Landlords Guide

If you are a landlord looking for a lettings company in Swindon then look no further. Castles have been local to Swindon for over 15 years. We work with landlords with large to small portfolios, those who are looking for a company to find them tenants to those who want their properties fully managed. At Castles we work with our landlords to ensure that we are delivering the level of service they need.

Our experienced lettings negotiators will be able to advise you on the current market and advise on exactly what the market is looking for.

Our experienced property managers will take your property and ensure that you are informed and updated on all issues with your property. We look after everything in house including collection of rental with our experienced and reliable administrative team.

Presenting a property to Let

Whether you are looking to let your own home, or have an investment property to let, it is important to ensure the property is presented in good order throughout and meets the fit for human habitation requirements (Act 2018). This will help to attract a good quality tenant and maximise the potential rental income.

Ideally, a property should be well decorated throughout and we suggest neutral light colours. Kitchens and bathrooms should be modern and well equipped. The following are generally expected to be provided:

  • Carpets & curtains in neutral or muted colours
  • Light fittings complete with working bulbs
  • TV aerial
  • Telephone line
  • Kitchen appliances such as fridge, freezer, cooker and washing machine (white goods)
  • Bathroom with shower attachment or shower unit
  • Shower rail & curtain or shower screen
  • Bathroom cabinet, towel rail, mirror and toilet roll holder
  • Dustbin
  • Instruction Booklets for all appliances
  • At least two sets of keys

It would be helpful to a tenant to supply an information pack to contain such details as:

  • Dustbin collection day
  • Parking arrangements, identifying allocated garage/parking or visitors’ spaces
  • Location of meters for gas, electricity and water
  • Any shared communal areas, i.e., location of dustbins, or clothes drying area
  • Copies of any appliance warranties/service contracts
  • Utility, telephone and television service providers

We recommend that property, including the windows and carpets, be professionally cleaned, prior to the commencement of a tenancy. The garden should also be left in good seasonal order and be well maintained. If a garage is available to use, this should be left empty and secure.

If letting a property on a furnished basis, the property should be uncluttered and personal items such as ornaments, books, etc, should be removed. All soft furnishings must also comply with safety regulations.

We will be happy to advise you further, regarding the presentation of your property.

Safety Regulations and Compliance Matters

Gas Safety

Landlords must ensure that all gas appliances in a property are safe for tenants to use, which requires them to:

  • Arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to install and maintain gas supplies.These checks must occur every 12 months.
  • Have an up-to-date gas safety record/ gas safety certificate. The landlord should issue this to tenants when they move in, or within 28 days of the safety checks. An engineer will also issue tenants with a gas safety record when they fit or service appliances. Tenants must keep this up to date and hold the record for two years.
  • Inform tenants of where to turn off the gas and what to do in case of an emergency.
  • The Gas Safe Register says that, as a minimum, the record of a gas safety check must contain:

A description and location of each appliance and/or flue that has been checked.

The name, registration number and signature of the engineer who carried out the check.

The date which the appliance and/or flue was checked.

The address of the property at which the appliance and/or flue is installed.

The name and address of the landlord (or their agent where appropriate).

Any defects identified and any action required or taken to fix it.

Confirmation of the results of operational safety checks carried out on the appliances.

The Electrical Equipment (Safety Regulations)

Electricity has the potential to cause serious damage, including injuries or fires. In fact, faulty or old wiring is one of the main causes of electrical fires in domestic premises. This is why it’s crucial for landlords to:

  • Ensure all electrical installations are safe throughout the duration of the tenancy.
  • Ensure that all appliances provided to tenants have suitable conformity marking.The products chosen have the correct conformity marking. From 1st January 2023, products supplied in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) must be marked with the UKCA marking, or be accompanied by documentation that is marked with it. The supply of products with CE marking is allowed until 31st December 2022. Until then, it is permitted for new products to be either CE or UKCA marked. All new products supplied in Northern Ireland must have CE, or both CE and UKNI markings from 1st January 2022.
  • Use a qualified electrician to carry out checks at least every five years or on a change of tenancy. A registered electrician will issue an Electrical Installation Condition Report (sometimes referred to as an electrical safety certificate) after they have inspected installations. Landlords should supply this report to tenants on request.
  • Ensure that all alterations, repairs, and improvements to the fixed electrical system comply with the latest Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Wiring Regulations.

An electrical installation condition report should feature:

  • The results of the inspection and testing.
  • The date of the next recommended inspection.
  • Details of any damage or wear and tear.
  • Details of any parts of the installation that don’t meet IET Wiring Regulations or meet UK national standards BS 7671.
  • If the electrical system is being installed for the first time, then the registered electrician carrying out the work will issue an Electrical Installation Certificate or a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate. These confirm that the work they have done is safe and complies with the law.

A Landlords guide to the furniture & furnishings (FIRE) Safety Regulations

Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their properties comply with fire safety regulations. This is absolutely critical: according to government statistics, there were 27,000 fires in dwellings in 2020/21, and in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy the importance of complying with fire safety regulations could not be clearer.

Then put the info below as a pop up/drop down for further reading?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, landlords must undertake a risk assessment for fire safety in all areas of their property, including individual rooms, shared hallways and corridors, communal areas, stairways, and exits. They must carry out an individual risk assessment for each separate property.

A risk assessment should include five key stages:

  • Identify the fire risks (e.g., non-compliant furnishings, blocked stairways, or faulty electrics).
  • Consider who is at risk (e.g., the tenants and any potential visitors).
  • Implement appropriate control measures (e.g., improving escape routes, installing smoke alarms, ensuring people in shared properties can raise the alarm, etc.).
  • Record the findings of the risk assessment.This is crucial for evidence of compliance and for future reviews.
  • Review and update the risk assessment regularly (e.g., when a new tenant moves in or if the building is altered in any way).

After a risk assessment, landlords must ensure all the necessary installations are in place and that they maintain fire safety on an ongoing basis.

More specifically, they should:

  • Ensure each property has suitable alarm systems, including heat, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. There must be an alarm on each floor, which should comply with currentBritish standards, be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, and be tested at the beginning of each tenancy.
  • Ensure all doors can be easily opened in case of an emergency.
  • Carry out regular electrical and gas safety checks.
  • Ensure all escape routes are clear at all times.
  • Ensure main front doors are a30-minute resistant fire door(FD30).
  • Ask tenants to report any defects or fire safety hazards immediately.
  • Consider introducing a smoking policy, such as one that states tenants should not smoke indoors.
  • Ensure any supplied furnishings are fire resistant and meet safety regulations.
  • Communicate to tenants about what to do in case of fire.

HMO - Properties occupied by multiple tenants

Shared properties must have at least one fire extinguisher (suitable for the specific environment) per floor of the building and at least one fire blanket in each shared kitchen. They must also have a Fire Action Notice in a communal part of the building, such as the entrance hall. This notice should detail what actions people should take during a fire.

Furthermore, the landlord should ensure that there is appropriate fire safety signage, such as those indicating the location of fire exits, assembly points, fire alarms, extinguishers, and any other fire-fighting equipment. Signage must be clear and understandable by every resident.

A Landlords Guide to Legionella

Anyone who has control of premises, including landlords, must be able to show that they understand and have considered the health risks associated with legionella and legionnaires’ disease. Legionella is a type of pathogenic bacteria that causes a range of pneumonia-like illnesses and legionnaire’s disease is the most serious one. Legionella bacteria commonly live in natural water sources, but only pose a risk of illness when the water enters more favourable conditions. For instance, when the water is between 20 °C and 45 °C and has been recirculated, causing it to become stagnant.

To effectively prevent legionella and legionnaire’s disease in their properties, landlords must undertake a risk assessment for legionella. As with any other form of risk assessment, this involves five key steps:

  • Identify the risks(e.g., check water temperatures).
  • Consider who is at risk(e.g., the tenants and their visitors).
  • Implement appropriate control measures(e.g., keeping water hot, removing impurities, etc).
  • Record the findings of the risk assessment.
  • Review and update the risk assessment(e.g., annually or if changes are made to the water system of the property).

In a property, legionella bacteria may be found in any water system between 20-45 °C. This is why it’s crucial for landlords to ensure that all water systems are correctly operated and maintained, such as hot and cold water tanks, pipework and air conditioning units. The risk can be lowered if hot water is kept above 45 °C and cold water is kept below 20 °C, and if water is used regularly to keep it fresh and free of stagnation.

Further Information

Should you require further information regarding the Gas, Electric or Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) Safety Regulations we recommend you approach:

  • The Lettings Agent
  • Trading Standards Office
  • Environment Health Office
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • The Gas Safety action line which can be contacted on 0800 300 363

Obtain a copy of the Guide to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations published by the department of trade and industry.

The above guides are intended to provide a summary of the regulations to the landlord it is not an authoritative interpretation of the regulations, which is a matter for the courts.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Lettings market is extremely transient and therefore prices are frequently changeable. It is vital that you get an up-to-date professional valuation (as you would if you were selling the property). A valuation appointment should take no more than 40-60 mins.

We can, and frequently do advertise properties which are available for immediate occupation, but as a rule of thumb, 6-8 weeks prior to the property being available is a good time frame to get the ball rolling.

Every marketplace and property type will have its own trends, but typically there is little or no difference in the asking rent whether the property is furnished or not, and often little difference in the likely time frame for securing a tenant. As such you can simply do what suits you best, but always seek the advice of your local agent first.

You will need an Energy Performance Certificate in order to market the property and prior to tenants moving in will need to ensure you have smoke detectors on either floor, a gas/electrical safety certificate (where applicable) and fire safety regulation labels on all soft furnishings (if the property is to be offered furnished), and a consent to let form from your mortgage provider (if applicable) prior to tenant moving in. Professional inventory prior to a tenant taking occupation of the property.

You must have Buildings Insurance cover. Talk to your insurance company or your Letting Agent about a Landlords package.

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST) can be anything from 6 months to 3 years. The most common type of contract is a 12-month term with a reciprocal break clause on or after 6 months of continuous tenure.

Under the terms of your tenancy agreement, you will be required to give 2 months’ notice on your rent due date.

At Castles we instruct an external and independent referencing agency to carry out a credit search, an employment reference, a current/previous Landlord reference and an ID check. Personal references can also be requested. A final report will be given to the Landlord for approval before he/she signs the tenancy agreement. Prior to viewing any property, all applicants have to complete a Right to Rent check, as well as a pre-qualifying affordability check and complete registration.

We take 5 weeks rent deposit as standard for each tenancy. All tenancy deposits are held with The Deposit Protection Service (DPS) and www.depositprotection.com

Rent is due on the anniversary of the start of the tenancy and it’s the tenant’s responsibility to ensure it is received by this date. We require payment to be made by standing order.

You (or your letting agent) should write to tenants every 7 days requesting the rental payment up until the point at which they are 2 months in arrears and you are in a position to serve notice on the grounds of non-payment of rent. We recommend, for peace of mind, that all landlords consider rent protection insurance.

These are both terms of their agreement and your recourse would be to serve notice and end the tenancy.

Tenants are responsible for paying the council tax and any/all utility bills (unless otherwise advised). Landlords must continue to pay any ground rent/maintenance charges.

In our experience most tenancies commence within 7 to 10 days of the tenant agreeing to let a property, however the timescale can be affected by the speed of which the landlord and tenant react and such things as referencing, notices and setting up of a standing order.

If you require any further information or would like to arrange a free no obligation rental appraisal of your property, please call us on 01793 611677.

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