Its not uncommon for landlords to overlook the basics before letting a property, especially for the first time. The level to which a rental property is presented sets a benchmark for the tenants to upkeep it.
Interior & decoration It is a good idea to keep the colour schemes neutral, rather than go for bold colours. Although tenants cannot redecorate without the landlords permission, they are expected not to let the decor deteriorate and therefore, if the tenant has been in the property for a couple of years, the decoration would need to be “freshened up”. And if the colour is no longer available or is a special colour (not premixed), then this could be hard to match and result in the whole room being redecorated instead of say, just one wall.
It is also worth noting, busy wall paper should also be avoided, for many reasons. One being if the paper becomes damaged, however small, you are looking at re-papering a whole wall. The cost you may find hard to justify if only a small area has been damaged.
The above mainly applies to investment properties, as landlords may have different thoughts if they let their family home for a set tenancy length. Going away for say 12 months, knowing you are almost definitely going to return, would not warrant neutralising your house to suit tenants for such a small timescale.
When a property has been let out for a number of years, to several tenants, due to general wear & tear, it is hard to lay blame with a particular tenant for the general deterioration that has occurred. It is therefore good budgeting practice to re-decorate the property and freshen it up, at least every three to four years. If, of course a tenant has clearly damaged the wall coverings, or has painted walls, but not to a particularly high standard, then this can be classed as unfair wear and tear and can be deducted from the deposit.
Exterior Tenants do not want to see overgrown or unkempt gardens, rickety old sheds or rusty barbeques. A neat and tidy garden which the tenant can use with friends & family over the summer months, would always appeal.
If you have an overgrown garden at the beginning, which path & patios that need weeding, you cannot expect a tenant to lovingly maintain it during their occupation.
Also remember your property is your main asset, and therefore routine maintenance should be done to ensure that your property remains in good condition. It is no good having rotten windows or a leaking roof and expect to obtain high rental yield.
Why should I use a letting agent?
Increased access to information has encouraged more people to invest in the property market but should you use a letting agent or go private to maximise your buy to let returns?
KNOW YOUR MARKET A local letting agent knows more about the local market than you could ever hope to.This can save you a fortune in the long term!
NEGOTIATING THE BEST DEAL New tenants will attempt to get the best deal. They may try to play-off private landlords against each other and play hardball but using a letting agent can bring a level headed approach to discussions. Your letting agent can advise on the current market and short to medium term prospects.
REFERENCES AND BACKGROUND DATA Buy to let investors who “go it alone” with regards to finding tenants are unlikely to have access to the same amount of information as a letting agency. Agents can gather financial statements, personal information and credit scores for individuals. References and background data should form the basis of any landlord/tenant arrangement so it is imperative this initial information is correct and as in-depth as possible.
STEPPING BACK If you have equity in an asset it can be very difficult to control your emotions and remain detached. There is obviously a balance between being detached and actively involved but at some point human nature might be your weakness. Good letting agents work on figures, on percentages and on investment returns. They are obviously human and will go through the emotions but would they allow their emotions to cloud their judgement?
INVESTING IN BOXES If you view all of your investments as “boxes” with nothing in then, there is no need for you to get emotionally involved. In the case of a buy to let investment, passing over day-to-day control to a letting agent allows you to focus on your strengths. When it comes to buying and selling “boxes” it is simply a financial calculation as opposed to buying and selling properties with which you may have an emotional attachment. While many people deal on “gut feeling” this is very different to emotion and many of us will be well aware that to become emotionally involved in any investment is dangerous.
What if my tenant doesn't pay the rent?
A good agent will usually pick up on arrears early and make some enquiring calls to your tenant once noticed. Often it can be a simple mistake or oversight, such as failing to set up a standing order or a bank error. However if such calls or reminders have fallen on deaf ears, then a formal 7 day letter should be sent. If after 14 days no remedy has been forthcoming, a secondary letter should be delivered, warning the tenant that if the arrears are not resolved legal action will be taken. Another option to consider at this stage is whether or not your tenant has a guarantor in place. Guarantors are not standard for every tenancy, and often only required by a referencing company and a letting agent if your tenant has experienced financial implications in the past, such a CCJ. However if your tenant has a guarantor in place, now is a good time to also pursue them for the outstanding rent.
A third and final letter may be needed in some cases, though if your tenant has gone a whole month without paying rent and another month is now due, you can consider your tenant to be in two months arrears and that is the trigger for you to now have the right under the Housing Act 1988 to take the necessary steps to claim back possession of your property.
A Section 8 notice is the first of those steps. This is a notice, hand delivered by your agent advising that you intend to them take them to court if payment is not made within 14 days of receipt of the notice. Beware, as cases can be thrown out as the notice is deemed to be invalid if it has not be served in the prescribed format, though a diligent agent should not fall foul of this. If the court decides your submission is valid they will grant you a possession order allowing you to take your property back.
Now to some new to-be landlords this process may sound daunting, and sometimes no matter whether the property has been filled with good tenants, it has been managed by an agent or yourself, certain things can happen out of the agents or you as the landlord’s control. However a great safety net to have in place to protect you against such problems is ‘Rent Guarantee and Legal Insurance’.
Here at Karl Tatler Lettings, such encounters are rare. We take extreme care and caution to ensure we have secured the right tenant for all of our landlords. With the use of a stringent and thorough referencing company and our partnership with the Experian Rental Exchange we have provisions more than most, in place to combat and prevent such issues, essentially, putting out fires before they happen is the sign of a good agent!
How do I get legally ready to let?
You may be surprised at how straightforward conforming to regulations can be.
Essentially there are three areas that must be addressed before we can allow a tenant to move into a property (though other areas must be considered):
Gas Safety Certificate.
This must be in place before a tenant moves into the property, ensuring that any gas appliances, fittings and flues are safe to use. We would keep a copy of the certificate on our records and provide your tenant with a copy prior to the tenancy. We can also arrange annual certificate renewal. Don't leave this to the last minute. We often see landlords arrange this only a couple of days before tenants are due to move in, which means that if any works are required before certificate can be issued, it leaves very little time and often results in pushing back move in dates and disappointing tenants in the process.
Remember, it will remain the duty of the landlord to maintain and repair any such appliances, flues and pipework, and all works must be carried out by a registered Gas Safety engineer.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
All properties introduced to the lettings market must have an Energy Performance Certificate. Each certificate is valid for 10 years. More often than not this is an expense most landlords are able to side step. As when purchasing your buy-to-let investment you will find an EPC in place already.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations
It is compulsory for a smoke alarm to be fitted to each storey of living accommodation. They can be battery operated alarms and do not have to be mains wired. Carbon monoxide alarms are only required if the accommodation features a solid fuel burning appliance, such as log burners and open fires. Upon our periodic inspections we will always check the alarms to ensure they are in working order.
What are the Rental Exchange benefits?
Put simply, our participation in the Rental Exchange from Experian increases the likelihood of providing you with more reliable tenants.
The Rental Exchange helps tenants improve their credit rating just by paying their rent on time. This gives them a better credit rating for when it comes to saving for a mortgage, buying a new TV, getting car insurance, etc.
This added incentive to ensure rent is paid on time increases the prospect of you, as a landlord, receiving your rent timely and regularly by a reliable tenant.