Landlord checklist: what you need to get started

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​​​​​​​Being a landlord can be rewarding and profitable, but there are several tasks to carry out before you can charge rent on a property.

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Follow our landlord checklist for renting a house to make sure you and your tenants get off on the right foot.

You might also want to take a look at our other guides:

Before you get started, there are a few questions you need to consider.

Do I need to register as a landlord?

If you rent out property in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England, you’ll need to register as a landlord. You can do this online:

In some areas of England all landlords need a permit, but other areas only require those letting HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) to have one. Speak to your local council to check if you need to register.

Should I use a letting agency?

There are pros and cons to using a letting agency, and whether you choose to depends on your situation.

Using a letting agent might be a good idea if you:

  1. Don’t have much spare time
  2. Live in a different area to the property you’re letting
  3. Want someone else to deal with your tenants’ problems and questions
  4. Are inexperienced as a landlord or you’re not confident in the regulations and legislation

If the points above don’t apply to you, you may be better off managing your own property. This is also the best option if you want to keep costs low. To make life as stress-free as possible when managing your own property, make sure you know reliable tradespeople who can help if you need work done.

What costs are involved in becoming a landlord? 

There are several costs to take into account when becoming a landlord. Firstly, you’ll have to pay a fee when you register as a landlord, and this will vary depending on the country or area you’re registering in.

Landlord insurance is a good idea and it’s something your lender will probably expect you to have if you have a mortgage. Landlord insurance usually has different levels of cover – as an example, Admiral Landlord Insurance offers building cover, contents or a combined policy, and it includes landlord liability insurance as standard.

If you’re using a letting agent, you’ll also pay them a monthly fee. Depending on how much they do for you, this fee could be in the range of 10-20% of the monthly rent amount.

Besides the costs involved in setting up as a landlord, you’ll have other outgoings like:

  1. Your monthly buy-to-let mortgage payments
  2. Maintenance costs
  3. Refurbishment costs

Bear in mind most buy-to-let mortgages are interest-only, so while your monthly payments will be smaller than if you were paying off the loan too, you should make sure you have a plan to pay off the remaining balance.

There are also several taxes payable by landlords:

  1. Mortgage interest tax relief
  2. Buy-to-let stamp duty

You may also need to pay income tax on your profit from renting. An accountant will be able to advise you further on taxes and allowable expenses, so you’ll know how much to set aside to cover these payments.

I’m an accidental landlord – does this information still apply to me?

In short, yes. Maybe you’ve inherited a property and you’re thinking of renting it out rather than selling it, or you’ve decided to move into rented accommodation yourself and rent out your house.

Either way, you’ll still need to consider everything mentioned above.

And you may need to consider the type of mortgage (if there is one) on the house. If there’s a regular owner-occupier mortgage outstanding on the house, the lender will need to be told that you’re planning to rent it out in case your current deal needs to be replaced with a specific buy-to-let mortgage.

I inherited a buy-to-let property – can’t I just carry on renting it out?

Inheriting a buy-to-let property can be tricky, so it’s best to speak to an independent financial advisor. They can take your personal situation into account, as well as if the property has an outstanding mortgage.

If it did, technically the mortgage would have ended when the property owner died, so you may need to decide between re-mortgaging or selling the property.

Preparing your property to rent

When you’re sure you want to take the plunge and become a landlord, you’ll need to do the following checks on your property.

1. Get an energy performance certificate (EPC)

To rent out a property, landlords need to make sure they have an energy performance certificate (EPC) with a minimum efficiency rating of E. Any lower than this and you won’t be able to rent your property out. Tenants should be given a copy of the EPC, informing them how much the rented house or flat will cost to run.

2. Check fire safety

Checking rented properties have adequate fire safety precautions in place is a legal requirement for landlords. All properties need at least one smoke alarm fitted per floor of the house, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms with a solid fuel burning appliance.

Homes that are considered HMOs may need extra fire safety features, such as fire extinguishers and fire doors.

3. Test electrics and appliances for safety

The electrical installation in your property needs to be checked and regularly maintained to make sure your tenants are safe.

Appliances should be regularly checked for safety and should display the CE mark (the manufacturer’s claim that the product conforms with European safety laws). It’s recommended that you use a registered electrician for any electrical work in your property.

4. Get a gas safety certificate

If there’s a gas supply in your property, you’ll need to arrange a gas safety inspection each year. Give occupants a copy of the gas safety certificate at the start of their tenancy. 

When you’re ready for tenants…

When your properties are ready to rent out and the time comes to meet your prospective tenants, you need to bear the following points in mind.

1. Carry out right to rent checks

Landlords renting properties in England are required to perform right to rent checks on tenants to make sure they’re legally allowed to live in the UK. Scan passports, ID documents and other relevant proof of right to rent and be sure to keep your copies safe. Failing to carry out right to rent checks can lead to a hefty fine.

2. Give tenants the relevant information

For properties in England, landlords must give new tenants the government guide titled ‘How to rent’, which explains the rights and responsibilities of tenants. A similar document called the Tenant Information Pack should be given to tenants in Scotland.

3. Check tenant references

It’s a good idea for landlords to check references of prospective tenants before agreeing to rent property to them. Affordability checks and credit history are common things to consider.

If the tenant has rented in the past, asking previous landlords for a reference will give you an idea of how well a potential occupant keeps up with rent payments.

4. Arrange a tenancy agreement

Property rental should always begin with a signed contract between the landlord and tenant, stating the agreed terms of the tenancy.

Legal rights, responsibilities and the length of the tenancy should all be outlined, as well as any conditions you’d like the tenant to abide by. Check with a solicitor to ensure your tenancy agreement is watertight.

5. Conduct an inventory

Make a detailed list of everything that’s included in the property when the tenants move in. Have your tenants sign it to say they agree with what’s on the list and give them a copy to keep. An inventory means that if anything in your property is damaged or stolen, you’ll have grounds to deduct the cost of repair or replacements from the tenant’s deposit.

6. Protect your tenants’ deposit

Your tenants’ deposit should be protected using a government-approved scheme such as the Deposit Protection Service. Any disputes over deductions from the tenant’s deposit can be settled by your chosen scheme’s appeal process.

7. Provide a clean, liveable home

Local councils use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to make sure properties are safe and in a liveable condition. From uneven stairs to patches of damp and mould, several issues could cause your property to be flagged up for a HHSRS inspection.

To avoid this happening, carefully check your property before tenants move in to make sure it’s hazard free and comfortable enough for people to live in.

8. Take meter readings and update utility suppliers

While tenants are usually responsible for paying utility bills, it’s still important that you tell the suppliers of your property when new occupants move in. Taking water, gas and electric meter readings as soon as previous tenants move out will help avoid issues around who owes what.

You should also make sure your tenancy agreement clearly outlines the tenant’s responsibilities when it comes to utility bills.

9. Change locks

Changing the locks on your property isn’t a legal requirement but could be a good idea if you think past tenants may have made copies of keys. It also shows new tenants that you care about their safety and privacy and have taken steps to protect them against intruders in their home.

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