When you sign up a tenant for your property you probably sigh with relief that things are now sorted and happily file the paperwork away grateful that you don’t have to do anything more for that property for another year.
However, that is a dangerous thought!
Landlords Legal Obligations
Landlords are now subject to many legal obligations relating to the property condition and the persons permitted to occupy them. You need to keep an eye on things. For example:
- You need to be sure that the property is in proper condition – you now have a legal obligation to ensure that it is ‘fit for human habitation’ throughout the tenancy. You do not want your tenants to acquire the right to make a claim against you!
- You need to make sure that the value of your investment is not being reduced. Tenants can do a lot of damage to a property – the worst example being conversion to a cannabis farm (more common than most people realise).
- You need to make sure tenants have not carried out any unauthorised changes to the property. This can range from things such as unauthorised installation of gas or electrical appliances (which can be very dangerous if not done by properly qualified installers) to repainting the walls.
- You need to make sure that there are no changes in the occupiers. For example, if the tenants have taken in a lodger to help them meet their expenses this could turn the property into an HMO – maybe even a licensable HMO which would make you liable for license fees and the need to carry out improvements to the property.
- You need to check tenants are not subletting a room (or even the whole property) via services such as Airbnb. If your property is leasehold, this could breach the terms of your lease and could make it vulnerable to forfeiture. If you have a mortgage it will almost certainly breach the terms of your mortgage.
- Finally, you need to make sure that there is nothing going on which will adversely affect your insurance cover.
In this context it is worth pointing out that if at the end of the tenancy your property is found to have been damaged by criminals using it to grow cannabis (which can cause major damage to properties) your insurers are unlikely to cover any claims if it is clear that you have not carried out any regular inspections which would have revealed this.
For all of these problems, it is ESSENTIAL that you carry out regular inspections of your properties. Or employ a suitable company to do it for you.
Note by the way that, partly as a result of a loss of income due to the Tenant Fees Act, many letting agents are reducing the number of inspections they will include under their management contract. Which is bad news for their landlords.
So how often should you inspect?
Property inspections tend to be unpopular with both landlords and tenants. Landlords don’t want the hassle and tenants resent having someone coming into their home and poking around in their cupboards!
However, unfortunately, it is now a very important part of managing rented property. PARTICULARLY if the property is any sort of HMO.
In that context please watch the video clip with David Smith below taken from a recording of a recent HMO workshop.
My view, as I have expressed here before to a clamour of disapproval, is that the starting point for inspections is every three months. However, how often you actually inspect will depend upon the property and the tenants concerned.
But even if you do not want to do a formal inspection more than every six months, I would suggest that you at least carry out a visual inspection of the outside – if only from the road – just to make sure that it appears to be in good condition. If there is anything that bothers you, you can then contact the tenants to arrange a visit.
Help with inspections – the Property Inspection Kit
In order to help landlords with the problem of property inspections, I drafted up a Property Inspection Kit which I sold as a ‘beta product’ to people on my mailing list last year. I have to say that it turned out to be one of the most popular products I have ever done and the feedback was amazing.
Over 70% of people who completed the feedback survey told me that it had changed the way that they deal with inspections and most people were very complimentary.
Since then I have updated the kit to include much of the helpful feedback I received, and the kit now forms part of the membership entitlement for Business Level members of Landlord Law.
But please – if you are a landlord, make sure that you do regular inspections and at the very least do a visual inspection of the exterior every three months.