The ac­ci­den­tal land­lord

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Letting On -

FOR ages, I had been mean­ing to at­tend one of the Na­tional Land­lords As­so­ci­a­tion train­ing days but never man­aged to find the time and, be­tween you and me, I never made it a pri­or­ity be­cause I was fairly sure that af­ter let­ting prop­erty for more than 10 years, I knew pretty much ev­ery­thing. How wrong was I?

When the NLA’s head of pol­icy Chris Nor­ris fi­nally per­suaded me to drag my­self along to its one-day foun­da­tion course, I re­alised there were big gaps in my knowl­edge.

The main thing I learned was how im­por­tant it is for land­lords to keep de­tailed records of ev­ery­thing we do to pro­tect our­selves from pos­si­ble le­gal ac­tion. For in­stance, it’s not enough to check your smoke alarms at the start of ev­ery ten­ancy, you also need proof that they were tested. So you could ask ten­ants to sign a doc­u­ment con­firm­ing the alarms were work­ing when they moved in or, bet­ter still, make sure your smoke alarms are in­cluded on the in­ven­tory.

You should also get the ten­ant to con­firm in writ­ing that you have given them all the doc­u­ments you are re­quired by law to pro­vide at the start of the ten­ancy, in­clud­ing the gas safety record, the lat­est ver­sion of the gov­ern­ment How to Rent guide (which no one will ever read), the En­ergy Per­for­mance Cer­tifi­cate (which no one un­der­stands) and the de­tails of the scheme used to pro­tect their de­posit.

You can send all this in­for­ma­tion by email, but if you do you should ask the ten­ant to con­firm they have re­ceived it. If not, you ought to pro­vide pa­per copies and get the ten­ant to sign a writ­ten doc­u­ment stat­ing they have ev­ery one of the above. Te­dious, I know, but if you don’t and the ten­ant de­nies hav­ing re­ceived these, you won’t be able to end the ten­ancy. NLA trainer Chris Daniel sug­gested land­lords should also take pho­tos of all the fire safety la­bels at­tached to fur­ni­ture in rental homes to prove it is fire re­tar­dant, or make sure the in­ven­tory states the la­bels were checked, just in case they get torn off. Then if there’s a fire, a land­lord can prove they were ob­serv­ing all the reg­u­la­tions on fur­ni­ture.

I was pre­vi­ously un­aware that land­lords must pro­vide op­er­at­ing in­struc­tions for all elec­tri­cal items, even small ap­pli­ances such as ket­tles and toast­ers. This is in case the ten­ant de­cides to do some­thing nuts like clean the ket­tle in the dish­washer. It could hap­pen. Giv­ing your ten­ants the user man­ual won’t stop them be­hav­ing like id­iots but when they blow up the mi­crowave or fry their fin­gers in the toaster, at least you won’t be to blame.

De­spite the low risk of ten­ants con­tract­ing Le­gion­naires’ dis­ease in a res­i­den­tial prop­erty, Chris in­sisted land­lords must rou­tinely in­spect their place for po­ten­tial risks and, cru­cially, log the de­tails of these in­spec­tions. They must also pro­vide ten­ants with de­tails of how to avoid le­gionella bac­te­ria, such as run­ning hot water taps for sev­eral min­utes in prop­er­ties that have been left empty for more than a week.

Es­sen­tially, land­lords have a duty to look af­ter their ten­ants and their prop­erty — and to keep proof that they are do­ing so.

£2,400 a month: a three­bed­room flat on the se­cond floor of this block in Park Road, Beck­en­ham, with park­ing, is avail­able to rent through Fox­tons (020 8012 6720).

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