On the whole, tenants are responsible people, who will treat you and your property with respect. Unfortunately, however, there are always going to be some exceptions – a tenant may be unable to pay the rent due to redundancy or relationship breakdown, or you could find yourself in the unfortunate situation of signing up a tenant that does not treat you and your buy-to-let property with any care.
To prevent and manage these situations, this guide will provide you with top tips and summarise your rights as a landlord.
This sounds obvious, but it's so important to screen your tenants thoroughly before letting your property out. A good letting agent (preferably one that's registered with the Association of Residential Letting Agents) will be able to help you by checking a prospective tenant's:
If you’re going it alone, you’ll definitely want to ask your candidates for written proof of their ability to pay rent and two references, at the least, as well as check their right to rent in the UK. Remember that looks can be deceiving (which also means that someone who doesn’t look like a great tenant at first sight could turn out to be the most diligent and trustworthy!).
Your first line of defence against tenant damage is a proper inventory of the condition and contents of your buy-to-let property before the tenancy begins. The best way to do this is to pay an independent and competent party to carry out the inspection (your letting agent is unlikely to be considered independent).
You can do it yourself, but if you later need to rely on the inventory in dispute, you'll need to bear in mind that your word (as opposed to an independent party) may not be considered as reliable. Therefore, if you do decide to take care of this yourself, you should look to take dated photos of the property in order to establish the condition prior to let.
You've taken all precautions, thoroughly screened your tenant and conducted a meticulous inventory. Yet somehow, against all odds, you've managed to let your flat to an unhygienic, antisocial tenant who has a very 'easy-going' attitude when it comes to paying rent. So, what are your rights?
If you’re letting through an agent, make sure to check the terms and conditions before signing an agreement. Letting agents generally offer two types of service:
Check what your agent covers as part of their managed service should your tenant defer payment. Some letting agents offer arrears management, whereby they chase arrears subject to a pre-agreed arrears management process and collect missed payments or arrears as part of their contract with you.
In most cases, there are three stages to this process:
The Direct.gov.uk website has more information on this, as well as useful PDF documents you can download.
If you are letting using an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, you are obliged to put your tenant's deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme. Each TDP scheme offers a free dispute resolution service to help agree how much of the deposit should be given back.
If you want to make a deduction from your tenant's deposit, you must be able to prove that the damage was the tenant's fault. This can be achieved through an independent inventory conducted at the outset and at the end of the tenancy.
You should also be able to back up why you need to deduct the amount – get quotes for any cleaning or repairs needed. You are unlikely to get the result you want if the dispute boils down to your word against the tenant's.
While it’s important to make sure your rights are protected, don’t forget about your buy-to-let mortgage. The right mortgage, with low monthly repayments, would also help protect your income in case of any unexpected tenant-related expenses.
Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.