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Becoming a landlord can be a rewarding endeavour, but it isn’t exactly a walk in the park! Aside from having to acquire a suitable property, you must also make sure that it is in good condition, that it meets all minimum maintenance standards and, crucially, that it has responsible tenants to pay for it!

Indeed, being a landlord is very much an ongoing commitment. Failing to take proper care of your property can land you in serious hot water, with fines for certain offences being potentially unlimited. An experienced local estate agent can help to keep your running, even booking repairs and maintenance services on your behalf, though an ongoing arrangement like this will usually cost between 10 and 15% of your property’s rental payments.

So, what do you need to know about renting out a property in the UK, and what are the most important things to cover when finding new tenants?

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Preparing a property for the rental market

Before we get started on how to become a landlord, there are just a few things to get out of the way:

  • You do not actually have to own a property in order to rent it out. For example, if your lease terms allow subletting then you could find your own tenants. However, you will still need the owner’s permission
  • Do you have a mortgage for your property? If so, there may be conditions on whether or not you can rent it out. Even if it allows you to take on tenants, there may be additional requirements involved, such as having a maximum number of residents per room
  • Have you checked what your local authority has to say about rental properties? Rules can vary between locales, so it is worth asking for a definitive list of what you will need to do. For example, some councils may impose a compulsory landlord licensing scheme
  • Is your property part of a shared ownership scheme? If so, you will need to inform the housing association of your intent

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the property that you intend to put on the market. You may be intending to clean it up and redecorate it, which is certainly advisable if you want to make a good impression, but what you should really be concerned about is whether or not the property is completely safe for tenants.

There are several minimum standards which your property will need to meet if you want to avoid some serious fines (or, worse, some trips to the hospital for your tenants). 

These aspects of property management are mandatory:

  • Energy performance certificate (EPC) - Your property must have a valid EPC (and a minimum rating of ‘E’) before it can be put on the rental market . This will let tenants know how much they could expect to pay on energy bills whilst also pointing out ways for you to raise the energy efficiency of your property in the future
  • Gas safety record - It is a landlord’s responsibility to ensure that any gas appliances and flues provided with their property are in top condition. This requires an annual gas safety check with a plumber or heating engineer on the Gas Safe Register. Once this is done you will be given a gas safety record, which should be provided to tenants at the start of a tenancy or within 28 days of you receiving it
  • Electrical safety - Any fixed wiring or portable electrical appliances supplied with the property must be in a safe condition. It is advised that you book an electrical safety check annually, or prior to the start of a new tenancy
  • Fire safety - Your property must have adequate protection for tenants in the event of a fire. This includes having working smoke alarms (ideally one on each floor) and carbon monoxide detectors in any rooms with useable fireplaces or wood burners (as well as the kitchen). Any furnishings will also need to be fire-safe and your tenants should be informed of where the escape routes are
  • Legionnaires’ disease - Though it is often forgotten about, it is a landlord’s job to manage risks of Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease in their property

This may sound like a lot, but we did say earlier that being a landlord is very much an ongoing commitment. You will need to pay close attention to your property over time, dealing with any repairs and maintenance issues quickly and ensuring that tenants are kept happy. This can take up so much time that landlords will often be more than happy to pay an estate agent for comprehensive property management services.

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How to take care of tenants

We have gone into detail before about how to find the top tenants for a rental property. Obviously you want tenants who will pay rent on time, take good care of the building and avoid landing you with any potential fines. It is certainly worth taking the time to make a comprehensive tenancy interview checklist, as this will make it much easier to filter through the candidates until you find your ideal choices.

However, there are two aspects to taking on new tenants that you must pay particularly close attention to:

  • Right to rent - If a landlord knowingly lets a property to tenants who do not have the legal right to rent in the UK then they, not the tenants, can face fines of up to £3000. Be sure to ask for, and make copies of, the necessary documentation before signing a tenancy agreement
  • Protecting the deposit - Unfortunately, a tenant’s deposit is not yours to do with as you wish. Instead you are legally required to place the deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. If you fail to do so, particularly if you fail to do so and then try to deduct from the deposit, you could be taken to court for three times the amount