By being a landlord, you are making a huge investment not just financially, but also emotionally all with the aim to gain a regular, decent and sustainable return on your investment that could be your key source of income and or a future nest egg for when you retire.
It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. The private rented sector is heavily regulated with more hoops to jump through on the horizon but it can be a lucrative source of income and quite fulfilling as you help families settle into your well run and safe properties. For many landlords, renting out the property may be your biggest or even sole source of income and, as such, it is an invaluable asset. The same could be true with any commercial asset, so it is vital to keep the property safe and maintained.
As trustworthy and reliable you may consider your tenants to be, trust alone is not a sufficient guarantee that they will care for the property and help you to maintain it. Tenants, quite rightly, view your property as their home, and will understandably cherish their privacy. But occupation is not ownership and it is essential to balance the expectations of tenants with the rights of ownership which lie with you, the landlord. Striking that balance has, and probably never will be, easy.
That said; by engaging with the right suppliers, agents and ensuring safety and management processes are in place will certainly mitigate any potential issues or hazards but let’s be clear here – there is no simple way around it. The only way to be sure that your property is safe and secure is to carry out regular inspections. This can be a straightforward or a difficult step in your management of the property and often will involve a lot of work for you or your letting agent while balancing the needs and minimising the inconvenience to your tenant.
It’s definitely worth keeping at the forefront of all that you do that the tenancy agreement is a business contract and should therefore be underpinned and supported by a legal framework that protects your assets.
That’s why the provisions you should always pay close attention to all fall within the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The act gives landlords the right to enter their premises to view its ‘condition and state of repair’. That right is qualified to the extent that any inspection must be conducted at ‘reasonable times of the day’, on not less than 24 hours’ written notice to the tenant. Any agent carrying it out on your behalf must be authorised in writing.
This helps ensure that the tenant feels safe and comfortable in the property and not feel subject to arbitrary, unannounced visits that might constitute a breach of their privacy and right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property. It is, as already mentioned, their home so as a responsible landlord you want to make sure they feel that their rights are being upheld and certainly considered.
The reasoning behind these provisions is to ensure that the property is maintained and therefore, safe and is made explicit in the act, which refers to the landlord or lessor’s ‘implied repairing covenant’ and the tenant’s reciprocal implied covenant to allow access.
That is the source of your legal authority as a landlord. So what are the practical considerations?
At the beginning and the end of any tenancy, it is vital that you carry out or better still, commission an independent, comprehensive inventory, which covers not just contents, furniture and appliances but extends to floors, floor coverings, walls, ceilings and anything structural and cosmetic. Any discrepancy between the check in and the check out reports that goes beyond normal wear and tear will generally give you the right, at the very least, to make a valid claim against the tenants deposit. This is why regular property inspections are so vital during the tenancy as they help inform the final report that identifies and records any material change before the tenant hands back the key.
A landlord who is serious about protecting their property should conduct regular interim inspections. This should be specified in the tenancy agreement, which the 1985 Act supports because the right is implied in law. It is common for periodic inspections to be carried out every few months, although in a longer tenancy where such inspections have not raised any concerns, the frequency is often reduced.
Typical periods for interim visits can be…
- Every 3-4 months if the property is let on short-term lets
- Every 12 months if the property is let for over 12 months
- Every 2-3 years if the property is let very long term
- At least every 3-6 months for an HMO Property
Some care needs to be taken here though, because unless there is a good reason for frequent visits, a tenant could have grounds to file a complaint if they feel that the inspections are more abirtary and invasive, rather than about being supportive and looking to maintain the property. In any case, in the interests of certainty and transparency, it is important to produce a written inspection report with pictures to act as evidence. You may wish to give a copy to the tenant and or at least let them know of any issues or problems found – especially if they revolve around poor maintenance of the property due to the tenants lack of care and consideration.
It may be tempting, especially if you have a good relationship with your tenant, to rely solely on them to inform you of problems as they arise. The difficulty with this is that, because it’s their home which they have become utterly accustomed, they won’t always appreciate when something is wrong, whereas a professionally conducted interim inspection will see into and under every metaphorical corner and carpet
A property inspection can be either a very light touch or an extensive report, but that doesn’t mean it has to be time consuming. Fortunately, with the innovations and updates available for today’s technology; landlords can commission easy to access reports compiled using property inspection app to make the process faster, more efficient and more accurate than the conventional pen and paper.
While the check out report at the end of the tenancy provides you with a retrospective option for any loss or damage, an interim inspection gives you the opportunity to jump on any issues before they have the chance to fester and grow therefore limiting any long term potential harm by instigating early repairs and anticipating major problems by catching their causes early.
So what should you be looking for?
- evidence of pets
- evidence of unauthorised tenants / over-occupancy
- evidence of smoking
- evidence of abuse of the property
- evidence of faulty plumbing
- evidence of excessive cracks
- evidence of damp and or condensation
- evidence of faulty smoke detectors and or tampering of the alarms
- evidence of anti social behaviour
- evidence that the garden is being maintained
- evidence of external issues
- evidence of broken windows and or glass
This is not an exhaustive list as properties often come with their own unique set of issues and problems but that is where an experienced inventory provider is such a sound investment as they will see so much more than you as the landlord as they have no vested interest in the property. No emotional attachment to sway their views and findings; their key focus is about what they can evidence and showcase.
In times gone by, it was all too common for reports to miss issues, fail to spot the problems and overlook something which might turn out to be crucial, but with the advancement of technology and the adoption of high standards it is much easier now to compile property reports that are comprehensive, concise and protect the asset all using uniquely designed inventory software.
However, the responsibility to maintain a safe and secure environment for the tenant still lies with you, and any letting agent you engage to act on your behalf. Putting in place a regular inspection regime will help you to manage the property and comply with the law giving both you and the tenant the maximum protection. Every property is individual, so the contents of every inspection report will differ, but each one needs to be rigorously thorough. Both legislation and law and technology provide the tools – it’s up to you to use them.
InventoryBase has a library of preset templates and a wealth of experience with locally sourced and professional inventory services via our Workstreams network. Vetted and insured; experienced clerks ensure that no area is missed, and by using a template evidence is fact-based and can be relied on should you ever need to go to dispute.
InventoryBase – Inspection and Property Inventory Software made simple