Somebody might have a well-paid, long-term job with a history of paying their rent on time, but if they're keeping it like a pigsty, do you really want them as a tenant?

If you get any red flags during these checks, act on them. Employer references should come on company letterhead or from the company's e-mail address. If it's sent from a Gmail or a Hotmail account, alarm bells should be ringing!

It's worth bearing in mind that there are professional referencing companies out there who can do all this on your behalf. They're certainly worthy of consideration.

2. Allowing safety certificates to expire

It feels like every couple of months there's another legal requirement coming in for landlords to be aware of and, understandably, most have tenant safety as their primary purpose.

The requirement for an annual gas safety check and subsequent certificate has been in for many years now, but still some landlords allow this and other vitally important certificates to expire. We advise keeping a spreadsheet detailing the expiry date of each certificate and instructing new ones at least one month prior.

Remember, you need somebody qualified enough to conduct the required assessments; something a local letting agent will be able to help with and probably for far cheaper than normal due to the amount of work they put contractors' way.

3. Allowing Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to expire

EPCs have been a requirement for all rented properties since 2008, meaning many were first produced within that year. They last for 10 years – and guess what – we're now 10 years on, so is your EPC due for renewal this year? You can check via the online register.

The EPC scores a property's energy efficiency rating and awards it a rating between A and G. Since April 2018, it's been illegal to grant a new tenancy on a property that has an F or G rating. If you fall foul of this, you will not be able to serve a valid Section 21 Notice (which is required in order to legally terminate a tenancy) and you may have to pay a fine of up to £4,000. Not cheap!

4. Failing to inspect the property

All tenants have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their home, but landlords are allowed to visit as long as 24 hours' notice has been given. This can be via text message, e-mail, letter; you name it. We urge you to exercise this right.

Yes, you may have visited one month into the tenancy and everything was rosy, but it's six months later now and a lot may have changed in that time. The longer you leave it, the more time there is for damage to occur as a result of abuse or neglect, and the costlier it'll become to make good. You'll also want to check they're not subletting the property to somebody else without your knowledge.

5. Not knowing about new or changing legal responsibilities

Important legislation that impacts on landlords is constantly being introduced, changed or removed. Something you knew to be the case last month may not be the same next month, so it's important you keep your knowledge current or you'll find yourself in risky territory.

There are plenty of property and landlord-related websites out there that can help you stay abreast of everything that's going on, but it can be very time-consuming. Many landlords decide their time is better spent elsewhere, and if that person is you, we'd strongly advise putting your property in the hands of a competent letting agent and allow them to take the strain instead.

6. Not protecting the tenancy deposit (bond)

Tenancy Deposit Protection has been in force for over 10 years now, but the legislation still manages to escape some landlords; particularly those who are new to it all.

Failing to provide the correct prescribed information relating to the deposit carries the penalty of not being able to serve a valid Section 21 notice until it's been done correctly, which is often too late if you need to move somebody out quickly because it's this notice you need to rely on to legally terminate a tenancy.

Perhaps worse, failing to register the deposit within 30 days (it used to be 14 days) can mean you're ordered to repay the tenants one-to-three months' rent plus the deposit. Ouch!

7. Not dealing with repairs and maintenance issues that are your responsibility

Inevitably, there will be times when tenants report x, y and z is wrong with the property. Hopefully they don't all come at once! Tenants have some responsibilities (have a google of the phrase 'tenant-like manner'), but the law states that the below items are always the landlord's to take care of, regardless of what the assured shorthold tenancy agreement states;

  • the exterior of the property and its structure;
  • basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains;
  • hot water and heating;
  • gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation;
  • electrical wiring;
  • any damage they cause by attempting repairs.

If you know of a few reliable, local trades who are able to take care of such things for you, you're halfway there, but if you're not local, you may struggle to get somebody out quickly, which may lead to further problems. Letting agents keep a variety of local contractors on their books, who often attend with discounted call-out and labour charges because of all the work that gets put their way; saving you money.

8. Allowing rent arrears to accumulate

From time-to-time, you may find that a tenant requests to pay their rent a bit later. For the sake of maintaining a good relationship, you may choose to be accommodating and grant the request, but if they fail to make good on their promise and arrears start to accumulate, don't delay taking action.

Once a tenant becomes two full months' in arrears, landlords have a legal ground to take possession of the property, but it's not as straight forward or as quick as it sounds. It requires serving notice on the tenant and going to court to obtain a possession order, which can take months, but it shows the tenant you're taking the matter seriously and willing to take it further, even if the least you do is serve the required notice. If you're not confident of handling the matter yourself, letting agents will be well-versed in handling similar situations, or you could instruct a solicitor.

If you would like help managing your property then our fully managed service will take all the hassle out of renting and managing your property. See our landlords section for more details or get in touch now to speak to of our friendly and knowledgeable staff.

19 September 2018

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