As a landlord or letting agent, what do you do if your tenant disappears? Tenant abandonments can cause a lot of hassle and complications for those managing the property, so if it happens to you, it’s best to be prepared.
If a tenant is expected of abandoning, the landlord or letting agent will need to place a notice of abandonment at the rental property. We explain what this means, the responsibilities involved and how we can help with our abandonment notice service.
Tenant Abandonment: The Facts
Tenant abandonment is the term given for when a tenant leaves your property before the end of the tenancy agreement without notifying you (the landlord or letting agent).
In the case of abandonment, whoever is managing the property needs to ensure the tenant has permanently vacated the property before they can rent it out again.
Rent will still be owed until the end of the tenancy or until the property is let out again.
Issues for Landlords
If your tenant abandons the rental property, this can cause several problems;
- Loss of rental income
- Risk of vandalism and lack of security at the abandoned property
- Abandoned properties can result in higher insurance premiums
- If tenants leave possessions behind, these become the responsibility of the landlord to safeguard
What is an Abandonment Notice?
If you believe your tenant has left the property before the end of the tenancy, you need to place an abandonment notice.
An abandonment notice is a written statement that must be displayed in a prominent, accessible position on the property informing the tenant that the locks have been changed and where to find a replacement key if they wish to return.
It should give the tenant a limited time to get in contact and request a new set of keys.
By completing an abandonment notice, you are protecting yourself from being accused of unlawfully evicting the tenant.
What is Considered Property Abandonment?
Tenants are obligated to inform their letting agent or landlord if they plan to leave their rented property for more than two weeks. The tenancy agreement should include this clause as a form of protection for residential landlords.
Landlords and property professionals need to act cautiously, as under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, the tenant is entitled to return to the property within the tenancy period. If the tenant decides to return and the property has been let to someone else, this could constitute a criminal offence on the part of the landlord.
Without obtaining a lengthy and expensive court possession order, the tenant is still legally the occupant- even if they are in rent arrears.
This means you need to be certain that the tenant has permanently vacated and surrendered the property before re-letting or entering the property.
Landlord and Letting Agent Responsibilities
In order to ensure you are not making an unlawful eviction, if your tenant appears to abandon the property there are steps that must be taken;
Before letting the property to someone else or changing the locks you must first ensure the tenant has surrendered the property.
Firstly, try to contact the tenant to establish whether they are surrendering the tenancy. If you can get written confirmation from the tenant and they return the keys, you are safe to go ahead and re-let the property.
If you cannot get a hold of the tenant check if;
- The tenant has stopped paying rent
- The tenant has removed their belonging
- The tenant has left the keys at the property
- The neighbours have seen the tenant at the property
Housing and Planning Act 2016: Abandonment
If you can ensure that your property has been abandoned, and your tenant is in rent arrears you are now able to take back possession of your property under the Housing and planning Act 2016.
In this case, you can place a written warning at the property requesting rent repayments. If the first warning is ignored, a second warning notice is required. If the tenant still fails to respond, a third and final notice must be displayed. If this is also ignored, the landlord can take repossession of the property.
Can I Enter an Abandoned Property?
If you believe your tenant has abandoned, you can only enter the property if;
- It is in a vulnerable state and you need to secure the property by changing the locks
- There is any danger to neighbours (e.g. regarding the electric or gas supply)
There is damage that needs urgent repair
That’s where we come in. Our clerks can act as independent witnesses and help with the abandonment notice process, informing the tenant the locks have been changed.
What Should an Abandonment Notice Include?
There are certain elements an abandonment notice should include;
- Written notice that you believe the tenant has abandoned the property. Don’t forget to include important dates such as how long the property has been empty
- The full name, address and contact details of both the landlord and tenant
- A section asking anyone who knows the tenant’s current location to contact the landlord or property manager
- An agreed date by which the tenancy will be assumed abandoned or surrendered by the tenant (if the tenant fails to make contact by this date)
- A section recommending the tenant seeks legal advice
- The name of the independent witness
No Letting Go’s Abandonment Notice Service
In the event that either a landlord or letting agent places an Abandonment Notice up at a property, it is vital that someone attends the property on a regular basis (ideally every 3-4 days) to ensure the notice is still in place. We offer an abandonment notice service whereby we will visit the property as instructed to ensure the notice has not been removed or displaced and to report on the security of the property.
No Letting Go are dedicated to providing professional and unbiased property inventory services from the start of tenancy to the end. From appraisals and right to rent checks, to property inspections and maintenance reports – we’re here to help you protect your investment.
Discover how we could help by browsing our full list of property inventory services.
With several types of tenancies out there, the variations can get confusing for new tenants and landlords. So, what is a periodic tenancy?
Periodic tenancies can offer great benefits, including increased flexibility and less paperwork. However, they aren’t without their drawbacks.
That’s why we’ve created this guide on the risks and rewards of periodic tenancies, to help you make an informed decision before drawing up a contract.
What is a Periodic Tenancy Agreement?
A periodic tenancy is a tenancy that runs for a certain period of time, most commonly month to month. Periodic tenancies can also run on a week to week or quarterly basis, although this is less common.
Unlike fixed term tenancies, periodic tenancies work as a rolling contract which can be terminated by landlord or tenant by giving notice.
Types of Tenancy Agreements
Tenancies can come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the terms and conditions of the agreement. However, here are the most common types of tenancies you’re likely to come across;
Assured Shorthold Tenancy
Assured shorthold tenancies are the most common and apply to most private rentals with a tenancy date starting after 15 January 1989. Most assured shorthold tenancies begin with a fixed period of 6 or 12 months.
Non-Assured Shorthold Tenancy
If your rental property demands less than £250 or more than £100,000 in rent per year or it is used as a holiday home, it won’t be eligible for an assured tenancy. This means you don’t have to enter the tenant’s deposit into a protection scheme or serve a section 21 notice to evict tenants.
It is unlikely you’ll need an assured tenancy these days unless you are a housing association. This type of tenancy gives the tenant longer-term stability.
Sometimes referred to as a license, excluded tenancies are for tenants who lodge with their landlord and share communal areas.
If a tenancy started before 15 January 1989 it may be a regulated tenancy. The difference being that tenants have enhanced rights when it comes to eviction and ‘fair rent’.
When renting to companies, different rules apply in terms of deposit protection and eviction notices.
Fixed Term Tenancy
A fixed term tenancy lasts for an agreed set of time, depending on what is set out in the tenancy agreement. Usually this will be 12 months.
Short-Term Fixed Tenancy
A short-term fixed tenancy lasts for 90 days or less.
A periodic tenancy works on a rolling basis with no fixed end date. E.g. month by month.
What is a Statutory Periodic Tenancy?
A statutory periodic tenancy occurs when an assured shorthold tenancy comes to the end of its fixed term and the tenant stays at the property without renewing the contract. If the tenant continues to pay rent and it is accepted by the landlord, the tenancy will continue on a periodic, rolling basis.
This transition from fixed term assured shorthold tenancy to statutory periodic tenancy is automatic.
What is a Contractual Periodic Tenancy?
A contractual periodic tenancy differs in that it is agreed in the tenancy contract as opposed to automatically transitioning from a fixed term into a periodic tenancy. This can either be agreed upon at the start of the tenancy or shortly before the fixed term contract expires.
It is also possible to enter into a periodic tenancy from the outset by setting the initial term as one month or week.
How Does a Periodic Tenancy Work?
While a fixed term tenancy lasts for an agreed set of time, a periodic tenancy works on a rolling basis, from month to month or week to week. It doesn’t end until one party gives notice.
In a periodic tenancy, the period depends on when the rent is paid by the tenant. So, in a monthly period tenancy the tenant would pay rent each month.
Shorthold tenancies become periodic tenancies after the fixed term agreement expires and if there is no new contract drawn up with the remaining tenants. The assured shorthold tenancy will automatically become a periodic tenancy as long as the tenants do not change, and they are happy to retain the same contract. The same conditions will apply and there is no further action needed by the landlord or tenant.
Ending a Periodic Tenancy
To end a periodic tenancy, there are several legal processes that can take place;
- Both landlord and tenant mutually agree to end the tenancy
- The landlord decides to evict the tenant
- The tenant gives notice
- The landlord gives notice
Periodic Tenancy Notice: Tenants
To end a periodic tenancy, tenants will need to give the right amount of notice depending on the terms stated in the tenancy agreement. They also need to ensure it ends on the right day. For example, if a monthly periodic tenancy began on 1st January it will need to end on the last or the 1st day of the month. From this date, they will no longer be liable for rent payments.
Statutory Periodic Tenancy Notice
If it is a statutory periodic tenancy, tenants must give at least 1 months’ notice for a monthly contract or at least 4 weeks’ notice for a weekly contract. The notice must end on the first or last day of the tenancy period.
Periodic Tenancy Notice Period: Landlords
Landlords must give tenants a written ‘notice to quit’ which must end on the last day of the rental period, give the minimum notice period and include legal information.
For statutory periodic tenancies, it is also possible for landlords to issue a section 21 notice as long as the landlord gives the tenant at least two months’ notice and the last day is the last day of the tenancy period. If the tenant does not move out on this date, landlords have the right to request a court order to regain possession. However, changes to the law regarding section 21 notices now require a landlord to give their reasoning, alongside relevant evidence.
Benefits of a Periodic Tenancy for Landlords
A periodic tenancy can have wide-ranging benefits for both landlord and tenant, including;
- Increased flexibility. If you suddenly need to regain possession of your property, a periodic tenancy speeds up this process as you don’t have to wait until the end of a fixed period.
- Attracting tenants. For some tenants, this flexibility is a bonus. If your tenant moves a lot for work or often needs to relocate suddenly, a periodic tenancy becomes appealing.
- Reduced letting agency fees. Periodic tenancies can dispel the need for renewals and the administration costs that come with them.
- If for any reason you need to increase the rent, this is made a lot easier by periodic tenancies. Revisions to rent payments can be made much more quickly when operating on a month by month basis.
- If you are having issues with a particular tenant, a periodic tenancy may be in your favour as you are better able to evict problem tenants as a last resort.
Risks of Periodic Tenancies for Landlords
With these advantages also come risks. If you’re thinking of entering into a periodic tenancy, watch out for the following potential dangers;
- Naturally, periodic tenancies are more likely to attract tenants looking for shorter, more transient leases. If it’s stability you’re after, you may want to think twice.
- Similarly, shorter term tenants can cost more in terms of marketing and vetting potential new tenants to replace them.
- With 1 month or less notice periods, you don’t have a long turnaround time if a tenant decides to move out unexpectedly. You will need to have end of tenancy cleaning and maintenance processes finely tuned so as not to lose out.
- If your tenant moves out during a ‘notice to quit’ period, you may be liable for paying council tax for the property. To avoid this situation, make sure you have a contractual periodic tenancy agreement in place to ensure this remains the tenant’s responsibility.
Periodic Tenancies: Good Idea?
Periodic tenancies can be a good idea as they offer increased flexibility for both landlord and tenant and can reduce the number of administrative tasks needed throughout a tenancy.
However, to protect your investment, we recommend;
- Always drawing up a contractual periodic tenancy agreement. This way you have all the agreed terms in writing and won’t be liable for council tax payments if your tenant moves out unexpectedly.
- Getting your property marketing up to scratch to attract new tenants and avoid extended void periods.
- Making sure you have all the processes in place for a speedy turnaround to avoid any losses. This includes;
- A detailed and fuss-free inventory report is vital when you’re dealing with potentially shorter tenancies. Having a streamlined process in place will help protect you against loss or damage and help recover any costs without going through lengthy disputes.
Be Prepared with No Letting Go
The easiest way to protect your investment and maintain a happy landlord/tenant relationship is to entrust a comprehensive, unbiased inventory reporting service.
Here at No Letting Go, we provide a tailor-made service, including everything from check-in to property visits.
Find out more about our property services to see how we could build them into a package that suits you.
Subletting is surprisingly common and can offer benefits for both landlords and tenants. But what counts as subletting? And what do landlords need to know about the risks?
We explore what subletting is and what you can do as a landlord to mitigate the risks.
What is Considered Subletting?
Subletting is when a tenant decides to rent out either a room or whole property to a third party. For example, if a tenant decides to go travelling for an extended period, they might try to let their room out to another tenant to pay their rent. Other reasons could include;
- Change in income
- If they need to relocate before the end of a contract
- If another tenant decides to move out before the end of the tenancy and they need to fill the space
To be a sublet, the original, existing tenant needs to give exclusive access of at least one area of the property to the subtenant. The subtenant will not pay rent directly to the landlord but to the original tenant.
Is Subletting Illegal?
In most cases, subletting is legal if the tenant obtains the landlords permission to let out the rental property.
However, if the tenant sublets without written permission, they could come into legal difficulties.
Can A Landlord Refuse A Sublet?
This all depends on what it says in the tenancy agreement. If there is a section in the agreement that says a tenant can ask the landlord to sublet, landlords will need to have a valid reason for refusal.
However, if there is no mention of subletting in the tenancy agreement, as a landlord, you can refuse more easily.
It’s worth noting that in the case of fixed term tenancies, the tenant may still be able to sublet without consent if there is no mention in the agreement. That’s why it’s important to be clear on the terms of your agreement from the get-go.
Not keen on the idea of allowing a tenant to sublet? There are a few steps you can take to ensure it doesn’t happen;
- Include a section in the tenancy agreement prohibiting subletting
- Arrange regular property inspections to help prevent unwanted subletting. The professional carrying out the inspection will usually be able to tell if something is awry. It will also indicate to your tenants that you aren’t complacent as a landlord.
- Try to develop strong relationships with your tenants so they come to you first if they are having any difficulties making the rent.
If a tenant decides to go ahead and sublet without permission, there are two main circumstances that most commonly occur;
The tenant rents out a room in the property whilst still living at the address.
This is the most common situation, and often happens when flatmates move out unexpectedly.
In this situation, think carefully about how you want to proceed. If the new subtenant has caused no issues and the rent is paid on time, it can sometimes be advantageous to allow them to continue living at the property. If this is the case, draw up an agreement to stay protected. Don’t accept any payment until you have a proper tenancy agreement in place.
The tenant rents out several or all the rooms in the rental property whilst living at a different address.
This could have serious consequences for you as the landlord. If these subletting tenants report issues to the original tenant who they assume is the landlord, property maintenance issues may go unresolved and you start to lose control of your property.
What Happens If Your Tenant Sublets Without Permission?
If you discover your tenant is subletting without your permission, there are a few steps you can take;
- Talk to your original tenant first to find a solution
- If the tenant persists subletting, sub-tenants should be informed, and either be asked to vacate the property or draw up a new tenancy agreement for them
- If all else fails and the subtenant refuses to vacate, you may need to begin the eviction process
What Are The Risks Of Subletting?
If a tenant decides to sublet their room, there are a number of risks you need to be aware of;
Insurance and Mortgage
Some insurance and mortgage providers don’t allow subletting and ignoring this could lead to voiding your contract. It’s vital you avoid this at all costs by checking your agreement before allowing a sublet.
End of The Tenancy
If your original tenant decides to move out, but their subtenant is still living in your rental property, you may come up against issues. Evicting a tenant without a tenancy agreement can get complicated.
How Do You Sublet Safely? Tips for Landlords
Subletting doesn’t always spell disaster. In fact, it can be profitable for both landlord and tenant, solving common issues such as change of circumstance.
If you do decide to grant your tenant permission to sublet, here’s a few steps you can take to ensure your investment stays protected;
- Ensure you are clear on the contents of the tenancy agreement and what it says about subletting. If there is no mention, you may want to add a clause to be on the safe side.
- Spend time on tenant referencing to ensure you end up with reliable, trustworthy tenants.
- Spend time getting to know your tenants and making a good impression. This way, they are more likely to come to you first if their circumstances change.
- Carry out regular property inspections.
Protect Your Investment with No Letting Go
If you need a helping hand protecting your investment, we have teams of experienced inventory clerks across the country ready to support you.
We can provide regular property visits, every 3-4 months to ensure your property is being well maintained and tenants are fulfilling their contractual obligations.
In addition, a comprehensive inventory report is one of the best ways to protect your investment in the long term.
Interested in hearing more? Get in touch or visit our services page to find our property inventory packages.
What if your tenant moves out without paying their utility bills or council tax? Does it fall on you as the landlord to pick up the pieces?
This is a common question among both landlords and tenants, and it needs clearing up. So, who is responsible for unpaid utility bills? Let’s find out.
Are Landlords Responsible For Unpaid Utility Bills?
Not usually. As long as it is the tenant’s name on the bill, and it is stated in the tenancy agreement that tenants are responsible for utilities, landlords are not liable for unpaid bills left over by tenants.
However, as a landlord, there are some steps you will need to take to protect yourself if you find yourself in this tricky situation;
- Always tell the local council when a new tenant moves in. You will need to provide the names of the new tenants and the contact details of the previous tenants so they can get in touch if needs be.
- Inform the energy suppliers of the property of any change in tenancy (this includes gas, electricity and water)
- Encourage new tenants to change the name on the utility bills as soon as possible.
- Make a note of the meter readings at the start and end of each tenancy so you have a record for the utility companies.
- Ensure your tenancy agreement clearly states that utility payments are the responsibility of the tenant.
- Keep a signed copy of the tenancy agreement in a safe, easily accessible place.
What Bills Are Tenants Responsible For?
This depends on the tenancy agreement you have in place.
Commonly, tenants are responsible for the following bills;
- Council tax
However, this is not always the case. Let’s look at two different situations;
Utilities Registered In The Tenant’s Name
When bills are registered in the tenant’s name, the tenant is responsible for paying them from the date they move into the property. However, they are not responsible for any debts left behind from previous tenants. It’s important for tenants to check the meter readings on move-in day so they can supply their energy providers with the correct readings at the start of their tenancy.
In this case, landlords are not required to pay any remaining payments after their tenant has left. The utility companies will have to chase the tenant themselves, meaning the issue is out of your hands.
Utilities Registered In The Landlord’s Name
You can choose to register bills in the landlord’s name and ask the tenant to pay you for their usage. This can be helpful for short lets, or if you rent out a room in your own house. However, if the tenant leaves without paying, you may be responsible for paying the outstanding sum.
To avoid this situation, always follow the steps outlines above.
End Of Tenancy Utility Bills
To end a contract, most utility suppliers require a few days notice before the end of a tenancy. As long as the bills are in the tenant’s name, this is entirely their responsibility to organise.
If there is outstanding debt left over and…
- The utilities are in the landlord’s name
- Or the tenant failed to register for utilities whilst living at the property
You may be able to prove the tenants were living at the property if you supply a copy of the tenancy agreement. However, this will depend on the individual policies of the utility companies.
Who Is Responsible For Bills During Void Periods?
If your property is empty for any period of time, the owner of the property is responsible for utility payments.
This is why it’s best to keep energy usage to a minimum in between tenants. However, during the winter, we recommend keeping the heat consistent to protect against mould and damp and avoid further maintenance costs in the long run.
If your property is left vacant for an extended period, you will need to organise regular vacant property inspections to check for leaks or mould.
Who Is Responsible For Utilities In Multiple Occupancy Properties?
If there are several tenants living at a property, disputes can often arise regarding bills. The main thing to remember is that whoever’s name is on the bill is ultimately responsible.
This means, if all tenants in a house share or HMO rental property have their name registered to a utility bill, they are all equally liable to repay debts, even if it’s only one tenant who hasn’t paid.
Property Management Help From No Letting Go
One of the simplest ways to avoid disputes and protect your investment at the end of a tenancy is to have all of your property reports in one easily accessible place.
All of our check in reports come with utility checks and meter readings included to help landlords and property professionals keep on top of their responsibilities.
Keen to learn more about how our flexible reporting could help? Find our full list of property inventory services here.
Ending a tenancy can be awkward for both tenants and property professionals. Dealing with tenancy deposit returns, outstanding rent and resolving disputes can take time and a lot of effort. So, how can tenants and landlords alike ensure the end of tenancy goes smoothly?
No Letting Go’s chief operations officer, Lisa Williamson recently joined Richard Blanco on his podcast ‘Inside Property’ to discuss the types of issues that can arise and how to resolve them through unbiased, end of tenancy services.
Lisa was joined by Suzy Hershman, head of dispute resolution at My Deposits, and Al McClenahan, the director of Justice4Tenants to get a full picture from all sides of the story.
Here is a roundup of the key insights that came out of the programme;
Start as You Mean to End
Lisa’s top tip on ending a tenancy well is to determine a clear position from the start. The way to do this is through a well thought out inventory including detailed but concise information, clear photographs and a comprehensive list of contents and condition.
Creating a tenancy format which is easy to read by both parties is essential for avoiding confusion at the end of the tenancy.
Another tip for landlords from Lisa is to ensure that tenants sign the inventory report to avoid deduction disputes during check out.
An Unbiased Outlook is Key
One question that arose in the podcast was whether landlords should create their own inventory reports.
While it’s completely fair for a landlord to perform their own survey, they run the risk of using emotional language which can be interpreted in different ways.
This is where an independent inventory service can resolve issues. No Letting Go inventory reports include a glossary of terms to determine the condition and cleanliness of items in the property. For example, rather than a landlord using the word ‘immaculate’ to describe a piece of furniture which could come across as biased or open to interpretation, instead ‘professionally clean’ is a clearly explained term in the NLG glossary.
Another benefit of using a professional, unbiased property inventory service is that in the case of a dispute over deposit returns, judicators can clearly understand the benchmarks.
Are Pre-Check Out Meetings A Good Idea?
As an active landlord himself, Richard highlighted the benefit of arranging pre-check out meetings with tenants to go over what is expected of them during the moving out process.
This all sounds well and good, but the question is, who will pay for it? Landlords and tenants may be reluctant to fork out this extra cost, but it could save money further down the line.
Alternatively, providing tenants with an end of tenancy letter detailing all the tasks that need to be completed before moving out is a great way to prevent confusion over where responsibilities lie. This can include the date and time of the key handover and what needs to be cleaned.
End of Tenancy Property Cleaning
As the head of dispute resolution at My Deposit, Suzie Hershman has a lot of experience dealing with the common issues affecting landlords and tenants during the checkout process.
According to Suzie, cleaning comes top of the list when it comes to end of tenancy disputes.
The resolution is simple. Start with an inventory report which plainly states the condition of the property and how it is expected to be maintained. For example, if the property has a garden, the inventory needs to clearly state that the grass needs to be cut or the paving de-weeded and power washed before leaving the property.
Other issues that can arise include whose responsibility it is for window cleaning and whether professional carpet cleaning needs to be undertaken.
The main rule of thumb for tenants, is that the property needs to be returned in the original state as at the start of the tenancy. This may involve hiring an end of tenancy cleaning service (make sure you keep the receipt as evidence) or giving the property a thorough clean yourself. Either way, ensure you leave on the last day of your tenancy confident everything looks the same as it did when you moved in!
Fair wear and tear can be a bit of a grey area when it comes to cleaning. Suzie recommends that landlords should think of the items in their property as having a lifespan. A carpet or decor has an average lifespan of 5 years, which needs to be taken into consideration during the checkout report.
Managing the Landlord-Tenant Relationship
Al attributed this to poor inventories which leave too much room for interpretation and miscommunication, which is more common when landlords create their own.
Another common reason for strained relationships is when tenants are in arrears at the end of the tenancy agreement. To minimise conflict, Al recommends that tenants are as open and communicative with their landlord about their financial difficulties to help landlords remain understanding until the issue can be resolved.
However, when landlords view their role purely from an investment perspective and ignore the human side of the relationship, this is when disputes are likely to arise. The lesson? Landlords who are more understanding and willing to negotiate are likely to have better relationships with their tenants, resulting in a smoother parting.
How Will the Letting Agency Fee Ban Effect End of Tenancy?
There has been much discussion over what changes the letting agency fee ban will bring to the industry. However, for now, Lisa doesn’t see much change to the way check out reports will be processed.
Currently, landlords usually pay for the inventory, and for either check-in or check-out services while the tenant pays for the other. This means there is only one cost that needs to be recuperated by landlords.
According to Lisa, most landlords and tenants can see the advantages of having these services managed by independent professionals.
Unbiased End of Tenancy Services from No Letting Go
To ensure the end of a tenancy goes as smoothly as possible and you retain a positive relationship throughout, using an independent property service can help resolve issues and disputes before they arise.
No Letting Go provides all the documentation needed at the start and end of a tenancy to determine how much money is deducted from the deposit. Using the latest technology, No Letting Go can advise against fair wear and tear and create reports to ensure you are fully compliant with regulations.
To see the full list of services on offer, head to the No Letting Go services page.
There’s been lots of talk over the last few years around the possibility of abolishing letting agent management fees. Now, it seems, it’s come to fruition. On the 12th February, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 was passed and became law.
While good news for tenants, for lettings agents and landlords, this change requires careful planning. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s helpful to have all of the facts.
That’s why we’ve rounded up all the information about the new letting agent fees ban and what it means for landlords, letting agents, property professionals and tenants.
What are Letting Agent Fees For?
Up until now, letting agents have been legally permitted to charge fees for admin, tenant reference checks and other costs.
The responsibilities of letting agents include sourcing tenants, collecting rent, and acting as a means of communication between tenants and landlords.
Typical letting agent fees for tenants should be around £200 to £300 per tenancy, however some groups argue that this figure has been greatly increased by some rogue agencies. For tenants paying higher costs, this ban comes as welcome relief. However, lettings agents who charge reasonable and necessary fees may think otherwise.
The Government Proposal
The effort to get letting agent fees abolished was driven by the government’s aim to make renting more stable for tenants. With 4.5 million households in England now renting, this market is growing rapidly.
While they accepted that many letting agents provide a legitimate and valuable service, the issue of varying admin fees from agency to agency needed to be addressed.
According to the government, banning agency fees will result in greater transparency for tenants, make moving more affordable and allow landlords to ‘shop around’ to find the best letting agent.
The Tenant Fees Act 2019
The proposal to ban letting fees has been in process for a number of years.
The ball started rolling in April 2017, when the government opened up a dialogue to work on the details of the ban. The aims of the ban were to make renting ‘fairer and easier’ for tenants by making costs more transparent and to improve competition in the rental market. This consultation received responses from tenants (50%), lettings agents (32%), landlords (10%) and other stakeholders (8%).
The Tenant Fees Bill draft was then announced in June during the Queen’s speech at the opening of parliament.
In May 2018, housing secretary James Brokenshire MP introduced the bill to parliament, which then passed through the House of Commons in September.
January of this year saw the ban being passed in parliament which was then cemented as law on the 12th of February as the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
What is the Tenant Fee Ban?
The act sets out the new rules and standards for the ban on letting fees;
- Security deposits cannot be more than the cost of five weeks of rent payments. (Unless rent exceeds £500,000 when it’s capped at six weeks)
- The ban includes capping holding deposits to one weeks rent and making them refundable to the tenant
- The fee to change a tenancy will be capped at £50
- If a landlord or letting agent breaches the requirements, a fine of £5000 is payable in the first instance. If a similar offence has been committed within the last five years, it could be deemed a criminal offence. Prosecution or fines of up to £30,000 could be issued
- The ban will be enforced by Trading Standards who will help tenants recover funds that were unlawfully charged
- Landlords will be unable to seize possession of property via Section 21 until they have repaid any unlawful charges
- Letting agent fee transparency should be extended to property sites such as Zoopla and Rightmove
What Can Landlords and Letting Agents Charge Under the New Act?
Under the new act, property agents will only be permitted to charge for the following;
- Early termination of a tenancy at the tenant’s request. This means the costs to the landlord or letting agent to find tenants will be covered
- Council tax, utilities and communication services
- Payment of damages in the case of breached agreements
- Late rent payment
- Replacing keys etc.
Can Letting Agents Still Charge Fees?
Currently, yes. The ban only comes into play on the 1st June 2019. Until the letting agent fees ban date, this practice is still legal.
However, if you’re a landlord or letting agent you might want to start thinking about this change and what plans to put in place.
The Impact of the Ban on Landlords and Agents
One issue that is being raised regarding the ban is the possible impact on landlords. Some are arguing that the ban will result in charges being passed on from letting agents to landlords.
This, they argue, is counterproductive as it means landlords may be forced to raise monthly rent collections in order to make up costs.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) for example, are against the ban and believe that instead of an outright abolishment, fees should be ‘open, transparent and reasonable’. In response to the Government ban, ARLA recommend that upfront fees should be banned, but letting agents should be allowed to spread these costs across the tenancy.
They believe that a blanket ban would ‘put additional pressures on landlords, with fewer tenant checks and a lower quality of service’ and that ‘spreading the cost of these services will allow letting agents to retain current service levels to tenants’.
The Impact on Inventory Management
One suggested outcome of the ban is that letting agents will start to take inventory services ‘in-house’. A guide has been created by TDS, Propertymark and the Association of Independant Inventory Clerks (AIIC) to provide information on avoiding disputes regarding poorly executed inventories and deposit deductions.
Speaking on the report, the AIIC encouraged unbiased, comprehensive reports to protect all parties involved. Similarly, Propertymark highlighted the importance of a thorough inventory and the need for an ‘evidence-based approach’ to protect investments for both landlords and tenants.
Be Prepared with No Letting Go
Whichever stance you take, it‘s best to prepare for the changes early.
If you’re a landlord or letting agent looking to get ahead and prepare for the changes, No Letting Go can help.
We offer reliable, professional property management services to help you stay on top of your responsibilities and protect your investment. From property inventory reports to appraisals and tenant checks, No Letting Go helps protect your property for the long term.
Browse our full range of services here to see how we can help.
Letting out your property can be a daunting thought for many. How can you ensure your next tenant will be a good tenant?
Answer: with a tenant reference check.
But, many landlords are still in the dark about what the vetting process involves. So, what is it and why is it worth doing? Time to take a closer look.
What is a Tenant Check?
A tenant reference check is simply a way of determining whether a prospective tenant is reliable, and able to keep up with monthly rent payments.
Of course, there’s no way of guaranteeing how someone will behave in the future. However, tenant checks can give you an insight into who you’re letting your property out to.
Tenant Referencing – What Do They Check?
So, what do landlords check for?
Remember – this is about safeguarding both you and your property. You’ll want to ensure a potential tenant is who they say they are, and that they can keep up with their contractual obligations.
For this reason, the vetting process looks at a number of different areas, which can include:
Proof of Identity
Photo ID is usually preferable, such as a driver’s license or passport.
If this isn’t available, other forms of identification are sometimes accepted, such as a signed bank card. It’s up to you what to accept during the rent check.
Most landlords’ primary concern is whether a potential tenant will be able to keep up with their monthly rental obligations.
Checking their background allows you to see proof of this. Usually, this part of the referencing process includes:
- Proof of employment – such as a contract, a letter from an employer and/or recent payslips
- Bank statements (particularly if someone is self-employed)
- Proof of benefits claims (if applicable)
For a landlord, a tenant credit check is often seen as essential. However, when it comes to poor credit history, only CCJs and bankruptcy are public.
For this reason, their current financial situation is much more telling than a tenant credit check. Just because someone has fallen into rent arrears in the past doesn’t mean they will do now!
Unless, of course, their recent circumstances prove otherwise.
Right to Rent
It’s essential that your future tenant has a right to rent in the UK.
There are fines issued for private landlords who let to those not legally allowed to rent.
If you’re concerned that a certain tenant may not be able to afford their rent, you can ask for a guarantor. This is particularly prevalent in student properties, for example.
Sometimes, you can ask the guarantor to agree to a credit check. It’s also common to ask for recent payslips to ensure the rent can be paid should the tenant fail to do so.
If no guarantor is available, you can ask for a higher deposit upfront to cover any potential problems that may arise.
A Previous Landlord Reference
Ideally, you’re hoping for a reference that demonstrates that the tenant is reliable and trustworthy. This not only includes paying rent on time, but also respecting both the property and the landlord.
Questions to ask the landlord include:
- Did the tenant have any outstanding rent?
- Did the tenant cause any damage to the rental property?
- Did the tenant have any problems with the neighbours?
- Did the tenant receive their deposit back? If not, why?
- Would they rent to this tenant again?
If a prospective tenant is unwilling to provide the necessary contact details, this may send alarm bells ringing.
Details of Previous Address
You may also want to see proof of previous addresses, to ensure the tenant is who they say they are.
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How to Run a Background Check on a Tenant
Some landlords are happy to ask for the necessary information themselves.
This can be a time-consuming process, as you’ll need to gather a number of relevant details, such as guarantor information. You’ll also need to reach out to the employer, establish whether the potential tenant has any current debt and interview them.
Questions you may want to ask the tenant include:
- Will they be renting with pets?
- Will they have any family or friends staying with them regularly?
- What’s their working schedule like? Do they work night shifts?
- Have they read the tenancy agreement?
If you’re using a letting agent, they should arrange the vetting process on your behalf.
Should You Use a Tenant Referencing Service?
To ensure the background check is as thorough as possible, it’s recommended to use a professional tenant referencing company. For example, the National Landlords Association can run a check for you.
While these won’t be free, they will help minimise the risk of rent arrears or other potential issues that may arise.
For many, the extra cost is worth the peace of mind.
How Long Does Tenant Referencing Take?
The length of the process depends entirely on each individual situation.
Sometimes, if everything runs smoothly, your referencing company can complete the check in around 48 hours.
But, this isn’t always the case. The process can be delayed by a number of factors, such as:
- If a previous landlord drags their feet about giving a reference
- If a potential tenant takes a long time gathering necessary financial details
- If a potential tenant is unemployed, or a freelancer
- If a potential tenant cannot get a guarantor
A tenant reference check gives many landlords peace of mind. We can also help remove the stress of letting your property, with our professional inventory management services. We’ll ensure you’re compliant with all regulations, protecting both you and your property. Find out more about our services here.
Historically, landlords and animals don’t have the best relationship.
The fear of damage, infestations and related costs sometimes seem too much hassle than they’re worth.
But, people love their pets!
So, landlords who ban them run the risk of putting off many potential tenants. It can feel like a catch-22!
To try and help, here’s a landlord’s guide to renting with pets.
Pros of Being a Pet Friendly Landlord
When you think of animals and rental properties, you might only conjure up negative images.
But, there are some pros!
Here’s a closer look:
Expands Your Options
By allowing pets in your property, you open the door to a far greater number of potential tenants.
To some landlords, this makes clear business sense!
Tenants with pets know it’s not easy to find a landlord accommodating to their situation. This means they’re likely to stick around and settle in your house.
Encouraging a long term tenancy has many perks. From no rental void periods to the lack of hassle of constantly changing contracts, there are advantages to allowing tenants to lay their roots in your property!
But, this does come with its own compromises. Pets are one of these!
It’s fair to up the rent of any property that accommodates pets. We recommend adding a small amount that will help to account for wear and tear later on.
Don’t forget, you can’t claim back any money from the security deposit for fair wear and tear.
Increasing the rent on a property from £600 to £650 per month, for example, is a reasonable decision. It’s not a drastic inflation that will put tenants off. But, it can help to cover any additional work needed when the property is vacated.
A pet brings a greater risk of damage to your property, especially, if it’s furnished.
We recommend adding a fair amount onto the deposit to cover any additional costs that could be caused by the animal. Your top priority should always be to protect your investment! Peace of mind should never be underrated.
Some landlords choose to do things separately, and ask for a pet deposit. This is in addition to the standard security deposit. It’s up to you!
Helps Build a Positive Relationship
The best tenancies are happy tenancies! Establishing a good relationship between landlord and tenant is key to this.
As renting a pet friendly house is so rare, you seem like a reasonable and positive landlord for allowing it. While there are no promises, this may give your tenant more respect for you.
Plus, since most tenants will be aware that landlords like you are rare, they’re more likely to respect your home in hopes of staying there.
Attracts Responsible Tenants
Tenants with pets are generally more settled in their lives. This is due to the responsibility that comes with owning an animal.
The more stable and responsible the tenant is, the more likely they are to respect your property. This is a general rule, of course, as we can’t speak for everyone.
Reduced Void Periods
A pet friendly property is likely to let out quicker than one which isn’t.
With the abundance of tenants with pets out there and lack of rental properties who allow them, demand will be high.
This means facing the prospect of a void period is far less of a concern!
Cons of Being a Pet Friendly Landlord
Of course, with the positives come some inevitable consequences.
Some of these you might already be aware of, but, let’s dig a little deeper.
Risk of Damage
Pets are renowned for causing damage to properties.
From chewing through furniture to lack of house training, there can be a number of potential causes of damage by pets.
Of course, you can claim this back through the deposit. However, for some landlords, it’s not worth the risk.
Pets are notoriously smelly – even when they’re cared for properly. These smells can be difficult to shift.
The tenants often don’t notice it themselves, which makes it more frustrating.
This can also cause financial complications! Other than cleaning costs, pets can give the property a dirty feel which can lead to difficulty bringing in new tenants.
Animal hair is difficult to remove from upholstery and carpets.
If you’re in the unfortunate situation of letting to a tenant who isn’t too fond of cleaning, this can be an arduous or costly process for you.
A property which houses a pet requires an extremely thorough clean once it’s been vacated. This isn’t only costly, but time consuming too.
There’s the potential that future tenants may have a pet allergy!
Alternatively, if you, as the landlord, have an allergy, this can cause complications when you inspect your property.
If you let to an unsavoury tenant with an aggressive pet, you’re likely to face some serious difficulties.
This could be the welfare of your neighbours, the difficulty of communicating with your tenant, threatening behaviour or even being unable to inspect the property.
Of course, these are worst-case scenarios. But, it’s important to consider every possibility.
Some landlords feel that if they allow one pet into their property, tenants will take advantage of this.
Is there a danger of your investment becoming overrun with pets?
Problems With Neighbours
Will the neighbours be as accepting of the new houseguests as you?
Pets cause noise, wonder into nearby gardens or cause general annoyance.
If your tenants aren’t receptive to complaints, you’ll receive the brunt of the anger. Are you prepared for this?
How can you be sure that the pets you accept into your property won’t have fleas?
Infestations can cause lasting problems that can be costly to repair.
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What Animals Will You Accept?
Now you know the pros and cons, have you decided to go ahead with allowing pets into your property?
If the answer is yes, you need to work out what you will accept.
Obviously, there’s a big difference between a dog and a fish tank. Also, just how many pets will you accept – only one, or multiple?
It’s important to be clear on this very early on.
Let’s examine what you might be up against…
Renting With a Dog
Renting a house with a dog is a big deal. For most landlords, these are the animals they’re most wary of.
Here are just some of the problems they can cause:
- Noise, such as barking, causing complaints from the neighbours
- Damage, such as chewing up furniture (particularly puppies!)
- Bringing in fleas
You’ll need to be very clear on the rules you lay down before the tenant and their four-legged friend move in. For example, explain clearly that the animal isn’t to be left alone in the house for prolonged periods of time.
If your property is a flat, you might want to think carefully about with tenants keeping a dog is appropriate. They need lots of time outside, so access to a garden is often necessary.
Also, more often than not, the older the dog – the better! They’re more likely to be well trained, quieter and well behaved.
Whether you want to accept pets into your home or not, assistance dogs must be allowed. This is due to anti-discriminatory laws against disabled tenants.
In these circumstances, the choice of renting with pets is out of your hands.
Birds and Rental Properties
Birds might seem harmless on the surface. However, if kept in cages inside, this could lead to mess.
Also, think of noise. One bird might be manageable, but dozens of them could cause your neighbours serious disturbances.
Renting with Cats
Cats are one of Britain’s most popular pets!
Luckily for landlords, cats are relatively trouble-free. Many of them spend most of their time outside!
However, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to think about. For example, will you allow a litter tray in your property? If not, be clear on this before tenants move in.
Also, there are problems concerning cat fur. Some breeds of cat shed more than others! If you say you allow cats in your rental property, will this be breed-dependent?
Small Popular Pets
Particularly if you rent to a family with children, small furry animals might be a request.
These animals could include:
- Guinea pigs
- Pet rats
You might consider laying down rules that they must remain in cages outside, or live in rooms without carpet. Of course, the choice is entirely up to you!
Can You Let to Pet Owners?
Before you get carried away, though, you need to work out if it’s possible. Can you allow pets into your rental property?
If your property is leasehold, you might find it tricky to rent with pets. As many leases ban pets, you’ll need to change yours.
But, this can be easier said than done.
For example, if you own a flat in a large block, other leaseholders will need to be consulted. The more property owners, the trickier this will be.
Tips for Landlords Letting to Pet Owners
Allowing pets in rentals is a big consideration.
So, if you’re going ahead with it, here are some tips to help you along the way:
Meet the Pet
It might sound strange, but meeting the pet before agreeing to let to its tenants is essential.
You’ll be able to get a feel for its temperament, noise levels, how it reacts to new people and whether it’s house trained.
Of course, you can only get so much from one meeting. But, if the pet is badly behaved, that’s all you need!
If you feel it’s necessary, ask to meet the pet more than once.
Think of this as a bit like a ‘tenancy screening’, but for an animal!
Get a Previous Landlord Reference
Asking for a pet reference may sound a bit extreme. But, when it comes to looking after your property, nothing is too far!
If the potential tenant has let with their pet before, ask for contact details for their previous landlord. Find out information such as:
- How well behaved the pet was
- Whether any damage to their property was caused
- Was the tenant responsible?
- Did the neighbours complain?
- Were there any problems relating to the pet at all throughout the tenancy?
Set Up Open Communication from the Start
All tenancies require good communication from both parties.
However, when it comes to pets, this is even more important. It’s vital to speak with the potential tenant about their pet at the very beginning.
After that, clearly explain what it is you expect and lay down the rules. Make sure these are included in the tenancy agreement.
Consider Property and Pet
Your property and the pet itself… Are they compatible?
Cats and dogs might not enjoy living in a top floor flat, for example, as outdoor access is key.
Accept pets within reason. Think about the space and neighbours – not every pet will be able to live in your property!
If you’ve decided to rent with pets, your property’s inventory will be more important than ever. You’ll want to ensure there’s no room for miscommunication. No Letting Go can help you look after your investment. Find out more about our services here.
Looking to let out your property to new tenants?
It’s important to know who you’re renting your property out to and what to expect from them in the future. You’ll want a risk free applicant that doesn’t provide you with a mountain of financial stress and instability.
We’ve created a guide to the best tenant referencing companies that you should be aware of for your property management franchise and what they can offer you.
Husmus offers three instant tenant referencing report types. Their comprehensive product instantly returns a report containing credit checks (CCJs, Bankruptcy, Insolvency, address verification), Identity and Right to Rent confirmation. Additionally, it covers past rent payment, as well as income and affordability verification based on careful analysis of tenant bank statements and long-term net disposable income.
Packages start from £9.95 for the basic option, up to £39.95 for full comprehensive checks. They also offer bulk and unlimited tenant referencing packages for high volume users.
FLS Tenant Referencing
An independent referencing service that’s available on a pay-as-you-order basis, FLS Tenant Referencing has operated in the UK since 1992 and offers all of the expected credit reports and associated services you’d hope to find from a tenancy referencing company.
Their packages include company referencing, credit check plus, insight referencing and full profile referencing. Ranging from £9.95 to £34.95, they provide various levels of detail for response times that can be immediate or within a 48 hour period.
Tenant Referencing UK
With multiple different services across the board, including advertising, referencing and insurance, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Tenant Referencing UK.
Numerous packages are on offer which suit a variety of needs, starting with ‘DIY Referencing’ at £7 and bumped-up versions for £40. They’ll calculate costs, process your forms and ultimately get you the answers you need for your potential applicants.
Rent 4 Sure
Rent 4 Sure keep their services at the forefront of their advertising, making it clear what they offer and how it can benefit you. With three types of tenancy referencing to choose from, including credit checks, full referencing and company referencing, you’ll have a variety of choice to suit you.
Van Mildert Landlord and Tenant Protection
Much like other landlord protection companies, Van Mildert has property security in mind when it comes to their referencing services.
You can expect to obtain a wealth of information from numerous sources, including a comprehensive credit report, employment references, landlord references, verified bank statements and a final judgement as to whether your tenant is likely to pay the rent on time or cause any problems.
Established in 1996, this letting company offers experienced services to its customers and prides itself on reliability. There are all of the standard options you’d want, with fast response times to keep you up to date.
You can select from full reference checks, instant credit searches, company references and remote referencing. Their most popular service, full referencing, benefits from a credit history check, voters roll confirmation, location information, PCC Paragon tenants database checks, agent and landlord references, as well as income information.
This insurance and tenancy referencing company has over 25 years’ worth of expertise at hand. With three levels of checks to choose from, and a rent guarantee designed to protect your income should a tenant fail to pay rent, there’s plenty to be drawn towards here.
HomeLet’s ‘Optimum’ choice offers full checks and a guarantee to remove tenants from a property should they fail to pay the rent. The other, cheaper options at £45 and £25 respectively, offer various degrees of checks and references to give you a clear picture of your potential tenant.
Experian’s tenant screening services allows landlords to monitor existing tenants and evaluate potentially new ones. They have a variety available with differing wait times. You can choose from instant or comprehensive checks, as well as background screening designing for private landlords.
RLA Tenant Referencing
Registering with the Residential Landlords Association is free and the company offers a pay-as-you go system for referencing services. You’ll be able to choose from tenant, guarantor and company references.
Tenants complete their applications online, and you can receive a discount if you’re an RLA member. Full support is available by email or telephone with comprehensive and uncomplicated reports to keep things simple.
Looking for something more immediate? Mudhut offers an instant, quick checking service starting at £12. You’ll receive a credit score, identity and residency checks, electoral roll checks, electoral roll checks, alters, aliases and financial associates, bankruptcy and insolvency checks, county court judgements and checks on previous addresses.
Information is sourced from Equifax and a risk assessment is provided to determine if you’re getting a suitable tenant for your property.
This tenant referencing company provides two distinct packages for £20.
The first is a ‘speedy reference’ that you’ll receive within one working day, and includes credit checks, linked addresses and identity information, as well as extra court information and the right to rent check and advice.
The second, the ‘comprehensive reference’, includes all of the above with extra stats on affordability rating, previous landlord referencing, employer’s references and rent guarantee insurance eligibility. You’ll have to wait longer however, and should expect your report back within three to five working days.
Established in 2001, Rentguard are confident in their ability to recognise the good and the bad when it comes to potential tenants. They offer a range of referencing services including a full profile, credit check, insight referencing, and company reference checks.
A full profile run down includes written verification of income, previous letting references, residency confirmation, affordability calculations, full credit history checks, application tracking and a comprehensive report sent by fax or email. They’ll respond within 1 to 2 working days.
Total Tenant Referencing
Implemented by Rent4Sure, Total Tenant Referencing pool from several sources of information and provide you with details on a potential application’s ability to pay rent, their general history, as well as additional stats and figures. They also offer rent protection, legal expenses and tenant’s liability insurance.
Alan Boswell aim to reduce the risks associated with letting properties by offering landlords both the full referencing service as well as an online credit check. Both are £29.50 and £12.50 per person respectively, and give an extensive insight into potential tenants.
Also available is the company reference check for £21.50 per company, where you’ll receive verification of business activities, details of any previous names or subsidiaries, an analysis of profit and loss counts, county court judgement searches, verification of director details and a full comprehensive report sent by email.
Being a landlord is no easy business, and since your property is your livelihood, we believe in protecting it. We can help you safeguard your property, with full check-in and check-out services that ensure a hassle-free and impartial inventory check. Find out more about how No Letting Go can help you here.
New Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Legislation 2015 for England, comes into effect on 1st October which means that landlords of residential properties must have smoke alarms fitted on every floor and carbon monoxide alarms in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance. To support landlords and letting agents, No Letting Go has launched an inspection and installation services across its 50 regional offices. These regulations cover all private rented properties not just new tenancies which are let on assured shorthold tenancies and is retrospective.
Nick Lyons, CEO of No Letting Go, says “with the enormous and somewhat challenging task agents and landlords now have with which to meet the requirements of the new legislation, we have launched a fully insured and audited inspection and installation service both as a standalone service or combined with our current inventory or check out , to help agents and landlords across the UK comply with the legislation.”
By providing this service No Letting Go will test, register and record all existing alarms, replace batteries and/or install new alarms where necessary. All information will be recorded in a report and on our web base system, accessible 24/7 providing a full audit trail to ensure agents and landlords meet these latest legislative requirements.
Check for details of your local office here, call our head office on 0203 1264 409 or e mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.