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Property Hawk

MORE LETTING TIPS

Many of you will have read part one of expert tips given by two of our readers Maggie and Terry Samuel on how to let out high quality properties to student tenants.  These tips are not just useful to student landlords they are also of interest to all landlords letting out buy-to-let property.

Maggie and Terry Samuel; both teachers in the West Country, remembered their student days when they stayed in places almost unfit for human habitation.  They were determined to provide something better.  They started six years ago when they purchased their first property for their daughter when she went to university.  This enabled her to stay rent free whilst the other students paid for the mortgage.  They have subsequently developed their portfolio by buying one additional property each year.  They are self taught having done most of their research over the Internet.

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Here are some more of their tips to help enable landlords to run more effectively their lettings business: 

The importance of Inventory or Schedule of condition
Landlords should always try and find a free example of an inventory on the Internet and compile a detailed 'Inventory, Schedule of Condition and Safety Check List'.

The safety section should include: number of smoke/heat alarms, carbon monoxide alarm, make a note 'all tested and in working order'; Landlord's Gas Safety Certificate, PAT (Portable Appliance Test certificate of the Landlord's electrical goods) and the 5 year  electrical certificates all supplied; burglar alarm, include note 'demonstrated and in working order' and fire safety equipment has been checked.

Landlords should attach photos, dated and signed by both tenant and landlord on the reverse. They should include photos of all rooms, showing positions of furniture plus key potential problem areas such as inside the cooker, behind kitchen appliances, cleanliness of lounge carpet and the condition of the garden and lawn, if they are maintaining this area.

Landlords should write 'cleaned to a good standard' against rooms in the inventory and provide a definition, so there can be little doubt as to what this means, such as: ''No dust or debris behind, underneath and on top of furniture, fixtures and appliances; cookers are clean and virtually free from burnt on grease, particularly on oven racks and trays; fridges, freezers and microwaves are clean and empty; Venetian blind slats, curtains and covers are clean; hard floors are mopped;
mirrors are clean; bins are washed; walls are free from washable marks and blu-tak type stains.' and so on. A detailed inventory will support claims for damage and cleaning at the end of the tenancy.

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Checkout leaflet

Landlords should devise a simple checkout leaflet, outlining the procedures and expectations at the end of the tenancy.  Give it to the students at the start of the tenancy.  When issuing a Section 21 notice, probably towards the end of the tenancy, remind them about the checkout leaflet.

Duty of care

A landlord’s 'duty of care' should include a thorough safety check of their buy-to-let property. A landlord should also provide a 'Household Folder', packed with helpful information. Contents could include: Moving and Living in the Premises, Student and Landlord Responsibilities, General Health and Safety, Location of Services in the House and Electrical Safety, Disposal of Refuse, Condensation, Pest Control, Use of Candles, Noise, Nuisance and Neighbour Disputes, Who is Responsible for what Repairs, Cleaning, Visits by the Landlord, Crime Prevention, Fire Safety, First Aid and Useful/Emergency Telephone Numbers. The landlord’s ‘Household Folder’ could also contain the legal certificates, instructions on the use of appliances and the buy-to-let investment’s property’s checkout leaflet.

Avoid the TDS

According to the Samuel’s landlords should stop taking a security deposit and avoid the Tenancy Deposit Scheme altogether.  Instead when the contract is signed, landlords should charge each student tenant a perfectly legal, £50 non returnable administration fee. Landlords shouldn’t bother paying for a credit reference check. Students usually have very little credit history.  Instead, landlords should create a separate guarantor agreement, which is usually a parent, for each tenant and include 'joint and several' responsibility. Landlords should remind guarantors that if they default 'you may record this with a Credit Referencing Agency and IDS Ltd, who may supply the information to other credit companies or insurers in the quest for the responsible granting of tenancies, insurance and credit.' Landlords should give guarantors the checkout leaflet, so they understand the standards expected at the end of the tenancy. Landlords should make sure the agreement is a deed by including 'This document is a DEED and has been executed as a DEED. This Deed of Guarantee is governed by English Law and is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.' Increasingly foreign students rent buy-to-let property and in an extreme case landlords don't want to end up in a foreign court. If landlords are storing guarantor details, register under the 'Data Protection Act'.

If you as a landlord no longer take a security deposit; you must not harass students for money for damage and lack of cleaning, instead send a duplicate copy of your request for compensation to the student's guarantor and they will do the legal harassment for you. Landlords should keep copies of all correspondence.


Insurance cover for emergency plumbing

Landlords should purchase 24 hour emergency plumbing cover. The Samuels use British Gas Homecare Agreement for central heating, plumbing, drains and electrics. The British Gas plumbing and drains insurance will cover the replacement of a washer in a leaking tap.

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As far as the tenant's responsibility for replacing tap washers, the Samuels suggest a general clause is included in the tenancy agreement such as:

'Replace all defective electric light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, starters, fuses, tap and flexible pipe connections to a washing machine washers and vacuum filters and belts ensuring all reasonable safety precautions are observed.'

In addition to the above the Samuels ensure that all their properties have accessible inline valves in the pipe work, so that leaking taps are easily isolated in order for the repair to be carried out by the tenant, if necessary.

Tenantable Repairs

The Samuels also include the following under the definition of Tenantable Repairs in their modified tenancy contract which aims to shift the responsibility for minor repairs onto the tenant & make this clear from the outset:

"Tenantable Repair" means you are responsible for carrying out safely, day to day small repairs that any home-occupier would normally do e.g. re-hanging a
cupboard/wardrobe door, replacing light bulbs and batteries, tightening screws on furniture and fixtures, refitting a door handle, bleeding radiators
of air, replacing a tap washer, removing mould, refitting a toilet seat or toilet roll holder, tightening or replacing a washer in a flexible water pipe on a washing machine. This list is indicative and not prescriptive of the types of reasonable every day repairs that need to be done to keep the Premises in the same condition as at the start of the Tenancy. This excludes items, which the Landlord has responsibility in law.

How does it work? The tenant either makes the repair.  This is easy with inline valves in place or in one particular case they paid for someone to do it for them.

Property Hawk likes this concept and suggests that it offers a landlord a way of reducing their repair costs.  We would suggest that the wording in the clause is slightly amended to include the following sentence as well.

"BUT nothing in this clause imposes on the Tenant any duty placed on the Landlord by:
a. s.11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; or
b. this Agreement."

Landlords in interpreting tenant repairs & responsibilities may find it useful to refer to Lord Denning judgment in the case Warren v Keen (1954)


Warren v Keen (1954)
(Court of Appeal, 1953)

In this judgement, Denning LJ stated:

“What does ‘to use the premises in a tenant-like manner’ mean ? ..The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys when necessary, and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do those little jobs about the place which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house wilfully or negligently; and he must see that his family and guests do not damage it; and if they do, he must repair it ...

If you have any ideas and suggestion about managing and letting residential property, please let us know and we can include these useful tips in our forthcoming articles.

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