Renting out my house: What do I need to know?

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Deciding to rent out your home rather than sell up can make good financial sense. Our handy guide will help you get an understanding of what's involved.

 

 

The number of people renting properties in the UK has surged in recent years – up from 2.3 million in 2001 to 5.4 million in 2014, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The organisation predicts a further 1.8 million households will be looking to rent by 2025, suggesting there's no shortage of potential tenants for people who want to rent their house out privately.

Is renting the right choice for you?

  • Do your research: Find out all you can about the private rental market in your area, including how much properties tend to rent for and the current state of the market. Speak to any friends or relatives who have experience of being landlords.
  • Speak to your mortgage company: A sensible first step is to discuss the situation with your current lender. You might be required to pay an additional interest rate to reflect the change in circumstances, or potentially switch to a buy-to-let mortgage. This conversation could have considerable bearing on your final decision.
  • Do your sums: Having a firm grasp of your financial situation is key. You'll need to consider a huge number of factors before deciding to rent out your home. If you're buying a new property, can you afford to finance two mortgages? What will happen if you're unable to find a tenant for a prolonged period? If you employ an agency, how much of a percentage will they take? What about paying for emergency repairs and the cost of insurance?

Are you looking to be a hands-on landlord?

It's not necessary to employ the services of a lettings agency when renting out your house. Choosing to go it alone is likely to save you money, but a good firm will take a lot of the pressure off your shoulders. This kind of support can be an invaluable for landlords who are renting out their house for the first time.

An agency will advertise your property, find potential tenants, show them around, draw up an assured shorthold tenancy agreement and deal with them on a day-to-day basis. They'll also be able to handle credit and reference checks on your behalf, and deal with deposits through a registered scheme such as the Deposit Protection Service. The downside is they'll typically charge a fee that's equivalent to anything from 10 to 15 per cent of your monthly rental income. If you decide to go down this route, shop around in order to get a good deal, while bearing in mind that you'll tend to get what you pay for.

Preparing your property

Finishing your home to a good standard is helpful too, as a good quality property will attract a good quality tenant. You'll quickly learn that someone who pays their rent on time and can be trusted to take care of your house is worth their weight in gold. Even if they decide to move on, they may well recommend your property to someone they know, limiting the amount of time the house sits empty.

As a landlord you'll be responsible for most major repairs as stipulated by the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985. Before anyone has moved in however, you'll need to ensure the house complies with all current legislation. Gas and electrical appliances will have to be safety tested by a registered professional and you'll also need to adhere to all relevant fire safety rules.

What insurance do I need?

When you're renting out a property to private tenants, you'll need extra levels of protection that aren't offered as part of a standard home insurance policy. Landlord insurance will typically protect the building itself and any contents you own inside the property. You'll also be able to take out cover to protect yourself against loss of rental income if a tenant fails to pay, or if the house is uninhabitable for a period of time following an accident.

Additional options available with landlord insurance range from legal cover, through to protection against malicious damage. You'll also be able to insure yourself against unforeseen expenses such as emergency callout fees linked to problems with your gas, plumbing or electricity.

What about tenants insurance?

Some landlords of shared houses and flats require tenants to take out renters insurance, also widely known as tenants insurance, to cover their belongings. At the very least it's something worth recommending.

So what does renters insurance cover? It's designed to offer protection if your personal items are stolen or damaged by someone who doesn't live at the property. Cover is available to insure items against accidental damage too, and against theft or damage that occurs away from home.

Renting out a room in your house

After thoroughly researching the possibility of renting out your home, you may come to the conclusion that it's just not the right option for you. One alternative worth considering is to remain in the property and rent a room, or even an entire floor, to a lodger. Websites such as Gumtree and Facebook, along with specialist sites like SpareRoom, have made the process of finding a housemate incredibly simple.

Thanks to the government's Rent a Room Scheme you'll also be able to earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free, while avoiding many of the financial obligations that come with renting out an entire property. You'll still be responsible for keeping the property safe and in a good state of repair, but won't need to give a lengthy period of notice when you're ready to end the agreement.

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