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30Aug


 

Ever wondered exactly what the responsibilities of a landlord entail? At Castles, we look at landlord responsibilities and aim to answer some common questions around what exactly a landlord needs to make sure they are doing when letting their property.

 

This is the third blog in our series on becoming a landlord. Previously we have discussed relevant legislation for landlords and starting out as a landlord. In today’s post we will be outlining the responsibilities of a landlord, including advice and tips to make letting a property in Swindon as easy as possible. If you are currently looking to let out your property, get in touch to speak to a member of our helpful lettings team. By letting with us, you can be assured your property is in safe hands. At Castles, we offer a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as access to more local people in Swindon who are actively looking to rent now. Contact us on 01793 422833 to learn more.

 

In our last post, we discussed a landlord’s legal obligations, covering relevant legislation that must be adhered to. Today, we will go into further detail on some of those obligations, as well as other responsibilities that arise when you let your property out to tenants.


Right to Rent

 

It is your legal responsibility as a landlord to check the immigration status of any person over the age of 18 living in the property you are renting out, for any tenancy agreement which started from 1st February 2016.

 

You will need to ask potential tenants for proof of their right to reside in the UK. For British and Irish citizens, a passport will be sufficient. For those who do not hold British citizenship, you will need to see any other official documents proving their immigration status. See this document from housing charity Shelter for a list of accepted documentation. You can also request a Home Office right to rent check if your potential tenant has a current case open with the Home Office. If the tenant has a time limit on their permission to stay in the UK, it is the landlord’s responsibility to undertake a follow up check at a later date.

 

Take copies of any documents you see and make sure you keep the copies safe. This obligation also applies to lodgers. As a landlord, you are allowed to charge potential tenants a fee for undertaking these checks and you also need permission to hold such documents on file.

 

If any adult living in the property does not have the right to reside in the UK, the landlord must take reasonable steps to evict them. This can mean allowing them to finish the remainder of their tenancy before evicting them or letting another adult in the property take over the tenancy if the person moves out. Advance notice should be given in any case.

 

Provide Information to Tenants at the Start of the Tenancy

 

At the start of any tenancy, the landlord is responsible for providing tenants with certain specified information. This includes an up to date Energy Performance Certificate, a gas safety certificate from a Gas Safe registered engineer check and a copy of the new government guide entitled How to Rent. This applies to all assured short hold tenancies that have been started or renewed since 1st October 2015 and prescribed information that relates to their deposit.

 

Tenancy Deposit Protection

 

The landlord is responsible for placing a tenant’s deposit in a UK government approved deposit protection scheme at the start of the tenancy (within the first 30 days of receiving it). If you receive an item instead of money, this does not need to be placed in a scheme. A tenant should be able to get their deposit back if they have met the terms of their rental agreement, have not damaged the property and have paid the rent and any bills. For properties in England, you can use the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits or Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Find out more from the government website.

 

 

Housing Repairs

 

Any repairs needed on the exterior structure of a property being let is the landlord’s responsibility. This includes features such as the roof, walls and drains. Water, gas and electricity supply repairs are also the landlord’s responsibility, ensuring they are in safe working order. If the tenancy agreement states that the landlord is responsible for any white goods that are provided with the property, the landlord is also responsible for the repairs to these goods. The landlord cannot include any express terms in the rental agreement to pass off obligations onto the tenant when it comes to repairs. It is the tenants’ responsibility to inform the landlord of any repairs that are needed.

 

If the landlord needs to undertake repairs, they must give reasonable notice to the tenants that they are coming to the property. Unless the repairs are emergency repairs, the landlord should aim to come at a reasonable time.

 

 

Health and Safety

 

It is vital to ensure the landlord safety obligations are met to ensure tenants will be safe in the property and to avoid liability which can result in criminal prosecution should obligations not be met.

 

      Every 12 months a gas safety check must be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

      Any furniture that is providing must meet safety standards such as fire regulations.

      A smoke alarm must be installed on every floor of the property.

      A carbon monoxide detector must be installed in any room in the property with a wood burning or coal fire/stove or gas boiler.

 

The landlord is responsible for keeping the property free from any hazards which could affect tenants’ health and safety. This includes damp, mould, vermin and any other pests.

 
Fit for Purpose
 

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 dictates the landlord’s responsibility for ensuring their property is ‘fit for purpose’. This means the property should be in good repair and structurally sound (see Repairs above), with natural lighting and proper ventilation. The property must be free from damp, with adequate drainage and sanitary facilities and sufficient insulation and energy performance. There must be food preparation and cooking facilities, waste water disposal, hygiene facilities and a supply of water and electricity.

 
Rent Payments

 

At the start of a tenancy, the landlord is responsible for setting out and informing the tenant when and how rent is to be paid, whether weekly, monthly or in other installments. A landlord cannot refuse to accept rent from a tenant.

 

Rent Increases

 

If a private landlord wishes to increase the rent for their property, this can only be done if the tenant agrees. According to Shelter, paying a rent increase is classed as agreeing. If you present a new tenancy agreement, the tenant is required to pay the amount in the agreement. A landlord cannot raise the rent amount in the duration of a fixed term tenancy. The exception to this is if there is a clause in the tenancy agreement that allows for rent increases during the fixed term. Once every 12 months, a section 13 notice can be issued by a landlord to increase the rent if there is no rent review clause in the tenancy agreement. The tenant does have the right to challenge an increase under this section. This guide from Shelter offers more insight into rent increases.

 

Enjoyment of the Property

 

The landlord should not interfere with the tenants’ right to enjoy the property. This means no unnecessary interference, giving reasonable advance notice and asking permission before entering the property and not harassing the tenants.

 

Discrimination

 

A landlord cannot discriminate against a tenant or potential tenant, either directly or indirectly, because of disability, gender, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, according to the Equality Act 2010.

 

Eviction

 

If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, they must follow the correct legal procedures and eviction process. If a landlord tries to evict a tenant without following these procedures, they could be prosecuted.

 

When evicting a tenant, you must follow either one of both of two different procedures, both of which start with the issue of an eviction notice.

 

A section 21 notice can be issued without giving a reason to end the tenancy. The tenant will have at least two months’ notice from the date of issue. A section 21 notice cannot be issued before the tenancy has lasted at least four months.

 

A section 8 notice can be issued during a tenancy if there is a legal reason for ending the tenancy. Reasons such as non-payment of rent or a breach of the tenancy agreement can be classed as sufficient to evict under this section.

 

A landlord cannot force their tenant to leave. If a tenant will not leave, the landlord must go to court to legally evict them. Find out more about eviction from housing charity Shelter, or from one of our helpful lettings advisors on 01793 422833.

 

Tenants are now protected from ‘revenge’ evictions for assured shorthold tenancies that began or were renewed after 1st October 2015. A revenge eviction is where the landlord tries to evict the tenant after they complain about the condition of the property or any repairs. If the landlord tries to evict a tenant after they complain, they will need to be able to prove there is a legal reason to evict.

 

For more information about being a landlord, see our landlord guide.

 

Castles Estate Agents have supported landlords in letting property in Swindon for many years, offering expert advice and guidance. We will help you navigate the requirements and responsibilities that come with being a landlord. Check back on our blog for more advice for landlords, or get in touch for a more tailored, bespoke service on 01793 422833.

18Jul

Swindon property leader continues to build with two star summer signings

Castles Residential Sales & Lettings, the premier independent Swindon estate agent for both sales and lettings, has announced the bolstering of its team with several new additions.

Carol Wiggins joins in the administrative role for lettings and Matthew Wyeth takes up a new position of lettings consultant. We also look forward to welcoming lettings consultant, Tamzen Rowley, who will be joining the lettings team in July 2018.

The sales team at Castles has also enjoyed some recent new additions with Lauren Peters, Mark Woolhouse and Tom Anderson, all joining as sales consultants. They are pleased to have welcomed Maria Martinez de Toffoletti, sales administrator, who will support the expanding sales team.

The appointments represent another period of growth for Castles, which has won a host of awards in recent years such as the The Relocation Agent Network’s Best Agent, the Wiltshire Small Business of the Year award, and two allAgents Awards. 

Carol is excited to get started in her new position, in which she will offer the Castles Lettings department the benefit of her 30 years' experience in administration. Having recently moved to Swindon with her family, Carol has embraced the new challenge and is already having fun working with the tight knit team, saying "there’s never a dull moment!"

Matthew is also new to Swindon and the Lettings business but at Castles he has already enjoyed huge success and has embraced the team ethic which Castles is known for, as well as the unwavering commitment to offering both landlords and tenants the best possible service. He said: "I get up each day with a spring in my step."

It was recently announced that Castles Residential Sales & Lettings had their best ever month in May 2018 for lettings, and the two new appointments will enable this growth plan to develop further. 

In addition to their unmatched reputation in the Swindon area, Castles are ranked 79th out of 15,000 estate agents in the whole of the UK. Castles are also the preferred estate agent of Cartus, the premier relocation services provider.

Mark Noble, managing director Castles Residential Sales & Lettings, said: "We would like to extend a warm Castles welcome to the new members of the team. During this period of rapid growth, they will provide a timely expansion of our offering, giving us more opportunity to continue delivering an unparalleled service to landlords and tenants alike in the Swindon area. It is an exciting time for the company, and these new appointments underline our determination to retain our position as a leading independent estate agent in Swindon."


04Jul

Swindon-based estate agents Castles Residential Sales & Lettings recently experienced its most successful month ever in terms of new lets agreed in May 2018. June 2018 will eclipse this result further and this is thanks to its exemplary history of helping tenants and landlords with the lettings process.


The organisation’s May 2018 results were almost double those of May 2017, a testament to the dedication and knowledge of Castles’ staff and evidence of the benefits of renting through a traditional local agency. 

Houses are in demand right now, and rental homes are often snapped up within days. However, renting privately can be risky for tenants, who are often vulnerable to their landlord’s every whim and demand. As reported in The Independent last year, a shocking third of privately rented homes fail basic health and safety standards, proof that many landlords are not even completing their most rudimentary duties.

Acquiring a rental home through an agency is one of the best ways to avoid being exploited in this way, as it involves signing a fair and binding contract. 

Alexandra Moise, who recently secured a new rental home through Castles Residential Sales & Lettings, said: “The organisation makes every effort to help renters like me. Looking for a new home can be stressful, so when we started our search we contacted many other letting agencies, none of which rivalled the level of professionalism of Castles.

“When we first met Matt (one of the company’s lettings agents), he went out of his way to meet as many of our needs and requirements as possible. He always called us back to set up more appointments, was always on time for viewings, and his behaviour was thoroughly professional and kind. Overall, the Castles experience has been amazing in helping us through the difficult process of finding a home.” 

As Alexandra’s experience shows, enlisting an agency can take much of the stress out of finding rental properties. This is particularly true when tenants are given short notice by their landlord that they need to move out. Deposits, fees and tenancy agreements can also be worrisome, and enlisting an agency can make these tricky processes much more straightforward, with companies such as Castles able to negotiate on tenants’ behalf.

Mark Noble, managing director of Castles Residential Sales and Lettings, said: “At Castles, we understand how stressful it can be when letting and finding a property, and we are here to help tenants and landlords every step of the way. Here’s to another successful year.”

21Jun

This is the first article in a series on letting a property. Featuring tips, advice and need to know information for anyone thinking of becoming a landlord. If you want to let your property, but aren’t sure where to begin, this series will help educate and advise you so that you are fully prepared to let your property successfully.

 

Today, we will be looking at starting out as a landlord and the steps you need to take before you can begin to market your property.

 

Renting in the UK is on the rise. With the cost of housing growing further and further out of reach for much of the population, renting is the best option available to them. If you are one of the lucky people who own their own home, or even several properties, congratulations! If you are planning on letting your spare property, then read on for some expert, tailored advice from one of the leading estate and lettings agents in Swindon. 

 

Finding a Reliable Letting Agent

 

Your lettings agent will be your guide through the process of letting your property, offering invaluable advice plus years of knowledge and experience regarding the local area and attracting suitable potential tenants. At Castles, we have been working in and across Swindon for many years. Our lettings team are experts in helping landlords navigate legal requirements, effectively market and successfully manage their properties. To speak to a member of our lettings team, contact us on 01793422833 or fill out our online contact form and someone will be in touch.

 

Preparing Your Property to Let

 

When preparing your property to let, there are many factors to consider to ensure you meet legal standards and requirements. A reputable lettings agent will be able to guide and support you through this process with their knowledge of property letting and everything that needs to be done before a property can be marketed to potential tenants. Below, we will go through the main considerations before letting out a property.

 

Your Mortgage

 



Firstly, if you are planning on letting your property you must ensure that you are permitted to do so. Some landlords will have a buy-to-let mortgage, but if you do not have one of these, you will need to notify your mortgage provider and gain permission to let the property. If you own a leasehold property, you must inform the freeholder.

 

Houses in Multiple Occupation License Provisions

 

If you are planning on letting out an entire property to three or more paying tenants, forming more than one household, you will be subject to mandatory Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing and will be required to apply to your local authority for a licence. At Castles, we have a good working relationship with Swindon Borough Council and our lettings agents can support you in making an application for a HMO licence. 

 

Assured Shorthold Tenancy

 

If you are planning on letting your property to private individuals and the rent will amount to less than £100k per year, it will automatically become an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). An AST typically lasts between six and 12 months, but a different, longer fixed term may be agreed with tenants in advance if you wish. When the fixed term has expired, you will be able to regain possession of the property from the tenants, provided you have given at least two months written advance notice to the tenants.

 

Tenancy Deposit Protection

 

As a landlord you are required by law to hold your tenant’s deposit in an authorised deposit protection scheme. Such schemes will look after the deposit and can assist with disputes over deposits at the end of the tenancy. This is vital as you can be fined and lose any eviction rights if you do not adhere to this. At Castles, we can ensure you have access to an authorised deposit protection scheme for your tenants’ deposits and our lettings agents can handle this for you.

 

Housing Health and Safety

 

When you let a property it must be a safe, non hazardous environment for tenants and must adhere to several pieces of relevant legislation. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is enforced by local authorities and assesses how hazardous a property is. Landlords must comply with the HHSRS measures to maintain a safe environment capable of being let.  For information on health and safety legislation, including gas and electrical testing and fire hazards, see our Landlord’s Guide.

 

A property being let needs an up to date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which potential tenants should be informed of.

 

Repairs and Maintenance




Before letting your property you should carry out any repairs and maintenance work that needs doing. Not only is this important for the care and longevity of the property, but it will also help you attract suitable tenants who will pay more rent to live in a nicer property. While people looking for short term lets might not care as much about a few minor things, if you are looking to find tenants to rent for more than a couple of years, you really should do everything to make the property as appealing as possible within your budget. This includes aesthetic jobs such as repainting doors, window sills and potentially entire rooms or upgrading old furniture, door handles and curtains. Most of these repairs and touch ups are minor and do not need to cost the earth. If you have older appliances in the property, make sure they work fully and are safe. A property that appears well cared for is more likely to be looked after well by its tenants.

 

Furnished or Unfurnished?

 

Think about whether you plan to let your property with or without furniture. Most rental properties will include white goods so you may need to invest in a fridge, freezer and washing machine. If you choose to let your property furnished, the main things you should provide are:

 

-       Beds and mattresses

-       Wardrobes and chests of drawers

-       Table

-       Chairs

-       Sofa and armchairs

-       Soft furnishings

 



You will need to put together an inventory of items in the property, with photos and details of their condition to be referred back to at the end of the tenancy when returning the tenants’ deposit. This way, if you need to retain some of the deposit to cover the cost of replacements or repairs, you have substantial evidence to back up your claim.

 

If you decide to let the property unfurnished, you may need to think about putting some items in storage if you cannot sell them or store them yourself.

 

Insurance

 

It is a good idea to get comprehensive landlord insurance to cover the property you are letting. Landlord insurance can cover building insurance, contents cover, loss of rent, property owners’ and public liability and employer liability. Your tenants will be responsible for their own contents cover and you should make this clear. It is important to inform your insurance company what exactly you want your insurance policy to cover.

 

Tax

 

As a landlord you are self-employed and as such are liable to pay tax on any income received from letting out your property. To find out more visit www.hmrc.gov.uk.

 

For more advice on letting a property in Swindon, visit our previous blog. 

If all the above sounds a bit daunting, do not worry. Our experienced lettings team is here to guide you every step of the way and we are always on hand to offer expert advice. At Castles, we pride ourselves on our great customer service and communication with our landlords. With us you can rest assured that your property is in safe hands and that you will not be met with any unexpected fees as we are always upfront about our costs. For more advice, read our handy Landlord’s Guide or speak to one of our friendly, professional team on 01793422833.

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