Frequently Asked Questions by landlords renting apartments and houses
Q. What rent can I charge?
A: You can charge a full market rent. It may be useful to look in the local paper in the property or classified section under accommodation for an idea of local market rents.
Q. How do I create an assured short hold tenancy?
A. You need to agree the main terms of the letting with your tenant; the monthly or weekly rent, and the length of the term of letting. This should be done with a standard form called a tenancy agreement.
Q. What happens when the fixed term of an assured tenancy comes to an end?
A. Your tenant has the right to remain in the property until the court has granted you possession. In the case of an assured short hold tenancy, the court must grant you possession if you apply for it once the fixed term is over. To bring an end to a full assured tenancy you will need to use one of the seventeen grounds.
Q. How do I get my tenant to leave?
A. You must give him written notice that you intend to seek a possession order in the court or, in the case of an assured short hold tenancy where you are relying on the fact that the term of the short hold has come to an end, simply notice that you require possession. Although there is no prescribed form for this notice it should contain certain information, your letting agent will be able to advise you.
If you are relying on one of the seventeen grounds, rather than the short hold, you need to give notice using a special form. You normally need to give two months' notice before applying to the court to bring an assured short hold tenancy to an end, although the period of notice you must give will sometimes be longer, for example for a yearly tenancy (one which runs from year to year) where the period of notice required is at least six months.
The period of notice is only two weeks for the 'bad tenant' grounds such as rent arrears, but longer (normally two months) for the other grounds.
If the tenancy is periodic you will need to provide the required period of notice, and the notice must expire on the last day of a period of the tenancy.
Q. What if the property is mortgaged?
A. Most mortgage deeds prevent you from letting without your lender's consent. Ask him before taking on a tenant.
Q. What if I am leaseholder?
A: You should check the terms of your lease, and if necessary ask your landlord's permission.
Q. Who pays for what?
A. If you grant a tenancy for a period of less than seven years - and this includes those tenancies which are not granted for a fixed period but run from week to week or month to month, - then you are by law responsible for certain basic repairs, including those to:
- the structure and exterior of the dwelling basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations in the dwelling; and installations for heating water and space heating in the dwelling
In addition, if you grant a lease of less than seven years on a maisonette or a flat you are required by law to repair any parts of the building, or any installations in part of the building, which you own or control, whose disrepair affects the comfort of your tenant.
You cannot make your tenant responsible for carrying out these repairs unless the court agrees that you can, nor can you pass on their cost to him in the form of a service charge. But you will, of course reflect the cost to you of carrying out these repairs in the rent you charge.
Responsibility for carrying out other repairs depends on what you and your tenant agree.
If you have repairing obligations as described above, your tenant must allow you or your agent access to the property to inspect it, provided you give him twenty-four hours' written notice.
Q. What if the tenant is on housing benefit?
A. Housing benefit is money paid by the state to help tenants with their rent. Tenants may receive assistance toward all or part of his rent. Your tenant must pay you whatever rent he owes you, whether or not he receives benefit. In some circumstances housing benefit can be paid direct to a recipient's landlord. If your tenant falls behind with his rent and is on benefit you may like to approach your local authority housing benefit department to see whether direct payment would be possible in your case.
Q. What if there are Problems with the Tenant?
A. The law protects you against being stuck with a bad tenant. Your tenant must pay his rent promptly, take care of your property and avoid causing a nuisance to his neighbours or using the property for illegal or immoral purposes. He must obey any rules of the tenancy agreement, such as not keeping pets or taking in lodgers. If he does not, he will probably lose his home.
It is worth taking precautions against bad tenants. If you have used a letting agent you will have a properly drawn up tenancy agreement and also a deposit. It is particularly important to have a written tenancy agreement to end the tenancy on 'bad tenant' grounds which are specified in the agreement between you and your tenant. Make sure your agreement is clear about what will happen if the tenant does not keep his side of the bargain.
Rent arrears should be tackled as soon as they arise. Your agreement should provide for rent to be paid regularly on a particular day of the week, month or year. If a payment is missed, notify the tenant straightaway and ask him for the money. If there are serious rent arrears, then the law enables you to get your property back. You can get it back in the following circumstances:
- If there are very serious rent arrears - 8 weeks' rent in the case of a tenancy for which rent is payable weekly and 2 months rent where the rent is payable monthly - you can apply to the court for possession and the court must grant you possession if the arrears are still outstanding. It will also normally order the tenant to pay off his arrears.
- If the tenant has persistently delayed paying his rent, or if rent was owing when you gave the tenant notice of your intention to take proceedings for possession against him and was still owing when those proceedings started, then the court may grant you possession. The court may also in these circumstances grant you a suspended order of possession - the tenant will only have to leave if he does not pay off his arrears as ordered by the court.
Potential landlords are sometimes afraid that any tenants they might take may damage their property or furniture, or be bad neighbours. You can, however, control this since the law allows you to get the property back if the tenant damages it or your furniture, or if he is a nuisance to neighbours. If your tenant is convicted of using the property for illegal purposes, or immoral acts, you may have him evicted as well. You can also ask the court to grant you possession if the tenant has broken any other obligation of his tenancy agreement.
If you are letting on a fixed term contract, you will only be able to use these 'bad tenant' grounds for possession during the fixed term if the agreement says that you can. So make sure your agreement is clear on these points.