So you’ve found a property for your new buy to let property empire – what next?Here are a few things you should be doing before you hand the keys over to your first tenant.
- Undertake a full inspection of the property and compile a detailed photographic schedule of the property internally and externally together with your notes and a date.
- Instruct a professional lettings and management agent. You don’t have to do this, of course, but why make your life harder than it needs to be?
- Make good any obvious and outstanding maintenance issues before the property is let. This will save you hassle later!
- Undertake any improvements or decorations you had planned.
- If the property is part or fully furnished, have all electrical items checked by a properly qualified person, have all gas appliances (including the central heating boiler) gas safe certified and make a recurring diary note to have it done annually.
- Undertake a risk assessment of any header tanks, central heating systems and other water sources / storage (including dehumidifiers and air conditioning units) to identify any dangers likely from spreading of Legionnaire’s Disease.
- Check your EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). From April 2018 any residential property let by a private Landlord must have a compliant certificate illustrating a minimum EPC of Grade E.
- Make sure you start a file for your new property and record all expenditure (including keeping invoices and receipts) incurred in maintaining or improving your property. This expenditure is treated differently by the taxman, dependent on the nature of the work and some costs are deductible against rental income whilst other costs might be deductible against any chargeable capital gain you might make in the future. But you need to keep records in order to do this.
- Make sure you have a thorough and fully compliant tenancy agreement that complies with the provisions of the Housing Act and does not inadvertently risk becoming voidable due to unlawful contract terms.
- Compile a full inventory of the property and any fixtures, fittings, appliances and furniture that is on the premises. If you employ a professional lettings agent they can do much of this for you.
- Make up a laminated contact card for your tenants and include important information including how they contact you, serve notices in accordance with their tenancy, how they pay rent or report damage or maintenance issues, etc. You should also make up a file for important documents like the boiler service manual and location of the mains water stopcock and how to turn off gas and water, etc. Include this folder in your inventory, a copy of which can also be included in this folder.
- Take meter readings on the days your tenant moves in and report them to your utility providers.
- Make sure you have at least one full spare set of keys and give another set to your tenants. If two front and back door keys are required consider cutting them yourself rather than have your tenants cut copies of keys without authority. Better still, consider changing all main door locks and use a specialist locksmith that can provide a suite of special keys with a master key (for you). Many Landlords with multiple properties swear by this as it means they can access all their properties with just one master key. Of course, once you have let your property you cannot enter your property without giving the tenant proper notice.
- Decide which third party you are going to use to hold your tenant’s surety deposit and make sure it is lodged in the appropriate timeframe. Make sure to notify your tenant in the proper manner. If you have employed a professional lettings and management agent they can do this for you.
Remember, owning a buy to let investment should be treated like running a small business. Please contact Duncan Yeardley for further expert advice.