Becoming a landlord involves far more work than many people realise – simply buying a rental property is the relatively easy part.
Before you can welcome tenants, there are a host of legal requirements you need to fulfil, both for your tenants’ and your own protection.
Then there’s the small matter of getting the property in the best condition to attract renters, getting your marketing right, and making sure you get great tenants – plus the ongoing inspections and potential maintenance.
There’s so much to do, especially in the early days, that we’ve put together an essential landlord checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything that could prove costly down the line.
All the essential tasks are covered in full below, and you can tick items off on our landlord checklist download
We’ve broken it down into the following sections so you can easily find the information you need wherever you are in the process of becoming a landlords:
Will you be using a rental agency?
You can either choose to rent the property yourself, or use a letting agent do it on your behalf.
Agencies can take a lot of the hard work out of renting, charging a percentage of the rental fee each month, the level of which depends on the extent of their involvement, from simply finding a tenant and processing the paperwork to fully managing the property.
Agents can help with collecting the rent, organising repairs, responding to tenant queries and helping with disputes, while they should also have up-to-date knowledge of legal requirements and, if required, eviction processes.
They may also be able to secure a higher rent because of their knowledge of the local letting market.
However, if you have plenty of time, and the confidence to handle everything yourself, you can save money on fees and keep an eye on every aspect of your property rental.
Also look for agencies that are members of an accreditation scheme like Safe Agent, or trade associations including the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the UK Association for Letting Agents.
Consent from your mortgage lender
Before renting out your property, you will need to get consent from your mortgage lender.
If you’re buying a property with a buy-to-let mortgage, this will take care of itself, but you can be caught out if you already have a mortgage on a property you live in but then plan to rent out.
If you fail to get consent to rent from your existing mortgage provider, you could be in breach of the terms of your loan.
Similarly, if you are planning to rent out a leasehold property, you may need consent from the freeholder under the terms of the lease.
Get landlord insurance
You’ll need specialist landlord insurance when renting out a property to protect you from risks not normally provided by standard home insurance.
While not a legal requirement, it is usually required as a condition of your buy-to-let mortgage, if you have one.
Failing to inform your insurer that you are renting out a property may invalidate the policy.
As well as building and contents cover, landlord insurance can offer additional protection, including:
- Non payment of rent
- Damage to property by the tenant
- Loss of rent if your tenant has to move out because of an insured event like fire
- Property owners liability
- Emergency overnight accommodation for your tenant
Do you need to register as a landlord?
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are mandatory registration schemes for landlords, but there is no legal requirement to do so in England.
By law, all private landlords in Northern Ireland must register with the Landlord Registration Scheme, which provides education and support to landlords.
In England, although not a requirement, joining a Landlords Association can help boost your credibility, and opens the door to a wealth of help and support.
Understand your finances
There are all sorts of financial implications to becoming a landlord, not least your tax liabilities.
See our Landlord Tax Guide 2020/21 to make sure you fully understand what taxes you will need to pay, and how to make the most of allowable expenses and income tax allowances.
Do you need a licence for a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO)?
If your property meets the following requirements it’s classed as a ‘large HMO’ and must be licensed:
- Rented to five or more people from more than one household
- Some or all tenants share communal facilities, such as kitchen and bathroom
HMO licensing is handled by local councils, who all have their own safety requirements, and rules differ across the nations of the UK.
More information on HMOs can be found in our Landlord HMO guide.
Landlords have a legal duty to keep their tenants safe. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines, or even prison for the worst offences.
There are a few different areas within the “property safety” umbrella, comprising electrical and gas systems, fire safety and the general condition of the building and its fixtures.
What certificates does a landlord need to provide?
The two key safety certificates landlords must provide to their tenants are those for electricity and gas, plus an Energy Performance Certificate.
Gas safety certificate: Landlords must have all gas appliances, pipes and flues checked annually by a Gas Safe engineer, and provide a copy of the CP12 certificate to new tenants on moving in and to existing tenants within 28 days.
Electrical safety certificate: New rules came into force on July 1, 2020, under the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020.
A qualified electrician must carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), which must be given to new tenants at the start of the tenancy.
Further inspections, which cover wiring, plug sockets, light fittings, fuse boxes and permanent fixtures like showers and extractors, must be completed every five years.
The best way of ensuring the safety of non-fixed appliances you supply, like fridges, washing machines, or toasters, is to employ an electrician to undertake Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) at each change of tenancy.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): Landlords must provide an EPC for all self-contained properties with their own kitchen and bathroom facilities.
The EPC gives your tenant information about how much energy a property uses and how much this is likely to cost, using a rating system from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).
Failure to provide an EPC, which costs from £50 from a qualified assessor, can lead to a fine.
Read more about landlord certificate requirements.
What are the fire safety requirements?
Fire safety for landlords is covered by a range of different legislation. For full details see our article on fire safety rules for landlords, but here are the the most important mandatory requirements:
- Carry out a fire risk assessment, which highlights all fire-related hazards and how they should be mitigated
- Ensure appropriate escape routes are available, and advise your tenant to keep access clear
- All furnishings you provide must meet fire safety standards
- Smoke detectors must be fitted on each floor, with a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms that house a solid fuel burning appliance like a wood burner
- Ensure all doors that lead to the outside can be easily opened from the inside
- Landlords of houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) must provide fire extinguishers and blankets, and a fire alarm
Fit for human habitation
Under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, all rented properties must ensure that their property is “free of hazards which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition”.
Such hazards include, but are not limited to, the following, plus the 29 hazards outlined in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005:
- Serious damp issues
- Unstable or neglected buildings
- An unsafe layout
- Poor ventilation
- Problems with hot and cold water supply
- Problems with drainage
With all your certificates in the bag, you’ll now need to make your property attractive to potential tenants.
Not only are tenants more likely to look after a well-presented property, but it can also help you get the best rental fee.
A few things to pay attention to:
- Make sure any carpets and floor coverings are clean
- Bathrooms, kitchens and appliances like ovens are clean
- A lick of paint on the walls makes a property seem fresh and clean
- Does everything work? It will save time later if you check for faulty smoke alarms, lighting, heating, door and window locks, dripping taps, internet connection etc.
- Make sure the garden and approach to the property are neat and tidy
- If renting furnished, is it all in good condition and up to fire safety standards?
- Remember to supply instruction manuals for any appliances you provide, as well as for the heating system
These days, most prospective tenants start their property search online, many of them using market leaders like Rightmove and Zoopla.
There are two key steps to finding tenants as quickly as possible – the right pricing and the right advertising. If you’re using an agent, even if only on a ‘find-a-tenant’ basis, they will have in-depth knowledge of the local market, and access to the big property websites.
Pricing: Take a look at existing adverts for similar properties to your own in the same area, and set your rate accordingly. Aiming too high may be counter-productive, taking you longer to find a tenant.
Advertising: Use plenty of good-quality photographs in your advert, making sure the lighting is right, they’re in focus, and they show the property at its best.
In your description, give as much information extolling the property’s virtues as possible, and use simply, punchy language. Make a point of mentioning any features and benefits, including local amenities – is it close to local shops, parks, pubs etc?
Once you’ve found a tenant, you will need to:
Conduct a right to rent check: Under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords in England are legally bound to check that all prospective tenants over 18 have the right to be in the UK before renting a property to them.
You will need to check immigration documents and keep copies of them, and check again if there is a time limit on their right to remain in the UK.
You can now check a tenant’s right to rent online if your tenant:
- has a biometric residence card or permit
- has settled or pre-settled status
- applied for a visa and used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document on their phone
The government has also provided a collection of guidance, including how to conduct right to rent checks during the coronavirus pandemic.
You don’t have to carry out these checks in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Carry out tenant reference checks: Although you can never guarantee a tenant will not prove troublesome, a professional tenant reference check helps you minimise the risk.
Checks include information to conform your tenant’s identity, employment history, previous addresses, and credit history, while references can be obtained from previous landlords or lettings agencies.
Tenant referencing is often a condition of rent guarantee insurance.
There’s still plenty to do once you’ve found a tenant, including drawing up the tenancy agreement, protecting your tenant’s deposit, and providing a clear inventory list.
Arrange a tenancy agreement
The tenancy agreement is a legally binding document that sets out the terms under which you rent your property, which must be signed by both parties.
It should cover everything related to the tenancy, including the rent amount, the term of the tenancy, the required notice period, and the responsibility for maintenance and replacement of fixtures / fittings etc.
The most common type of agreement is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, and the government has provided guidance and examples, although it’s advisable that new landlords take legal advice.
How to Rent guide
As well as the gas and electricity safety certificates and EPC previously mentioned, landlords in England must give their tenant a physical or emailed copy of the How to Rent checklist.
Protect your tenants’ deposits
Landlords must put the deposit they receive from a tenant into a government authorised deposit protection scheme within 30 days.
There are different schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. See more in our guide to landlord responsibilities.
You must provide details of the scheme to the tenant.
Provide a clear inventory list
A comprehensive inventory, with photographs, is vital to keep track of the condition of your property and can help to avoid disputes with tenants during and at the end of the tenancy.
It provides a snapshot at the start of the tenancy of the condition of the building itself, along with its fixtures, fittings, furnishings and appliances, along with a schedule of everything you have provided.
The evidence in the inventory provides the basis for landlords to claim against the tenant’s deposit should there be any damage or theft at the end of tenancy checkout.
For example, if you have a photograph of a new, and clean, sofa, which is found to be stained or ripped at the end of the tenancy, you should have no problems claiming on the deposit.
Make sure you let the council know your tenants have moved in so they can make appropriate arrangements for the payment of council tax.
Keep a rent book
If you are managing your property yourself, it makes sense to get the tenant to set up a standing order for rental payments (usually paid monthly), and keep a rent book to ensure you have a record of each payment and keep track of missing payments.
During and after the tenancy
If you’ve followed all these steps so far, you’re well set up to make the most of your rental property and enjoy a good relationship with your tenant.
There are a few things you need to keep on top of during the tenancy.
Tenants have a legal right to ‘live undisturbed’, which essentially means that landlords can’t come and go as they please and let themselves into their rented property.
However, landlords do have a right to periodically inspect the property with 24 hours’ notice and at a reasonable time.
It’s worth agreeing on the frequency of inspections at the start of the tenancy.
Inspections can not only help you spot any damage and address issues before they become major problems, but it gives the tenant an opportunity to point out any areas of maintenance that need to be carried out.
Maintenance and repair
As a landlord, you have a duty to your tenant to keep the property in a good state of repair, and maintain essentials like boilers, water systems and drainage.
Keep a record of all repairs carried out, update your inventory and keep receipts so you can claim the costs as expenses for tax purposes.