Do you know your ARLA from your elbow? Or how about a GSR from the TDS? If you don’t, you’re not alone.
Just like every industry, the lettings world has its own particular lingo to master, with plenty of phrases, abbreviations and rules to keep in your head.
From staying on the right side of the law to protecting your property and keeping your tenants safe, there’s a lot to know as a landlord, and plenty of responsibility too!
While you’re probably familiar with ARLA (The Association of Residential Letting Agents, just in case!), how much further does your knowledge stretch? Even experienced landlords can lose track with ever-changing lettings laws.
So with that in mind, and whether you own a property to rent in the Wilton & Salisbury area or somewhere else in the UK, we’ve put together a two-part blog with all you need to know to bust lettings jargon. This week is about starting off on the right foot to set your tenancy up the right way and keep your property legal.
Knowing the jargon is an essential part of being a landlord, and there are some general terms you’ll come across quite regularly. These are some of the most common:
You can take up to one week’s rent from a prospective tenant to reserve your property as you take up references, and this must be returned through the rent or security deposit at the start of the tenancy, or refunded if the tenancy doesn’t proceed.
If you have more than one tenant, they share responsibility for the property and paying the rent. So if one of your tenants stops paying their share, the others are responsible for making up the shortfall.
You can take up to five weeks’ rent (or two months in Scotland) as a security deposit against damages.
As with any profession, having a handle on the vocabulary will help you sound like a real professional and meet your obligations to run a successful business.
A legally-enforceable tenancy agreement is not only essential to give you the full protection of the law; it will also be a condition of any rent protection insurance or buy-to-let mortgage offer.
Here’s some common tenancy agreement terminology for England, Scotland and Wales.
The standard type of private residential tenancy in England and Wales, with a guaranteed right for the landlord to regain possession at the end of the term in the agreement.
Typically for AST tenancies of a year or more, a break clause allows the landlord or tenant to end the contract from an agreed point before the initial term ends by giving (usually) two months’ notice.
In England and Wales, an AST automatically becomes a periodic tenancy if it runs beyond the original term, and notice can be given at any time (one month for tenants, two months for landlords).
The name for new tenancies in Scotland from December 2017. These are open-ended and last until the tenant wishes to leave, or the landlord gives one (or more) of 18 grounds for eviction.
Before you move any tenants in, your rental property needs to meet specific health and safety standards to avoid hefty fines, a criminal record and even imprisonment. Some of the most important ones are:
A gas safety check must be carried out annually by a registered engineer on every rental home, with a supporting document to show the property has passed.
An EPC rates a property’s energy performance on a scale of A-G, with A being the best. Rental homes must have a rating of at least E, and the certificate must be renewed every ten years.
Although it can seem a bit boring and time-consuming, remember that the law is there to protect everyone, including landlords. A safe property means less risk of accidents and liabilities, while an energy-efficient home will always be more popular and attract a higher rent.
Thorough referencing is a crucial part of setting your tenancy up to ensure your tenant (and any guarantor) is a suitable candidate and financially able to pay the rent. The process includes:
Confirmation from a tenant’s employer of their work and income, often backed up with 3-6 months of payslips. For self-employed tenants, get an accountant’s reference, their latest tax return, and/or 3-6 months of bank statements.
Someone prepared to guarantee the rent payments if your tenant cannot pay. A guarantor should also go through an income and credit check.
This can include photo ID like a passport or driving licence, otherwise proof of address from bank statements, utility bills, or memberships.
A statement from a tenant’s existing landlord confirming whether the rent was paid on time, the property was well looked after, and if the landlord would rent to them again.
Never let anyone move into your rental property without sufficient referencing. No matter how well you get on, and even if they’re recommended by someone you know and trust, references are your greatest safeguard in getting the very best tenant.
Not everyone needs a managing agent, and if you’re a full-time professional landlord with an experienced team around you, a tenant-finding service may be all you need. But if you’re busy elsewhere, or you prefer to be more hands-off, here’s a quick rundown of the different levels of services letting agents provide:
Your agent carries out viewings, finds you a tenant, takes up references, prepares the tenancy agreement and inventory, and then hands everything over to you after the tenants move in.
As well as including everything from the Let Only option, this service covers taking over collecting the rent, chasing up late payments and getting things back on track.
Your agent handles everything, including safety checks for gas, electricity and smoke alarms; repairs, improvements and emergencies; mid-tenancy inspections; dealing with disputes; serving notice; and helping you get your property back.
Not sure what’s right for you? Think about whether you’re calm in a crisis, up on lettings law, time-rich and have a circle of trusted contractors to call on. If you don’t, treat yourself to a managing agent - you’ll definitely thank yourself!
Do you have any questions about landlord lingo?
We’re here to answer any questions about being a landlord and owning property to rent in the Wilton & Salisbury area, so why not get in touch? Call us on 01722 580059 or drop us a line at email@example.com for some friendly, expert advice.
And remember! Part two of our landlord lingo buster is released on Monday, February 13th. It’s packed with tips on managing your tenancies, reviewing rents, handling disputes and serving notice correctly - so pop a note in your diary to check back here!
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