You want to be a landlord? What about tenants?
you’ve found yourself with some extra property?
Here’s a helpful Lodestone guide to ensure you go into your new venture eyes open
Are you allowed to let your property?
So you have decided that you want to move house, and when you discuss this with your broker, he mentions to you ‘Why don’t you keep your place and let it out instead?’ the chances are you never considered this, or even knew that it was possible, but kudos to your broker for putting the idea into your head, and letting you know that you can earn from this!
So, first things first, it is around 99.9% likely that you have a residential mortgage, and so your lender will not like it if you just let it out. You need to make sure that you either have ‘consent to let’ from your current lender, or you get your broker to arrange a buy to let (or let to buy) mortgage, to ensure that you are doing things above board. If you do not do this and you keep your residential mortgage, it could result in your lender demanding you redeem the mortgage, so you must deal with it, otherwise it could become very expensive!
If you live in a leasehold property (most flats in the UK are leasehold), you need to be careful as many leases have clauses that prevent you from letting your property. You should get a solicitor to check this for you.
Finally, if you originally purchased your property as part of a shared ownership scheme, you should check with the housing association to check if you are permitted to let your property.
Believe it or not, but there are literally thousands of landlords in the UK that are letting their properties unlawfully, be it that they still have a residential mortgage, or perhaps they are not declaring the rental income. Whatever, the situation, they should not be doing so, and risk being discovered.
Do you know what being a landlord means?
So many ‘landlords’ really don’t understand. They watch a few TV programs about landlords and think they can easily be the next big thing! Its easy to see why they get this impression, but believe me, being a landlord is not simple, and it shouldn’t be approached as if it is either. So, what potential problems could there be?
- Not all tenants are perfect. Yes really! You could end up with one that causes the following problems – rent arrears, frequent and expensive repair bills, problems with noise and disturbance, or even letting your property!
- To try and deal with tenants like this can prove to be very expensive and time hungry. I’m afraid to tell you that the law leans very much in favour of the tenant, and if you want to evict them it can take numerous months.
- Even if you have a professional letting agent managing your property for you, if there are any problems, the book stops with you, the landlord.
- Void periods – These are periods in between tenants, they can be short or long periods, and they are quite common. You will not be receiving rent, but don’t forget you still have a mortgage to pay, not only that, but all other bills are also your responsibility, like council tax, gas/ electric and water.
- Make sure you have money put to one side. Not only can you suffer from the void periods mentioned above, but there could also be unforeseen expenses too, such as leaks, heating repairs, faulty electrics, etc. Furthermore, most repairs/maintenance are the sort that cannot be put off, they need to be dealt with immediately, so make sure you have the funds available.
- So, you like the idea of receiving rent on a monthly basis and think that you only have the mortgage to pay and the rest is yours. Think again! Other examples of costs are annual gas/ electric safety checks, energy performance certificates, relevant licenses, insurances, estate agency fees, etc.
Being a landlord is a business.
You receive an income in the form of monthly rent, you have a mortgage and other bills to pay, and so you must pay tax. This makes it a business, so approach it as such! If you are lucky you will make a profit each month, but its not guaranteed, so be prepared. You would be better to approach it with the view of it being a long-term investment, rather than a short-term gain. I have helped clients grow from a few properties to more than 60, and others who have bought one and then given up on the idea. It is not for everybody.
You have responsibilities (by law), so meet them.
Laws and regulations apply to every landlord and vary depending on what country you are based in, be it England, Wales, Scotland, or N Ireland, and they further vary dependant upon what type of let you have (single, family, HMO, Student), so make sure you understand and abide by them. Here are a few things that you must ensure:
- The property is habitable – this means it must be in good condition, stable, clean, safe, good ventilation, hot and cold water and central heating amongst other things.
- You may need a landlord license – Not all local authorities require this, but you must check. The typical cost is around £500, and they may need reviewing every few years.
- You need to ensure that you have an annual Gas safety check. Also, whilst its not compulsory, you should also ensure that the electrics are safe, and any appliances supplied with the property need to have safety checks.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are a legal requirement. Smoke detectors must be fitted on each floor, and be in full working order, and there must be a carbon monoxide alarm in every room where there is a fireplace, wood burner or boiler.
- If you take a deposit from your tenant, then it must be placed in a secure tenant’s deposit scheme.
- Here is one to be wary of – You must ensure that your tenant is legally allowed to reside in the UK. If they are from within the EU, then generally you will be okay, but if from further afield you need to carry out extra checks. If in doubt speak with a registered letting agent or other recognised authority to be sure.
- Since 1st April 2018, it has been a legal requirement that you must have and energy performance certificate (EPC) in place, and this applies to ALL tenancies, not just new ones.
How are you going to let the property?
By this we mean are you going to manage your tenants yourself or get a letting agent to do it for you.
Letting/ Managing Agent – This is the option that most new landlords, and many experienced ones opt for. Its easier and far less hands on, but that comes at a price. Typically speaking most agents will charge somewhere in the region of 10 – 15% of your rental amount. So, if you are charging the tenant £1000 pcm, then the agent will deduct £100 – £150 before they pass the rent onto you. For this though the agent will advertise, reference, interview, handle the tenancy agreement, deposit scheme, and conduct viewings, as well as generally be on hand as the main point of contact for any problems the tenants have.
Do it yourself – all the above become your responsibility and makes the job very hands on. Do not underestimate the amount of work involved, especially at the start of the process.
Dressing the property
So, you’ve got the property and decided how you want to let it, but now you need to get it in ship shape and sparkling in order to attract the attention of the best tenants.
Your initial decision is to decide if you want to let the property as furnished or unfurnished. This means do you provide things like sofas, beds, wardrobes etc, or do you let the tenants supply their own. The choice is yours, but remember if you supply the furniture, that it is yours and therefore you should consider landlords insurance. Your tenants will not treat your property as if it were theirs, believe me!
Next up are things like fridge/freezer, oven and washing machine. It is important to mention here that most tenants would expect these things to be supplied, so perhaps they are a must, as opposed to a maybe.
Finally, you need to consider the walls and floors. As a rule of thumb ensure they are clean and tidy. Neutral wall colours are best, as are clean, stain and damage free carpets or flooring. A lick of paint goes a long way at this point, it not only makes things look like new, but they also smell like it too. Never underestimate the smell of your property.
You’ve done all the hard work now, so there is only one thing left to do and that is to take some nice pictures and get it advertised. An agent will take care of this for you and it should be included in their price, but if you opt for the DIY route, don’t whip out your 1-megapixel Nokia, make sure you do it properly. Preferably get a professional photographer to do the job for you, it will pay dividends.
Finding & referencing tenants
If you have opted for the DIY route, then this point is extremely important. You want to make sure that you get the tenant from heaven, the one that will give you the least amount of trouble, and generally make your whole landlord experience a walk in the park. Yes, there are tenants out there just like this, but you need to find them, and that is the hard part. Make sure you create a short list of tenants, and then ensure that you carry out rigorous checks to include credit checks, and references such as employers, previous landlords, etc. Even if you get an agent to do this for you, it pays you to still be involved because nobody will care more about your investment than you, ever!