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Landlords' Q&A: Expert Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

What to do and what not to do - Landlord questions

Your role as a landlord might sometimes feel like a bit of a minefield.

With frequent legislation changes and revisions plus savvy tenants increasingly aware of their rights, it’s important to stay on your toes.

This equally applies whether you’ve been in the property game for years or are a newcomer getting to grips with your many responsibilities.

So when you come across a question you don’t know the answer to, it’s vital to turn to a reliable source of up-to-date information and advice.

Here we’d like to share some of the common questions asked by landlords like you and the expert answers you’re looking for.

Q: Do I definitely need to draw up a tenancy agreement?

A: In a word, yes. Without one, you’re opening yourself up to potential future problems.

This essential document can easily be overlooked by landlords letting a property to a friend or family member. But the ‘casual’ nature of this type of arrangement shouldn’t exclude doing everything by the book. 

Although drawing up a comprehensive contract between landlord and tenant isn’t an enforceable legal requirement, failing to have one in place jeopardises the property, both parties’ rights and, by default, their bank balances.

Its contents establish the rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenant, and, crucially, can act as essential evidence if deposit disputes arise during any eviction process. Once written down and signed, the terms contribute to any legal defence against financial or reputational loss.

Our advice: never underestimate the power of a professional tenancy agreement.

Q: Does my lender need to know I’m renting out my property?

A: Again, the answer here is yes. Unless you purchased the property using a specific buy-to-let mortgage, you’ll need to inform your bank or building society of the change of circumstances.

This could lead to an increased interest rate or change to your administration fee. But you must avoid the temptation of withholding information about how your property is used. Fail to state that it’s now rented out and you’ll be committing mortgage fraud.

And don’t forget to tell your insurance company too. You’ll more than likely need to take out a new specialist policy.

Our advice: it pays to be upfront.


Q: Can I demand a longer notice period from my tenant?


A: For landlords, notice periods are a useful stretch of time to spend looking for a new tenant. But there’s a limit to how much control you have over them.


Within a fixed term agreement, you can add a break clause which allows you or the tenant to end the tenancy early. Within the detail of this, you can, if you choose, stipulate a longer than usual notice period.


As there’s no standard format for a break clause, you’re able to specify its terms. Although in most cases, you can only use a break clause on or after a certain date.


For example: ‘This agreement may be ended by the landlord or tenant if at least two months’ notice is given and at any time after six months from the start of this agreement.’


With or without a break clause, once the agreed fixed term ends, statutory notice periods apply and you can’t demand more than these from your tenant.


Our advice: make any break clauses crystal clear.


Q: Can I reduce the notice period?


A: In theory yes, this is possible within a fixed term by using a break clause which specifies the notice period. In periodic contracts you’re bound by the statutory notice periods at the time and cannot reduce this by writing it into the contract.


Our advice: Stick to the legally enforceable notice rules.


Q: Can I issue a tenancy of less than six months?


A: It’s a common misconception that you have to let a property for a minimum of six months. This used to be the case but since legislation within the Housing Act 1996, it’s perfectly legal to agree to a shorter tenancy.


Just be aware that you can’t use a Section 21 (no-fault) eviction order until a minimum of six months has passed. So if your tenant stops paying rent after two months, you’d have to wait a further four months before you can take action.


Taking a larger deposit can go some way to reduce this exposure to risk.


Our advice: Screen any short-term tenants extra carefully.


Q: Can I supply white goods but tell tenants I won’t be responsible for repairing or replacing them? 


A: Yes but only if you formally gift the appliances to them. If you supply the goods and wish to have them returned, then you’re responsible for the electrical safety at the beginning of and during the tenancy, along with maintenance and any repairs required. The best thing to do if you don’t want this responsibility is to remove them.


Our advice: communicate clearly with your client about who’s responsible for what.


Q: What is ‘quiet enjoyment’?


A: ‘Quiet enjoyment’ is a legal right that you grant your tenant when you agree a tenancy. It means they’re entitled to live and make use of the property in full without interference.


You must take it into consideration when drafting any specifics within a tenancy agreement. For example, stipulating that they can’t use a washing machine after 9pm or can’t upgrade to smart meters would be infringing on their rights.


Our advice: Be respectful and allow your tenant to enjoy the property.

Q: What can I do if a tenant is keeping pets at the property without my permission?


A: This is a common dilemma for landlords. If, after reminding the tenant of the terms of the tenancy agreement, they refuse to make alternative arrangements for their pet, you have two options available.

One is to alter the agreement to allow pets. After a discussion with your tenant, you can draw up conditions by which they can keep their furry friend at the property. Make sure the tenant’s associated responsibilities are super clear and include points such as clearing up mess and paying for any repairs caused.


The second is to issue a possession order stating that the terms of the tenancy agreement have been breached. Before you do this though get to the bottom of the reason you don't wish to agree to pets being kept at the property. Tenants with pets can feel more settled and often stay longer, you have options as above on conditions that you can require be agreed to. Of course if the property really isn't suitable then discuss this with the tenant and explain the reasons, possession proceedings should be considered as a last resort.


Our advice: Work with your tenant to reach a mutual agreement.

Got another question? We’re always happy to help. Speak to a property expert at MakeUrMove today.

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