Buying to let? Top five tips for savvy landlords

If you own or are thinking of buying a property to rent out, it can seem like a complex process. There are literally hundreds of rules and regulations out there, some of them quite new and not well known. But don’t worry; help is at hand. Discover the top five tips and learn how you can become the best.

1. Deal with deposits

Taking a deposit from your tenant(s) protects you against any damage to your property. It used to be that you could keep this deposit in your bank account, however nowadays, if you take a deposit from your tenants (and we highly recommend you do), you must place these funds into an official Tenancy Deposit Scheme. There are three government backed schemes and the deposit must be paid in within 30 working days of you receiving it. If you don’t, you may be prosecuted and could be fined up to three times the deposit amount.

2. Keep up with repairs

If a tenant feels that they’re suffering from poor housing, such as no running water, they can report this to the Private Rented Housing Panel. If the panel agrees that the housing is unfit, they can put a halt to the rent being paid to the landlord until the property is fixed and they are satisfied with its condition.

3. Check the paperwork

Make sure your tenant signs an AT5 or Short Assured Tenancy contract before they move in. Otherwise, you could have created an Assured Tenancy without realising it. An Assured Tenancy means that provided the tenant continues to pay rent, they have the right to go on living there indefinitely, leaving you as landlord very few powers to get them out!

Also, make sure you check your Insurance policy. Remember cheap doesn’t always mean value. Some policies won’t cover basic scenarios like flooding, depending on the situation or who caused it. Make sure you read the small print!

4. Keep up to date with the law when it comes to smoke alarms

It’s now a legal requirement that all rented properties must have smoke alarms in all living areas and the hall, as well as a heat detector in the kitchen. This applies to all properties, regardless of size or the number of bedrooms.

5. Keep on top of inventories

It may seem like overkill, but it’s essential to do a full inventory check and condition report check, including a full set of dated photographs, each time a tenant moves in and out. This is to protect you as a landlord. In the unfortunate event that a tenant causes damage to your property but denies it, the only way you can prove this and make them liable for damage is by providing this evidence. In contested cases, Tenancy Deposit Scheme (see point 1 above) adjudicators start from a position of ‘the money belongs to the tenant’, and it’s up to you as the landlord to prove otherwise.

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