How to be a good landlord

Being a landlord comes with a number of responsibilities. These vary depending on your tenancy type but many of the basic rules remain the same, from supplying start of tenancy information to house repairing obligations. To get a good understanding of your responsibilities as a landlord, take a look at this helpful information from the authorised and regulated national charity, Shelter. 

Check your tenant’s right to rent

Before tenants can rent a home in England, a private landlord or letting agent must check the tenant’s immigration status and the status of any adult who is living with them.

Provide start of tenancy information

At the start of a tenant’s contract you must provide: 

  • An Energy Performance Certificate for the property (EPC)
  • A gas safety certificate (if your property has gas appliances)
  • A copy of the latest government guide: How to rent – if you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) that started or was renewed on or after 1 October 2015 It is harder for a landlord to evict an Assured Shorthold Tenant if the information required isn’t provided.

Protect tenant’s deposit

Landlords must protect a tenant’s deposit with a UK government-approved Deposit Protection Scheme. If your tenant’s deposit should have been protected but wasn’t:

They can claim tenancy deposit scheme compensation.

It can be more difficult for you to end your tenant’s contract.

Lodgers’ deposits don’t have to be protected.

Tenants and lodgers’ deposits should be returned to them after they leave, if they have paid all the rent and caused no damage.

Repairing obligations

Landlords are responsible for repairs to the exterior and structure of a property including problems with the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains. Landlords must make sure the equipment for supplying water, gas and electricity is kept in safe working order. If landlords need access to the property to inspect it and do repairs, they should give reasonable notice and arrange a suitable time to visit (unless there’s an emergency). The tenant’s contract should say how much notice to give. If your tenant’s Assured Shorthold Agreement started or was renewed on or after 1 October 2015, they have some legal protection against revenge eviction if they complain about repairs. 

Health and safety obligations – Landlords must:

Have a gas safety check done every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer

Make sure any furniture provided meets safety standards

Ensure electrical equipment they’ve provided meets safety standards

A landlord must install a smoke alarm on each floor of the property and carbon monoxide detectors in any room with a coal fire or wood- burning stove. This doesn’t apply if you’re a resident landlord. Before tenants can rent a home in England, a private landlord or letting agent must check the tenant’s immigration status and the status of any adult who is living with them.

Allow tenants to enjoy their home

Landlords must let tenants live in their home without unnecessary interference. Landlords should not let themselves into a tenant’s home without permission. A landlord (or anyone employed by them) should not harass tenants in their home or make it difficult for them to stay there. 

Follow eviction rules

Landlords needs to give tenants notice in writing and get a court order before court bailiffs can be used evict tenants from:

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy – the most common private tenancy type

  • An Assured Tenancy
  • A Regulated Tenancy

A court order isn’t needed for the eviction of lodgers. It’s illegal eviction if a landlord tries to force tenants to leave without following the correct procedure. This is a criminal offence.

Moving Due to Separation or Divorce

With an estimated 42% of marriages in the UK ending in divorce it is becoming a common occurrence that couples are looking to selling their property in order to finalise their separation. It is an extremely difficult time for both the families and individuals that are affected but what can be more unsettling is not knowing what to do next.

Here at My Online Estate Agent we have created a guide that will help you through this tough period. The downloadable PDF below, provides clarity on what you will need to consider, answers to the questions you want to know and more importantly, it addresses the matter head on explaining your options following the break.

Please take the time to read the guide, we hope it helps and if you need any more advice on your next steps then please get in touch.

Inside the PDF you can read about a number of different issues such as mutual sales, one party buying the other out as well as future considerations including mortgage solutions. Read more here: Moving Due to Separation or Divorce – MOEA

How to Let Your House Privately

If you have a property and want to harness more than just its appreciating value on the housing market, then one area where you can benefit is letting. Most beginners and quite a few hardened landlords do this by going to a reputable agent who can handle all the different legal and administrative aspects including contracts, insurance, and on-going maintenance.

The other option is to do the work yourself and let your house out privately. The benefits of this are that you don’t have to pay a third party, such as a letting agent, fees and you can keep more of the profits yourself. The downside is that you have to handle everything from finding tenants to carrying out maintenance, which is fine if you have the time and energy.

Contacting your Mortgage Provider

Before you begin: If you are still paying the mortgage on your property then you will need to make sure with your mortgage provider that it is permissible to rent out your home. You may need to change to a buy to let mortgage and this could involve higher rates and additional costs. If you are starting from scratch and buying a property specifically to rent out then you will need a deposit of between 15% and 25% depending on the lender and you may find it all but impossible if you are a first time buyer.

Preparing the House for Rental

Whether you are looking to rent your property privately or go through a letting agent, you will need to make sure that your house or flat is in the right condition to let. This could involve a little makeover such as laying down new carpets and painting the walls or more substantial renovations. In addition, you must have valid Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety Certificates before renting.

Whilst self-furnishing properties are acceptable, most renters will expect the basic amenities such as a cooker and fridge. Even though rental properties are at a premium and in high demand, particularly in certain areas, such as inner cities, you will need to make the house or flat appealing if you want to attract the right prospective tenants.

Finding Tenants

The biggest problem for private letters is that they have to find suitable tenants and this can be a time consuming process. A large part of letting agent initial fees go on finding tenants, though there is a misconception that they provide the kind of vetting service and experience that a novice landlord might find difficult to duplicate. Whilst this may true in some cases, with a little attention to detail you can make sure that you cover all the bases.

Nowadays, things are made much easier with the online world because you can use online agents to cheaply access online letting platforms such as Zoopla and Rightmove. Letting agents use these as a matter of course anyway to drum up interest in a property. These online solutions also provide you with the right tools to check out the market and sort out the level of rent you are going to ask for the property, as well as how others present their own information.

If you are letting privately then you are going to need to interview tenants, show them round the property and get references and other personal details. Carrying out a background check is not easy if you don’t have the experience and you might want to consider employing the services of a referencing agency before you get out the contract, most online agents provide referencing services, generally paid for by the tenant.

Sorting Out the Contract

Having the right contract in place for your tenants could well save you a lot of heartbreak later. Whilst there may well be examples you can copy online, it is always best to employ the services of a competent solicitor to make sure everything is legally correct and protects you and the tenant. It will cost you a bit extra but will save you a great deal of money if any disputes arise.

On-going Maintenance

Once you have your tenants installed you will have to provide an on-going maintenance service that could include anything from mending leaks to roof repairs. If you have prepared the property well in the first instance, this should be kept down to a minimum for at least the first year but it’s a good idea to get to know some reliable plumbers and electricians you can call on in the event of an emergency.

Maintenance will need to be carried out in a timely manner and you must ensure that areas such as gas and electrical systems all meet the required safety standards.

Paying Tax and Insurance

Whether you are going through a letting agent or renting out your property privately, you will need to pay tax on the profits and inform HMRC of the additional income. There is plenty of advice on paying your tax as well as the service you provide to your tenants on their website.

You will also have to get landlords insurance that covers you for a variety of situations. With the rise in the number of rental properties over the last few years, the landlord insurance market has become quite competitive and you can get some excellent deals if you shop around.

Monitoring Tenants

Whilst your tenants may well be the best-behaved people on the planet, it’s not always the case that things run smoothly. If you have the right contract in place and maintain regular contact with the tenants, as well as employing the services of a capable solicitor, you should be able to negate any problem areas more efficiently. Monitoring tenants is not just about making sure they are behaving themselves but also ensuring that they don’t have any problems.

Private Vs. Agency Letting

There’s no doubt that if you find the right letting agent it takes a lot of the heat out of renting your property and allows you to get on with other things whilst earning an income from a home or flat. Private letting can take up more time than you think but it can save you on agency fees and leave more money in your pocket if you do it properly. For most, it comes down to a question of preference and whether you want to leave the day-to-day running of your property to a third party.

How Do Open House Viewings Work?

To some it’s a way to make a quick sale, for others it means paying the right price for a property becomes more difficult. Whatever your point of view, open house viewings are increasing in popularity, particularly in inner city areas such as London where property comes at a high premium.

The way it works is this: Rather than have individuals coming round and viewing the property by appointment over several weeks or months, potential buyers have a short window of opportunity in which to see and then bid on a house or flat, ranging from a whole day to just a few hours. Once they’ve had a look around they are allowed to submit sealed bids to the owner who can then choose the best price.

A London fad?

Whilst it is undoubtedly a favourite way of selling a property down in the south of the country, particularly London and the Home Counties, open house viewings are not entirely the province of the higher cost end of the market. Popularity is spreading across the UK and cities and large towns are adopting it as the way to make a quick sale at the best price. According to recent reports, in London over a hundred people can turn up for one viewing of a single property for a hectic hour or two whilst everyone looks over the place.

This way of selling a house was made popular in the US and Australia and works best where there is a lot of interest, for instance, in an area where housing is in short supply and there are plenty of potential buyers.

Rise in property values

Although we are largely out of the recession, house prices are recovering at different paces throughout the country. The success of open house viewings depend on there being a vibrant, healthy market and even in London, where the market prices have stalled recently, there are more and more instances of estate agents and sellers opting for this quick sell strategy. Whilst the rise in property prices may well be a factor, it is actually the growing difference between the low number of available properties and the high number of potential buyers that has contributed to its success.

The benefits of open house viewings

  • It saves time for the vendor because everyone comes round at once to view the property.
  • It creates a certain level of competition between buyers as they try to outbid each other for the property.
  • Buyers will often pre-empt the bidding process when they know a property is coming up for an open house viewing by putting in a bid for the sale, making the selling process even quicker.
  • In places where there is a shortage of supply it can lead to the vendor getting a much better price on the property than they would under normal circumstances.

The problem for buyers, of course, is that open house viewings put them under a lot more pressure to come up with a better price than everyone else and it can lead them to spend more than they originally intended. Some buyers just find the whole process far too intimidating to take part and there is some debate as to whether the best buyers, those with the right amount of finance behind them, are put off by the free for all scramble.

How to bid at an open house viewing

Even with the average property price in London around £360,000, there is still plenty of competition for properties in the capital, especially when they are close to vital amenities such as rail, work and shopping districts.

With buyers outnumbering sellers by as much as 15 to 1, it’s very important that you do your homework in the first instance – look at the area that the property is in and compare the prices so that you don’t end up bidding over the odds, and check all the estate agent details so that you are sure the place is right for you. You need to put in a realistic bid for the property and whilst going £20,000 or so above the asking price is not uncommon, you will find it difficult to get a mortgage if you are paying way over the odds.

Increasing your chances of success

First of all, it doesn’t help to panic. If you are so desperate to buy a property that you find your bank card twitching in your pocket as soon as you step through the door then you might like to think twice about attending an open house viewing in the first place. Viewing time is going to be limited, even if there are appointment times within the opening period – these often overlap and a viewing can quickly descend into chaos if not organised properly.

Success is not just about putting in the winning bid for the product, it is about making sure that you have a property that is fit to live in. With such a short time to view, you need to keep an eye open for problem areas so that you can assess the property with a keen eye rather than discover at a later date that you have to invest more money to solve a number of problems such as damp or a substandard electrics.

Dropout rates are big

With the panic to get the winning bid on many properties, there is a good potential for dropouts. People suddenly find that they have overstretched themselves and don’t have the finances or can’t get the mortgage, putting you back to square one. Vendors also need to be sure that the property is up to scratch. You are going to have a large number of people visiting at one time and if one of them spots a big problem such as an ill-fitting kitchen then you may find the expected price starting to dip as buyers factor in how much extra they are going to have to spend.

 

Organised properly, open house viewings can actually benefit both vendors and buyers. It gives potential buyers the opportunity to put in a bid and get a quick response compared with other methods of buying a property. For the seller it often offers a fast and convenient way to dispose of a property and perhaps get a better price than would otherwise be expected.

Should You Sell Your House or Rent it Out?

For most people, buying a house represents a significant investment in both time and money and making the most of this profitable asset requires a good deal of thought. Selling your property might be the answer and yield some important capital, especially if you are looking to invest in other areas. Renting out your property, however, can provide a healthy monthly income if you play your cards right whilst the value of your property continues to rise still further.

Unlike our European counterparts, who can quite happily rent a property for life, we in England have long harboured desires to own our home. It was given impetus in the 80s when Margaret Thatcher introduced the Right to Buy policy for council houses and has stayed with us almost ever since. Having said that, with property prices rising quite considerably, more of us are beginning to realise that renting is not such a bad thing at all. It’s become a good way for property owners to make a little extra money on their investment.

Choosing the right option

If you have a house, and are undecided what to do with it, is there a good reason why you should choose to enter the rental property market rather than sell for profit? If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a second home, for instance, it could be a good idea to hold on to your existing property and use it to provide a long term, regular income. This works best when:

  • You are perhaps just moving because of a temporary situation such as a work contract and don’t want to sell the house but want to realise some income from it in the short term.
  • You are confident the price of your house is going to rise in the long term and that it will make a good rental property for a while.

Hanging onto your property is an investment decision and you need to take the long view on it because house prices will naturally rise and fall depending on circumstances such as the local economy. You will also need to take account of the surrounding area – if the economy stumbles again, is the surrounding conurbation likely to take a fall as well, something that could well happen with areas that have recently been regenerated?

Will your mortgage company let you rent?

If you are lucky enough to have paid off your mortgage and are free to do what you want, then the decision to sell or let is entirely in your hands. If you still have a mortgage on the property, however, you will need to check with the mortgage provider to make sure that they allow renting out. Moving into the rental market may well necessitate you changing your mortgage plan and perhaps having to pay a higher rate.

Can you afford to run two properties?

Whilst you will be earning income from your second property if you rent it out, you need to consider whether you have the finances to maintain both. The main problem comes if you are still paying back the mortgage of the rental property. You will need to work out the amount that has to be paid for this on a monthly basis and then take into account the cost of the letting agent and management fees. There may not be a great deal of profit left over at the end of the month once you have paid every one off and most of your hopes will be placed on the value of the property rising over time to make any profit at all.

There are other factors to consider too. For instance, what happens if you are unable to find the right tenant for your property for a while and it sits empty? You’ll have to pay things like council tax as well as finding money for maintenance and upkeep. You may have to invest in having the house renovated if you are intending to attract a number of renters with small flats – something for which you will also need to get planning permission. On top of that, you will have to pay for liability insurance and you’ll certainly incur tax payments on the profit you make. Whilst renting might seem the perfect option, you need to be financially secure at the end of the day if you want to take it on as a serious money making proposition.

Are you in the right place?

The rental market is pretty strong nowadays but it still depends largely on where your property is situated. Having your rental home in an area close to a university which will attract students or making it a suitable property for a professional wishing to commute into the city will ensure that you have a good choice of tenants. There are, of course, certain areas where the rental market is not particularly booming and, if you are located here, this may be the time for you to consider selling and getting the best price possible.

Is your house worth it?

Whilst the housing market is beginning to boom once again, recovering from the slump of the recession, many owners are still finding it difficult to get the full asking price and realise that selling generally involves a compromise on what you get as profit. If you are not getting the price you desire then it makes sense to think about renting out until the market improves. You should understand though that this could be a long term situation and you may be stuck with the property for some time to come.

Finding the right letting agent

How smoothly renting out your property goes often depends on the letting and management agent you choose. As with any industry there are some good and bad companies out there so it pays to shop around and ask for contact details of those who are using the service. Yes, you can do it all yourself but then you have to deal with everything that goes with being a landlord. If you want to just collect the money and pay someone else to manage the property, then you need to employ a reputable letting agent.

There are pros and cons for both selling a property and renting it out and a lot will depend on your circumstances at the time. There are plenty of times when renting out is the obvious solution, particularly if you are moving away for a short while and want to make some profit on an otherwise empty property. Selling a property comes with its own problems, especially if you are having trouble finding takers for the price you want to achieve.

In the end, it comes down to a balancing act of maximising your resources and what you get in return. Renting can produce a decent profit if you have the right circumstances but can be a drain on resources and time if you do the calculations wrong.

In short, it pays to sit back and think long and hard about all the pros and cons before you commit to either course of action.