Good landlords generally attract good tenants – and they keep them longer, too.
But with so much to think about when you’re a landlord, being a good one over the long-term requires time, effort and, usually, a fair amount of money.
We’ve collated everything you need to know about being a good landlord, including your responsibilities and obligations, alongside some top landlord tips on how you can stand out to your existing tenants and potential new ones.
Landlord advice: How to be a good landlord
Your main priority as a residential landlord should be the health, safety and wellbeing of your tenants.
That means sticking to your responsibilities and obligations to them, both legally and morally.
Fortunately, many rogue landlords have been forced out of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) by tightened legislation and this can only be a good thing for the professional landlords that remain.
Even the most professional of landlords needs to be on top of their obligations, though, so let’s remind you of those…
Landlord responsibilities: A complete checklist
- EPC and MEES regulations
- Documentation and information
- Gas safety
- Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
- Tenancy deposit protection
- Furniture and furnishings
- Electrical safety
- Legionella assessment
- Right to Rent checks
- Repairs and maintenance
- Permission to let
- Taxation responsibilities
- Tenant fees
What must a landlord provide by law?
Energy Performance Certificates and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards
As a landlord, you must provide your tenant with a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) at the start of their tenancy.
Since April 2018, rental properties must have an EPC rating of at least E in order to be legally rented out and from April 2020, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) will apply to all tenancies.
Documentation and information
You are legally obligated to provide your tenant with:
- Your full name and address, or that of your managing agent
- A copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide
You must provide your tenants with a valid gas safety certificate when they move in.
Gas safety checks, performed by a Gas Safe engineer, must then be carried out every 12 months and a new certificate issued.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
Since October 2015, landlords in England must:
- Fit at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of their rental property used as living accommodation
- Fit a working carbon monoxide alarm on every floor used as living accommodation where there is a solid fuel-burning appliance
- Ensure all alarms are working on the first day of any tenancy
Tenancy deposit protection
By law, you must lodge your tenant’s security deposit into one of three tenancy deposit protection schemes.
This must be done within 30 days of receiving the deposit and, once secured, you must provide certain information to your tenant on where their deposit is held.
Furniture and furnishings
All furniture and furnishings supplied by you in your rental property must be fire resistant and meet requirements within the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
Currently, there is no obligation for you to provide an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) unless you are the landlord of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
However, the rules on mandatory electrical checks are set to change at some point in 2020, with all residential landlords required to undertake checks every five years and provide a condition report to tenants.
You must carry out a risk assessment for legionella bacteria, which causes legionnaires disease.
This assessment should identify potential sources of legionella and outline the measures taken to prevent exposure.
Right to Rent checks
Currently, you must carry out checks on tenants from abroad that establish they have the right to rent and remain in the UK.
However, these checks are set to be removed at some stage in 2020 after the High Court deemed they breached human rights law.
Repairs and maintenance
You must undertake repairs to the structure and exterior of your rental property, heating and hot water systems, drainage, basins, sinks and baths as required under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
Under the Homes Act, landlords who fail to adequately maintain or provide a property fit for habitation can be taken to court by their tenants.
Permission to let
You must obtain permission or inform the following people if you wish to rent out your property:
- Your mortgage lender
- The freeholder (for leasehold properties)
- Anyone with occupancy rights
- Any shared owner
- Your insurance company
If you make an income from your rental property and the property isn’t owned under a limited company structure, you must complete a self-assessment tax return each year.
If your rental property, or properties, are run by a limited company, that company will be subject to corporation tax and other business taxation regulations.
General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) were brought in in 2018 to protect the way people’s data is used.
You must be clear on what data you hold on your tenants, why you need it, how long it will be kept and how you use it.
Since June 2019, it has been illegal for landlords or letting agents to charge tenants a host of fees.
The only fees you are permitted to charge a tenant are:
- Five or six weeks* of rent as a security deposit (*depending on total annual rent)
- One week of rent as a holding deposit
- Up to £50 for changes to a live tenancy agreement
- Early termination charges if a tenant requests to leave the tenancy early
- A fee for late payment of rent or for replacement of lost keys
- Payment for utility bills, council tax or communication services
Tips on being a good landlord
As well as all those legal and moral obligations above, being a good landlord goes well beyond sticking to your responsibilities.
Here are 10 things you can do that will make you stand out as a truly great landlord and help you keep great tenants for longer…
1. Give your tenants the tour
When your tenants move in, spend some time with them showing them around your property, explaining how everything works and demonstrating how they can get the best from their new home.
Show them where the stopcock is, how they can turn off the electricity and be clear on who they need to contact in the event of a problem such as a burst pipe or major leak.
2. Fix problems quickly
Most tenants are pretty easy going and appreciate that landlords are busy and have lives away from their rental properties.
But every tenant, however easy going, won’t accept landlords who are slow to fix problems.
Nothing upsets a tenant more than the perception that their landlord doesn’t care – and those feelings will almost certainly result in your tenant leaving once their fixed term is up, or before if there are habitation issues from a lack of maintenance.
You should have a list of tradepeople you can call upon to fix problems with your rental property quickly.
A proactive and caring landlord is a good landlord and it won’t go unnoticed with your tenants.
3. Be willing to spend
If you have good tenants in your property, who pay their rent in full and on time and are keen to stay for the long term, be willing to spend a little money when they make requests.
For instance, if your tenants ask that their property is decorated or that the carpets are replaced if they’ve seen better days, try to facilitate their requests.
If you refuse and your tenants leave, that scenario will probably cost you more in remarketing costs and a void period that some new carpets and a tin of paint would have.
4. Keep your distance
While being on hand early in a tenancy can be seen as helpful by your tenants, over-do this and you run the risk of being a nuisance.
Your tenants have the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property and that means you should always give at least 24 hours’ notice if you wish to inspect the property or you need access for another reason.
5. Consider pets
The majority of landlords don’t allow pets in their rental properties, with only around 7% of properties advertised as suitable for animals.
Landlords who do allow well behaved pets in their rental properties do stand out from the crowd based on that figure alone, so it could be worth considering.
The government is also keen to see more pets allowed in the PRS and has amended its template tenancy agreement wording to remove restrictions on well behaved pets.
6. Add some small touches
If you’ve moved house before, you’ll know how stressful it can be regardless of whether you’re buying or renting.
So, adding a few small touches to your property ready for when tenants move in can make a great first impression.
Consider stocking the bathrooms with toilet roll and hand wash, so your tenants don’t have to make a trip to the supermarket on moving day.
And with that in mind, perhaps leave a bottle of wine and a takeaway delivery voucher so they can enjoy a drink and meal without having to cook on that first night.
7. Consider your tenants’ needs and act upon them
If your tenants work from home, as many people in 2020 do, you could consider offering them high speed WiFi included in their rent.
A relatively small cost to you, but a huge gesture to them and one they’ll be unlikely to find elsewhere – meaning they’re more likely to stay in your property for longer.
8. Communicate and be fair
Everyone experiences problems in life from time to time and this can have a big impact on things like paying rent.
While your tenants should stick to the terms of their tenancy agreement in the same way you stick to your obligations as a landlord, being compassionate and sympathetic is part of being a good landlord.
If your tenant is going through financial problems, encourage them to open up about them and try to find a solution that works rather than starting formal proceedings that could lead to eviction.
Most of all, keep the lines of communication open and be approachable, so your tenant feels they can be up front about any issues they’re having.
9. Choose a good managing agent
It won’t matter how good a landlord you are if your managing agent is terse, unapproachable and poorly organised with issues like maintenance and repairs.
Spend time researching agents if you need one to manage your property for you and try to choose one that will work with your tenants, not against them.
Look out for agents who are proactive and speak to other landlords in your area for recommendations.
10. Try not to increase your tenant’s rent
This is a tricky one because, at the end of the day, your rental property is a business and should be run like one.
That means if your costs go up, you might have to put up your tenant’s rent when they renew their tenancy agreement (or not, as the case may be).
If you have genuinely good tenants in place, who pay on time, are no trouble and take great care of your property, that could be worth much more than any additional costs you may be facing.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll find good tenants to replace them should they leave due to a rent increase, or that you’ll find tenants at all – and costly void periods are exactly that: Costly.
Your landlord questions answered
What does a first-time landlord need to know?
One of the biggest decisions you can make as a first-time landlord is whether to manage your property yourself or bring in a lettings agent to do it for you.
While lettings agent management fees are a cost, a thorough and proactive agent will ensure you’re fully compliant with all lettings legislation, as well as dealing with any issues, repairs and maintenance and collecting your tenant’s rent.
How do I become a private landlord?
You’ll become a private landlord whether you’ve purchased a buy-to-let property with the intention of renting it out, or if you’re planning to rent out your own home or a property you’ve inherited.
Once you are a landlord, you’ll need to be committed to your obligations outlined above.
Do you need a licence to become a landlord?
If you’re letting out a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you’ll need a licence from your local authority to do so legally.
Residential landlords letting standard single tenancy properties generally don’t need a licence to do so, although a number of local authorities in England do require landlords to be licensed under Selective Licensing regulations.
You can also register as a landlord off your own back if you wish, which does show tenants you’re professional and serious about running your rental property as a business.
Is a landlord obligated to renew a lease?
When your tenant’s fixed term tenancy agreement ends, you’re not obligated under current regulations to renew their tenancy.
You would need to provide two months’ notice as part of a section 21 notice in order to regain possession of your property.
However, under government proposals being considered this year, ‘no fault’ evictions could be abolished alongside section 21 regulations, meaning you would need a ‘valid’ reason to give notice to a tenant.
Is a landlord obligated to give a reference?
Landlords aren’t obligated to provide outgoing tenants with a reference.
However, if you’re tenants have been good, providing them with a reference would be doing their future landlord a big favour as well as them, so you should consider it where appropriate.