Landlord Guide

Step 1. Accurate valuation

The achievable rental value of your property is determined by many factors including its location, services and amenities nearby, the cosmetic appearance and condition of the property and number of bedrooms. In addition, market forces play a large part in dictating the asking price of the property. Pine Estates will advise you on a realistic achievable rental valuation taking into consideration everything detailed here, and the price you are expecting. Be mindful of the fact that over-valuing the property can put off potential tenants, leaving you with an empty property and no income.

Step 2. HMO or not an HMO?

An HMO (House in Multiple Occupancy) occurs when several unrelated people share a house. This is a very grey area but can cause a great deal of aggravation if not dealt with properly, and worst case scenario you could end up with a financial penalty and a very hefty bill to put it right.

Put simply if your property is on 3 or more levels and let to 5 or more tenants comprising 2 or more households (i.e. not all of the same family) it will be subject to mandatory licensing by your local authority. Whether mandatory licensing applies or not, if there are 3 or more tenants not all related in any property, it is still likely to be an HMO, and special Management rules apply. Ask us or contact your local authority for details.

Step 3. Consider Property Management

Looking after a rented property is fine when it’s all going according to plan. Your tenants seem like nice people, pay their rent on time, never phone you moaning about changing a lightbulb at 3am, and leave the property on time, leaving it nicely cleaned and all intact. However, when things go wrong it can get overwhelming, and can cause a great deal of problems, both legal and financial. Let us take the strain and manage your property for you. That way, you can ensure that you’re protected in every way and we’ll work hard to make sure you’re not out of pocket financially or legally on thin ice. We’re proud of our knowledge of the industry and will always act in your best interests at all times. We’ll even renew your Landlords Gas Safety certificate automatically. Our full management service includes the following:

  1. Free Property Appraisal to make sure we get it marketed at the right price.
  2. Good quality photos and floor plans
  3. Advertising on all major portals inc. Rightmove, On The Market, Zoopla, Globrix etc.
  4. Carrying out accompanied viewings
  5. Full background and credit checks, guarantor referencing, employer and earnings validation, immigration and Right to Live checks and previous landlord reference checking on all potential tenants.
  6. Logging of deposits
  7. Drafting and signing of Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements
  8. Arranging independent photographic Inventory
  9. Arranging end of tenancy cleans
  10. Arranging EPC and Landlords Gas Safety Record where required
  11. Advising on adherence to current rental property legislation
  12. Check-in Service For the new tenants
  13. Collection and payment of rent (less fees and other payments as agreed)
  14. Check-out Service
  15. Regular property inspections and full written follow up report
  16. Full management of maintenance issues
  17. Rent collection and onward payment
  18. Automatic renewal of Landlords Gas Safety Record (where applicable)
  19. Chasing arrears
  20. Service of Notices
  21. Preparation of court paperwork and eviction handling (when required)

Step 4. The small print

There are several things to consider when renting a property. Avoid bright garish colours on walls, keep the garden simple and laid to lawn where possible, and remove all personal items. Find all window and door keys, ensure that all locks work effectively. If the property was your home, arrange for your mail to be forwarded. Decide what you are going to leave there and what you want to take away, and make all minor repairs. Several things to consider before you even put the property on the market:

Mortgage – If your property is mortgaged you’ll need permission from your lender.

Leasehold properties - If the property is leasehold you’ll also need to check the Head lease for any special terms or conditions, and seek permission from the Freeholder if necessary

Insurance – Ensure that Landlords insurance is in place

Tax – Income tax is payable on rental properties and it is the Landlords responsibility to declare that income to HM Revenue & Customs. For overseas Landlords, you will need to apply to HMRC for an exemption certificate which we need to see in order for us to pay rent without deducting tax. More information on UK and non-resident tax liability can be found at www.hmrc.gov.uk

For any rental property, you need to consider:

The Gas Safety Certificate (Installation and use) Regulations 1994

Any rental property must have all gas appliances and installations tested by a Gas Safe qualified engineer on an annual basis, and this needs to be in place before any tenants move in. A copy of the valid Gas Safety Certificate must be given to the tenant(s) before the start of their tenancy. If there is no valid certificate then we can help in this matter, at the landlord’s expense. Failure to provide or maintain a valid Landlords Gas Safety certificate could lead to up to 6 months imprisonment andor a very hefty fine.

The Electrical (Safety) Regulations 1994 / Plugs and Sockets (Safety) Regulations 1994

It is a criminal offence to rent properties without safe electrical equipment. Landlords must make sure that ALL electrical equipment, appliances and electrical supply is safe. Electrical items must be examined by a qualified electrician before the tenancy commences. If you wish, we can instruct an approved contractor to carry out this check.

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire and Safety) Regulations 1988

If you intend to provide your property furnished, you must make sure that all soft furnishings or upholstered furniture complies with the Furniture and Furnishings act. You don’t need a certificate for this.

Energy Performance Certificate

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) give information on how to make your home more energy efficient and reduce your energy costs. All rental properties require an EPC, and the values need to be displayed on all adverts. A copy of the EPC is given to all tenants at the start of the tenancy as part of the welcome pack.

Step 5. Preparing your property for tenancy

Decide whether to let your property furnished or unfurnished. Furnished properties will give a better visual impression to the prospective tenants on how the property will look, making it more likely to rent quicker. If the quality of the furniture warrants it, you can charge a premium rental price than if it was unfurnished. However the down side is that offering the property furnished will increase costs over time as wear and tear necessitate replacing the furniture.

We recommend that the landlord provides white goods as a minimum (washing machine, cooker and fridge freezer) if letting the property unfurnished.

Flexibility is key as this will broaden the appeal of the property to prospective tenants as individual requirements vary. Anything surplus to requirements should be removed and placed into storage if need be.

Step 6. Marketing your property

Willow Estate Agents vigorously market all our available stock on a wide variety of mediums, including direct email, highly visible, strategically placed ‘To Let’ boards, some of the best property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla and our own easy to use dynamic website and also within our branches. Your property will receive maximum exposure using a combination of these methods coupled with daily contact with pre-vetted potential tenants from our extremely healthy database to minimise void periods and maximise your rental yield.

Step 7. Receiving an offer

Once we receive an offer, we will relay that information to you, together with detailed information on the potential tenants – their situation, employment status, who is intending to move in, and how long they are looking to rent for. As the Landlord you have the final say as to whether you wish to proceed and accept their offer. If not, viewings will continue until a suitable tenant is found and a holding deposit is placed.

Step 8. Offer agreed

At this point, we will ask for a holding deposit from the applicants and ask them to visit the office with their ID which will be checked and copied. We will also commence the referencing process. During this time, viewings are suspended until all checks have been completed to everybody’s satisfaction. If the deal falls through at any point, we will re-commence viewings immediately.

Step 9. References checked

All applicants are asked to undergo vigorous background checks. We use an independent reputable referencing company to undertake these checks so that we cannot be accused of any bias. Checks will include a full background check, including their payment history on any previous lending and any adverse credit e.g. CCJ’s or bankruptcies.

Their identity is also verified as is their right to live and work in the UK, or whether they are subject to any immigration control. If they have rented properties in the past, we will ask their Landlords to provide us with information on them as a tenant, and whether they are prompt with paying their rent for example. This information is provided by a variety of sources including credit reference agencies like Experian or Equifax and is compiled into a report which gives a final credit score, and whether they have passed or failed. From that we can paint a very good picture on their suitability as a tenant for your property.

Step 10. Move In Monies taken and agreement signed

Once all referencing is completed and deemed satisfactory, we then ask the tenants to pay their first months rent and security deposit (usually 4-6 weeks equivalent rent). We do not accept cheques or credit cards as they have a clearing cycle. Funds need to be ‘cleared’ funds, e.g. cash or bank transfer.

Upon receipt of cleared funds, we will arrange for the tenancy agreement to be drawn up and signed by all parties.

All deposits are protected in a Government approved deposit scheme. Details of this scheme are given to all parties

Step 11. Move In Date

If an inventory was taken, the Clerk will meet the tenants at the property to conduct the check in process. The meter readings will be taken, the keys will be photographed and then handed to the Tenant. If the property is managed, we will also retain a set of keys at our offices. Within seven days the inventory will be sent to the Tenant for them to agree and sign, with any amendments highlighted within 14 days or the inventory will be locked down.

We will then send a welcome pack to the new tenants which will include:
A copy of the signed AST,
Our contact details if managed or Landlord contact details
Bank account details for rent payments,
A copy of the landlords Gas Safety Record,
A copy of the EPC,
A copy of the Electrical Testing Certificate
Inventory report (unless sent separately)
Prescribed Information and a copy of the Tenancy Deposit Registration certificate.