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Be the perfect landlord

Letting a property can be an excellent investment and income source if done properly. If you’re considering becoming a landlord or are already one, however, you will need to make sure you are up to date with any legal changes. In September 2014, the Department of Communities and Local Government published a new code of practice for the private lettings sector. It clearly sets out the duties of landlords plus letting agents and is a must-read for inexperienced and experienced landlords alike. Whether you are a professional multi-landlord or have just a single property to rent, you obviously have a duty to comply with the law. But you should aspire to a standard above the minimum legal requirements and in line with industry “best practice” as set out in this code. If you are unsure of your obligations, seek professional advice. The content of the code can be referred to and used as evidence in the event of a legal dispute between tenant and landlord. Ignorance is not an acceptable defence for poor practice, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure you know exactly what is required of you. Here is a useful checklist: Only use an agent that is accredited. This will provide valuable protections to you and your tenants. Be clear about all fees that tenants will have to pay you and your agents, and be proactive in making them aware in advance of a tenancy or renewal, what they might owe. You, or your agent, will have to provide tenants with various documents at different stages of letting the property. This must include an Energy Performance Certificate and, where gas is provided at the property, a current Gas Safety Certificate. Make sure you advertise your property honestly and in accordance with the law. Do not mislead prospective tenants. Provide tenants with a clear written tenancy agreement and agree an inventory. If you are taking a deposit, ensure it is taken in accordance with the law and that relevant documents are served on time. Provide tenants with contact details, including a telephone number, they can use in case of an emergency. Keep informed of developments in legislation affecting residential management, so you keep wholly within the law. Be clear who is responsible for various bills and co-operate with your tenant to ensure they are only being charged for their usage of the property. It is your responsibility to keep the property you rent out safe and in good repair. Be proactive in maintaining your property. You or your agent should let your tenant know how they can report repairs and should respond promptly and prioritise according to urgency. Houses in Multiple Occupation may require additional services/standards. You should provide working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and test electrical wiring at least every 10 years. You must test the electrical wiring every five years for certain houses in Multiple Occupation. You must arrange an annual gas safety check where gas is present. You cannot enter your tenant’s home unless invited or with prior permission. You should give at least 24 hours’ notice. Be specific in the tenancy agreement about what will happen in an emergency if you need access. Provide your tenant with clear instructions on what they should do at the end of a tenancy. Inspect the property within a day if possible. Make sure any deposit is released in accordance with the rules of the tenancy deposit scheme it is held under. Monitor health and safety according to occupation. If one of your tenants is a vulnerable member of society, for example they are elderly or very young, it may mean you have to consider additional health and safety requirements. Provide tenants with a clear means of making complaints, including any dispute resolution schemes or mechanisms you are a member of. Ensure tenants are aware of the standards of behaviour that they should follow and how they will be dealt with if they fail to meet these standards.   This may seem like a great deal to take in, but your local letting agent will be able to give excellent advice to ensure you comply with the law. To have a local Winkworth agent contact you please click here. The full Code of Practice can be downloaded via the following link: http://www.rics.org/uk/knowledge/professional-guidance/codes-of-practice/private-rented-sector-code-1st-edition/ Winkworth is committed to providing exceptional customer service to the rental sector and to upholding the minimum standards set out in this guide. All Winkworth estate agents are expected to meet the very highest standards in service. Our in-house training academy and rigorous service and compliance procedures are there to support this. We love receiving positive feedback from clients past and present and we get a lot of it. But, as with any large company, there are rare occasions when we might not always get things right. If you want to provide us with feedback, or sadly, feel the need to make a complaint, call Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy on 020 7355 0204 or email hdh@winkworth.com. Or visit the client relations section of our website.     Immigration Act 2014 – how does it affect landlords' The Immigration Act 2014 places new responsibilities on landlords to check that all potential tenants of non EU citizenship have the right to live in the UK. Landlords or lettings agents will be required to see and copy the original passport and visa documents of any potential tenants. Records will need to be kept by landlords or lettings agents for a period of two years. The Act requires landlords and lettings agents to check that any other residents at the property are also permitted to live in the UK. Where a visa has expired midway through a term they must ensure that an extension has been granted. This check extends to all those expected to be living in the household at the start of the tenancy, not just those on the tenancy agreement. If no extension has been granted then the tenant’s details must be reported to the Home Office. The Act implies that if you let a property to someone without the correct checks, you could be fined up to £3,000 per tenant. You will be liable if you have let a property to any tenant over the age of 18, who doesn’t have permission to live in England or Wales. For further information on the Immigration Act 2014, click here to view the Act or for a general guide and information, click here or call 020 7870 4878 for further information on letting your property through Winkworth. Alternatively you can visit our website.     Is your home bugged' Private residential property is now subject to the same risk assessment checks as commercial and other larger public premises. New guidance from the Health and Safety Executive aims to address the potential for man-made water systems to be a source for legionella bacteria growth. There are several issues to consider here. These are: water temperature settings; water storage facilities; the susceptibility of tenants due to age or illness; any conditions that might give rise to bacteria forming; risks associated with properties left unoccupied for any length of time. Any initial assessment should be revisited on a regular basis and records kept for five years. Clearly, letting agents will assume responsibility for putting in place steps to get assessments carried out. But where a landlord declines and indicates to the agent, they will arrange for the risk assessment themselves. Then agents are likely to request a signed disclaimer to protect them from future action. For further information on the Health and Safety Executive guidelines, click on these links: here and here.

Letting a property can be an excellent investment and income source if done properly. If you’re considering becoming a landlord or are already one, however, you will need to make sure you are up to date with any legal changes. In September 2014, the Department of Communities and Local Government published a new code of practice for the private lettings sector. It clearly sets out the duties of landlords plus letting agents and is a must-read for inexperienced and experienced landlords alike. Whether you are a professional multi-landlord or have just a single property to rent, you obviously have a duty to comply with the law. But you should aspire to a standard above the minimum legal requirements and in line with industry “best practice” as set out in this code. If you are unsure of your obligations, seek professional advice. The content of the code can be referred to and used as evidence in the event of a legal dispute between tenant and landlord. Ignorance is not an acceptable defence for poor practice, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure you know exactly what is required of you. Here is a useful checklist:
  • Only use an agent that is accredited. This will provide valuable protections to you and your tenants.
  • Be clear about all fees that tenants will have to pay you and your agents, and be proactive in making them aware in advance of a tenancy or renewal, what they might owe.
  • You, or your agent, will have to provide tenants with various documents at different stages of letting the property. This must include an Energy Performance Certificate and, where gas is provided at the property, a current Gas Safety Certificate.
  • Make sure you advertise your property honestly and in accordance with the law. Do not mislead prospective tenants.
  • Provide tenants with a clear written tenancy agreement and agree an inventory. If you are taking a deposit, ensure it is taken in accordance with the law and that relevant documents are served on time.
  • Provide tenants with contact details, including a telephone number, they can use in case of an emergency.
  • Keep informed of developments in legislation affecting residential management, so you keep wholly within the law.
  • Be clear who is responsible for various bills and co-operate with your tenant to ensure they are only being charged for their usage of the property.
  • It is your responsibility to keep the property you rent out safe and in good repair. Be proactive in maintaining your property.
  • You or your agent should let your tenant know how they can report repairs and should respond promptly and prioritise according to urgency.
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation may require additional services/standards.
  • You should provide working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and test electrical wiring at least every 10 years. You must test the electrical wiring every five years for certain houses in Multiple Occupation. You must arrange an annual gas safety check where gas is present.
  • You cannot enter your tenant’s home unless invited or with prior permission. You should give at least 24 hours’ notice. Be specific in the tenancy agreement about what will happen in an emergency if you need access.
  • Provide your tenant with clear instructions on what they should do at the end of a tenancy. Inspect the property within a day if possible. Make sure any deposit is released in accordance with the rules of the tenancy deposit scheme it is held under.
  • Monitor health and safety according to occupation. If one of your tenants is a vulnerable member of society, for example they are elderly or very young, it may mean you have to consider additional health and safety requirements.
  • Provide tenants with a clear means of making complaints, including any dispute resolution schemes or mechanisms you are a member of. Ensure tenants are aware of the standards of behaviour that they should follow and how they will be dealt with if they fail to meet these standards.
  This may seem like a great deal to take in, but your local letting agent will be able to give excellent advice to ensure you comply with the law. To have a local Winkworth agent contact you please click here. The full Code of Practice can be downloaded via the following link: http://www.rics.org/uk/knowledge/professional-guidance/codes-of-practice/private-rented-sector-code-1st-edition/ Winkworth is committed to providing exceptional customer service to the rental sector and to upholding the minimum standards set out in this guide. All Winkworth estate agents are expected to meet the very highest standards in service. Our in-house training academy and rigorous service and compliance procedures are there to support this. We love receiving positive feedback from clients past and present and we get a lot of it. But, as with any large company, there are rare occasions when we might not always get things right. If you want to provide us with feedback, or sadly, feel the need to make a complaint, call Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy on 020 7355 0204 or email hdh@winkworth.com. Or visit the client relations section of our website.    

Immigration Act 2014 – how does it affect landlords'

The Immigration Act 2014 places new responsibilities on landlords to check that all potential tenants of non EU citizenship have the right to live in the UK. Landlords or lettings agents will be required to see and copy the original passport and visa documents of any potential tenants. Records will need to be kept by landlords or lettings agents for a period of two years. The Act requires landlords and lettings agents to check that any other residents at the property are also permitted to live in the UK. Where a visa has expired midway through a term they must ensure that an extension has been granted. This check extends to all those expected to be living in the household at the start of the tenancy, not just those on the tenancy agreement. If no extension has been granted then the tenant’s details must be reported to the Home Office. The Act implies that if you let a property to someone without the correct checks, you could be fined up to £3,000 per tenant. You will be liable if you have let a property to any tenant over the age of 18, who doesn’t have permission to live in England or Wales. For further information on the Immigration Act 2014, click here to view the Act or for a general guide and information, click here or call 020 7870 4878 for further information on letting your property through Winkworth. Alternatively you can visit our website.    

Is your home bugged'

Private residential property is now subject to the same risk assessment checks as commercial and other larger public premises. New guidance from the Health and Safety Executive aims to address the potential for man-made water systems to be a source for legionella bacteria growth. There are several issues to consider here. These are: water temperature settings; water storage facilities; the susceptibility of tenants due to age or illness; any conditions that might give rise to bacteria forming; risks associated with properties left unoccupied for any length of time. Any initial assessment should be revisited on a regular basis and records kept for five years. Clearly, letting agents will assume responsibility for putting in place steps to get assessments carried out. But where a landlord declines and indicates to the agent, they will arrange for the risk assessment themselves. Then agents are likely to request a signed disclaimer to protect them from future action. For further information on the Health and Safety Executive guidelines, click on these links: here and here.

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