20th Jun, 2016
There are an increasing number of rules governing how landlords should rent a property in England. We take a look at how you can navigate your way through this legal minefield.
Using an agent
Don’t base your choice of agent on the price of their properties. Choosing an agent because their properties are the cheapest is not necessarily a wise move. A better strategy is to work with an agent who is a member of relevant professional bodies, such as ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents). At Applegate Properties, we are members of several reputable industry bodies, including ARLA, APIP (Association of Professional Inventory Providers) and NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents). We are one of very few licensed agencies in the local area. If you use an agent who isn’t a member of a professional body like ARLA then should things go wrong (such as the agent going bust or running off with your money) you will be responsible for refunding your tenant any deposit lost or stolen by the agent. Using an ARLA Licensed Agent ensures you will receive a professional service and in the unlikely event of a problem with the agent, ARLA will reimburse your money through their CMP (Client Money Protection) scheme.
A written tenancy agreement is not a legal requirement, however a reputable agent will provide one in the interests of best practice. A tenancy agreement clearly defines the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant. The standard agreement used in England is the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). The tenancy agreement can last for a period agreed by both parties; the minimum term being six months and the maximum seven years. The AST includes the start date of the tenancy, the name and address of the landlord (even if the tenancy is managed by an agent) and details of the amount of rent and the monthly pay date. It’s possible to find a template for your standard tenancy agreement, but to avoid complications that can arise it’s worthwhile working with a professional and experienced ARLA licensed agent.
Tenancy Deposit Protection
If you are taking a deposit from your tenant, remember that the money continues to belong to the tenant. By law, it must be registered with one of the government-backed TDP (tenancy deposit protection) schemes and you’ll need to provide the certificate and relevant paperwork to the tenant within 30 days. If you don’t comply, a court could order the return of the deposit in full, plus a fine of up to three times the value of the deposit. Also, if you don’t make use of a TDP scheme it will not be straightforward for you to regain possession of the property from the tenant if you need to. A properly established agent can manage the deposit on your behalf.
There are other documents that must be provided to your tenant, including a DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) How To Rent guide, a valid EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) and Gas Safety certificate, and any property license required by your local authority. If the tenant has not been given these documents, you will not have the legal right to evict a tenant should you need to.
Creating an inventory
A comprehensive inventory signed by all parties at the start of the tenancy is essential. A professionally drawn-up inventory and schedule of condition will protect you from any unwarranted disputes by the tenant at the end of the tenancy. At Applegate Properties we are members of APIP (Association of Professional Inventory Providers). Compiling an inventory and schedule of condition is a skill and should be carried out by someone qualified to do so. The inventory is an important document and one that may need to be relied upon as evidence in the event of a dispute. An inventory provider who is a Member of APIP (MAPIP) will have undergone training and passed an assessment meaning they are competent to conduct the inventory compilation, check-in and check-out. The candidate must also provide evidence of at least six months hands-on experience of the role. Additionally, members are required to have adequate, up-to-date public liability and professional indemnity insurance.
Right to Rent checks
From 1 February 2016 (or 1 December 2014 in parts of the West Midlands) all adult occupiers within new tenancies need to satisfy a Right to Rent check. Landlords, or agents acting on their behalf, must carry out ID checks to prevent illegal immigrants from moving into private rented housing. The Home Office has produced a user guide outlining suitable forms of identification, which you can find on the ARLA website.
A HMO (house in multiple occupation) is a property rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 'household' (for example, a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. If you want to rent out a large HMO (more than two floors and five or more unrelated people) you will need to get a license. Check this out with your local authority and take advice from a reputable letting agent.
It is unlawful to discriminate against any tenant on the basis of protected characteristics (defined by Equality Act 2010) including disability, sexual orientation or race. While landlords are not expected to make adjustments, you could be breaking the law if you do not give consent to your tenant to make reasonable alterations.
Health & Safety
Landlords have responsibility for the safety of their properties. Gas appliances you have supplied must be safely installed and maintained with annual checks by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Tenants must be given a copy of the Gas Safety Record within 28 days of the start of the tenancy. In built electrical supply and appliances provided by the landlord must be safe. Landlords intending to carry out electrical installation work in domestic property are required to either notify the local authority building control team before work begins, have the work carried out by a registered electrician, or have the work inspected by a registered third party certifier (England only).
Landlords providing homes for people are legally responsible for managing the risk of exposure of tenants to legionella. Further advice is available from the Health & Safety Executive.
Landlords or agents must make sure that occupied properties have a working smoke alarm on every floor and a carbon monoxide alarm in every room that houses a solid fuel burning appliance. Checks on these alarms are essential on the first day of the tenancy. During the tenancy, tenants are responsible for replacing batteries, but the landlord is responsible for replacing faulty units.
Items of furniture and furnishings must meet with Furniture and Furnishings Regulations. Remove any items that do not comply from the property.
For further information, visit arla.co.uk
Article source: http://www.rightmove.co.uk/
Image source: www.pixabay.com
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