GUEST POST: Make the Most of Unused Space in Your Home

Amaya Bell is an experienced writer who loves to write on different topics such as Real Estate, Travel tips and tips for how to find perfect Rent Apartments in London.

           

Many home owners are heard complaining that they lack enough space.While the fact is, there is enough space to go around and utilizing that space needs a bit application of creativity.

Often times, we end up wasting hundreds of square feet that could be repurposed and freed up in creating more floor space.

According to experts, there are at least 7 ways to rethink an apartment and rediscover unused space running into several square feet.

Let us begin with some most essential yet innocuous day to day furniture. The effort is to solve the puzzle; how to make the most of unused space. Wherever you have a table, try using a trunk instead.

Trunks provide good storage space while fitting comfortably in the same floor area that a table might otherwise fit.

In holding plates, cups, and other items they are excellent. But this substitution, works well for coffee tables, end tables, and bedside tables. The idea is fine conversion of cubic space into positive storage space.

So, make it a point to insert the trunks in a main living area with items that might be required periodic pull out when guests drop in so that digging in closets and other places can be avoided.

Bed: Another wonderful home object is bed—where alternative uses can be extrapolated as a couch and vice-versa. Rethinking furniture can save tons of space and free up an entire room for multiple use and easy storage.

To optimize bed capacity, use bed risers. Turn pillows into great investment avenues and double them up as floor mats.

Sit cross-legged on the floor as in elementary school and give yourself an excuse to re-engage in that nostalgia.

Seats as Storage: Those loving ottoman can double it up as footrests. But if you don’t, better buy folding chairs.

Use Walls: Why not insert command clips on the walls and hang things from them. Magnets are perfect for smaller items for installing new shelves.

Reflect on the technique by many companies in using cubicles for creating an illusion of extra space for the egotistic managers. It is possible to spend a couple of standing plywood sheets to make an office like space at the side of your bed too.

Doors: Doors in modern apartments are pivoting walls that can double up as storage space. It gives the option to keep things hidden behind them. Like the ladder they will offer the upper-wall shelf for easy installing of another shelf.

Ceiling: Ceiling in an apartment can be the fifth wall. Use it for hanging clothing racks or even hanging a TV that might eat space on your floor.

Windows: Windowsills are grand for putting plants and if a drop-down screen is there it will be doubly rejoicing.

Bathroom: Innovation is called on bathrooms where bathtubs are a wasted space. Start using waterproof containers and hang things from shower door. Take down towel racks and add more shelving space.

Better use of rooms can do wonders. Use nesting tables, separable furniture that can be placed around a room. Instead of a large dining table that eats up space, may smaller furniture placed around a couch will keep a room clear and less congested.

Budget 2016

Following the Chancellor’s budget for 2016, here’s a brief summary of how the Budget affects Property:

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) supplement

As previously announced a SDLT supplement of 3% will apply from 1 April

2016 to purchases of second and subsequent residential homes, including

buy-to-let properties and holiday homes, where the cost of the second

home is £40,000 or more. The Government has now confirmed that the

supplement will apply to all purchases, including bulk purchases made by

large investors.

 

SDLT on commercial property

The rules for calculating SDLT on non-residential properties are reformed with

effect from 17 March 2016. For property deals completed before that date,

SDLT is charged at a single rate on the whole price paid for the property,

under the so-called ‘slab’ system.

Where non-residential property is sold on and after 17 March 2016, the SDLT

charge will be calculated according to the value falling within each band, as

applies for SDLT on residential properties. The new bands are:

  • 0% up to £150,000
  • 2% £150,001 to £250,000
  • 5% over £250,000

Purchasers who exchanged before 17 March 2016, but completed after that

date, will have a choice whether they pay SDLT under the new or the old rules.

Also from 17 March 2016, a new 2% rate will apply to new leasehold

transactions where the net present value of the rent is more than £5 million.

These changes don’t apply to properties in Scotland where Land and

Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) is set by the Scottish Government.

 

Offshore property developers

Legislation is to be introduced to prevent property developers from using

offshore structures to avoid tax on their trading profits derived from

developing and letting property in the UK. HMRC will also create a task force

to focus on offshore property developers.

 

Abolition of ‘wear and tear’ allowance

Landlords of fully furnished residential lettings are currently able to claim

a deduction of, broadly, 10% of gross rents. This compensates for not

being able to claim any tax relief on the capital cost of fixtures and fittings.

As previously announced, this ‘wear and tear’ allowance is abolished for

2016/17, but is replaced by a deduction for the replacement cost of capital

items such as free-standing fridges, beds, etc. Unlike the wear and tear

allowance, this relief is also available for partly furnished properties.

Much greater record keeping will be required to track all such costs and to

show that the cost is for a replacement, rather than an initial asset; the latter

do not get any relief.

 

Rent-a-room relief

As previously announced, the amount of tax-exempt rental income that

someone can have from renting out one or more rooms in their main

residence is increasing to £7,500 from 6 April 2016. The previous limit of

£4,250 had been in force since 1997.

 

SHOULD YOU FURNISH YOUR RENTAL OR LEAVE IT EMPTY?

One of the biggest decisions a landlord has to make is whether to furnish their rental or leave it empty and let the tenants provide their own furniture. So what should you do?
Well, there are pros and cons to both.
Letting a property unfurnished is obviously the cheapest and easiest option. In general, you won’t get any more rent for furnished accommodation and latest research shows half of all tenants are looking for unfurnished properties.
As tenants who have been priced out of the property market are increasingly looking to rent for the long-term, if not for life, it is perhaps not surprising that many prefer to provide their own furniture rather than being forced to live with their landlord’s idea of a stylish sofa or comfy bed.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that tenants renting empty properties are likely to stay longer because they’re able to make a place feel more like home by filling it with their own things.
However, some tenants will require basic items, such as beds, sofas, wardrobes and dining tables and chairs, so by not providing these you might be limiting your chances of finding somebody suitable.
Also, there is a financial benefit to furnishing your property as you can reduce your tax bill by claiming a 10% wear and tear allowance. This means that you won’t pay any tax on the first 10% of your annual rental income, as long as it’s fully furnished.
Whether you furnish your property or not will often depend on the type of tenant you are trying to attract. Families and more mature tenants often prefer unfurnished houses and flats, but students and groups of sharers will almost definitely want fully furnished accommodation. If you let your property via a college or university, they will also insist you provide desks in every bedroom.
If this is the first time you’ve let your property and you’re not sure what type of tenant it’s likely to attract, the best option is to take a flexible approach, advertise it as unfurnished to start with but state in your ad that your are prepared to buy essential items, if required. It’s obviously up to you what items you agree to provide, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to limit your offer to beds, wardrobes, a sofa and a dining table plus enough chairs for the number of tenants.
Remember that any soft furnishings you provide, including mattresses and sofas, must comply with latest fire regulations. They should have fire retardant labels attached, unless they were manufactured before 1950.
Incidentally, most tenants would expect landlords to provide ‘white goods’, such as fridges, washing machines and ovens in rental accommodation (even though there’s no legal requirement for landlords to do so) but don’t feel you have to stretch to luxury items such as dishwashers, microwaves and tumble dryers unless your property is at the higher end of the market.

GUEST POST: Dating section 21 notices

Raina Shah our resident expert from LWR Solicitors reminds landlords that the world of the Section 21 Notice has got much more straightforward since the recent legal ruling:

The dates for section 21 notices

Dating a Section 21 Notice caused confusion in the past – the act says that 2 months notice must be given, but at a different section states that the notice period must end on the last day of the tenancy period.

The Housing Act 1988 obviously goes into much more detail but I won’t set this out now – you will either go to sleep or get confused.

This has lead to problems in the past with the wrong date being put on the Notice.  The rulings from the Court have been very strict and if the tenant hasn’t been given two months notice and that notice doesn’t expire on the last day of the tenancy period the Court deem the notice invalid and you don’t get your possession order.

However, in November 2013 we saw the Court of Appeal review the application of the Act in the case of Spencer v Taylor.

Their decision has now changed how we prepare the Notices.  I thought I would assist by setting out what you need to do in each type of situation:

Dating notices for a fixed term tenancy

You must give 2 months notice in writing.  The earliest date is can expire is the last day of the fixed period of the tenancy.  If there is less than 2 months to the last day of the tenancy, you must give 2 months notice.

Dating notices for a fixed term tenancy that is now periodic

You must give 2 months notice in writing.

Dating notices for a periodic tenancy

This is for tenancies that were never fixed, the majority of these will be where there is not a written tenancy agreement, although some written tenancy agreements state that the tenancy is a periodic tenancy.

In this case you must give 2 months notice in writing and the notice must expire on the last date of the tenancy period.  This is often where the confusion is – what is the last date of the tenancy period?

If there is a written tenancy agreement:- the starting point for the date is the day the tenant moved in, you then need to look at how rent is paid, for example:-

•    If the tenant moved in on 1st of the month and rent is paid monthly the last day of the tenancy period would be the last day of the month i.e 1st January – 31st of January.

•    If the tenant moved in on Monday 1st and the rent is paid weekly, the last day of the tenancy period is a Sunday.

•    If rent is paid 4 weekly you will have to work out 4 weekly blocks from the date that the tenant moved in, and the date for your notice would be the last day in a 4 weekly block.

If there is no written agreement you will have to go on the date that rent is paid and how rent is applied and apply the above guidelines.

Just remember if you are serving the Notice by post you will need to add a couple of extra days on, the Court stated that a letter sent by first class post is deemed served 2 working days after it was posted.

Generally the law is not applied retrospectively, however it would appear that this does apply to Section 21 Notices that have previously been served.

Hopefully this change in the law will make it easier for you to calculate the dates for your Section 21 Notices, however, if you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us at enquiries@dasanipropertyservices.com

Raina Shah is a Partner at LWR Solicitors and specialises in residential landlord & tenant work.

Buy-To-Let Mortgages

What types of BTL mortgages are there?

Repayment Mortgages

This type of Buy-to-let (BTL) loan requires the borrower to pay off the capital sum as well as the loan interest so that at the end of the period it is fully repaid.  This is the safe option as it guarantees that what ever happens, the loan will have been paid off by the end of the mortgage.  Are there any disadvantages?  There are two basic drawbacks for a landlord.  Firstly, from a tax point of view it is only the interest part of the loan that is offset able against rental income.  Secondly, repayments will be higher.  This means that it is much easier to sustain a negative cash flow for a landlord with a repayment mortgage. This inability for a landlord to meet loan repayments from rentals means that the size of the loan that lenders are prepared to advance will probably be smaller.

Interest only mortgages

This type of Buy-to-let (BTL) loan requires the borrower to repay only the interest on the loan, in much the same way as you would with the minimum payment on a credit card.  The good thing for a landlord is that their entire payment is offset able against rental income thereby maximising the reduction of their rental profits and any potential income tax liability.  However, the ‘downside’ is that it does mean that a landlord has no means of repaying the loan at the end of the mortgage period.  Sounds scary – but there is a range of options and specialist advice from Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) who can advise you on your options in brief they can be summarised as follows:

Do nothing – continue to pay the interest and hope that the real value of the loan reduces because of inflation and the value of  your investment rises resulting in every increasing amounts of equity

Set up a ‘repayment vehicle’ which is simple a savings scheme structured in such a way that it aims to repay the loan by the end of the mortgage period.  Typical of these were the endowment policies which became almost standard until the early nineties when it was realised that investment returns were not going to be as high as had previously been experienced

There are several different ways interest can be charged on your BTL mortgage:

Fixed Rate BTL Mortgage

A fixed interest Buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage is one where the interest rate is fixed for at a specific rate for a predetermined period of time ranging from 12 months to the full term of the loan term.   Typically the period is between 2 and 5 years.  The great thing for landlords is certainty – knowing what ever happens to interest rates your payments will always be the same each month.  The downside if rates certainly fall you are left paying much more than your fellow landlords on a variable rate – it’s a gamble!

Discounted BTL Mortgage

Discounted rates Buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage, as they suggest offer landlords a reduction in mortgage interest rates for a limited period of time.  This discount period is sometimes very useful.  For instance it will reduce a landlords negative cash flow where a property is being refurbished and is laying empty.  A landlord needs to watch out for high set up costs and that once the discount period ends the mortgage rate is competitive.  The other thing is those lock in periods.  Some will just be for the period of the discount, but others extend beyond this and can be very expensive to get out of.

Capped rate BTL Mortgage

This type of Buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage really came into being to ‘protect’ house buyers from dramatic rises in interest rates such as those experienced  in the early 90’s; just after the U.K. withdrew from the ERM. To me they have had their day as the chances now of dramatic interest rate movements are now highly unlikely.

Trackers (base rate or LIBOR) Buy-to-let (BTL) Mortgage

This type of Buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage is so called because the mortgage rate is linked or tracks the Bank of England base rate.  When this changes, so does a landlords mortgage interest rate.  A landlord can often get attractive deals with these mortgages as they are a low risk product for lenders as any increase in their borrowing rates can be instantly passed on to their customers.

How is interest charged on a Buy-to-let (BTL) Mortgage?

Interest can be charged by your Buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage company in a number of ways. The majority of the major Buy-to-let (BTL) lenders will calculate interest on a daily basis.  They therefore look at the interest rate prevailing on that day and calculate a landlords payments accordingly.  Some companies such as Paragon will calculate the interest on a monthly basis.  They do this by taking the rate at the beginning of the month and calculate the interest due based on this rate, even if it changes in the meantime.

Some companies such as the Bristol and West and Chelsea still calculate interest payments based on the variable rate at the beginning of the year.  The advantage for landlords of having the variable rate effectively fixed for a year is that it gives them greater warning with which to adjust their finances when rates change.  The disadvantages are that if rates fall, then savings will not be passed on immediately.
In looking at the interest rate, it is as well for landlords to be aware of the significance of the APR (Annual Percentage Rate) in assessing the ultimate cost of their loan.  The APR is the cost of a landlords borrowing and includes the interest payments, mortgage insurance and the originators fee; all expressed as an annual percentage.  This is the true cost of the loan as apposed to the headline rate, which excludes fees and insurance and just reflects the interest being paid.

How can a landlord find the best BTL mortgage deals?

The Internet has made tracking down the best products with which to buy or remortgage an existing property.  Despite this choice, a landlord may feel more comfortable just using your existing bank, because they have used them before.  I’m sure that they will be very helpful, but this is business.  Will they offer the best deal?  Make sure they are at least competitive before you commit to using their products.

The other alternative is for a landlord to source a loan through a mortgage broker.  Brokers act on your behalf to find the best deals in the market place.  They do this by having access to most lenders products through an online database.  Using these databases they can pick the ‘hottest’ deals matching your requirements.  For this service expect to pay a fee of between a £200-£500+, payable only if and when the mortgage is approved.

You may ask, why use a broker at all when you can find so much of this information over the Internet for free?  There are a couple of reasons.  First of all, time.  As long as you are specific with your selection criteria and your circumstances; a good broker should be able to come up fairly quickly with a number of suitable products.  This can save  a landlord a considerable amount of work by not having to check through all the mortgage products, their interest rates, conditions and limitations.  Secondly, where a landlords financial circumstances are straight forward it should be fairly easy for you to find a suitable mortgage.  However, when a landlords circumstances are more complex the time taken to source the right mortgage can be considerable.  In this situation brokers can easily earn their money by sourcing lenders that fit a landlords specific requirements.

Finally not all property investors are aware that by using a broker they can access preferential rates and deals not available through the general market.  Therefore it’s always worth checking with a mortgage broker first to see what they have all this will cost you nothing.  Have a look at some of the most respected and well used buy-to-let mortgage brokers operating in the UK market today.  Please let us know what you think so that we only recommend the best products.

The other benefit of using a mortgage broker is that they take care of most of the work involved in a mortgage application freeing a landlord up to do more important things!

BTL mortgage provicer lending criteria

Mortgage providers have broadly two approaches when it comes lending to landlords.  The first maintains that any investment property should be assessed on the basis it is a self financing investment.  The other approach which predominated prior to the arrival of the ‘buy-to-let’ initiative in the late 90’s, measures affordability in terms of the landlord applicants overall income and their financial commitments.  The details of each approach are laid out below:

1.    The majority of lenders now lend to landlords on the basis that the investment property is self supporting in that rent generated will pay for the mortgage and other related expenses.  They therefore insist that the rent covers a minimum of 125-130% of the expected mortgage payment.  One thing for landlords to watch out for is what companies stipulate as the interest rate to be used to calculate the projected mortgage payment.  Some lenders use an interest rate reflecting the long-term average; others use the current standard variable rate.  Some companies are prepared to use a mortgage calculation based on interest only costs if that’s the type of mortgage you are applying for.  Others automatically assume a repayment mortgage, which makes obtaining the maximum of 85% Loan To Value (LTV) more difficult..

2.    The other approach used by mortgage companies uses a landlords personal income as a basis of affordability.  The mortgage company takes the landlords salary or income after outgoings to access a borrower’s ability to repay the debt. This is a more cautious lending policy most suitable for high income individuals or older buyers who may be close to or have paid off their existing mortgage.  This type of lending criteria also limits the number of properties that can be bought and therefore this type of provider is not suitable for those landlords who want to build a portfolio of properties.

Potential stumbling blocks of a landlords BTL mortgage application

Like any process things don’t always proceed smoothly for landlords.  So what kind of things could go wrong?  One of the potential problems is that a landlords credit score fails to come up to the mark.  For most landlords this shouldn’t be an issue.  Only if a landlord has or had existing debt problems should they struggle on this.  If  a landlord fails to obtain a mortgage on their own, this is when engaging the services of a mortgage broker could be helpful in obtaining a loan.
Another potential problem for landlords is the recommendations contained within the mortgage surveyor’s report.  This report could pick up on a number of issues that potentially impact on the chances of the landlord been offered a loan:

1. Firstly, the surveyor may identify essential repairs to the building. The surveyor could insist that a retention is placed on the loan paid to you so that you don’t get the full amount until the work is carried out.
2. The surveyor may value the property at less than the agreed purchase price.  In both scenario 1 & 2, low valuations can present an opportunity to an entrepreneurial purchaser to go back to the vendor and negotiate a lower price.
3. The third scenario where the mortgage surveyors report can impact on the mortgage advance is; when they disagree with the projected rental assessment for the property. This situation is particularly likely where you are purchasing a property that needs extensive cosmetic refurbishment and redecoration.  In this situation you could consider using a special refurbishment mortgage such as the one offered by Paragon Mortgages The power of the remortgage for landlords Most landlords only think of taking out a mortgage when they buy a new property.  But what about remortgaging?  This is something I have done regularly over the years.  As properties have increased in value I have regularly taken equity out.  This process has allowed me to free up capital and either purchase additional properties or have a good holiday! More seriously it’s always good to keep checking the market to make sure you are still getting a good deal.

What are the costs?  These should be much less than an initial loan as there is no stamp duty to pay and also because there are no vendors to deal with.  Legal fees are also less at approximately two thirds of those for an initial purchase.  It’s now possible to do the entire process online, for a lot less money than a traditional solicitor.

A landlords tips on BTL mortgages

  • Keep an eye on the BTL mortgage market for new deals and products that might be suitable for your needs
  • Review your redemption penalties – it might be cheaper to pay them in order to get out of an uncompetitive deal
  • Maintain as much flexibility in your financing arrangements – don’t fix your rate unless you are very certain that it is good value or you will not need to extricate yourself from the agreement early
  • Read the small print.  Make sure you understand any redemption penalties before you sign
  • Remember the tax implications of a mortgage – only the interest is offset able against rental income
  • Only use equity release for larger sums of money that are required for the long-term.  For shorter periods and small sums, consider using an unsecured personal loan
  • Check out the special deals offered by the big mortgage brokers before dismissing using their services.  You could save thousands over the period of the deal, easily paying for their brokers fees
  • If you see a good deal, ‘go for it’.  Many of the best mortgage deals are non standard products with limited funds allocated to them.  If you don’t sign up quickly they are likely to be fully subscribed for very quickly.

GUEST POST: Getting great tenants

People frequently ask me what is my biggest tip on how to be a successful landlord. The answer is simple.  Get great tenants.  A good tenant is worth their weight in gold…literally.

Whilst a lump of gold pays you nothing, a good tenant will give you a regular income for years, and sometimes even decades. Some tenants could even pay off your entire mortgage.  Tenants are invaluable.  If you could put a monetary value on them, some of my tenants have paid me over £40,000 in rent since moving in.

So how do you find a great tenant?  Here are my ten tips for getting great tenants:

1. The starting point to finding a great tenant

The starting point for finding a good tenant is your rental property.  If you have initially invested in the right rental property; one that’s in a good location, which appeals to a quality tenant, then you are half way there.

Problems arise when you have a rental property that might have been acquired accidentally, or is a little bit tired, or has significant drawbacks, such as being on the ground floor, or a bedroom that is too small, or has a weird bathroom suite, etc.

The property might have been cheaper to buy, but if it’s outside London, it might not rent easily. There is a chance that you will have to compromise on the standard of tenant you are going to get in, if not the risk is it will remain empty leaving you with a painful rental void period (sounds nasty? – it is).

It’ worth landlords asking themselves, “would I ever live here?” and if the answers no – then why would you expect others to be different).

2. Landlord should trust their instincts

I have a sense… call it a ‘kinda bat sense’ (remember batman).  I can spot a dodgy tenant a mile off.  Now, that doesn’t mean that tenants have to arrive suited and booted, speak nicely or have a high-powered job. No, what you want is a tenant who is honest and reliable.  Honesty, above all is the key characteristic.   This is what you are looking for and if it you don’t see it in their eyes.  Walk away.
I go back to my landlord sense….little things matter.  I always try and meet my prospective tenants first.  This way you can see what makes them tick.  Are they on time?  Do they seem responsible these are all key attributes of a great tenant.

3. You don’t want a high flyer

A landlord doesn’t really want a tenant who is too wizzy, too high-flying. Those kind of tenant are likely to be moving out after 6 months, as soon as the end of the tenancy period.

No, landlords want to get ‘steady Eddy’ or ‘Plain Jane’ to move in. A tenat with a mediocre job and lots of local friends and family and few aspirations.  Someone who seem happy with where they are in life. These tenants are far more likely to remain local and could well be your tenant for many happy years.  The perfect tenant!

4. My sure fire test

One of my sure fire tests to really get under the skin of a prospective tenant is the bank statement test.  Unfortunately, because of the time pressures of setting up a new tenancy and a move to another part of the country I didn’t have time to do it myself on a recent tenancy.

If I had, it would of almost certainly saved me from the hassle I’m now going through with having to evict one of my latests tenants.

The process is simple. You ask any prospective tenant to supply 6 months of bank statements. In these days of internet banking it takes minutes for most people to download a PDF and email them across.  If any prospective tenant refuses to do it; then in my view they clearly don’t want your property that much, or more likely they have something they are trying to hide. Maybe they really can’t afford the rent or have financial problems or difficulties they don’t want you to see.

My recent experience has only underlined how worth doing it is, my regret is, that I didn’t take my own advice.

5. Credit check prospective tenants

As well as my full proof method of getting under the skin of a tenant, it’s also worth credit checking a tenant to help make sure they are not hiding any other financial nasties.  It doesn’t cost you a lot – a few pounds, but it will show if you are potentially about to sign up a tenant with a whole load of debt whose not very good at paying it back!

6. Don’t be pressurized into taking a tenant

I’ve esperienced this recently from two letting agents.  Both were clearly getting fed up of showing prospective tenants round my properties and were desperate to get them let to collect their fee.  I was faced by both letting agents trying to ‘persuade me/ force me’ to take a very poor quality tenant.  I physically couldn’t meet the tenant so I really had to rely on their judgement.  Another big mistake!  Don’t get pressurized by anybody else to take a tenant. You will almost always regret it. Again listen to any little alarm bells ringing in your head.

7. Avoid losers

Now, I realise this sounds harsh, but if a landlord lets their heart strings to rule their head then things often go wrong. Don’t take a tenant because you feel sorry for them. It will probaly lead to trouble.  Somebody who manages their life in a way that they always seem to be going from one disaster to the next is probably not going to make a good tenant.  They will take their chaotic losing ways and bring it all to bare on your tenancy.  Disaster …so avoid! Harsh words I know, but can you afford to take on the problems of strangers?

8. Consider using a letting agent

I’m not the world’s greatest fan of letting agents, as readers of Properthawk might already know. On a full management fee I don’t think that many landlords get good value for money.  However, in my view, you get a better quality tenant if you choose the right letting agent.

Think of letting agents as a filter.  Just in the same way that up-market estate agents, like Savills or Knight Frank don’t sell cheap property.  Equally up market or mid market letting agents will tend to filter out the dross.  I have never found a decent tenant through Gumtree yet.  I’m sure it’s possible, but for me it’s really just thrown up a load of weirdo scammers.

9. Don’t panic

Many landlords including myself start panicking when they haven’t got a tenant in.  All they can think about is the terror of the rental void. However be warned, by  lowering your standards, the effect of letting to a bad tenant can be far worse in the long term.

10. Always have your fall back

Just because you think that you are a good judge of character.  That doesn’t mean that you need to take unnecessary risks.  If the tenant hasn’t got a track record but you think you can take a punt then it’s worth getting a tenant guarantor.

This way if you are wrong then you stand a reasonable chance of getting most of your rent paid and your legal expenses back.

How to have a tear-free ending to your tenancy

It’s inevitable that one day your tenants will decide to leave (sob!) but there are several steps you can take to make sure the tenancy ends smoothly.

First of all, if you plan to re-let the property, write to the tenant advising them that you’ll be bringing viewers round from time to time and that you’d appreciate it if they keep the place as clean and tidy as possible.

Hopefully you’ve developed a good relationship with the tenants so they’ll oblige, this is one of the many advantages of letting the property yourself rather than via an intermediary, but do remember that you need to give them reasonable notice of any viewings, preferably at least 24 hours.  The last thing you want to do is hack off the tenants, right at the end!

A couple of weeks before the tenant moves out, write to remind them what they must do in order to get back their deposit in full. This might sound like you’re nagging, but tenants often overlook many of their obligations and you can’t assume they’ll remember what they agreed to in their lease.

You could insert a ‘To Do’ list in your letter, including things such as

  • leave the property in the same state of cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy
  • replace any items of furniture that have been removed
  • remove all rubbish and personal belongings from the property
  • empty cupboards, fridge/freezer and clean inside all appliances
  • replace all blown light-bulbs
  • close accounts for all utilities (gas, electricity, council tax, water etc) and pay final bills
  • return all keys
  • provide you with bank details or a forwarding address for the return of their deposit

If you had the property professionally cleaned at the start of the tenancy,  remind tenants that it must be professionally cleaned at the end, after they’ve removed all their personal belongings.  Ask them to keep the receipt in case of any dispute. The same goes for carpets, curtains and windows.

You could also take this opportunity to invite them to let you know of any damage they’re aware of so that you’ll have a chance to discuss the cost of repairs or replacement with them.

Assuming you arranged for a professional inventory and check-in report, you’ll need to arrange for a check-out report on the day the tenant leaves and invite the tenant to stick around while the report is prepared (although they don’t have to be there.) After a couple of days, you should get a check-out report, which you can compare with the check-in to see whether there has been any damage.

If you didn’t have a professional check-in report, go to the property yourself as soon as the tenant has left and take a note and photographs of any damage.

You should also take meter readings for the gas, electricity and water (if it’s metered) and check with all the utility providers that the tenant has provided them with the correct readings and either settled their account  or provided a forwarding address where final bill can be sent.

If you’re going to make any deduction from the tenant’s deposit, you should let them know, in writing, as soon as possible and send them a copy of the check-out report or your photographic evidence.

If the tenant isn’t happy with the deductions, it’s probably better to try to negotiate an amount you’re both comfortable with rather than to end up with them referring the matter to the deposit dispute resolution service, which they’re entitled to do.

Don’t forget to inform the deposit protection scheme when you’ve returned the deposit, then you’re all ready to move on to the next tenancy!