Landlords

Looking to let your property?  Lettings fees from only 5%

Letting a property can be a simple process, when you are aware of  the rules and regulations  regarding furniture, gas safety certificates, insurance etc. You will also need to be aware of what type of tenancy to use, should you get an inventory carried out… the list goes on and on. At Orchard Property Services we have enclosed some information below to read and understand, however when you instruct Orchard Property Services to market and let your property you can rest assured that our team of knowledgeable and experienced staff will ensure your property and paperwork meets all the correct legal standards. If you want to know more about any aspect of letting, please do not hesitate to contact our lettings team on 01895 623 666 or 01895 623 626

Furniture and furnishings

Regulations about fire resistant furniture are strict for rental accommodation and you must ensure all relevant items meet the guidelines set under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Amendment Regulations 1993. As a general guide, furniture made before 1988 is unlikely to meet the standards and should be replaced before letting your property.

Any items that contain upholstery and could be used inside the property, should be checked, including:

- Beds, headboards, mattresses, futons and sofa beds

- Children’s or nursery furniture

- Garden furniture that might be used within the property

- Cushions, pillows

Items that are exempt from this legislation include:

- Sleeping bags, duvets, pillow cases and blankets

- Carpets and curtains

- Furniture made before 1950

To check items for the fire safety standards, look for a permanent label stating the regulation it conforms to. Bed bases and mattresses are not required to have this label attached, but they should have a label stating compliance with ignitability tests. 

If you’re in any doubt that a bed or sofa, for example, may not meet the required standard, replace them. There are substantial fines and even prison sentences imposed for non-compliance should an accident occur.

Gas safety

The main risk of not servicing or maintaining gas equipment is a serious gas explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required by law to service all gas-related equipment at least once every 12 months. Landlords must also keep a record of regular checks and the condition of equipment at all times. You must also provide tenants with an annual gas safety certificate. If you do not provide your tenant with an annual gas safety certificate, you are breaking the law.

Landlords are also responsible for providing tenants with instructions for the safe use of gas appliances and equipment.

What used to be called a CORGI gas safety certificate has been replaced with what is now known a Gas Safe. Instead of being run by CORGI, the Government set up its own system of registration for gas engineers. If you are a landlord, any gas appliances such as boilers and heaters within your property must be inspected once a year and a certificate (sometimes also called a report) produced by a registered engineer and any work done to make it safe to set standards laid down by Gas Safe. This report must be given to your tenants within 28 days of being completed.

Electrical Safety

The electrical wiring in your property must be safe and in good working order throughout. You must also ensure you have enough sockets to meet the need of tenants.

Wiring that is more than 15 years old should be inspected on an annual basis. Wiring that is more recent can be left for longer periods if there are no indications of any problems. An electrician’s report is likely to recommend a re-inspection in between two and 10 years, although it is sensible to have these checks more frequently.

If you are planning on providing electrical equipment to your tenants, you should ensure that all items are regularly tested for safety and labelled accordingly. Get an electrician to make the necessary checks before each let and then periodically after that. Keep all electrical testing reports for your own records.

Tenancy agreement and inventory

Tenancy agreements

The tenancy agreement is a contract between you and the tenants. It specifies certain rights to both you and the tenants, such as the tenants’ right to live in the property for the agreed term and your right to receive rent for letting the property.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST)

Since the late 90s, the AST has been the most common form of tenancy agreement and sets out the obligations of both tenant and landlord. The most important aspect of this agreement is that the landlord has the right to repossess the property at the end of the agreed term. Despite its name, the agreement does not have to be short and can continue as long as both parties are happy for it to do so. There is no minimum term specified, either, although the tenant has the right to remain in the property for at least six months. If the fixed term is for three or more years, however, a deed must be drawn up by a solicitor.

There are specific requirements linked to an AST that include:

- The tenant(s) must be an individual 

- The property must be the main home of the occupant

- The property must be let as separate accommodation

The landlord is normally obliged to provide the tenant with two months’ notice if they want to terminate the agreement.

The Inventory

This is one of the most important documents in the letting process. It details the contents of the property you will be leaving for the tenants to use and the condition they are in on the day the tenant moves in. It should also include any existing cosmetic blemishes, such as peeling wallpaper or flaking paint. Ideally the inventory should be carried out by a professional inventory clerk.

On the day the tenant moves in, both the tenant and the landlord will be expected to agree the exact condition of the contents of the property. All parties will initial each page and sign it. Each party will have a copy of the signed document. This should avoid any unnecessary disputes about any damage that may be caused by the tenant during the tenancy.

Deposits

It is standard practice at Orchard Property Services to request a month and a half’s dilapidation deposit from the tenant. This month is to only be used in the event of damage to the property once the tenants have vacated.

The tenant will be provided with a receipt and a clear understanding of what the deposit is for and the conditions for its full return. The money must be returned to the tenant within a reasonable period of time after the last day of the agreement if there is no damage to the property or its contents beyond normal wear and tear and if the rent payments are up to date.

If you do decide to withhold some or all of the deposit, you must notify the tenant as soon as possible in writing, stating how much money you are retaining and why. If possible, provide receipts of estimates or costs incurred to repair damage to the property.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme

From 6 April 2007, new legislation was introduced to help tenants and landlords avoid and resolve disputes relating to the return and use of a tenant’s deposit. Under the legislation, if landlords fail to protect the tenant’s deposit, they may have to pay the tenant three times the value of the deposit.

Why are deposits protected?

The Deposit Protection Scheme is designed to make sure:

- Tenants get all or some of their deposit back when they are entitled to it

- Any disputes involving landlords and tenants over the return of the deposit are easier to resolve

- Tenants are actively encouraged to look after the property they are renting

 Whenever a deposit is taken from a tenant as part of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, either by a landlord directly or Orchard Property Services, it must be protected in one of the government-initiated schemes. There are two types of scheme, described as ‘custodial schemes’ and ‘insurance-based schemes’.

Custodial scheme

The deposit is held by the scheme for the duration of the agreement and repaid at the end of the tenancy. It is also free to use. Within 14 days of being paid the deposit, the landlord or agent must provide details to the tenant of how the deposit is protected, including:

- The contact details of the chosen Tenancy Deposit Scheme

- The landlord or managing agent details

- How they can apply for the return of the deposit

- The detail concerning the purpose of the deposit

What to do if a dispute arises regarding the return of the deposit

At the end of the tenancy, if an agreement is reached between both parties, the deposit will be divided up (if required) and returned accordingly. If a dispute arises, the scheme will hold on to the money until the courts or the dispute resolution service solves the disagreement.

 Within 14 days of being paid the deposit, the landlord or agent must provide details to the tenant of how the deposit is protected, including:

- The contact details of the chosen tenancy deposit scheme

- The landlord or managing agent details

- How they can apply for the return of the deposit

- The detail concerning the purpose of the deposit

- What to do if a dispute arises regarding the return of the deposit

 At the end of the tenancy, if an agreement has been reached by both parties, the landlord returns some or all of the deposit to the tenant. If a dispute arises, the landlord must hand over the deposit to the scheme until a resolution is reached. If the landlord fails to comply, the scheme returns the deposit to the tenant, if they are entitled to it.

Landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities

The responsibilities of both parties are likely to be detailed within the tenancy agreement, although some conditions may vary from one property and landlord to the next. Find out more about landlord and tenant rights.

Discrimination

As a landlord, it’s important you are aware of your rights and the rights of those with disabilities when it comes to letting your property. According to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, it is an offence to discriminate against individuals with a disability in the selling or letting of a property. The act defines the term ‘disability’ as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial or long term effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. Some examples of discrimination include:

- Refusing to let or sell a property to a person because they carry a disability

- Imposing higher rental or deposit charges

- Offering less favourable terms of tenancy

- Evicting a person because of their disability

 Although landlords are not obliged to alter a property to accommodate a person with a disability, they must not prevent a tenant with a disability altering the property to improve its access.

Preparing for your tenants to move in

So, you’re now ready for your tenants to move in. Here are a few pointers and reminders to help you organise the smooth transition for you and your tenants.

- Make sure the property is clean and presentable

- Redirect your mail (if you used to live there)

- Ensure you know who is transferring the utilities & Council Tax

- Make sure instructions are on all relevant appliances

- Make sure all relevant equipment is labelled correctly

- Prepare a number of spare keys for your tenants (if required)

On the day your tenants move in:

- Take final meter readings and give them to the tenants (this would be handled by an inventory clerk if employed)

- Conduct, agree and sign the inventory with the tenants

- Provide your tenants with the gas safety certificate and maintenance book

- Demonstrate the workings of relevant equipment – alarms, locks

- Explain how to use any safety equipment – extinguishers, blankets

- Provide emergency contact numbers and written explanations of how to deal with an emergency in the property

- Allow the tenants to ask you any questions they have

Hand over the keys

As stated before, Orchard Property Services are a full service agency and ensure that all of the above is covered in every single lettings transaction we undertake. Employing a professional agency such as ourselves will give you peace of mind, Orchard are also members of ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) so you know you are in good hands.   

Call us today on 01895 623 626 or 01895 623 666

logos