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Start as you mean to go on

Perhaps you’ve made the decision to become a buy-to-let landlord. You’ve done all your homework and you’re now the proud owner of a rental property. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve been a landlord for many years and there’s little you don’t know about effectively managing each new tenancy.

Whatever the reality, each new tenancy agreement brings a certain level of obligation on the part of the landlord which you simply can’t afford to overlook and whether you’re fresh in to this or a seasoned ‘pro’, there’s never any harm with being reminded of the ‘new tenancy 101’.

There are a mix of factors to remember when a new tenancy begins. There are your legal obligations as a landlord, as well as those factors that will help support your onward relationship with your new tenants and those who live in the surrounding neighbourhood. In our view, the following checklist is essential reading each time you have a new tenancy start:

Tenancy agreement

Start as you mean to go on. Simply a clear and comprehensive tenancy agreement is an absolute must and any landlord who is serious about their responsibilities will want to have a solid agreement in place.

Many standard templates exist and any agent you engage will advise of what to include, but the responsibility ultimately resides with you, the landlord. Therefore, as a minimum you should include the following:

  • Clarity on the rental amount, the frequency with which it is due, and the means of payment accepted
  • Details on the regularity with which the rent will be reviewed to avoid awkward conversations at a later stage
  • A clear explanation of the notice period and the procedure to execute this
  • Clarity on where responsibility for maintenance and upkeep lies. As the landlord, you should be prepared to arrange any repairs and maintenance to the exterior of the property, as well as to sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains, heating and hot water, chimneys and ventilation, gas appliances and electrical wiring. General upkeep of interior décor, cleaning and looking after the garden, however, will more often be the responsibility of the tenant
  • A clear inventory of the property’s contents, their condition at the commencement of the tenancy and the expectation that you, the landlord, have on the tenant to keep the property clean and in a good condition is also vital. It is also a good idea to be clear on what you expect with regards to the property being kept pet and/or smoke-free. Landlords can claim back the cost of repairing any damage caused by the tenant, but this is easier to broach when there’s a clear expectation to refer to. The exception here is for ‘fair wear and tear’ to furniture and carpets, for which you can’t charge the tenant

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Tenancy deposits

They are worth a mention at this point. Whilst they’re currently the subject of some debate, the reality is that they remain a standard means for the landlord to protect their property for the duration of a tenancy. The landlord does, however, have responsibility for protecting these funds as they remain the tenant’s money until such point as a dispute is raised.

The circumstances under which a landlord can withhold some or all of a deposit should be made clear in the tenancy agreement which will be signed by both parties. Broadly, the key areas include outstanding rent, general maintenance or repairs to damage which is beyond normal wear and tear, but you’ll be required by any adjudicator to provide clear evidence of any of these – don’t be one of the 20,000 deposit disputes that occur in the UK each year!

"It's good to talk!"

Here at Upad, we advocate meeting and getting to know your tenants directly. Only then can you gain a true sense as to their situation and their likely needs and with private landlords being ultimately responsible for the behaviour of those in the properties they rent out, you’ll want to be sure you’ve picked a responsible tenant. Needless to say, you should commit to always responding to tenant requests in a timely manner.

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