Before you accept a new tenant there are several requirements that need to be covered. Some of these are for the security of the landlord, whilst others are for the wellbeing of the tenant. All however must comply with government regulations. It is sensible practice to provide an information folder for your incoming tenants, containing all documents, that as a landlord you are by law, required to give them.
Take a look at some of the points that you need to consider when signing up a new tenant.
Never be rushed into accepting a tenant, under any circumstances. Keys should only be handed over after all aspects have been covered, Identity checks are imperative.
References from employers or former landlords need to be double checked, and an independent credit reference certificate obtained.
Always require a month’s rent in advance, plus any deposit, unless they have a legal authority bond or guarantee. Set up a signed standing order form with the tenant’s bank; be wary of anyone who just wants to pay cash.
The tenant must sign a legal form of Tenancy Agreement, do not accept photocopies, the signatures need to be original. Once signed this will be legally binding.
In the initial instance, do not offer a fixed term of longer than six months. Depending on how things work out you can extend it later.
Housing benefit tenants will need to sign a letter allowing the benefit office to give you information about them. Local housing allowances are not normally paid direct to the landlord, so something like a credit union account will need to be implemented. These can be ring-fenced so that the money does not go elsewhere. Also beware of any shortfall between benefits and cost of renting, how is that going to be met?
Get any utilities that will have to be paid by the tenant, such as heating, put into their names, to avoid any conflict of payment and use. They should also be given copies of gas safety certificates and energy performance.
You have a legal obligation to make sure the agreement is not discriminatory, provide a statement of tenancy terms within 28 days, and make sure it is written in clear English, or provide clarification if the tenant does not speak English or has literacy problems. Failure to give all the required information in a tenancy agreement is an offence for which you can be prosecuted. A full list can be found online. The payment of rates is also a source of problems, and needs to be clearly agreed from the beginning.
You need to provide a rent book that must include details about the tenant, the property and even its capital value. Each payment period will have to be signed for, and the amount disclosed.
The information pack you give to a tenant should also include details about how to operate the appliances, state of furniture and fittings, details of energy accounts and what to do in an emergency, such as burst pipes.
Please note that if you receive a deposit it must be registered with a Tenancy Deposit Administrator. Failure to do this could result in a penalty or even possible prosecution.