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Top tips for first time landlords

ARLA Propertymark has released a report offering advice for those renting out a property for the first time, which even experienced landlords may find useful as a brief reminder. 

With an ever-growing number of laws governing the private rented sector, becoming a landlord for the first time can be somewhat daunting so ARLA decided to list its 10 top tips to make sure those considering becoming a landlord will know what to prepare for. Below is a summary of the recommendations from ARLA Propertymark.

Safety first
Smoke alarms are required on all floors of your property and it is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure carbon monoxide detectors are installed in any room where solid fuels are burnt (such as wood, coal or biomass). These need to be tested and working prior to the first day of the tenancy. In date Gas Safety and Electrical Certificates need to be in place before the tenant(s) move in as copies of these must be given to the tenants along with a copy of the EPC. 

Prepare your property
If you are offering your property as a furnished home, think carefully about what you can provide. Remove anything valuable or sentimental – aside from the fact they’re at risk of damage, it can be off-putting for tenants to rent a property that is filled with someone else’s belongings. Always remember that less is more, and all upholstered furnishings must comply with the fire and furnishings act. 

You should also think about the type of tenants you want; if you’re hoping a family will move in for a few years, they may have their own furniture already and therefore won’t want your stuff. However, if you’re renting to university students, it’s highly unlikely they’ll have accumulated enough belongings to furnish a house.

Establish whether you are comfortable renting to a tenant who owns a pet. Allowing pets can make a property more desirable and encourage a more responsible portfolio of tenants to rent for longer, but even the best-behaved pets will have an impact on a property over time.

Landlord license
You must check if you need a landlord license from your local council before your property can legally be rented out. This legislation was introduced in 2006 with the main purpose of ensuring landlords maintain their rental properties to a good standard. 

Tenant referencing
As a landlord, you will need to rigorously reference new tenants to check they are reliable and will be able to meet rent payments each month. These include credit eligibility, employer checks and previous landlord references.

Tenancy Deposit Protection
If you take a deposit from your tenants, you must protect it in one of the Government-authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes. There are three available – Deposit Protection Service (DPS), MyDeposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). 

You will need to protect the deposit within 30 days of receiving it and provide the tenant with both the Deposit Protection Certificate and completed Prescribed Information. Failure to do so could result in you not being unable to evict your tenant. 

Energy Performance Certificate
You must serve your tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate. Your property must be at least EPC band E before letting it out and if you’re caught arranging a new let without ensuring your property is up to these standards, you could be fined. 

Regular inspections
It’s important to undertake regular inspections of the property, although remember that you cannot enter the property without the tenant’s permission as this is classed as trespassing and is illegal, and all COVID-19 safety measures must be closely followed. It’s best practice to grant them 24- or 48-hours’ written notice, and this should be stipulated in your tenancy agreement.

If you do not inform your buildings insurer that you’re renting your property out, you risk invalidating your policy. Most standard buildings insurers don’t provide the protection you require as a landlord, so it’s worth taking out specialist landlord insurance. 

Choose an agent
Make sure to choose the right letting agent for your needs. It is advisable to meet your agent before going into business with them, either in person or over the phone. A letting agent who answers within five rings will be more likely to keep on top of your needs than somebody slower on the uptake. 

Angela Davey, president at ARLA Propertymark, says: “Whether you’re an accidental landlord or a professional one, the same rules apply, so it’s essential you’re up to speed before marketing your property. You are ultimately allowing a stranger into your biggest asset and therefore it is critical that you do your research. If you haven’t complied with all these important steps at the start of the tenancy, you may find yourself in a vulnerable position should anything go wrong.”

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