LEGAL
ADVICE
FOR
LANDLORDS

Vantage Legal Protect for businesses will ensure that your business is protected in its dealings with employees, customers, suppliers and other third parties. In the event of the breakdown of a relationship or dispute with a third party, Vantage solicitors offer accessible, effective, and practical legal advice, so that the matter is dealt with swiftly and with minimal disruption to your business.  Allowing you to focus on your core activities.

As landlord and tenant specialists, we advise and represent landlords and letting agents who encounter problems with their tenants.

In this section we have assembled some of the questions that are most frequently asked by our clients. If you have a question that relates to eviction, rent recovery or another problem involving let property, chances are you will find the answer here.

If you would like to discuss a particular matter with us, or to find out more about our legal services for landlords and letting agents, please contact us.

Pre-tenancy

Q: What is an inventory, and why do I need one?


An inventory is a record of all the contents and condition of the rental property, taken before the tenant is given possession. These records provide details of the items made available to the tenant, as part of the let property, and form part of the contract set out in the tenancy agreement between the landlord and tenant. It is important to maintain an accurate inventory and schedule of condition in case of a dispute over damage at the end of the tenancy. The records will help to provide proof of the condition of the property and its contents at the time when the tenant took possession of the property. It is a good idea to take photographs of the condition of the property and incorporate them into the tenancy agreement, so that the inventory can be relied upon as evidence. If damage is sustained to the property or its contents during the tenancy, the evidence will make it easier for the landlord to justify retention of the tenant’s deposit.

Q: What are my legal obligations as a landlord with regard to gas, electrical appliances and furnishings


You are required to purchase an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), a report that details the energy efficiency of your property, before you let it. The EPC will provide an energy efficiency rating for your property, ranging from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient), and will be valid for a period of 10 years.

It is your responsibility, as a landlord, to ensure that the electrical installation (i.e. wiring, switches, sockets, light fittings, etc) and appliances (e.g. cookers, hobs, dishwashers, refrigerators, etc) are safe at the start of a tenancy and remain so throughout the tenancy. Regular checks should be undertaken to ensure that the electrical installation is safe: we recommend that a qualified electrician undertakes appropriate inspections/tests on your rented property at least once every five years, and whenever there is a change of occupancy. There is no legal obligation to carry out tests on electrical appliances, however, we recommend that checks (e.g. PAT tests) are undertaken to ensure that appliances are safe at the start of a tenancy and periodically after that.

You must obtain a Gas Safety Record for your let property every 12 months. The Gas Safety Record must be carried out by a qualified Gas Safe Register engineer, and will include safety checks on all gas appliances, pipes and flues.

If you let your property on a furnished basis, you must ensure that the furnishings comply with the furniture and furnishings fire safety regulations. Compliant upholstered furniture must display permanent labels to prove that they comply with the official fire resistance standard. Any items of furniture that are upholstered, or have a filling, but do not meet the requirements, must be removed from the property.

All new houses built after Jun 1992 must have smoke alarms fitted as standard on each floor.

Q: Do I need a licence to let my property?


If your rental property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) – rented out by at least three people who are not from one household (e.g. a family) but share facilities such as the bathroom and kitchen – you may require a licence. If your rental property is a large HMO – it is rented to five or more people who form more than one household, it is at least three storeys high, and the tenants share the bathroom or kitchen facilities – you must have a licence. In order to check whether you require a licence you should contact with your local council.

For rental properties that do not fall within the definition of HMO the situation will vary by region. The ‘Selective Landlord Licensing Scheme’ has been applied in certain areas of the UK. In areas subject to selective licensing, all private landlords must obtain a licence – this is a legal obligation for all landlords within those areas. Landlords who let property in these areas without a licence commit an offence that could be punishable by a sizeable fine, and may find it difficult to evict their tenants. To find out if your rental property falls within an area subject to selective licensing you should contact your local council.

Q: What checks should I undertake on my tenant before I enter into a tenancy agreement?


You should undertake appropriate checks on any prospective tenant before you enter into a tenancy agreement, and before you allow anyone possession of your property. You need to know exactly who is moving into your property.

Your checks should include:

Identity check
Credit check for CCJs, bankruptcy, insolvency
Verification of employment or income
Previous landlord or letting agent references

Unfortunately we are unable to recommend a specific tenant referencing service, however, a number of suitable services can be easily found via internet search engine.

You should also be aware of the recently-introduced ‘right to rent’ checks, which require landlords to undertake suitable checks on a prospective tenant’s immigration status. The landlord must check the nationality and visa status of their tenants. Failure to check the status of a tenant can result in penalties of up to £3,000 being levied on the landlord. At the time of writing the ‘right to rent’ checks have only been implemented in the West Midlands, however, we expect that the checks will be required across all regions of England from late 2015.

Q: What type of insurance cover will I need as a landlord?


Regular household buildings and contents insurance will not provide cover for rental properties. You will need to obtain specific landlords buildings and contents insurance for your rental property. You should take care to ensure that you purchase adequate cover based on the rebuild cost of your property, and if you let your property on a furnished basis, that your policy provides cover for all fittings and furnishings. You might also like to consider purchasing legal expenses and rent guarantee insurance cover – legal expenses cover will provide indemnity for the costs incurred in disputes with your tenant (including eviction and recovery of rent arrears) whilst rent guarantee cover will provide indemnity for rent arrears if your tenant fails to pay their rent on time.

Q: Do I need to advise my mortgage lender that I intend to let my property?


We recommend that you check the terms of your mortgage. Unless your property is subject to a buy-to-let mortgage you should advise your mortgage provider that you intend to let your property. The terms of most mortgage providers’ standard lending arrangements will contain clauses that do not allow the property to be rented out. Your mortgage provider may alter the terms of your loan, or require you to transfer your mortgage to a different product.

Q: Do I need to advise HM Revenue & Customs that I receive rental income?


Yes. You must tell HM Revenue & Customs when you start to rent out property, and you may have to pay tax. You could be charged a penalty if you fail to notify HMRC. You will be required to report income from your rental property via a self assessment tax return. Further details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/renting-out-a-property/paying-tax.

Q: Tenancy agreement – what should it include? Does it need to be reviewed annually?


Your tenancy agreement should include:

the names of the landlord, the tenant(s), and any guarantor(s) (if required)
the rent and the frequency of payment (e.g. weekly or monthly)
information on how and when the rent will be reviewed
the deposit amount and how it will be protected
the circumstances in which the deposit can be fully or partly withheld by the landlord (e.g. to repair damage caused by the tenant)
the address of the property
the start and end date of the tenancy
any tenant or landlord obligations
any bills that your tenant shall be responsible for
whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done
who will be responsible for minor repairs (other than those that the landlord is legally responsible for)
whether the property can be sub-let

If you require assistance with your tenancy agreement, please contact us.

Deposits

Q: I’ve taken a deposit from my tenant, do I need to protect it via a Tenancy Deposit Scheme?

You must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme if you rent your property on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6th April 2007. In England and Wales your deposit may be registered with:

There are separate tenancy deposit schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The tenant’s deposit must be paid into a scheme within 30 days of receipt. You must also provide a copy of the deposit protection certificate and prescribed information (provided by the deposit scheme) to your tenant within 30 days of receiving their deposit.

The tenancy deposit scheme exists to protect the tenant’s money and help to resolve disputes between the landlord and tenant at the end of the tenancy period.

Q: I’ve taken a deposit from my tenant, do I need to protect it via a Tenancy Deposit Scheme?

You must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme if you rent your property on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6th April 2007. In England and Wales your deposit may be registered with:

There are separate tenancy deposit schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The tenant’s deposit must be paid into a scheme within 30 days of receipt. You must also provide a copy of the deposit protection certificate and prescribed information (provided by the deposit scheme) to your tenant within 30 days of receiving their deposit.

The tenancy deposit scheme exists to protect the tenant’s money and help to resolve disputes between the landlord and tenant at the end of the tenancy period.

During
Tenancy

Q: Can I enter my property during the tenancy?

You can enter your property during the tenancy, however, you must give your tenant appropriate notice before you do so.

Post
Tenancy

Q: My tenant has vacated my property and left their possessions behind. What should I do?

It is important to be aware that the property still belongs to the tenant and if you dispose of the tenant’s goods you may be subject to a claim from the tenant for damages. You must therefore make reasonable efforts to encourage the tenant to collect their goods, before you take further action. There may well be a clause in your tenancy agreement about the items left behind and your obligations as the landlord.

In order to dispose of the goods you must follow the requirements set out in the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act. You should write to the tenant to advise them that they have left goods in your property, and to make them aware of your intention to sell or dispose of the goods if they don’t collect them within a reasonable time frame. This letter should be sent recorded delivery, or delivered by hand, to ensure that it is received by the tenant.

If you don’t know the tenant’s new address, and have no other means of contacting them, you may be able to obtain their new address details by instructing tracing agents. There are a number of reputable tracing agents in the UK. If you require assistance with this process please contact us.

Your letter must contain:

  • Your name and address
  • A description of the goods left by the tenant – take photographs as well, if possible
  • The location of the goods
  • The date on which you intend to sell or dispose of the goods (it is important to allow the tenant a reasonable period of time to collect their goods – we recommend four weeks from the date of the letter)

You must retain a copy of the letter. Until the time frame set out in the letter expires you are obliged to take reasonable care of the goods. If this procedure is not followed then you may be liable for damages.

If the tenant fails to respond by the deadline date specified in your letter, or if you have exhausted all reasonable means of contacting the tenant to no avail, you may dispose of the tenant’s goods.

If you are unable to contact the tenant as you don’t know their new address, and the tracing agent is unable to confirm the new address details, you will be able to dispose of the goods if you can demonstrate that you have made reasonable attempts to locate and contact the tenant. The tracing agent’s negative report should be retained as evidence of the actions you took to identify the tenant’s new address, and will support your defence if the tenant later brings a claim against you for disposing of their property.

If you sell the tenant’s goods, the proceeds will be payable to the tenant, however, you will be entitled to deduct your expenses (e.g. the cost incurred in clearing the goods from your property, the cost of selling the goods, etc). Further, if the tenant owes you money (e.g. rent arrears or for damage caused to the property) you will be entitled to make further deductions from the proceeds of sale.

 

Dealing
with
Issues

Q: My tenant hasn’t paid their rent – what can I do?

  • If the rent is not paid on the due date: contact the tenant by telephone.
  • If the rent remains unpaid after 7 days: send your tenant a formal written demand by first class post or hand-delivery. Your letter should request that the outstanding rent arrears are paid immediately, and that future rent payments are made on time. In the letter you could mention that unpaid arrears could result in further action being taken against the tenant.
  • If the rent remains unpaid after 14 days: send a further written demand to the tenant, advising them that if the rent arrears are not paid you will take further action and will seek possession of the property.
  • If your tenant has a guarantor in place, you should write to the guarantor to explain that the tenant has rent arrears and that you intend to take legal action if payment is not received.
  • If the rent remains unpaid after 30 days, and a further month’s rent is now due, the tenant could now be regarded as being in two months’ arrears. You now have the right to take action to claim possession of your property. By serving a section 8 notice your tenant will be informed of your intention to commence court proceedings for possession and rent arrears if payment is not made within 14 days.
  • If the tenant doesn’t respond, you can take legal action to obtain possession of your property and can also ask the court to make a judgement for rent arrears.

If you require assistance with recovery of rent arrears, drafting of section 8 notices, or legal proceedings to obtain possession of your rental property, please contact us.

Q: I want to evict my tenant, what can I do?

There are strict procedures that need to be followed if you want to evict tenants from your rental property. You can use the ‘standard possession procedure’ if you want to obtain possession of your property as your tenants have failed to pay rent. If you are not claiming unpaid rent you may use the ‘accelerated possession’ procedure.

To commence the ‘standard possession’ procedure you will need to give your tenants notice using a section 8 notice. You will give your tenants between two weeks and two months’ notice, depending on the terms of tenancy they have broken. If your tenants fail to vacate the property by the date specified in the notice you can apply to the court for a possession order.

To commence the ‘accelerate possession’ procedure you can use a section 21 notice. This notice must give your tenants at least two months’ notice to leave your property. It should be noted that fixed-term tenants can’t be evicted until the expiry date of the tenancy agreement. You can apply to the courts for an accelerated possession order if the tenants fail to vacate the property by the date specified in the section 21 notice.

If you require assistance with section 8 or section 21 notices, or legal proceedings to obtain possession of your rental property, please contact us.

Q: My tenant has damaged my property, what can I do?

The tenant can either pay to fix the damage, or the cost of repairs can be deducted from the tenant’s deposit at the end of the tenancy agreement. If you did not hold a deposit from the tenant, or the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the deposit, you can ask the tenant to meet the cost of repairs. If the tenant is not willing to pay it may be possible to take legal proceedings against the tenant to obtain a court order for the damage.

 

Legal Proceedings

Q: What information/documentation will I need to provide to my case handler?


Before we commence work on your case we will write to you to request evidence of your identity – this will be in the form of verified photographic ID (e.g. a copy of your passport or driving licence). We will also require a utility bill dated within the last 3 months.

In order to progress your case we will need you to provide:

  • A copy of the current tenancy agreement
  • Copies of any tenancy agreements previously issued to the same tenants
  • Copy of the tenancy deposit certificate
  • Evidence of the prescribed information being served on the tenant
  • A copy of any notices that you have already served on your tenants
    (If your claim involves rent arrears) an up-to-date rent statements that clearly shows the amounts received and outstanding from the tenant.

If your case is covered under legal expenses insurance and you have already provided the above information to the insurer for assessment, your insurer should forward everything to us automatically. If this is not the case, or if we require further information/documentation from you, we will let you know.

Q: What happens once the Claim form is sent to the Court?


The Court will write to us to confirm the date of the hearing and we will let you know as soon as we have received this confirmation.

Q: How long does it take to obtain a hearing date?


It is difficult to provide an estimate: the Court will allocate a hearing date depending on the Court’s caseload. Every Court is different: some are able to book hearings very quickly, others can take considerably longer.

Q: In which Court will my case be heard?


Your claim will be submitted to the nearest court to the Defendant’s address which in most cases is the property for which possession is sought.

Q: What happens at the hearing?


The case will be scheduled for hearing at the Court at a specific time and date. We recommend that you aim to arrive at the Court at least 35 minutes before the scheduled start time for your case to ensure that you have sufficient time to find your way to the appropriate court room, and can meet with your legal representative in advance of the hearing. During the hearing the Judge will consider the evidence put forward by both parties (the landlord and the tenant), and will make a decision regarding the case.

Q: Who is required to attend the hearing?


The person who has had the most dealings with the tenants, and has the best understanding of the background to the claim is required to attend. This could be you, your partner or spouse, or your letting agent. The witness statement will be drafted in the name of the witness who attends court.

Q: Will I be required to do or say anything during the hearing?


The witness will be required to assist the Court with any queries. The witness may also be asked to swear evidence on oath in addition to confirming with the Court the rent arrears outstanding on the actual day of the hearing.

Q: What happens once the Possession Order is granted?


For possession proceedings under section 21 the Court will set a deadline for the tenant to vacate the property. For proceedings under section 8 the Court will set a deadline for the tenant to vacate the property and will also set a deadline for the tenant to repay their rent arrears arrears. If the tenant fails to vacate the property by the deadline, an application for a warrant for the possession of land will be required to enforce possession (click here for more information). This will result in a bailiff attending the property to evict the tenant. If the tenant fails to pay rent arrears by the deadline, further action will be required in order to recover payment.

Q: Who is required to attend the eviction?


The Court will appoint a bailiff to attend the property to evict the tenant. You (the landlord) or your letting agent must attend the eviction. It is important to ensure that the property’s locks are changed once the bailiff has completed the eviction, to ensure that no unauthorised persons can enter the property via a spare key. It is therefore strongly recommended that you arrange for a locksmith to attend the eviction.

Q: How long does it take to obtain a date for bailiff attendance?


This depends on the bailiff’s workload, and can take anywhere from two weeks to three months.

Q: I have legal expenses insurance cover for eviction and rent arrears. Will the insurance cover all the legal costs associated with my case?


Unfortunately we are unable to advise on the exact extent of coverage as policy terms and conditions differ from one legal expenses insurer to another. Legal expenses insurers do not generally cover the cost of serving section 8 or section 21 notices on the tenant, but will cover the costs incurred in legal proceedings after a notice has expired, including all Court fees associated with the claim. A legal expenses insurer will generally cover the cost of a warrant for possession and action taken after the Court hearing to recover unpaid rent from the tenant, provided there are sufficient prospects of a recovery being made. Aside from the cost of section 8 and section 21 notices, we understand that insurers do not generally cover the cost of locksmith attendance at an eviction. To obtain confirmation of exactly what is and isn’t covered under your own legal expenses insurance policy, we recommend that you speak with your insurers directly. Their contact details will be contained in your policy documentation.

LEGAL
ADVICE
FOR
LANDLORDS

We provide advice and representation in respect of all types of landlord and tenant disputes. If you find yourself in a situation where you are involved in a dispute with a tenant: your tenant has failed to look after your property, has run up rent arrears, has not left the property at the end of the tenancy and you wish to seek their eviction, we can help you.

We aim to:

  • Provide accessible, effective, practical advice
  • Work to settle disputes efficiently and cost-effectively
  • Achieve the best possible outcome for our clients

If you have a particular question or issue that you would like to discuss with our landlord and tenant team, or to find out more about our legal services for landlords and letting agents, please feel free to contact us.