Paul Long (Director of Drewery Property Consultants) gives advice on how to reduce the chance of having problem tenants:
Every landlord I have met wants to find the best possible tenants for their property but how do you achieve this? In order to find the best tenants, there are a number of pre-emptive steps that every landlord can take before a tenant moves in, as well as decisions you can make during the tenancy to ensure all is running smoothly and any issues are addressed at source.
These are my top tips to help a landlord reduce the risk of problem tenants and make life as a landlord a lot easier:
1. Tenant referencing - reference ALL tenants wishing to rent your property:
Tenant referencing will give you a clearer insight about people who are interested in your property and will confirm if they have the ability to pay the rent. A good tenant reference will also tell you about their credit history, their background and their current employment status (i.e. - are they in full time work, part time, contract, self-employed and income). In some cases a landlord`s or letting agent`s reference will also be available to confirm if they have paid their rent on time and have been a good tenant. In-depth referencing can also provide further identification checks on your prospective tenants by matching past addresses with electoral role data or by the checking of bank account details. With this information you will be able to assess the suitability of your potential tenants and have background checks carried out by experts.
In my opinion, tenant referencing using a professional company is essential when letting out your property. With fast and thorough checks now available, you`ll be able to ensure that you`re accepting the most suitable tenants for your property. Buy to let properties are big investments – so you don`t want to take any unnecessary risks.
2. A written tenancy agreement - up to date and not bought off the shelf!
A tenancy agreement should always be in writing to give a clear and up-to-date record of the tenancy and its guidelines.
A formal contract between you and your tenants, a tenancy agreement sets out the legal terms and conditions of your tenancy. It can either be for a fixed-term or a periodic tenancy. A professional tenancy agreement will identify the rights and responsibilities for both you and your tenants, clearly displaying who`s responsible for what around the property. As property is law is changing all the time it is vital that you do not continue to use an old tenancy agreement for new tenancies, as this could cause big problems if ever used to evict a tenant in court at a later date.
A tenancy agreement should include (as a minimum):
* The names of those involved
* The price of rent and how payment should be submitted
* How and when the rent will be reviewed
* The full deposit amount and how it will be protected
* Under what circumstances part or all of the deposit can be withheld
* The start and end dates of the tenancy
* Conditions around subletting
* The full responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord
By completing a written, signed and dated tenancy agreement, you will legally protect yourself and your property. A well written tenancy agreement will also leave your tenants in no doubt about their responsibilities while they live in the property, thereby reducing the likelihood of you experiencing problems and being contacted all the time.
3. Carry out regular visits on your property
A landlord is legally entitled to carry out visits to their property as long as they give the tenant plenty of notice and to any timescale given in the tenancy agreement. Visits if carried out properly can be a great way to build a good landlord/tenant rapport but most importantly prevent any problems before they become serious.
Visits should ideally be carried out quarterly to prevent long term damage caused by common problems including condensation mould, damage by pets or children or to gardens. Damage to rental problems is often caused slowly over time, so by noticing problems early at a visit could be enough to save both you and the tenant money later on. Additionally, visits are a great way to confirm the correct number of people are living at the property, the tenants are looking after the property well, and allows a landlord to manage his finances more efficiently by planning for any future maintenance works that might be coming up.
4. Keeping in touch with your tenants
By keeping in touch with your tenants regularly, you have a much better chance of your tenancy being a success and your tenants being respectful of both you and your property. However, it is important to remember that your property is now your tenant`s home and you should not overstep the amount of contact with them. A quick, polite text or email once in a while would be quite acceptable.
Building a good relationship with your tenants is important, as it means that they`ll be much more likely to contact you if any problems arise during the tenancy allowing you to deal with it before the issue worsens.
5. Having the right insurance
Finally, incase the worst case scenario does happen, it is recommended that all landlords have the right insurance in place which will protect them from loss of rent and cover the costs of professional legal assistance. The cost of insurance like this has come down a lot in the last few years and most well-known insurance providers now have specialist products for landlords.
Remember, if you are not too keen with the idea of keeping in touch with your tenants or do not have the time, why not get an ARLA approved letting agent to manage your property for you? Our company manages hundreds of properties for landlords and our property managers have years of experience of quickly and effectively dealing with the minor (or even more major) problems which can arise when least expected – taking stress and worry away from the landlord.
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