Investment Tips for Buy-to-Let Landlords

Putting your money into property has long been seen as one of the safest and most profitable ways to invest. However, with complicated tax implications on both your rental income and your purchase costs the first time buy to let landlord faces a tricky investment landscape. Add to this the fact that the property market can be a competitive one and it’s easy to see why more people don’t follow this route to get returns on their savings.

In this guide, we take a look at some essential tips that are worth remembering when you are considering a buy-to-let investment.

Consider Whether Buy to Let is The Right Investment

Compared to the current climate of low interest on savings couple with low mortgage rates, sinking a lump sum into a buy to let property can, at first glance, appear to be a more profitable way to get a good return. However, with increased stamp duty costs and changes to tax reliefs, for some it may not be as good as an investment as a pension.

We would strongly recommend that you discuss your plans for retirement with an Independent Financial Adviser before committing to a buy-to-let investment. At Property Assistant, we work with a number of local and national IFAs whose services we are happy to recommend so please do get in touch for details.

Research

It goes without saying that planning your investment should start with research, and plenty of it.

You should ensure that you research buy-to-let investment in general (including speaking to an IFA) as well the rental markets in the specific area you are considering. It can be worth speaking to a local estate/lettings agent to discuss your plans with.

If you know someone who has experience in the buy-to-let market as a landlord, then it is always worth asking them their opinion. Most people will be happy to share their experiences (both good and bad) so as to help you avoid making mistakes.

investment tips for buy to let landlords

Research your area well and get some professional advice on the local market. Image via Public Domain Pictures.

The more knowledge you can obtain through research then the better chance you have of making your buy-to-let investment a success.

Here at Property Assistant, we are happy to speak with any aspiring new landlords as well as experienced investors to help them find a suitable property. We also have a nationwide network of other independent property agents whom we can recommend.

Crunch the Numbers

Though this will also form part of your research, we cannot stress how important it is that you run through the finances of your investment with a professional before you take the plunge. It can be all too easy to overlook a simple element of your financial commitments and doing so can mean the difference between profit and loss.

finances of buy to let investment

Make sure you include all of the finances in your calculations. Image via Pexels.

Consider all of the eventualities that might arise as a result of your investment and ensure that you have covered all the bases. Costs to consider, include (but are not limited to):

  • Capital cost of your deposit, stamp duty and usual purchase costs, fees and searches
  • Mortgage repayments (interest and/or capital)
  • Landlords insurance
  • Loss of income insurance
  • Repair costs
  • General maintenance costs
  • Exterior maintenance costs
  • Redecoration costs
  • Letting agent management fees
  • Letting agent finders fees
  • Marketing fees

If you do not have loss of income insurance, then you will also need to factor in the eventuality of your property remaining vacant and not generating an income.

You should also consider whether your investment can still return a profit if your mortgage interest rate increases.

Compare the costs of maintaining your investment with your projected rental income to determine whether you can produce a yield that is comparable to other forms of investment.

Focus on Your Target Market

During your research, you should have identified the demographic of the residents in the area you are purchasing a property. When you are developing and marketing, you should bear this in mind. If you are purchasing in a university town and expecting to reach a market for students then this will inform both your rental income goals as well as the kinds of facilities that will be expected.

A young professional couple will be looking for very different accommodation to retirees, students or a family.

Keep your target tenant in mind as you take on your renovations and upgrades.

buy to let landlord investment property

Remember who your target market is when renovating. Image via PxHere.

Remember Your Goals

It can be tempting, particularly with a first-time investment to treat the property as if it were your own home and to over-develop. It is crucial, if you are to make a good profit, that you are not over ambitious with your plans and that you keep a close check on your budget.

Most buy-to-lets are purchased for the long term but you should remember that your investment should be focused on rental returns and not for the long-term growth. Your monthly overheads will not only include mortgage repayments and tax but also the running costs of insurance, maintenance fees and those of a lettings agent. You should also factor in additional costs such as emergency repairs and ‘dry’ periods when your property is not being rented.

Keep a reign on your spending in the short term; yes, the property may appreciate in value over time but your initial goals are to profit (or, at least, breakeven) from the rental yields.

Cast a Wide Net

Many landlords, particularly first-time investors, prefer to purchase property in an area that they know well. Not only can this help when it comes to research but it feels more secure to have your investment close to home.

However, this may not be the best option.

During your research stage it is worth casting a wider net to include properties that are further afield as well as those that require some level of refurbishment.

Haggle Over Price

As a buy-to-let investor you are in a strong position as there is no chain involved in your purchase. As a result, you can expect to be able to negotiate a discount with your property. As there is less risk of the sale falling through, more vendors will be prepared to lower their asking price.

It pays to have the help of an experienced negotiator when making an offer on a property.

Property Assistant has worked with plenty of buy-to-let investors over the years and has considerable knowledge of both local and national markets. Not only are we happy to offer no-obligation advice to help with your research but we can also offer a range of services to help with your investment plans; from finding the right opportunity, sourcing a reliable IFA and negotiating your purchase to finding tenants and managing your property.

Contact us today on 0118 912 2370 to discuss your plans.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Interviewing your Letting Agent

If you are choosing a letting agent then it is important that you find the right partner both to maximise rental returns as well as to make the tenancy run as smooth as possible. Finding an agent is easy but ensuring they are the right one takes a little know-how.

In this guide, we take a look at the things you should find out when choosing a letting agent to make sure you get the best management contract.

Getting Prepared

Before you can start looking for a letting agent for your property, you need to be clear in your mind as to what you want them to handle on your behalf. Some landlords simply want to sub-contract the process of finding a suitable tenant and look after the day-to-day management themselves; others will require an agent to handle all affairs associated with a tenancy agreement.

choosing a letting agent

Determine in advance what aspects of the process you will handle and which your letting agent is responsible for. Image via Flickr.

Before you shortlist suitable agents to interview, decide which elements you want them to cover. This will give the agent a better idea of what fees to charge but will also make sure that all aspects of the rental will be covered.

You should ensure that all of the following processes are handled correctly, either by yourself or your new letting agent:

  • Marketing your property to find a suitable tenant as quickly as possible
  • Assessing potential tenants to ensure they can afford the rental, including credit and background checks.
  • Completing the ‘Right to Rent’ checks in accordance with the Immigration Act 2014.
  • Compiling an inventory for check in and check out which includes reading meters for handover of utility accounts.
  • Securing your tenants deposit in an approved protection scheme.
  • Arranging annual gas safety checks.
  • Preparing buildings insurance.
  • Handling day-to-day management of the property including emergency response, maintenance issues and administration.
  • Receipt of monthly rent.
  • Managing rental arrears and, if applicable, eviction process.
  • Processing end-of-tenancy terminations and re-marketing.

In the event that there are any issues with your tenants then it is also important to decide who will handle any legal issues such as evictions or claims associated with deposits.

Shortlisting Letting Agents

There is no shortage of letting agents around the Thames Valley; in fact, there are a few dozen to choose from in most of the major towns. Obviously, it would take up valuable time to interview all of them so getting a shortlist together is essential.

Firstly, irrespective of how much of the above you want handled on your behalf, it is essential that you choose a letting agent that is professionally qualified and insured to manage your letting.

choosing a letting agent credentials

Does your potential letting agent have all the right credentials?

Make sure that you only shortlist letting agents that are registered members of one of these professional bodies:

  • The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)

You should also make sure that they are registered with a Property Redress Scheme, have professional indemnity insurance and have client money protection in place.

Shortlist agents who have good local knowledge as this is essential for setting rents and dealing with enquiries for tenants who are new to the area.

Where you can, get recommendations from other landlords and always check the feedback rating of a letting agent using Google Reviews, Facebook and other feedback platforms such as Feefo or TrustPilot.

It is worth remembering that national agencies and large companies can seem like a natural choice but the attention your portfolio receives depends on an agency’s ‘staff to property’ ratio so smaller agencies can often offer a better service in this regard.
It is worth getting a list of at least three or four potential agents to interview covering a good mix of backgrounds.

Marketing (Finding a Tenant)

In order to minimise void periods where your property stands vacant, it is essential that you choose a letting agent who can market your rental home properly. Advertising a property to get the best rental income should include professional images, floorplans as standard as well as a detailed property description.

Find out from your potential letting agent what kind of advertising they do and where they place the particulars of their properties. Getting a good reach across national platforms like Zoopla and RightMove are essential but find out what else they do to set them aside from the competition.

If your rental property has a lot of competition, do they actively seek tenants? Are they using other ways to market your home?
Ask them how they handle enquiries and whether they will be available to show prospective tenants around your rental property.

Have a look at some existing rental listings for each agent and compare things like the quality of images, the content of the advert as well as how long the listing has been available.

choosing a letting agent finding a tenant

Finding a tenant isn’t simply about uploading any listing to RightMove. Image via Flickr.

Arranging the Rental

When your rental property gets some interest from potential tenants, you need to ensure that you have a letting agent who can assess their suitability. Tenant referencing is an important aspect of arranging any rental and provides an assurance that your rental income will be protected with a suitable tenant.

Tenant referencing can cover a range of checks including:

  • Bank validation
  • Credit history
  • Hidden names and addresses plus undisclosed credit history
  • Previous landlord references

It is also a legal responsibility that a ‘Right to Rent’ check is completed which involves checking proof of a tenant’s residence status in the UK.

Once a suitable tenant has been found then your agent should be ready to provide the letting agreement and process the deposit using an approved tenancy deposit scheme.

Find out from your potential agent what process they have in place for checking a tenant in to the property. Do they use an independent party or will they handle the inventory and check-in themselves? Do they use photographs to document the condition of the property (and furnishings if applicable).

Management

If you are opting for a lettings agent who will handle the management of your property then you should understand the extent of the agreement they are offering. Some agents only offer partial management such as processing the rent whereas others can provide a fully comprehensive service covering maintenance and emergency response.

Ask about repairs and response times for dealing with both routine and emergency situations. Find out what plans they have in place for out of hours care for tenants.

A good letting agent will arrange to be authorised to spend up to a specified limit on your behalf in the event of them not being able to contact you. This is vital is situations which require immediate attention. Events like a leak require proactive management to minimise the extent of any damage to your property.

management contract choosing a letting agent

Responding to maintenance issues is a vital part of a good management contract. Image via Flickr.

Find out whether your letting agent has a dedicated property manager and what experience they have in dealing with rental homes. Ask them how many other properties they manage to get an idea for how much time they have available to properly manage your interest.

Choosing a Letting Agent

When you have finished interviewing all potential candidates for marketing and/or managing your rental property, get a quote for all aspects of the services agreed to compare costs.

Always make sure you read the quotes fully to ensure that you are comparing like-for-like. Look out for subtle differences in management contracts that can change the value of their quotation, including:

  • All-inclusive fees vs additional charges – some agents charge extra fees for inventories, tenancy agreements, renewals and even overseas phone calls.
  • Estate agency fees – if you decided to sell your rental property during the term of the lease management then some agents include a standard fee if the tenant decides to purchase the property. These are usually not onerous but you may wish to exclude this from the agreement.
  • Vacant period charges – it is normal for lettings agents to charge for periods when a property is vacant but most will reduce their fees when a tenant is not in situ.
  • Commission– some agents include clauses that stipulate a fee is paid on new lets even if they did not find the tenant for you.

Lastly, always check the termination agreement of your management contract. A three month period is reasonable but some agents ask for six months’ notice.

Landlords Guide for letting

Property Assistant Wokingham provides a range of services for landlords from marketing to partial and full management. We welcome any opportunity to discuss your requirements for your rental portfolio.

If you would like to interview us as your potential letting partner then contact us today on 0118 912 2370. Don’t forget to download our free guide for landlords.

Featured image via Blue Diamond Gallery (Attributed to Nick Youngson).

Personalising Your Rented Home

Anyone who has ever rented will know that making your temporary accommodation feel like home can sometimes be tricky. Whether your lease is furnished or unfurnished, much of the property is already decorated and personalising your rented home can seem impossible.

Leases often stipulate that tenants may not change the furnishings with some being quite prescriptive over little things like not hanging pictures on the walls, replacing fixtures or even planting in the garden.

rented home empty

Rented homes can often feel empty and boring. Image via Flickr.

Rented homes are notoriously bland spaces which are often decorated with neutral walls and floors making them feel like sterile boxes.

Fortunately, there are some ready solutions that can help make your new house a home, however long you are staying for.

Floors and Carpets

One of the biggest impacts you can make on any room is in the floor covering and rented homes are most often fitted with carpets or wood flooring. Landlords know that these areas receive a lot of wear and tear and often choose hard wearing materials in natural tones.

Adding a large rug to your living space or hallway can help add instant character. Choose something that suits your existing furniture and go for a modern and bold geometric design that draws the eye. Of course, if the existing carpet is rose pink then you may need to rethink your strategy (see ‘Making Bigger Changes’ below).

Houseplants

An instant way to add warmth to any property and one that is particularly useful in rented accommodation is the addition of houseplants. They add instant colour and personality as well as being scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve air quality.

Freestanding pots on ledges and shelves are one way to add plants to the home but you can also incorporate decorative touches by adding a plant to a focus piece of furniture.

personlise your rented home houseplants

Adding plants can transform dull areas of your home and improves air quality. Image via Flickr.

Walls

Most leases contain a standard clause which covers putting holes in the walls for picture frames, shelves or other hangings. This is usually a pre-emptive measure by the landlord to cover any remedial works needed when the property is handed back but does discourage a lot of renters from putting personal items on the walls. Check with your lettings agent or landlord; most will be happy for you to add hooks and fittings as long as these are removed and holes made good at the end of your lease.

Personalising your rented home with pictures, mirrors and open shelving can all add character to a room and, in the case of the latter, give you more space to dress with decorative items.

personalising your rented home walls

Adding pictures and shelves is often fine with most landlords but do check before you drill. Image via pxhere.

Always make sure that you use a pipe and cable detector before drilling into a wall to avoid damaging electrics or embedded water pipes. If you are not a confident (or competent!) DIYer then always seek assistance before picking up a drill. The safe return of your security deposit will depend on the way you tackle this!

If your landlord will not allow you to put holes in the walls then you do have alternatives:

  • Free-standing dividers can be used to add interest to walls and can even be used to hang artwork from. Use them against walls, behind furniture to create a ‘faux-wall’.
  • Posters offer another solution and can easily be tacked to a wall using a high-quality product that won’t lift the paint.
  • There are now a range of ingenious products that can be used to hang frames to a wall that do not cause damage. These Velcro strips that are often marketed as ‘no-nails’ solutions are relatively cheap and come in a range of sizes from lightweight to heavyweight hangings.
  • Lightweight fabric can more easily be pinned into situ to completely change the colours and feel of a room.
  • If your rented home has picture rails then using old-fashioned chains for your pictures is another solution.
  • Fuss-free wall stickers can be purchased that are easy to remove and add a touch of character to plain walls.

Adding Room Dividers

Personalising your rented home with a room divider is easy and these can be a piece of artwork in themselves; we’ve seen some great decoupage on dividers that have been hand built from cheap plywood. Traditional panel screens can be purchased from auction houses or even picked up online relatively inexpensively.

Of course, you could even use open shelving units as a way to divide a space and can be a great way to showcase artwork and decorative items.

Light Fittings

Whilst some rental spaces do not come with pendant lamp shades, some include plain and basic fittings. Taking these down and storing them safely is easy to do and you can replace them with your own style shades.

Industrial ‘cage’ lamps can be paired with vintage bulbs for a retro and urban feel whereas a small decorative chandelier style can add glamour and elegance.

personalising your rented home lighting

Modern cage lamps combined with vintage bulbs add instant industrial style. Image via Pixabay.

Opt for something that doesn’t require an electrician to fit and can be easily replaced at the end of your tenancy.

Freestanding floor lamps can also make a statement feature in any room and personalising your rented home in this way doesn’t make any material changes to the property.

Add Colour with Soft Furnishings

Curtains are an easy way to add your own personality to a room and choosing bold colours or prints can lift the feel of a bland room. Don’t forget bedroom linen, cushions and throws to blend your room together.

Work with What You Have

Some rental properties have their own unique style and opting to dress your home in keeping is really the only option you have. Traditional period properties may have greater restrictions on your decorating options so instead of looking at changing the features, why not work around them?

personalising your rented home accessories

Pick up some accessories to match the character of your rented home. Image via pxhere.

Personalising your rented home doesn’t have to be expensive. Look for furnishings on Freecycle, car-boot sales or auction houses to bring out the character of your home on a budget.

Gardens

If you have an outside space with your rented home then don’t neglect this important useful space. You might not be particularly green-fingered but keeping on top of the maintenance here will stop it becoming an eyesore. Adding some garden seating and a chimenea or patio heater can make it a useful additional entertaining or relaxing space in the summer.

Pots are a quick and easy way to add your own stamp on the space and can be transported easily to your next home when your lease ends. Herbs are easy to grow in pots and can give you a miniature kitchen garden.

Making Bigger Changes

Of course, many landlords are amenable to changes in their properties, particularly if they add value and we know of occasions where tenants have successfully negotiated with their landlords over replacing carpets, decorating rooms and modernising fittings. If you have plans for your rented accommodation that will materially change the decoration then always check your lease and seek permission from your landlord first. Some will even contribute to the cost as long as you agree in advance the scope of your plans.

personalising your rented home painting

Many landlords won’t object to your adding some paint to the walls as long as you return it to the way it was when you leave. Image via Public Domain Pictures.

Property Assistant is on hand for all its tenants and landlords to clarify matters relating to leasehold properties and we can offer some useful advice on personalising your rented home that suits your personal situation. Don’t forget to read our guide on what to do when leaving a rental property to make sure you get your security deposit back at the end of your lease.

For more information, contact Property Assistant, Wokingham on 0118 912 2370.

Featured image ‘Personalising Your Rented Home’ via Pexels.

What to Do When Leaving a Rental Property

When leaving a rental property, it’s important to follow procedure to ensure that you receive your deposit back and secure good references from your old landlord.

You may be leaving because your agreed term has come to an end or you may have served notice as you are moving to a different property (either another rental or perhaps a freehold purchase). Whatever your reasons for leaving a rental property you may find our guide to moving home useful.

Leaving a Rental Property

Serving Notice

Firstly, if you intend vacating a property which you are currently renting you will need to serve notice to the current landlord and/or the lettings agent. You should find a copy of the original tenancy agreement that you signed to ensure that you do so in accordance with the terms and conditions agreed.

You are commonly required to give at last two calendar months notice following the initial rental period to which you signed up for. If you agreed a 12 month let, then you can serve notice before the end of the 10th month that you don’t intend to renew your lease. If you wish to move out before the agreed 12 months then you may have to pay an additional fee so do check the terms of your lease.

Some landlords or agents also stipulate the means by which formal notice must be served and this is often required by post rather than email.

Cancel Utility Contracts

Once you have served your notice and you have an agreed date by which you must vacate the premises, you should make arrangements with all of the utility providers to cancel/transfer services. Broadband, satellite TV and telephone services providers may issue a settlement account if you have not completed a minimum period of your agreement with them. Utility companies should also be advised in advance that you are moving but they will also require an agreed closing meter reading to finalise your accounts.

read electricity meter leaving rental property

Advise the utility companies BEFORE you move out but also take a meter reading on the day you vacate. Image via Pixabay.

You will also need to contact the local council to finalise your council tax as well as other official agencies including (but not limited to):

  • DVLA
  • HMRC
  • Bank and/or building society
  • Employer
  • Credit card provider
  • Doctor
  • Dentist
  • Schools (if applicable)
  • Mobile phone provider
  • Insurance and pension providers
  • Any other subscription services

You may want to set up a postal redirect to help you catch any mail before your new address is set up in the various systems.

Find Inventory Paperwork

When you originally moved into your rental property you should have been ‘checked-in’ by an independent agent who will have made a detailed assessment about the condition of the property and (where applicable) the furnishings.

Most modern check ins conducted by a good lettings agent should include digital documentation of any damage or issues which were there when you moved in.

It is your responsibility as a tenant to advice your landlord and/or the letting agents about any damage or deterioration to the property during your rental period. If you have done so then gather any documentary evidence you have about any defects that have become an issue.

You should thoroughly check the inventory paperwork taking note to ensure that all items included with your rental are still at the premises and in good working order. Missing items must be replaced on a like for like basis to avoid incurring any charges

Deep Clean

When leaving a rental property, you must return the premises to the same condition you found them in (or better). This means employing a deep clean method for the whole premises.

It is advisable to leave at least one full day to be able to do this when the property has been vacated of all your belongings and free from clutter, packing boxes and furniture. Don’t underestimate the time that a clean like this can take. Most people employ the services of a specialist company but if you intend doing this yourself then be prepared for some hard work. Before you go ahead and do  the clean yourself then you should check your rental agreement as some landlords add special conditions requesting a professional clean.

deep clean when leaving a rental property

A deep clean is hard work and need to be done thoroughly to avoid incurring charges. Image via Flickr.

It is worth remembering that cleaning is the number one cause for disputes on the repayment of deposits when it comes to leaving a rental property.

Each room should be thoroughly inspected for damage and deterioration and any minor issues should be remedied. Anything that requires specialist maintenance or repair should be noted.

Once defects have been noted, it’s time to get cleaning. Work through the property one room at a time paying attention to every single area from the cornicing, ceiling and light fittings down to the skirting and floor. Carpets should be cleaned using a professional carpet cleaner and wood floors must be cleaned and polished to ensure that all scuff marks have been eradicated.

Many walls are able to be wiped but check before applying any kind of detergent that you aren’t going to be damaging the paintwork.

Once the property is clean, do a final check to ensure that lightbulbs are all working as these are a chargeable item and it is more cost effective to replace these yourself.

Final Handover

On the day of handover, always attend the final inspection with the landlord and/or letting agent/inventory clerk.

Any issues that arise should be dealt with swiftly and if the cleaning is not to standard you may need to contact the cleaning company for a re-clean (if you used one).

Make sure that you hand over all sets of keys that were issued to you and that you leave your forwarding details.

Any defects that are evident at the time of handover should be agreed and noted with reference made to whether these have been raised before.

Before leaving the property, take readings from the utility meters with the landlord or agent so that you have an agreed transfer reading.

leaving rental property handover

If you can’t attend the handover, make sure you lock up properly before giving back the keys. Image via Flickr.

Once you have formally handed over the keys, you should follow up with an email or letter requesting your deposit back. At this point, it is worth committing to paper any verbal agreements that were made on the issue of defects during the handover. This will help if there is any dispute on your deposit at a later stage.

If there are no disputes, then your deposit should be returned to you within 10 days.

You may find our guide to tenant deposit rights helpful.

If you need any assistance with finding your next rental property or would like some impartial advice on leaving a rental property and the moving out process then contact Property Assistant. We’re here to help; wherever you are on the property ladder.

Featured image via Flickr.

5 Tips on Being a Good Tenant

Being a good tenant isn’t just about paying your rent on time, though this is a big part of your responsibility when renting. There are additional responsibilities and expectations that can help you in the long term whether that’s ensuring you receive all of your security deposit back when you vacate a property, securing a good reference for your next property or making lease extensions easier in the case of renewals.

Being a good tenant can also make your rental term go more smoothly.

In this guide, we wanted to give you our best advice for being a good tenant to make your experience of renting as stress-free and satisfying as possible.

Keep Your Neighbours Happy

Wherever you are living, and under whatever terms, neighbours are an important aspect of owning or renting property. Having a good relationship with the people that share your community is an essential aspect of peaceful living. This is particularly true in environments where neighbours share communal space, party walls and joint access.

be a good neighbour to be a good tenant

Keep your rental tidy to avoid upsetting the neighbours. Image via Flickr.

People that adjoin, or live close to, rental properties can often be wary of new renters as their experience of previous tenants may not be a happy one. Consider a family who have lived in the same home for ten years who may have had different neighbours every six months. The chances are that at least one of these tenants, unfortunately, may have been objectionable in some way.

Keeping your neighbours happy is essential to avoid complaints to your landlord (or the council). Noise is the primary problem along with external upkeep, pets and parking.

The key factor to remember is to treat your neighbours with the respect that you would like to receive.

Stick to the Terms of the Lease

When you initially sign your rental documents, it is your responsibility (as a good tenant) to thoroughly read all of the terms and conditions of your rental agreement. Most documents are standard and, if you have ever rented before, will not come as any surprise to you. However, some landlords have specific stipulations about the upkeep, maintenance and condition of the property so do read it carefully. Understanding your obligations will help you stick to your side of the deal.

be a good tenant

Stick to the terms of your lease to be a good tenant. Image via Pixabay.

Common misunderstandings arise from issues like:

  • Keeping pets
  • Sub-letting
  • Responsibility for external maintenance
  • Leaving the property vacant for extended periods
  • Having regular visitors stay with you

Matters that commonly arise from rental agreements relate to things like making changes to the property’s décor. Most leases do not allow you to change the interior paintwork but some landlords may be happy for you to do so. See our tip below on effective communication.

Treating Your Rental like Your Own Home

By this we mean treating the property with a bit of TLC. It’s not easy to commit to a home that you aren’t intending to stay in for very long but every house or flat needs careful treatment with rentals receiving far more knocks along the way (think about how many bangs that staircase has had getting various beds, cupboards and wardrobes up the stairs!).

Most rentals start with an inventory check performed by an independent assessor who will note all of the scrapes, dents and scuffs meaning you could face deductions from your security deposit if you don’t return the property in the same condition.

If you put a painting up and some plaster comes out, then repair it. If you spill some wine on the carpet, then treat it with stain remover. If a knob comes off a kitchen cabinet, then get it fixed. It can be all too easy to think that none of these things are your concern but, as a good tenant, they are. Treat where you live like your own home and you will find less ‘little jobs’ to do when you come to leave your rental property.

Communicate Problems Effectively

Having said that you should respond to maintenance as though it were your own home, there are clearly areas that are your landlord’s responsibility. Structural and utilities problems, deterioration in furnishings and (where applicable) white goods should all fall under the remit of your landlord (check the lease). In such cases, it’s important to communicate these issues promptly and comprehensively to your landlord or lettings agent. When it comes to any remedial action required, you should comply as fully as you can with any required access for builders, tradesmen or your landlord.

Leaky taps, broken locks or damage to the property should all be identified as soon as it happens. This gives your landlord the best chance of responding rapidly to your concerns.

tips on being a good tenant leaking tap

Small problems can fast become big ones so communicate them early…in writing! Image via Flickr.

It is always worth setting any communications you have with your landlord or agent in writing. This can avoid problems in the future as well as provide a way to track back on when issues were first raised to avoid misunderstandings.

The same process should be adhered to for any other issues which arise from your rental such as requests for changes to interior décor, rental payments or responsibilities – always put these things in writing.

Being a Good Tenant: Pay Your Rent on Time

Okay, so we said it wasn’t all about the money but, for many landlords, the only contact they have from their tenants is the rent being deposited in their bank each month. If there are irregularities and inconsistencies over when (and sometimes how) this is paid then it could affect the way they view your lease renewal and/or reference.

Though your lease may have a period of ‘grace’ for late payments, this is not an opportunity to be late. Remember that your landlord may have their own repayments to make against the property and your being late with rental payments could impact their own ability to keep up repayments on a commensurate mortgage.

pay your rent on time being a good tenant

Set up a DD or use online banking to get your rent paid on time. Image via Pixabay.

Renting a property should be an easy and hassle free process for landlords and tenants but, at Property Assistant, we understand that life can sometimes get a bit hectic. That’s why we put so much effort into putting together a lettings management plan that helps both renters and property owners. We aren’t a corporate, faceless agency that only communicates with our renters when there is a problem or when we are chasing money. We are here for all our renters to discuss any issues they have so they can be resolved quickly, professionally and amicably.

If you want to know more about renting through Property Assistant, whether its finding a suitable property to lease or understanding more about the process of renting, then you can contact us on 0118 912 2370.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Right to Rent: How the Immigration Act 2014 Affects Landlords

Effective 1 February 2016, the Right to Rent check is now a legal responsibility that affects all landlords. But what does this involve, why do landlords have to do it and what happens if they don’t?

In this guide, we talk you through the process of the ‘Right to Rent’ check so you can avoid the penalties.

Why Do Landlords Need to Check a Prospective Tenant’s Right to Rent?

Introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2014 to impose a more effective and fairer way to control immigration, landlords became responsible for the process of checking whether a tenant has the right to rent in the UK.

The Immigration Act 2014 expanded on measures designed to deter illegal immigrants from being able to live and work in the UK but (controversially, for some) transferred the onus of detecting illegal renters to the landlord.

Who Needs to Perform a Right to Rent Check?

If you are operating as a private landlord, have a lodger or sub-let any property then you must perform a right to rent check. However, if you are employing an agent to manage the lease of your property then it is their responsibility to undertake this on your behalf; however, you should ensure that you see proof of this check.

If you are a tenant sub-letting a room then you will also need to ensure you have performed a right to rent check.

uk immigration control right to rent check landlord

The ‘Right to Rent’ scheme is aimed at immigration controls. Image via Flickr.

What Does a Right to Rent Check Involve?

To perform a right to rent check, you will need to see original documentation (copies should not be accepted) from each adult who will be residing in the property or room that you are letting. You should request to see:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of their right to be in the UK such as a permanent residence card, certificate of registration (or naturalisation) as a British Citizen. A UK passport is also evidence of legal status for residence as is an EEA passport of identity card. Some tenants may also hold documentation from the Home Office showing their immigration status. If this is presented then you may need to contact the Home Office to determine the validity of this status.

You should check the validity of the documents with the tenant present and make copies of each piece of evidence for your records.

Are There any Exemptions Applicable to the Right to Rent Scheme?

Yes. If the housing is organised by the local authority or falls into the following categories then it may be exempt from right to rent checks:

  • Student housing
  • Leases of 7 years or more
  • Care homes
  • Social housing
  • Hostels and refuges
  • Mobile homes
  • Tied accommodation
right to rent check mobile homes

There are some exceptions to the right to rent scheme, including some mobile homes. Image via Flickr.

What Happens If You Fail to Perform a Right to Rent Check?

Landlords who do not perform a right to rent check are liable for a fine of up to £3,000 with repeat offenders facing prosecution.

At Property Assistant, we can manage all aspects of your letting from marketing your property to finding the right tenant, arranging the lease to managing your tenancy. All of our letting solutions are tailor made to your budget and needs but we always dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s so you can be assured of getting the right advice.

For more information about our services, contact us on 0118 912 2370.

Featured image via Flickr.

Landlord Responsibilities: What You Need To Know

Want to know more about landlord responsibilities?

Being a landlord is about more than collecting rent and ensuring a few annual safety checks. If you let a property in England or Wales then you are bound by the law in what you must offer your tenants to ensure their safety and to protect their deposit.

In this guide, we cover the current legislation and Government guidance on a landlord’s responsibilities.

Landlord Responsibilities: Fire Safety

It is your responsibility, as a landlord, to ensure that you fit and test a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm. These must be fitted in accordance with The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 which have been in force since October 2015. The regulations require that landlords in the private sector must:

  • Fit at least one smoke alarm to every level of the property that they are leasing out that is used as living accommodation.
  • Ensure that a carbon monoxide alarm is fitted to in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used.

The alarms must be tested and found to be in working order at the start of every new tenancy. After that, the responsibility for their working order is in the hands of the tenant but it is recommended that tenants are advised to test each device monthly.

renting your home fire safety

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms must be working at the start of each new tenancy agreement. Image via Flickr.

If you are renting your property as a furnished or part-furnished let then all upholstery or upholstered items must bear a non-detachable label stating that they are BS7177 approved and thus meet The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended). Carpets and curtains are not covered by these regulations.

Landlord Responsibilities: Gas Safety

Landlords are required to issue a safety check record for all gas appliances fitted in the rented property to the tenant at the start of the tenancy. Annual safety checks must be carried out by a competent Gas Safe engineer and a record of that check must be provided to the tenant within 28 days of the completion of the annual safety check.

The law does not stipulate that carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted in rooms where gas boilers are situated but responsible landlords are encouraged to do so.

Landlord Responsibilities: Electrical Safety

Landlords should ensure that any electrical appliances installed in their property such as white goods are safe. Equipment should be marked with the appropriate CE symbol and (where hard-wired) installed by a competent electrician.  All items should be regularly maintained.

You can find out more about how to test and maintain your electrical equipment from the HSE.

Landlord Responsibilities: Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

An EPC is required each time that your property is rented out and a copy must be made available for any prospective tenant to see.

Landlord Responsibilities: ‘How To Rent’ Guide

Tenants must be supplied with the ‘How To Rent’ checklist when they commence a tenancy with you. A pdf copy can be emailed using the gov.uk website. This guide provides tenants with a comprehensive checklist of their responsibilities as well as yours plus important information of what they can do if things go wrong during their lease.

Landlord Responsibilities: Perform a Background Check

Before you can complete a tenancy agreement it is your responsibility as a landlord to ensure that your tenant (and all intended occupiers of the property over the age of 18) have the legal right to rent a property in England.

You must obtain original documents for all tenants proving their right to live in the UK. You need to check these with the tenants present and make copies. Suitable documents include (but are not limited to):

  • UK Passport
  • Biometric Residence Permit
  • EEA/Swiss National Identify Card
  • Certificate of Naturalisation or Registration as a British Citizen
right to rent check uk landlords

Landlords are legally required to perform a right to rent check and both see and copy official documents. Image via Flickr.

Or you must see a combination of two of the some following documents (full list via gov.uk):

  • UK Birth or Adoption Certificate
  • Full or Provisional UK Driving License
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Benefits Paperwork
  • A letter of attestation from an employer
  • A letter from a university or other institute of higher education.

Some tenants have a limited right to rent in the UK, who may be able to produced a valid passport or other immigration documents endorsed with a ‘time-limit period’.

For more help on how to perform a right-to-rent check including what documents you need to see, visit the gov.uk website.

Landlord Responsibilities: Keep Your Tenant’s Deposit Safe

The deposit paid by your tenant at the start of the tenancy must be kept safe in a government approved scheme. Known as a TDP (Tenants Deposit Protection) scheme, all assured shorthold tenancies that started after 6th April 2007, offer protection to your tenant that they will receive their deposit back if:

  • They have paid their rent and bills.
  • They don’t cause any damage to the property.
  • They meet the terms of the tenancy agreement.

There are several options for a TDP but you must ensure that details of the scheme have been provided to your tenant within 30 days of their tenancy agreement commencement date. These details must be made in writing and include information such as how their money is protected and who they can contact in the event of a dispute following the termination of their tenancy plus other information. You can find more details of TDP’s from our blog post, ‘Know Your Deposit Rights’.

Landlord Responsibilities: Financial Obligations

Income received from being a private landlord is counted as a taxable income and must be declared to the Inland Revenue. You can deduct running expenses but you must keep financial records that will satisfy the HMRC in the event of an audit.

rental income is taxable landlord responsibilities

Rental income is taxable so always keep good records for your tax return. Image via Flickr.

If you are running your property letting activities as a business then Class 2 National Insurance is also payable.

Landlord Responsibilities: Health & Safety

Whilst there are no legal obligations (other than those already mentioned in the fire, gas and electrical safety sections) for you to have your rental property assessed by the local council, you may at some time be inspected. This could be a result of a complaint made by a tenant as to the standard of accommodation or just a result of the council surveying other properties in the area and identifying yours as a potential risk. Hazards that are surveyed include things like uneven stairs, asbestos risk, damp and mould, home security and domestic hygiene. You can find a full breakdown of the 29 areas covered by a Housing Health and Safety Rating System inspection here.

Landlord Responsibilities: Repairs

You have the right to enter your property to make repairs but you must give your tenants 24 hours notice of your intention to do so. This is usually not the case when immediate access is required in the event of an emergency.

landlord repairs responsibility landlord responsibilities

Landlords must keep their properties in good repair otherwise tenants can take matters into their own hands. Image via Flickr.

You are required to make sure that the home you rent out is free from hazards and that the structure, appliances, heating and hot water plus sanitation is kept in good order. If you are renting a block of flats then you are also responsible for the common areas.

If you fail to keep the property up to standard then tenants have the right to make a claim in the small claims court for repairs under the value of £5,000. They could also undertake the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their rent.

Choosing a good builder to help you with keeping up the repairs is essential.

Depending on your tenancy agreement, you may have the right to increase the rent after repairs have been undertake if they have resulted in major improvements to the property.

Letting a property can be confusing for many landlords and can take up considerable time to manage. Some investors choose to manager their own lets whilst others employ lettings agents to undertake the rent collection and/or full management for them. At Property Assistant, we offer a range of lettings solutions for landlords from finding a tenant and arranging the tenancy agreement (including right to rent checks and securing a deposit in a TDP) through to full lettings management. If you would like to find out more about our services then contact us today on 0118 912 2370.

Featured image via Flickr.

7 Things You Should Know Before Buying Your First Investment Property

Starting an investment property portfolio is the step towards financial independence for many people. So much so that there has been a threefold increase in buy-to-let landlords since 1980.

Owning an investment property can be a good way to secure your money for the long term. However, there are some things you should know before taking that first step to becoming a property magnate.

1.      Do your research…thoroughly

Whilst we can’t predict the future, you can maximise potential of your investment property and mitigate risk by doing your research thoroughly. Before considering any area to invest in, spend some time looking into local housing prices including any projections as well as their history. Make contact with the local councils and find out what development plans are in the pipeline which might affect your investment. Most people choose an investment property that is close to where they live so but don’t neglect the planning phase just because it’s close to home.

2.      Consider your options

A house to renovate may seem like a good plan as you can often buy at a lower cost. However, if you are an inexperienced developer you may find that this can be more costly. If you need to maximise your budget and can’t afford to buy local then consider going further afield. Good local agents can help you find and research the right opportunity for your investment property.

3.      Get a clear idea of your projected rental income

You can use a property agent to help you find out the potential rental value of any property or you can research similar properties in the area using RightMove or Zoopla. Make sure that you compare like for like and include for any ‘snags’ such as lack of parking, busy streets or lack of facilities. Also, ensure that the rentals being marketed are actually being achieved. Just because a three bedroom house in the same street is being advertised as £1500 pcm doesn’t mean it will achieve this.

calculate your rental income

Planning a budget is important before you make any financial commitments. Image via Flickr.

4.      Get a comprehensive, professional survey

As with any purchase of this nature, a RICS HomeBuyer report is essential. We would recommend going the extra mile and include drain survey, full structural survey and condition reports. As an investment, you are likely to be holding on to the property for a while and understanding potential future costs is vital.

5.      Establish Your Fixed and Variable Costs

Owning a rental property will incur annual charges for which you can budget. Talking to a letings agent can help you establish broad costs. You should include for things like boiler maintenance and servicing, gas safety checks and property management fees. Other fixed annual charges include building insurance, ground rents, utilities (where these form part of the landlord’s responsibility) and tax.

Variable costs can be harder to budget for but you should set aside a fund for routine maintenance and repair. Your survey report might provide you with clues as to any upcoming major works for which you might need to save.

6.      Consider the Risks

Whilst a good property management company can reduce your risk exposure by maximising rental yield and keeping your property occupied, there are still things that can go wrong. Consider whether you have enough capital to cover any secured loans on the property if the property remains vacant.

Background checks on tenants should help avoid any potential problems with unpaid rent or poor housekeeping but could still happen. Legal fees to evict tenants and the cost to put right any damage with excess post-rental repairs can soon add up.

Choosing the right letting agent can help you mitigate these risks.

7.      Build the Right Network

If you are intending to manage the property yourself then you will need to have a good network of trades to call upon. As a landlord you have obligations to your tenants to rectify problems swiftly when they arise. Building a network of trusted contractors like plumbers, electricians and builders is essential. You should be able to rely on them to respond to emergencies, deal with problems and not charge the earth.

building trades for a buy to let

Having the right contacts can help save your maintenance costs. Image via Flickr.

In addition, you should have access to good legal advice in the event of any problems arising.

If you are using a property agent then much of this will be managed for you. However, you will still need to get a good accountant to help you with the finances such as your new tax obligations. Plus, if you need to arrange a buy-to-let mortgage then you could consider a financial advisor to help you select the best deal. See our guide on knowing your responsibilities as a landlord.

Here at Property Assistant we can help you with your investment property needs. From finding the right opportunity, negotiating a purchase, finding tenants to full property management. We like to take the hard work out of property matters so you can concentrate on growing your portfolio. For more information, talk to us today on 0118 912 2370.

Know your deposit rights as a tenant

Knowing your deposit rights as a tenant is an important part of signing a tenancy agreement.

When renting a home using an assured shorthold tenancy, it is common practice for your landlord to ask for a security deposit that is usually the equivalent of at least one and a half month’s rental payment. Some landlords may require an additional deposit if you are intending to have pets in the property.

tenant deposit rights england

Understanding your deposit rights as a tenant doesn’t have to be challenging. Image credit NobMouse via Flickr.

Why do you need to pay a security deposit?

A security deposit is required to provide the landlord with a financial guarantee that any damage incurred to the property as a result of your tenancy will be met.

Who holds your security deposit?

Your landlord is required by law to place your security deposit into a government backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP). A third-party organisation, your landlord must transfer the deposit to one of three schemes within 30 days of receiving it.

Why is your security deposit held by a third party?

A TDP acts as an independent organisation to keep a tenant’s money safe for the duration of their rental agreement.

What happens if there is a dispute about returning your deposit?

When a rental period comes to an end, the TDP scheme provider also acts as an independent arbiter should there be any dispute regarding the return of the deposit.

For instance, you may have vacated a property and, in your opinion, left the premises in good order. However, your landlord may decide that there is some damage to the property that was incurred during your occupation. The TDP will step in to hear the evidence from both parties and provide a final judgement on whether you are due your full deposit back or if the landlord can rightfully claim a sum to cover any damages.

tenant deposit rights

Legitimate costs can be deducted from your deposit such as damage. Image credit Stacy Z via Flickr.

You do not have to use this service but if you and your landlord both agree to do so then the TDP’s decision in the matter is final.

If you cannot get your landlord to agree to using the TDP’s arbitration service, then the TDP can still act on your behalf and may return your deposit in the absence of any evidence being provided by your landlord as to why it should not be returned to you.

Your deposit is protected by the TDP until such time as any dispute has been resolved.

When do you get your deposit back?

If there are no disputes, then your deposit must be returned to you within 10 days of your agreeing with the landlord over the sum you are due back. Your deposit rights are protected by legislation to ensure this is the case.

What’s the difference between a ‘holding’ deposit and a ‘security’ deposit?

Holding deposits are often used prior to the paperwork of your tenancy agreement being drawn up. An arbitrary figure, this can be a few hundred pounds and is used to effectively take a property off the market whilst you complete your tenancy documentation. It is not protected by any third-party scheme but, once you have agreed your tenancy, the payment is netted from the total security deposit required and transferred to a TDP scheme.

Is your security deposit protected even if it was paid by a third party?

Yes. Even if your parents or someone else paid the deposit on your behalf, the money is still protected. This is a secure part of your deposit rights.

How do you know that your money has been transferred to a TDP scheme?

Your landlord must inform you within 30 days of receipt of your deposit the relevant details of the scheme used to protect your money as well as any details of the associated dispute resolution service. They should also provide you with a copy of the Tenancy Deposit Certificate as well as details of:

  • The total sum of your deposit
  • Reasons as to why they would keep any or all of your deposit
  • What to do at the end of your tenancy if you cannot make contact with your landlord.

You can check with the relevant TDP scheme provider that your deposit has been received and is secure with them using the deposit ID reference provided on your Tenancy Deposit Certificate.

is your rental deposit safe deposit rights

With a TDP scheme, your rental security deposit is kept safe. Image credit Jlhopgood via Flickr.

What if you are renting without an assured shorthold tenancy agreement?

If your rental started before 6 April 2007 or you do not have an assured tenancy agreement, then your landlord does not have to use a TDP scheme. In such circumstance, your landlord may accept other forms of security deposit from you (including, but not limited to, money) which will not be protected.

What schemes are approved for TDP?

In England and Wales, there are three organisations your landlord can use to place your money with:

You should note that separate schemes exist for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Understanding your deposit rights with Property Assistant

When it comes to arranging a rental, it helps to have someone who understands the complexities of tenancy agreements both from a landlord and tenant’s perspective. At Property Assistant, we see things differently and want to make sure that you do too. For help with all of your rental queries contact us on 0118 912 2370.