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Landlords – Time for a Visit

Student landlords, now that your new student tenants have settled in, it’s time to plan your first landlord visit to check the state and condition of the rental property. Landlords should do this by the end of October so as to catch any issues early, before they spiral out of hand!
Landlords might call them visits rather than an inspection, suggesting a more friendly approach. The main purpose is to check that the property isn’t being abused and the place is clean and tidy.

It is reasonable for landlords to visit, for about half an hour per property, 3 or 4 times during a 12-month tenancy. A follow up may be necessary if something serious needs rectifying.

Property is with an letting agency? Landlords need to check what they include as part of their routine visit. Always ask for or produce your own written report if you are visiting a property.

A written report improves communication and should be no longer than one side of A4. It enables ongoing issues to be raised again; helps avoid misunderstandings; acts as a memory jogger for the next visit and may provide evidence at the end of the tenancy if there are deposit deductions. A copy for the landlord and tenant should be signed and dated.

Include health and safety reminders to demonstrate your duty of care towards your student tenants. Make a photographic record of any key issues found.

Here are some of the areas to consider on a visit. Check they are:

* Regularly testing the smoke/heat/carbon monoxide alarms.
* Replacing dead light bulbs with energy efficient ones to save on electricity bills.
* Not storing anything in the gas boiler cupboard.
* Dealing with mould as/if it appears.
* Cleaning the cooker.
* Regularly mowing the lawn.
* Not building up a pile of rubbish in the house or garden.
* Completing small tenantable repairs.

Pre-printed reminders on the report might include:

* Remember to recycle bottles, cardboard and cans.
* Expect a visit, such as a gas inspection for the Landlord’s Gas Certificate.
* Give prospective tenants viewing the property a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (leave copies with the tenants).
* Give an indication by the end of (November 2008?), as to whether your existing or modified group would like to rent the property for a further year.
* Check if they have installed a house telephone or whether a mobile number or email address have changed.
* Check if they have changed gas or electricity suppliers.
* Make a note of our next visit on (?).

Note in the report any agreed repairs or improvements.

Our pre-Christmas visit includes the following pre-printed reminder on the report:

Student occupied house may be more vulnerable to burglary, particularly during vacations, when the house may be unoccupied for a longer period. More thieves break in through windows than doors. More thefts occur in daylight hours. The risk to your property can be reduced if you follow these guidelines:-

* Lock ALL external doors and windows where locks are fitted, when the property is unoccupied even if you are only leaving for a short time. It’s worth using a decent locksmith if you are concerned with the security of a rental property.
* If there is a bolt/lock on a rear gate make sure it is locked during vacations. If possible lock a garden store. If there is a security light operated by an internal switch, make sure it is switched on.
* Whenever the house is unoccupied, even for a short time, set the burglar alarm.
* Never put items that may be attractive to a burglar in view of the window.
* Open curtains during the day, close them at night. Leave a light on in a room, not the hall and/or a radio on, using a time switch when the house is empty. Make the house look lived in.
* Never leave a spare key in a ‘secret’ hiding place outside the property, such as under a doormat, in an artificial stone or flowerpot. Thieves will look there first. Always take care of keys otherwise the lock has no value. Carry keys with you and never leave them in a lock.
* Carry cheque books, cars and cash with you at all times.
* Ensure all valuable items are adequately insured. Keep a detailed description of your property such a make, hallmarks or imperfections. Make a list of serial numbers of your electrical equipment. Use a UV marker pen and post code your property with your home address and include your house number. Keep photos of these items.
* Mark your academic books and files with your name and student id number.
* Is anyone passing or going near the property during a vacation? If so, call in and pick up the post and check that nothing has been left outside the front door, such as a new telephone directory. Alternatively give a key to a trusted friend, who is around for at least part of a vacation and ask them to check on the post and house.
* When leaving the house for the vacation, take all of your valuables with you.

Providing a written report will create a valuable audit trail should any of the recorded information or issues need to be revisited in the future. At the very least your visit should hopefully ensure the property is well cleaned several times a year!

Article written by the experienced student landlord BEE IN THE BONNET



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