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Landlord Advice

Landlords – Increase your income, your wealth, and above all, your peace of mind!



Rent A Room

Taking in a lodger is an excellent way of earning extra income and the Inland Revenue allow you to earn up to £4250 per year (Just over £350 per month) tax-free through the rent a room scheme. Many thousands of households throughout the country earn extra income in this way. If you live near a college, university or large employers there’s nearly always demand from students and staff. You have much more control over the situation with a lodger than you do with full tenants – because they occupy your own home, lodgers have no security of tenure as such.

In effect your lodger has a license to occupy your premises and not a full tenancy, therefore it’s a simpler process to remove unsuitable lodgers than it is tenants.

However, to avoid full tenancies and to qualify for the rent-a-room scheme, you must meet certain requirements:

  1. The room you let must be in your main residence, where you live most of the year – if you move out the lodger could become a full tenant by default!
  2. The lodger must not have exclusive possession of a self-contained part of your property – cooking facilities and bathroom etc., are usually shared with you!If you create a self-contained flat within your house the lodger will in effect be a tenant, with all the rights and obligations that this implies.
  3. The room you let must be for the lodger to live in, not to run a business from.
  4. If you are a tenant yourself you will need permission from your own landlord before you take a lodger – get it in writing.
  5. You will need to inform your insurers – they may want to change the cover slightly, and it’s a good idea to ask the lodger to insure their own possessions – your household insurance may not cover the lodger’s possessions.
  6. It’s a good idea to inform your mortgage lender, though it’s unlikely they will have any objections.

You will not need planning permission and a lodger will not affect your council tax classification.

You will not need to worry about health and safety, environmental health and gas checks, as you would with a full tenant, though common sense tells you that you do owe a duty of care for your lodger’s health & safety.

You obviously need to be very careful who you take on as a lodger as they will in effect become part of the family.

You need to screen lodgers pretty much the same as you would with prospective tenants, by having a formal application and taking up references etc.

You also need a simple, formal agreement, which sets out house rules and notice periods etc. Usually one-month’s notice on either side will suffice.

Letting to a lodger will normally come under the rent-a-room scheme unless you opt-out by informing the Inland Revenue.

Practical Advice

If you have decided to rent out your property there are some simple guidelines that will help you avoid the pitfalls.

First, ensure that the property is clean and tidy, that fixtures and fittings are in good working order and that any furniture is practical, comfortable and meets safety standards.

Next, make a detailed inventory of everything in the house, noting any damage, as prospective tenants will check it carefully before signing it off.

The next stage is setting the rent. A quick skim through the accommodation section in your local newspaper will help, or go into a letting agency and ask for information on local rental property in your area.

It is probably best to get prospective tenants to pay their own bills as this will save money hassles in the future. Make sure that you state this in your advertisement, as well as any other restrictions such as no pets or no smokers.

The most troublesome stage is finding a suitable tenant. Be very clear about the type of people you are looking for. Many landlords avoid tenants on housing benefit and if you do want to restrict yourself to working tenants, specify professionals only in the advertisement.

Providing student accommodation is an option, although you should contact student services in local colleges and universities first. Some require that all accommodation is visited by and registered with them before your property goes on their books.

Once you have interest in the property ask for detailed references and check them thoroughly. If you want to make doubly sure look at, a website which contains a database of bad tenants as well as useful tips for landlords.

No landlord wants to get caught with non-payment of rent, so ask for a returnable deposit as security against this or any damage to the property. You will also need to set up a tenancy agreement (see legal advice section), and get your inventory signed off.

If you are not satisfied with the way a tenant is looking after your property, tell them about your concerns. If the situation does not improve, or you are not happy with them staying there, you are within your rights to give them two months’ notice to leave.

However, the best way to ensure your property doesn’t turn into a bombsite is to maintain a reasonable relationship with tenants and come to an amicable agreement as to the frequency of visits for checking everything is in order.

If you don’t have the time to do all this then the best idea would be to give some or all of the work to a letting agent. Shop around to get the best deal on both price and service and ask if they are members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) which vets all of its members (Tel: 01494 431680 or visit


Guide to Tenancy Agreements

Since February 1997, all new private sector tenancies are assumed to be assured shorthold tenancies unless the agreement states otherwise or the landlord gives written notice that it is not.

A letting cannot be an assured or shorthold tenancy if:

  • the tenancy began before 15 January 1989
  • it is a company or holiday let
  • no rent, a very low rent or a very high rent is charged
  • the landlord lives at or shares the premises

There are also some exceptions for former public sector rented accommodation that is being transferred to the private sector and where a long lease comes to an end.


Assured Shorthold Tenancies – The Facts

Under the provisions of the new act, there is no longer a requirement for the tenancy to be of at least six months’ duration, however a court cannot grant an order of possession during the first six months of the tenancy except in limited circumstances; the most common of these are:

  • Rent arrears of at least eight weeks
  • Death of tenant
  • Mortgagee exercising power of sale
  • Demolition or reconstruction of the property
  • Tenant has breached the terms of the agreement
  • Tenant or other person in occupation has allowed the property to fall into disrepair

After six months the landlord can apply to the court for possession, as long as the tenant has been given two months’ notice.

When the original tenancy agreement comes to an end, the tenancy can either be terminated or the landlord can choose to let the tenancy continue as a Statutory Periodic Tenancy. The terms and conditions of the original tenancy still apply and the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving two months’ notice at any time in the future.

If the landlord does not renew the agreement, the tenant can stay on until the landlord gives notice that he or she wants to repossess the property.

There is no legal requirement to provide a written contract setting out the tenancy agreement but a tenant with a shorthold tenancy starting on or after 28 February 1997 who does not have a written agreement has a right to ask for a written statement of any of the following main terms of the tenancy:

  • The date the tenancy began
  • The amount of rent payable and the dates on which it should be paid
  • Any rent review arrangements
  • And the length of any fixed term which has been agreed

The tenant must apply in writing for this statement and the landlord is obliged to provide one within 28 days of receiving the request. If the tenant does not receive the statement and the landlord does not have a reasonable excuse, he or she can be liable for a fine.


Having A good Relationship With Your Tenants

You’ve found what seems like the ideal tenants and are ready to let them into your property – but how do you strike up a good relationship with them while still safeguarding your property?

Getting the balance right between friendliness and professionalism is hard to achieve. The first thing to do is to make sure the ground rules have been laid down before they have the key to the door – not just to stop your property becoming a bombsite, but so that your tenants feel comfortable that it is ‘their’ home for the duration of the tenancy.

By following these guidelines, you’re likely to make things as harmonious as possible.

  • If you are not using an agent, make sure you have a comprehensive tenancy agreement and get it checked over by a solicitor so that all parties are aware of what is expected of them. This should iron out most of the potential areas of dispute.
  • Ask for a returnable deposit to cover yourself financially if tenants fail to pay their rent or if the property or fixtures are damaged.
  • Don’t make tenants feel unwelcome or unable to make any slight changes to the property (within reason). Unfurnished properties are more popular choices, so tenants can make the place more homely with their own furniture – just bear in mind that it may not be to your taste.
  • Agree in advance how frequently you will visit the property to collect the rent or simply to make sure everything is in good working order. You shouldn’t barge in unannounced – warn your tenants at least 24 hours in advance.
  • If anything goes wrong with the fixtures and fittings, you’re responsible for them – so attend to them as soon as your tenants tell you about the problems. There’s nothing more likely to create a bad atmosphere than a dripping tap that goes unfixed or a permanently broken-down washing machine.

If the tenancy agreement specifies that your tenants must keep the garden in order, make the job easier for them by providing decent tools. They’re also more likely to keep the house clean and tidy if the vacuum and cleaning tools are in good condition.


Insurance For Landlords

Deciding whether to rent out your house for the first time can look like a potential minefield that is best avoided but peace of mind is available with off-the-shelf landlords’ insurance packages available from most brokers.

Policies now cover everything from your tenant refusing to leave to having to pay to rehouse them after a fire, or killing someone because you haven’t fixed that loose roof tile.

The first thing to remember when letting out your home is to tell your insurance company about it. Many new landlords forget and, when something goes wrong, they find out to their cost that they are not covered or the insurance company refuses to pay out in full.

Landlords do not have to have insurance by law, but common sense should dictate that it is a good idea. After all, your tenant may not be as careful as you were about things. If the property is still under mortgage the lender will usually insist that the building be insured.

Every landlord’s policy should include property owner’s liability, which will cover anything that happens to your tenant – even as a result of your negligence in maintaining the property.

Many off-the-shelf policies are available for landlords, and they are competitive with normal household insurance policies.

And some insurers will only take on rented-out homes if the landlord already has his own home insured with the company. This may be the way to the best deal. If you are letting a furnished property, make sure your contents are insured.

Many policies cover loss of rental income if there was a fire in the property. The insurance would cover the rent you lost while rebuilding goes on and possibly a large chunk of what it may cost to rehouse the tenant.

Most companies insist that the property is only let to professional tenants on a minimum six-month tenancy. This doesn’t mean you are restricted to finding doctors and lawyers as tenants, but is insurance-speak for anyone who isn’t a student or claiming housing benefit.

Premium costs will jump sky-high if you are letting to students and want accidental damage cover. Most companies take the view that youngsters away from home for the first time are not going to be as careful about property as families, and that damage will occur. Some companies take a softer line and there are special student deals around if you look.

Legal protection insurance covers landlords for loss of rent if a tenant refuses to pay and can also cover the legal bills of getting the tenant out. Some will even cover your hotel bills if a tenant refuses to leave at the end of an agreed term.

With more people letting out homes these days, the insurance industry has responded with easy to manage, packaged insurance deals available from broker or letting agencies. The competition for your business is fierce and it will pay to shop around.


Legal Advice For Landlords

The law relating to tenancies in the UK is particularly complex and legal advice will usually be sought if there is a dispute between landlord and tenant.

For that reason, it is worth involving your solicitor at most stages of a letting. Even if you draw up your own tenancy agreements it is worth running them by a solicitor.


Using Agents

Using an agent is the simplest way for a landlord to ensure that a property is maintained, rent is collected and all legal issues are carried out in the proper fashion.

When choosing an agent to manage your property, it is recommended that you find one who is registered with the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). Employing an ARLA agent will ensure that the property is maintained to the standard it was in the beginning of the tenancy.

Your agent can also help prepare a tenancy agreement, draw up an inventory, advise you on changes in legislation and collect rent and bills.


Tenancy Agreements

If you intend to rent without using an agent it is vital that a comprehensive tenancy agreement is prepared.

In England and Wales tenants do not have a right in law to a written tenancy agreement. However, responsible landlords will wish to draw one up as a matter of good practice.

Some solicitors and estate agents, as well as the local authority housing advice section, will supply samples of written tenancy agreements. The Desktop Lawyer website ( has an agreement that you can buy for £29.99. As a matter of course, any agreement should comply with the Housing Act 1988 (as amended 1996).

A good written tenancy agreement should certainly include:

  • The landlord’s and tenant’s names and the address of the property which is being let
  • The date the tenancy began and the duration of the tenancy
  • The amount of rent payable, plus how often and when it should be paid
  • Whether the landlord will provide any services (for example, laundry) and whether there are service charges for these
  • The length of notice both the landlord and the tenant need to give if the tenancy is to be ended.

By law, the following documents or information must be given to a tenant:

  • If there is a weekly tenancy, the landlord must provide a rent book or similar document.
  • The landlord must provide his/her address.
  • In England and Wales, if the tenancy is an assured shorthold the landlord must provide basic written terms of the agreement within 28 days of the tenant requesting this in writing.

A tenancy agreement can normally only be changed if both the tenant and the landlord agree. Be aware that a landlord and tenant have a contract, even if they only made a verbal agreement – though obviously this is harder to enforce should problems arise.


For further advice on all aspects of renting a property, speak to an advisor at your nearest Citizen’s Advice Bureau, or visit their website or ARLA: Tel: 01494 431680, or visit


Category: Landlord Information

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