Renting a property to tenants or letting a holiday home can be straightforward for those who are lucky enough never to encounter any problems. Escaping trouble altogether is unlikely, so it is prudent to take preventative measures to protect yourself. Problems can range from small breakages in the kitchen to nightmare tenants who have to be evicted.
Having a tenancy agreement in place is a legal requirement. But make sure you spell out all the responsibilities and also any special requirements specific to your property. Those with gardens often specify it should be kept up to a certain standard. To avoid tenants shirking responsibility and letting things get overgrown, factor the cost of a gardener into the rent. Getting an inventory drawn up on day one of all the contents and its condition is crucial.
To make a thorough inventory does take some time, but it’s worth the hassle should a dispute arise about damage. You can pay specialist companies to do it on your behalf. It’s important to have an adequate description of each room and the items in it so that they can be identified, as well as an accurate statement of its condition. Tenants who damage a rental property can leave landlords with large clean-up bills and significant replacement costs.
This is why it’s crucial to take a decent deposit. It does, however, need to go into an approved tenancy deposit scheme.
Outside space: Those with gardens often specify it should be kept up to a certain standard. To avoid tenants shirking responsibility and letting things get overgrown, factor the cost of a gardener into the rent
Compiling a folder full of emergency numbers should problems occur when you are away could help sidestep any urgent work. Landlord insurance is essential for buy-to-let investors. A tenant who falls behind in their rent poses one of the greatest financial risks to landlords. Arrears can be a very long and costly process to resolve.
Many landlords are still unaware and unprepared for these risks, but insurance can go towards reducing your losses. Annie Plaskett, at Towergate Insurance, says: ‘A decent residential landlords insurance policy for a buy-to-let property should cover you for loss of rent in the event your property becomes uninhabitable for your tenants as well as if tenants default on payment. ‘Accidental damage is included in most policies as well as malicious damage, so if a tenant spray paints walls or slashes the sofa, you don’t have to worry.’
Ask for a £500 damage deposit
There are lots of nightmare stories about holiday rental scams and problems from a holidaymaker’s point of view. But the property owner is susceptible to a number of potential disasters. Holiday homeowners take a huge risk every time they hand keys over to a stranger. Saskia Welman, at Holiday lettings.co.uk, says: ‘Taking a chunky damage deposit goes some way towards protecting a property against breakages and damage. ‘Typically, owners charge £500 — but you can set whatever you’re comfortable with. Bear in mind that sky-high deposits will put off some people.’ Be honest with guests about what is and isn’t acceptable before they make their booking. If you have any particular concerns, you can state on the terms and conditions of the agreements that, for example, pets are not allowed or you don’t want hen or stag parties. Insurance is important for when damage exceeds the deposit as well as building cover. There are specialist providers for renting out your home as a holiday let — a regular home insurance policy won’t do. You should get cover against accidental damage by tenants, loss of rent, theft cover — including theft by guests — as well as public liability insurance to cover you against accidents or injury to guests at your property. You should also get employers’ liability cover for people employed at your property, such as a cleaner or gardener.
When it goes badly wrong
If you use a letting agent, warning shots can be fired in writing from the agent itself if you feel there are problems that need urgently addressing. If you have discovered breakages or damage, you may want to talk to the tenants directly. For more serious problems, you may need legal advice. In extreme cases, the last straw for landlords is eviction.
While the majority of tenancy agreements come to a natural and amicable end, there may be times when you need to get rid of your tenant. Kate Faulkner, at Propertychecklists.co.uk, says: ‘If you just want the property back and your tenant has lived there for more than the six-month fixed time period given by an assured shorthold tenancy, you just need to send them a Section 21 notice. This does not require you to give any reason as to why you have asked them leave, but will require you to give them two months’ notice. ’There is an alternative option to evict a tenant using Section 8, which allows you to seek possession under specific grounds such as rent arrears and anti-social behaviour. The tenant has 14 days to respond. If there is still no resolution to the problem, you will need to apply to the court for a possession order. It’s a simple process, but not one that any landlord wants to have to resort to. Going to court will cost hundreds of pounds and could take months, so be prepared for a battle.
Help is at hand from Landlord Action on 020 8906 383.