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Everything first time landlords need to know - new guide

ARLA Propertymark, the letting agents’ main trade body, has prepared a ‘top tips’ guide for first time landlords.

Association president Angela Davey says: “Whether you’re an accidental landlord or a professional one, the same rules apply, so it’s essential you’re up to speed before marketing your property. 

“You are ultimately allowing a stranger into your biggest asset and therefore it is critical that you do your research, keeping in mind all parties with a vested interest in the property. If you haven’t complied with all these important steps at the start of the tenancy, you may find yourself in a vulnerable position should anything go wrong.”

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Here are ARLA’s top tips:

Safety first - Smoke alarms are required on all floors of your property and it is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure carbon monoxide detectors are installed in any room where solid fuels are burnt (such as wood, coal or biomass). These need to be tested and working prior to the first day of the tenancy. In date Gas Safety and Electrical Certificates being in place as a priority as copies of these must be given to the tenants along with a copy of the EPC.

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Prepare your property - If you are offering your property as a furnished home, think carefully about what you can provide. Remove anything valuable or sentimental – aside from the fact they’re at risk of damage, it can be off-putting for tenants to rent a property that is filled with someone else’s belongings. Always remember that less is more, and all upholstered furnishings must comply with the fire and furnishings act.

You should also think about the type of tenants you want; if you’re hoping a family will move in for a few years, they may have their own furniture already and therefore won’t want your stuff. However, if you’re renting to university students, it’s highly unlikely they’ll have accumulated enough belongings to furnish a house.

It is also key to consider the legal implications of letting the property itself. Is the property leasehold or freehold, as there are different rules concerning each. Much the same, depending on where your rental property is located across the country there may be differing regulations to consider before allowing any tenants to move in.

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Lets with pets - Establish whether you are comfortable renting to a tenant who owns a pet. Allowing pets can make a property more desirable and encourage a more responsible portfolio of tenants to rent for longer, but even the best-behaved pets will have an impact on a property over time.

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Landlord License - You must check if you need a landlord license from your local council before your property can legally be rented out. This legislation was introduced in 2006 with the main purpose of ensuring landlords maintain their rental properties to a good standard.

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Tenant Referencing - As a landlord, you will need to rigorously reference new tenants to check they are reliable and will be able to meet rent payments each month. These include credit eligibility, employer checks and previous landlord references. An easy way of making sure all the necessary referencing is made is by using an ARLA Propertymark Protected letting agent.

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Tenancy Deposit Protection - If you take a deposit from your tenants, you must protect it in one of the Government-authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes. There are three available – Deposit Protection Service (DPS), MyDeposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).

You will need to protect the deposit within 30 days of receiving it and provide the tenant with both the Deposit Protection Certificate and completed Prescribed Information. Failure to do so could result in you not being able to evict your tenant plus the full return of the deposit and a fine of up to three times the value of the deposit.

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Energy Performance Certificate - You must serve your tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate. Your property must be at least EPC band E before letting it out and if you’re caught arranging a new let without ensuring your property is up to these standards, you could be fined.

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Regular Inspections - It’s important to undertake regular inspections of the property, although remember that you cannot enter the property without the tenant’s permission as this is classed as trespassing and is illegal, and all COVID-19 safety measures must be closely followed. It’s best practice to grant them 24- or 48-hours’ written notice, and this should be stipulated in your tenancy agreement.

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Insurance - If you do not inform your buildings insurer that you’re renting your property out, you risk invalidating your policy. Most standard buildings insurers don’t provide the protection you require as a landlord, so it’s worth taking out specialist landlord insurance. A good policy will cover a loss of rent, damage, legal expense and liabilities.

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Choose an agent - Make sure to choose the right letting agent for your needs. Researching an organisation that operates with client money protection is a great place to start, and you should always be able to find more than one ARLA Propertymark protected letting agent nearby to choose from. It is advisable to meet your agent before going into business with them, either in person or over the phone. A letting agent who answers within five rings will be more likely to keep on top of your needs than somebody slower on the uptake.

Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.

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    When I first started as a landlord I joined my local landlords association and attended all their meetings, they were, and still are no more than a phone call away, very helpful and well worth their £70 per yr fee.

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    I have been a landlady for almost 20 years. My best advice “Don’t become a landlord”, ain’t worth the hassle and it will only get worse. Put your money into bitcoin instead and ride the wave till the end of the 4 year cycle, then start again?

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    Janet, that the best advice if I were to give advice and I do not. I am a LL foe 43 years and so sorry for ever being a LL what for ? to be blaguarded , Bullied, run around after everyone , fix everything, Comply with mountains of new rules, be treated under Criminal Law instead of Civil Law, be at total risk, Council used never have anything to do with Private Housing really but had any power they needed as far back as 1992 but destroyed Public Sector Housing then no more damage could be done there. Then Government moved over one week end & took complete control of all Private Let Sector Housing and we weren't even told not alone asked, it must be what they call Democracy. I wouldn't get involved in bitcoin either I always earned my living, so what difference is being a LL to me pay tens of thousands every year, then they are waiting at the Cemetery Gate for the rest, unless you jump through a load of hoops & give 4% to a Rogue Charity to grant you 10% discount off your tax Bill the last time I inquired. Councils are supposed to servants of the Public not there to destroy us.

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    Being a landlord and building a portfolio worth several million has been very hard work but it has transformed the finances of me and my grown up kids, and hopefully my young grandchildren in time.

    Had I built the maximum allowed pension fund instead, I would be worse off now in retirement and it would die with me. My portfolio and its six figure rental stream will live on.

    Bit Coin? No Thanks. Baroness Mone and her current husband are great fans of it. That's enough to convince me that it's a lousy investment for normal investors.

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