How to start an AST
Beginning a new tenancy is a great opportunity to learn from past mistakes and get everything right. In the long term it’ll make everything easier for both you and your tenant.
1. Provide the prescribed information
In England, you must provide tenants with a valid gas safety certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and the Government’s latest How To Rent guide. The guide can be emailed with receipt of acknowledgement, but the EPC and gas safety certificate must be signed for in person or sent by post with a certificate of posting. Check local licensing requirements too. If you let a property without a licence you may be liable for a fine. Failure to comply with these points will invalidate a future Section 21 claim in England. Landlords must also conduct Right to Rent checks.
2. Secure a Deposit
Landlords do not have to take a deposit, but most landlords do in the event of property damage or rent arrears. If you take a deposit, you must protect it within 30 days of receipt and provide the deposit certificate. Explain to the tenant how the deposit has been protected. You can choose one of the three government-backed deposit schemes.
3. Ensure a Safe Home
All landlords are required to make sure the wiring and any electrical appliances they provide in rented accommodation are safe. An electrical safety report is not yet a legal requirement for private landlords, but from this year that may change. Landlords of some Houses in Multiple Occupation are however legally required to provide an electrical safety report. Electrical appliances such as toasters need a portable appliance test. Landlords are required to provide a smoke alarm on all floors and a carbon monoxide alarm if there is any solid fuel appliance.
4. Get an Inventory
A comprehensive and accurate inventory is essential when letting a property. Especially if you want to have any possibility of making a claim against future damages. You do not need a professional to carry out the inventory. With smartphone cameras and videos, it is easy for a landlord to compile an accurate inventory that can be agreed to by the tenant. Make sure the tenant has signed the inventory. Provide the tenant with a copy and ensure you have evidence of a signature or email acknowledgement.
5. Spend time with the tenant
At the start of the tenancy visit the property with the tenant and walk them through the running of the house. Show them how to work the boiler and thermostats, where the stopcock is and how to turn off the gas, among other things. It’s a good idea to document all of this in a handy guide to the property which they keep in the house. Run through the assured shorthold tenancy (AST) and make sure they are clear about their responsibilities. Document the meter readings either by photographing them or writing them down on the day the AST starts. Send a copy of the readings to the tenants and get a signature or email acknowledgement.
6. Get the right insurance to cover your property
As a landlord, your property is both an asset and an investment. It is therefore only natural that you should want to protect it adequately. A property left uninhabitable through a building fault or accidental damage can leave you in financial turmoil. Luckily, a comprehensive landlord insurance policy can help to provide you with peace of mind that, should the worst happen to your rental property, you are covered.
It is often assumed that a regular home insurance policy is enough to protect your rental property adequately. However, regular home insurance policies do not offer sufficient cover to protect landlord’s specific needs, such as including cover for loss of rent and malicious damage by tenants and/or guests. In addition, a regular home insurance policy will not cover your liability as a landlord if a tenant or visitor is injured on your property, something that could cost you greatly yet is often overlooked when purchasing insurance.
Every landlord is different and so it is important to shop around for a landlord insurance provider that understands your specific requirements and offers you an adequate level of cover for your needs. For example, your needs as a student landlord may be different from those of a landlord letting to a family or professional couple. Before purchasing a landlord insurance policy it is therefore imperative that you read the terms and conditions of the policy thoroughly with this in mind.
Specialist insurance providers such as work closely with their landlord customers to ensure that the cover they provide is perfectly suited to their needs and property requirements, as well as providing ongoing landlord support and guidance.