How to Avoid the Top Ten Traps for Unwary Landlords

May 11, 2017

Letting is getting more onerous and unfortunately we are seeing a lot of landlords fall at a number of hurdles. Here are some of the common pitfalls we see time and time again - and how to avoid them.

Bristol Harbourside

1.    Keep up to date with changes in the law

There are many legal requirements landlords have to abide by in letting their properties.  With constant changes and introduction of new rules and the way these are applied by the courts, it can be difficult to keep up. Sign up to our legal bulletins to help keep you updated. 

Joining a landlords association and attending their meetings will help you keep up to date with both national and local changes. They also provide a wealth of useful financial and other information specific to your local area, and a forum for you to meet other landlords. The Association of Local Landlords (Wessex) for instance, holds regular meetings in the Bristol and Bath area.

2.    Ensure you have a proper written tenancy agreement  

Not having a good written agreement and carelessness in preparing the document can make seeking possession from the court more expensive. It is also important to have the right tenancy agreement for your type of tenancy. For example, terms about deposit protection would not be necessary if the property is let out to a company.

3.    Keep an accurate inventory

A deposit is taken in case the tenant damaged your property, but it is pointless if you do not properly record the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy.  Without evidence, you will struggle to prove at the end of the tenancy that the tenant has caused the damage. Deposit disputes are common and it is in your interests to keep good records of any repairs undertaken or damage caused.

4.    Keep your details up to date

Landlords who let long-term often move house themselves during the tenancy. Your tenant must be kept informed of your address under Section 48 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987. If you do not let the tenant know your address, you are not entitled to receive rent. This could clearly undermine any claim for rent arrears or defeat grounds relied upon in an eviction notice under the Section 8 procedure.

5.    Protect the deposit within 30 days

All landlords should know by now that if they take a deposit, it must be protected within 30 days using one of the tenancy deposit schemes. Failure to do so means that you will not be able to seek possession by service of a Section 21 notice and worse, you can  find yourself on the receiving end of a penalty claim for up to three times the value of the deposit. The tenant is at liberty to bring a claim for up to 6 years after the tenancy ends!

If a deposit is not protected, the only remedy now is to return it to the tenant straightaway. 

6.    Serve the prescribed information

Many landlords who contact us don't seem to know what prescribed information is. It is easily accessible via the deposit protection scheme you have chosen to use. Once the deposit is protected, the certificate and prescribed information must be served on the tenant without delay within 30 days.

7.    Check Right to Rent documents

For new tenants or occupiers over the age of 18, who have moved in since 1 February 2016, you must obtain evidence of their right to reside in the UK. You should check the documentation for all tenants, not only those who you believe not to be British citizens. This is discriminatory and against the law. There are now criminal and civil penalties for a failure to comply.

8.    Serve the How to Rent Guide, EPC and Gas Safety Certificate

You must serve your tenant with a valid gas safety certificate, EPC and the How to Rent Guide if the tenancy started on or after 1 October 2015. If you do not, any Section 21 that you serve to end the tenancy would be invalid. There are currently no provisions for service of the How to Rent Guide by email.  Each time you need to serve the How to Rent Guide, we recommend downloading it from the Government website in case anything has changed. You should serve a hard copy on the tenant and keep evidence of service.

9.    Comply with service provisions

Know your tenancy agreement; know the clauses and how they work in practice. Service of a notice by registered post is often preferred but if the tenant refuses to sign for it to avoid eviction, it will be returned to the sender. The best way to serve is by personal delivery to the property if this is practical, or by a combination of registered and first class post. Keep evidence of service of the notice for your records. You will need it if you have to apply to the court for possession.

10.  Allow time for service of notices

Your tenancy agreement should set out how any notice is to be served and when such notice is deemed to be received. The notice period must comply with statutory requirements. Always make sure that you add on a few days to allow time for service. A judge would not make a possession order if there is short service and you would have to start the process again by serving a fresh notice.

If you have any concerns about a tenancy at any time, please contact us on 0117 929 0451. 

More information on our Landlord Services

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