Firstly! Why should I use an agent?
Many new or even experienced landlords prefer to maintain a professional distance between their tenants and themselves. Some property owners simply don’t feel able to deal with the nitty gritty and sometimes if they’ve become too friendly it can be difficult to deal with the ‘ugly bits’. Engaging a professional agent to act on your behalf prevents the relationship becoming too personal and allows the landlord to avoid the strain of dealing with maintenance problems, rent arrears, deposit disputes or even the everyday gripes which rented property produces! If you live away and can’t easily visit the property or deal with issues as they arise, having a local agent you can rely on is essential. If you live much closer and are happy to deal with everything, then our Let Only Service is possibly more suited to you. Either way, having a professional agent to find the tenant and set the tenancy up will give you reassurance that things have been done properly!
What should I look for in the agent I choose?
Look for an agent that belongs to a recognised professional body* and is part of a redress scheme for extra confidence. This will give you the reassurance that your interests are being looked after and your money is protected. A well-established local company who combines professionalism with local knowledge and experience will help you find tenants more quickly as well as providing a friendly service which keeps you up to date with your legal requirements. Above all, you have to find someone you can trust and often, word of mouth is invaluable in finding the right people.
*Hackney & Leigh Ltd is regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
What do I need to do to my property?
Above all, let property needs to be safe. It should also be clean, dry, well insulated with adequate means of heating and free from hazard or defect. There are many regulations relating to the safety of properties provided for accommodation and it is easy to fall foul of them without the required knowledge and experience. Part of our initial Appraisal of your property would include an assessment of its overall condition to identify what works would need to be done to bring it up to the required standard. Part of our policy is that ALL our properties should not only be safe for their occupants but should be in good condition, clean and well presented. Often this is a good time to improve the property’s energy efficiency.
Do I need an EPC?
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required for all properties being marketed for sale or to rent and they should be available for prospective tenants to view. There is a modest initial cost (£72 inc. VAT with Hackney & Leigh) but they are valid for 10 years unless there is a significant change to the property. An EPC will provide landlords with information about how to improve the building’s energy efficiency as well as giving tenants the information they need to compare properties.
How much rent will I get?
This will of course vary from property to property but our experienced valuers will know the local market and be able to advise you about current levels of rent being obtained and the availability of tenants which can vary quite considerably. Having the right level of rent and a well maintained property will help to reduce the ‘void periods’ and keep the rent coming in. A happy tenant is a better tenant who is more likely to care for your property!
Should my property be furnished or unfurnished?
To an extent, this will depend on your own situation but generally speaking, unfurnished or partly furnished properties are ‘better letters!’ It will vary according to the locality and type of tenant and many younger ‘professional’ types may prefer a good quality but basic modern inventory while older tenants may have much more furniture gathered over time! You will have to bear in mind that furniture and equipment are subject to wear and tear and will have to be replaced from time to time. Also bear in mind that any upholstered furniture included must comply with fire regulations and electrical appliances will need to be tested regularly.
What costs will I incur?
When we take on any new property we require that a wiring and electrical installation test is carried out and any works identified put right. All gas appliances MUST have a Gas Safety Test before a property is let and annually thereafter. Boilers, fires, heating and electrical appliances should be also be tested annually. Allowance should be made for renewals and replacement as well as providing for the unexpected- things do go wrong from time to time. You will need to obtain an EPC (See above), if you have a furnished property, there may be an additional cost for a fully furnished inventory and there will be the cost of registering the deposit under the governments deposit protection regulations (See below). You will of course have to pay fees to your agent. Please ask for information relating to our charges.
What am I responsible for?
A Landlord is responsible for maintaining the fabric of the property and the provision of fixed/essential services such as heating, supply of mains gas/electric and sanitary fittings (Plumbing!). He is not responsible for every last light bulb!
Why do I need to protect the deposit?
Under the terms of the Tenants Deposit Protection Scheme, all deposits taken for rented property must be protected either using one of the approved schemes which are ‘custodial’ or ‘insurance’ based. Hackney & Leigh use one of the Insurance based schemes for which there is a modest premium payable for each deposit protected. This protects the deposit from fraudulent landlords and agents and provides a mechanism for dealing with any disputes arising over the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy. If the Deposit is NOT protected and the “Prescribed Information” is not served correctly and in good time, you may not be able to recover the property AND you may lay yourself open to a fine of up to 3 times the amount of the deposit AND have to give the deposit itself back! Not a good idea!
Do I always need to take a deposit?
Oh Yes! Don’t be fooled into allowing in ‘desperate’ tenants in need of ‘Urgent’ accommodation or take them in without referencing. Con men can look very smart and once in can be difficult to shift and only after they have wrought havoc!! Always take a full Reference AND a Deposit, even if you know the person concerned!
Will I have to pay tax?
Generally speaking income from rented property is taxable and should be declared in your Annual Tax Return. You should maintain complete records of all income and expenditure and if you are an overseas resident, you will need to register as such with HMRC. Using an agent helps to keep all your records in the right place!
Do you inspect my property during tenancies?
As a matter of routine, our properties are inspected every three months or thereabouts. Longer intervals may be allowed during a long established tenancy and we know we can rely on the tenant. All properties are also inspected a couple of weeks before the end of a tenancy to go through the condition of the property with the tenant to identify any areas which need attention and again after the tenant has left to assess the condition prior to authorising return of the deposit.
Do I need an inventory?
This is an essential part of our management structure. Our detailed photographic inventories record the condition of a property at the start of a tenancy and are used to compare its condition at the end. Any defects are recorded and the condition noted. Tenants are asked to confirm the condition at the start and if there are any discrepancies when the tenant has left, they can be identified and used as a basis for quantifying the cost of repair if needs be. Any dispute over the deposit would fail without adequate proof and our robust inventories are invaluable in providing the evidence required. The cost is included within our service but we do make an extra charge for properties which are fully furnished.
Should I insure my property?
You will continue to be responsible for insuring the building and if you have a mortgage, your lender will insist on adequate insurance being in place. It is also worth investigating taking out ‘Landlords Insurance’ from a specialist provider such as ‘Homelet’. This sort of cover can also include rent guarantee insurance which will provide cover against unpaid rent. Your tenants should consider insuring their own possessions and we always ask that they take out Tenants Insurance which will also cover them for accidental damage to landlords contents and fittings.
Can I get my property back?
These days the law allows much better protection for landlords seeking to recover possession. The days of being stuck with a ‘sitting tenant’ for years have mostly disappeared (with a few exceptions where a long term tenant is still protected!). It is essential to use a suitable modern tenancy agreement. It is however true that sometimes it is difficult to get rid of unwilling tenants and it is essential in these cases to have issued the correct documentation and start the legal process at the appropriate time.
Can I go into my property during a tenancy?
A tenant is entitled to occupy the property as their own home without interference from the landlord. Landlords are not allowed just to turn up whenever they feel like it and may not simply ‘let themselves in’! There is no objection to a property’s owner asking to have access periodically but must give adequate notice, usually a minimum of 24 hours except in an emergency. As managing agents, we pre-arrange regular appointments to inspect all our properties.
What happens if the tenant doesn’t pay?
As your managing agent, we would be alerted straight away if rent doesn’t appear when it is due. It is essential that you don’t let the arrears build up! Part of our service would be to chase arrears and give notice to the tenant if money is not forthcoming. This can take some time especially if you have to go to court for an order for possession but the sooner the process starts the better. Again, there are processes involved and it is essential to issue the right notices in due time! (See above under insurance!).
What if a tenant damages my property?
Fortunately, we find that most tenants actually treat properties well - better homes produce better tenants! However things can go wrong and it is essential to obtain proper references before letting people in, after all they will have control of a very valuable investment – your property! We do also monitor the condition of our properties and take an ingoing deposit in all cases.
Do I need a formal tenancy agreement?
Absolutely! A written agreement is essential to lay out the terms of agreement and the conditions of a tenancy. An appropriately worded agreement will have clauses to protect your position as landlord (as well as the tenant!). If you don’t have one, it could also make getting possession if you needed to, much more difficult! Again, even if you know the person concerned, you would be foolish to allow anyone to occupy your property without an agreement.
Lastly! Why should I use an agent?
A good agent can be a blessing! We are there to help you make the most of your investment and to help you to deal with the minefield of current legislation! Remember - a Landlord remains responsible for everything an agent does on his behalf- make sure you choose a firm that does things properly!