A pre-tenancy checklist should help you make sure you've covered all the necessities before you let your property.
- Update your insurance to take into account that your property is going to be let.
- Obtain the requisite permission from your mortgage lender.
- Obtain approval from the council's planning office (if you plan to make structural alterations to the property or change the property's use).
- Inform the council's environmental health department if you plan on letting as a House in Multiple Occupation.
- Make sure all furniture and furnishings comply with the latest fire regulations.
- Ensure that all gas appliances and equipment have been serviced by a CORGI-registered engineer and that safety records are kept in a safe place.
- Make sure that all electrical wiring has been checked and safety approved by a qualified electrician.
- Inform the council tax department and utility suppliers that the property will be let (relevant if you plan on being a non-resident of a self-contained property).
Health and safety
To let your property successfully and safely, there are a number of health and safety guidelines you have follow to both prevent tenants being injured and you being sued or prosecuted.
Furniture and furnishings
Regulations about fire resistant furniture are strict for rental accommodation and you must ensure all relevant items meet the guidelines set under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Amendment Regulations 1993. As a general guide, furniture made before 1988 is unlikely to meet the standards and should be replaced before letting your property.
Any items that contain upholstery and could be used inside the property, should be checked, including:
- Beds, headboards, mattresses, futons and sofa beds
- Children's or nursery furniture
- Garden furniture that might be used within the property
- Cushions, pillows
Items that are exempt from this legislation include:
- Sleeping bags, duvets, pillow cases and blankets
- Carpets and curtains
- Furniture made before 1950
To check items for the fire safety standards, look for a permanent label stating the regulation it conforms to. Bed bases and mattresses are not required to have this label attached, but they should have a label stating compliance with ignitability tests.
If you're in any doubt that a bed or sofa, for example, may not meet the required standard, replace them. It is better to be safe than sorry!
The main risk of not servicing or maintaining gas equipment is a serious gas explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required by law to service all gas-related equipment at least once every 12 months. Landlords must also keep a record of regular checks and the condition of equipment at all times. You must also provide tenants with an annual gas safety certificate. If you do not provide your tenant with an annual gas safety certificate, you are breaking the law.
Landlords are also responsible for providing tenants with instructions for the safe use of gas appliances and equipment.
What used to be called a CORGI gas safety certificate has been replaced with what is now known a Gas Safe. Instead of being run by CORGI, the Government set up its own system of registration for gas engineers. If you are a landlord, any gas appliances such as boilers and heaters within your property must be inspected once a year and a certificate (sometimes also called a report) produced by a registered engineer and any work done to make it safe to set standards laid down by Gas Safe. This report must be given to your tenants within 28 days of being completed.
The electrical wiring in your property must be safe and in good working order throughout. You must also ensure you have enough sockets to meet the need of tenants. Contact an electrician approved by the National Inspection Council for Electrical Inspection Contractors.
Wiring that is more than 15 years old should be inspected on an annual basis. Wiring that is more recent can be left for longer periods if there are no indications of any problems. An electrician's report is likely to recommend a re-inspection in between two and 10 years, although it is sensible to have these checks more frequently.
If you are planning on providing electrical equipment to your tenants, you should ensure that all items are regularly tested for safety and labelled accordingly. Get an electrician to make the necessary checks before each let and then periodically after that. Keep all electrical testing reports for your own records.
Tenancy agreement and inventory
There are a number of crucial documents you need to have organised before you let your property. The most important is the tenancy agreement as this is the legally binding contract between you and the tenants that will form the conditions of the let.
The tenancy agreement is a contract between you and the tenants. It specifies certain rights to both you and the tenants, such as the tenants' right to live in the property for the agreed term and your right to receive rent for letting the property.
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement
Since the late 90s, the AST has been the most common form of tenancy agreement and sets out the obligations of both tenant and landlord. The most important aspect of this agreement is that the landlord has the right to repossess the property at the end of the agreed term. Despite its name, the agreement does not have to be short and can continue as long as both parties are happy for it to do so. There is no minimum term specified, either, although the tenant has the right to remain in the property for at least six months.
If the fixed term is for three or more years, however, a deed must be drawn up by a solicitor.
There are specific requirements linked to an AST that include:
- The tenant(s) must be an individual
- The property must be the main home of the occupant
- The property must be let as separate accommodation
The landlord is normally obliged to provide the tenant with two months' notice if they want to terminate the agreement.
The agreement will most likely contain the following information:
- Your name, the tenant's name, the address of the property which is being let
- The date when the tenancy will commence
- The duration of the tenancy from the start to the agreed finish of the occupation
- The amount of rent payable, how often it should be paid, when it should be paid and when it can be legally increased
- The agreement should also state what other payments are expected, including Council Tax, utilities, service charges, etc.
- What services as landlord you will provide, such as maintenance of common areas
- The notice period which you and your tenants need to give each other if the tenancy is to be terminated