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Landlord errors and how to avoid them - Failing to properly carry out periodic checks

Posted 13/07/2023 by Reeds Rains
Categories: Landlords/Lettings
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Once a property has been let and rent payments start dropping into the bank every month, some landlords more-or-less leave their tenants to it and only visit the property if they’ve been alerted to a problem. However, it’s important to visit the property periodically to check on both the property itself and your tenants, or make sure your agent does this for you.

Here are five key reasons why landlords need to do periodic checks:

  1. You need to know who’s living there

It’s your responsibility to know who’s living in your rented property, so you need to be sure that your tenants haven’t sub-let or moved any additional people in without telling you. This is important because every occupant needs to have their right to rent checked – if anyone is found to be living there illegally, it you who’ll be fined - and all tenants should have signed the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).

Also, unauthorised lodgers or occupiers can bring the property into scope for House in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) licensing or may breach the terms of an existing HMO licence occupation limit.

As an agent, we would look to see if there are any extra beds or bedding, check any sheds or other outbuildings for signs that someone might be staying in there, and if there’s any mail lying around, check who it’s addressed to.

  1. You can gauge how well the tenants are looking after their home

Of course, you can’t control how tidy your tenants are or how often they clean, but the presentation of the property will give you a good idea of whether they’re looking after it – especially given that they will have had at least 24 hours’ notice of yours/your agents visit, so should have made a bit of an effort!

If there’s any surface mould, we would chat with them about ventilation and the importance of wiping away condensation, and if there are any other housekeeping problems, a simple chat may be helpful.

It’s also important to check for signs of fire risks, such as smoking or having candles too close to furnishings – again, advise them on how they can help keep themselves safe. And keeping an eye out for any signs of illegal activity.

  1. You can spot any maintenance or repair issues that your tenant might not have reported

It’s a common complaint amongst landlords that their tenants often don’t report maintenance issues until they’ve become a serious and much more expensive problem to fix. So, check for dripping taps, minor leaks, failing cupboard hinges, wobbly chairs, etc., and arrange to have any issues put right. Getting to these things early should save you money in the long run and tenants will appreciate you investing in taking care of their home.

  1. It gives you the opportunity to test smoke alarms

Although it’s the tenant’s responsibility to test alarms and make sure they’re working property during the tenancy, you’re responsible for repairing or replacing any defective units and it’s well worth going over and above the minimum legal requirements when it comes to fire safety. So, check – or make sure your agent checks - that all the smoke alarms are working and tests are recorded in the inspection notes.

  1. It can help maintain good relations with your tenants

Tenants often have little questions that they don’t think it’s worth bothering you with, so we ask them if there’s anything they need, or anything else that can do that would make it a better home for them. And, as we go around, we take the opportunity to chat with them about how their work’s going, things that are happening locally, any big news stories, etc. From our perspective, if we can foster a comfortable and easy relationship with them, the more likely they are to communicate well if there’s a problem and the more successful the tenancy is likely to be.

We also find it's also a good idea to catch up on their future plans – some landlords have only found out their tenants plan to leave in the next few months by asking them during an inspection visit!

Finally, it’s worth noting that many insurance companies now require landlords to carry out regular inspection visits as a condition of their landlord insurance policy.

How often should a property inspection be done?

Ideally, checks should be made two or three times in the first year and every 6-12 months thereafter. On each inspection, make sure you or your agent check every room and all around the outside, and it’s well worth having a written checklist that you can complete and file in case there are any subsequent issues. It’s also advisable to make an inspection after any particularly bad storms or snowfall, to check that the external structure of the property is still sound and watertight.

You must give your tenant at least 24 hours’ written notice and it’s important to remember that they are under no obligation to let you in – although if they do refuse you entry, that’s a big red flag that something is wrong! If you try several times to arrange an inspection and they keep being evasive or ignore your requests, it may be time to consider taking legal steps to gain entry.

If you use a managing agent, they will have an inspection schedule and be able to make all the necessary checks efficiently. The benefit of having a professional agent inspect the property on your behalf is that they know what to look out for and are generally very good at spotting potential issues early, where many landlords might miss them.

If you’d like any advice or information about periodic inspections or you’d like to find out about our own property management service, just speak to the team in your local Reeds Rains branch – they’ll be happy to help.

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