LANDLORDS GUIDE

Letting through VIKINGS

VIKINGS provides a property management and residential letting service in Woodbridge (and surrounding villages), East Ipswich, Rushmere, Kesgrave, and Felixstowe areas –  we have constant demand for quality rented accommodation.

An experienced member of our team will visit your property and provide you with a professional rental valuation.  We will take into account location, size, condition and local demand for that type of property when giving your appraisal.

We offer advice on how best to present your property for rent, which includes maintenance, refurbishment or general upkeep that may be needed.  It is vitally important to present your investment in the best condition possible to be able to achieve a current market rent level and attract quality tenants.

It is important to find the most suitable tenant for your property as quickly as possible.  An empty property is lost income to a landlord.  Once we have received your instructions, we will commence our proactive marketing campaign unique to your property.  This takes the form of online advertising, such as rightmove.co.uk and onthemarket.co.uk, listing on our own interactive website and via our prominent high street window display.  We are pleased to report that in most instances suitable tenants are found for our landlords’ property within fourteen days of instruction.

Finding the right tenant for a property is fundamental.  We start by establishing your criteria for the sort of person you wish to occupy your property.  We then match this to prospective tenants, whom we will take through our vetting process; this includes obtaining references, and conducting right to rent, affordability and insolvency checks.  Only after receiving satisfactory checks and results will we then proceed with a tenancy.

When dealing with private tenants we take up references from employers and existing landlords.  In addition, other financial checks and credit checks may be undertaken, and character references obtained.  Where landlords have chosen a rent guarantee option the tenants are vetted by the agency providing the rent guarantee and legal protection; in these instances, a written report is provided along with written confirmation of the terms of rent guarantee.

VIKINGS aims to provide a professional and comprehensive residential letting service.  We are your local specialist letting agent who will offer you our wealth of knowledge and experience, whether you require property management (allowing us to take the strain on your behalf); or our tenant-finding service for the more hands-on landlord, who wishes to manage the property him/herself.

 

Premium Property Management

  • To provide you with a rental appraisal plus advice on realistic rent value. Rents will be exclusive of council tax and water rates.
  • Finding, selecting and advising on suitable tenants.
  • Obtaining proof of right to rent in the UK.
  • Obtaining references, including financial, employer and landlord references, as appropriate.
  • Preparation of all legal documents including notices, tenancy agreements and inventories, as well as obtaining tenants’ and landlords’ signatures.
  • Taking from the tenants a security deposit and holding this as stakeholders until termination of the tenancy. Upon termination of the tenancy, an inspection is made to ensure the property is left in a satisfactory condition.  Any expenses payable by the tenants for damage, cleaning etc. will be deducted from their deposits (subject to dispute).
  • Sending a monthly statement and rent (less our fees) within three working days upon receipt from the tenant.
  • Arranging necessary maintenance of the property by competent contractors and on satisfactory completion of the works, settling their accounts from rental received. Works other than general maintenance, i.e. extensive redecoration and repair, will attract an additional supervision fee.
  • Carry out regular inspections of the property at appropriate intervals.

 

Tenant Finding Service (Non-Management)

  • To provide you with a rental appraisal plus advice on realistic rent value. Rents will be exclusive of council tax and water rates.
  • Finding, selecting and advising on suitable tenants.
  • Obtaining proof of right to rent in the UK.
  • Obtaining references, including financial, employer and landlord references, as appropriate.
  • Providing information on landlords rent protection.
  • Preparation of all legal documents including notices, tenancy agreements and inventories, as well as obtaining tenants’ and landlords’ signatures.
  • Obtaining first month’s rent and deposit and arranging future rent payments to landlord.

When we initially assess a property, we indicate to you what we believe to be a realistic rent.  Prospective tenants usually accept this figure.  Payments are due every calendar month, in advance, starting from the commencement of the lease.  We do encourage tenants to pay their rent by standing order.

On occasions unforeseen situations arise and rent arrears can occur.  In these circumstances our accounting system will quickly draw this to our attention and the problem can usually be resolved swiftly. We use a variety of methods to contact the tenant including text messaging, telephone calls, emails and visits to the property, if necessary, alongside warning letters advising the tenant of the likely consequences of late payment.  If after seven days we have been unable to resolve the situation the landlord is informed of the circumstances and a course of action is discussed and agreed.

We require a deposit on all tenancies, for private tenants the deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent.  The maximum deposit we are allowed to hold under law is five weeks. Deposits are held to help ensure the tenant looks after the property and as a safeguard against unpaid rent.   It is refundable at the end of a tenancy only after the tenant has vacated the property and providing the house and their rent account is in order.  The deposit is held in VIKINGS’ secure client bank account in accordance with the requirements of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

Any deposit taken by a landlord or agent in respect of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) must be held in accordance with one of the official schemes run by bodies appointed by the government.

Private Landlords Using VIKINGS’ Tenant Finding Service

If you are a private landlord, you are required by law to make appropriate arrangements to deal with your tenants’ deposits.  VIKINGS will need to know which scheme you propose to operate as this will affect the type of tenancy agreement that is used and the paperwork we provide to the tenant.  VIKINGS cannot hold deposits for non-managed properties.

In view of the regulations, it is essential for all tenancy agreements to be accompanied by a Schedule of Condition which should include both written details and photographic evidence. If the landlord wishes to provide their own schedule, no charge will be made.

Our experience reveals that it is most important to have a carefully prepared Schedule of Condition and Contents (Inventory) that is agreed with the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy.  Such a document can save arguments and substantial costs.  We strongly recommend that we be engaged to prepare an inventory and Schedule of Condition on all rented properties due to the requirements of the Tenant Deposit Scheme.  A fee (as per our current Scale of Fees and Charges) is charged for this service, which will depend upon whether the property is furnished or unfurnished.

From the 1st October 2008, the regulations require landlords to provide their new tenants with an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

The landlord is responsible for ensuring a valid certificate is made available, even if a letting agent is managing their property.  The EPC must be made available free of charge to prospective tenants at the earliest opportunity and a copy of the EPC must be given to the person who takes up the tenancy.

EPC’s are valid for 10 years and can be re-used as many times as required within that period.  It is not necessary to commission a new EPC each time there is a change of tenant.

Unless notified otherwise by the landlord in writing, VIKINGS will arrange for the EPC as per our current Scale of Fees and Charges and this will be deducted from the first rental money paid to the landlord.

What is an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?

An EPC is similar to labels produced with domestic appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines.  The certificate will provide a rating of the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of a building from A to G, where A is very efficient and G is least efficient.  Currently, a property cannot be let if the rating is below E.  This is set to change in the coming years.

What is included in the EPC?

An EPC contains the following information:

  • Estimated energy use – based on standard assumptions, an estimate of energy use, carbon emissions and fuel costs for lighting, heating and hot water is provided
  • Advice about energy efficient behaviour
  • Recommendations report – will outline any potential improvements that would make a difference to the energy consumption of the building

The tenancy commences on the date stated in the lease.  Prior to the tenant moving in the property we will carry out an inventory report of the property, with a description of its condition along with photographic evidence.  We will then provide two copies of the inventory to your tenant for their agreement and signature to avoid potential disputes at the end of the tenancy.

Whilst compiling the inventory – and where available – we also take the meter readings, which are held on file for cross referral purposes. East Suffolk Council will be notified of the commencement date of the tenancy for council tax purposes.

All new tenancies commence with a six-month (unless otherwise specified) assured shorthold contract.  If you do not want to renew the tenancy after the initial fixed term, you must inform us by the fourth month.  We will then make arrangements for the statutory notice to be served.

If the tenants wish to stay in the property, you can allow the tenancy to continue, where you can choose to renew for a period of six months upwards.

If you do not wish to commit yourself to a definite period the contract can become a periodic tenancy, whereby the tenant stays in the property on a month-to-month basis (under the terms of the original contract).  Should they wish to leave, however, they only need to give one month’s notice.  If you require possession of the property you must give the tenants at least two months’ notice.  (Please note: during the pandemic, or other extraordinary circumstances, notice periods may be subject to change by the government.)

Once a tenancy comes to an end, we make arrangements to meet the tenant at the property.  We inspect the property again to take meter readings as well as obtaining the tenants’ forwarding address.  The deposit is refundable to the tenant once we are satisfied that everything is in order with the property.  If you prefer, you can inspect the property yourself before the deposit is refunded.  This must be done within ten days of the tenancy ending, as we are bound to the Tenancy Dispute Service terms.

If for any reason there are any disputes with how the property has been left, the first course of action is to give the tenant the opportunity to rectify the problem.  If the tenant does not rectify the issue(s), we can make a deduction from the deposit (valid estimates must be obtained indicating the exact cost of repair).  Failure to reach an agreement between the landlord and the tenant will result in the dispute being passed to the Tenancy Dispute Service.  You will be required to submit your observations in writing along with photos and estimates of repairs to the Tenancy Dispute Service.  In turn, once the tenant has stated their case, the Tenancy Dispute Service adjudicator will make a final judgement on the dispute.

We conduct regular inspections of all tenanted properties.  These inspections serve numerous purposes.  They allow us to visit the tenant to ensure they are looking after the property, whilst also allowing us to check for any maintenance issues that may have arisen during the tenancy.  If any maintenance/repairs require attention, we will then inform you as soon as is practical helping to reduce the risk of the problem becoming worse and costs escalating.   

We also find these inspections most helpful in building a rapport with the tenant, which we hope will be mutually beneficial for all parties ongoing throughout the tenancy.  Properties under full management will be inspected once within the first six months of commencement of the tenancy and on a minimum of twelve months thereafter.  A report is then prepared and sent to the landlord.  This will include comments on any maintenance issues required.

Every property at some point will need some maintenance or repairs to be carried out.  As and when any issues arise, the tenant is asked to contact us.  We will then inform you of the repair required.  In the majority of cases the issue can be resolved quickly.  However, there are two important points to remember when it comes to repairs: 

Firstly, if a serious fault does occur (water burst/flood) and we cannot contact you we will use our professional judgement when authorising the repair.  In the case of routine repairs we will authorise individual repairs up to £150 (unless otherwise agreed with yourself). Authorisation for this is contained within the sole agency agreement that you will sign.

Secondly, once the property is tenanted you do have an obligation to ensure it is well maintained.  Carrying out repairs quickly is often as important for you as it is for the tenant.  A repair caught early enough can save you a lot of money.  Remember, tenants do have rights; tenants can contact the Environmental Health Department of the local council if repairs are not being attended to quickly.  The ensuing enforcement order could include extra repairs and a significantly higher final bill.  Work not done will be carried out by the council and they will add a hefty additional charge on top of the repair bill. 

In the Landlord & Tenants Act 1985 under section 11, it is implied as a condition in the tenancy agreement that the landlord:

  • Keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including its drains, gutters and external pipes).
  • Keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling, for sanction and for the supply of water, gas and electricity as well as those for space heating and heating water.

It is a legal requirement that every gas appliance and gas central heating system has to be inspected on an annual basis.  They have to meet strict conditions and a safety certificate must be issued.  Failure to comply can lead to a criminal prosecution and a maximum prison sentence of six months with a fine up to £5000.  The person conducting the inspection must be an approved contractor (Gas Safe Registered).  VIKINGS will usually arrange for the safety inspection to be carried out for the landlords by their local gas engineer.  Once the inspection has been completed, we keep a record of the date. 

A safety certificate must be issued every twelve months.  If you personally wish to arrange for this to be done you must supply VIKINGS with a Gas Safety Certificate before the tenancy commences, otherwise VIKINGS will arrange for the safety inspection.  You are requested to authorise VIKINGS to arrange for this work when signing your sole agency agreement.  It will not be possible to let your property unless there is a valid Gas Safety Certificate for each appliance. 

If you have a service contract for your gas appliance(s) please let us know; the details will be kept in the files and should the tenant have any problems we can contact your service provider on your behalf and ensure that the service is undertaken and a Gas Safety Certificate issued.

From 2020, new Regulations require landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every 5 years. This applies to new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.

Landlords must obtain a report called an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) from the person conducting the inspection, which explains its outcomes and any investigative or remedial work required.

Landlords must supply a copy of the report to the tenant within 28 days of the inspection and test, to a new tenant before they occupy the premises, and to any prospective tenant within 28 days of receiving a request for the report.

If you personally wish to arrange for this to be done you must supply VIKINGS with your EICR before the tenancy commences, otherwise VIKINGS will arrange for the electrical safety inspection to be carried out.  You are requested to authorise VIKINGS to arrange for this work when signing your sole agency agreement along with any electrical repairs up to the value of £150.  It will not be possible to let your property unless there is a valid EICR.

It is a legal requirement that all properties should be fitted with smoke alarms on each floor level.  Smoke alarms are inexpensive and are easily fitted, they can and do save lives.  Once installed these devices must be checked on a regular basis.

If your property has gas appliances then you may wish to consider the installation of carbon monoxide alarms (these detect the build-up of dangerous gases).  These units cost a little more than smoke alarms but again do serve a very useful purpose. 

VIKINGS can arrange for the installation of battery-operated alarms.  The tenants are responsible for ensuring that the alarm is in working order in accordance with the terms of the tenancy agreement, i.e. to replace batteries or to report any defects during the term of the tenancy.

If any furniture (including electrical/mechanical) is left in a property then you as a landlord have a duty to ensure it is maintained, repaired or replaced – provided, of course, this is not as a result of negligence or malicious damage by the tenant.

Any soft furnishings (chairs, beds etc) that are left in the property must comply to current fire regulations; a label stating so should be attached.  If not, the furnishings must be removed from the property, as they cannot be stored at the rented address.  Valuables should not be left in a rented property. 

Unfurnished properties should provide carpets, curtains, light fittings and possibly a cooker.  For properties with gardens, it is desirable that a lawn mower and a few garden tools (i.e. fork, rake etc) be left for the tenants’ use.

If the property you wish to rent is subject to a mortgage then the mortgage lender should be informed that you intend to let the property.  This should be done before a tenant moves into the property.  Gaining permission from the lender usually depends upon the mortgage account not being in arrears.  Some lenders do ask to see a copy of the lease, which the tenant will be asked to sign.  We will happily provide them with this.  The lender may make a small charge to cover administration costs.  Leaseholders will usually have to get permission to underlet and will remain responsible for service charges and ground rents.

As landlords you are still responsible for the building, and accordingly the buildings insurance.  Please note buildings insurance will not cover the costs of replacing or repairing carpets if they become damaged; it does, however, cover fixtures and fittings.  If the property is furnished or part-furnished you may also wish to consider contents insurance.

Will your property be fully covered if the unexpected happens?

In line with our policy of continually raising the level of care and service we provide to our landlords, we are able to provide a service in relation to the insurance of your property and contents.

Buildings Insurance

This is essential to protect your investment and give you complete peace of mind.  Over 50% of all rented property is either NOT insured or has a policy which EXCLUDES letting.

We are now providing this specialised protection through Rentguard and would ask you to take a few moments of your time to ensure you are properly covered – please ask us for more information.

Income received from renting any property is subject to tax (we strongly recommend that you take advice from an accountant)

Increasingly the public has become aware that investment in property can provide a greater return and security than traditional forms of investments.  VIKINGS is always pleased to provide advice on suitable types of property and areas for investment.  In addition, our recommended financial advisor can provide useful guidance on buy-to-let mortgages. 

You do not have to buy your property through VIKINGS ESTATE AGENTS to benefit from our extensive knowledge and experience when considering buying a property for investment purposes.  You are strongly advised to take advantage of this free service. 

Generous discounts on our fees are available to landlords who have more than one property registered with VIKINGS.  Landlords operating with their property not registered with VIKINGS might ask themselves are they satisfied with their current agent’s performance in the following aspects?

  • Personal service dedicated to you and your property
  • Level of fees – are you getting value for money?
  • Efficient feedback on all aspects of the tenancy
  • Do they conduct regular property inspections?
  • Thorough and experienced tenant vetting
  • Regular rent reviews
  • Transparency and staff continuity – vital with property management

The agreement you sign when the property is placed on our books does not cover periods when the property is vacant.  If you are concerned about the property and want us to manage it while it is empty you must inform us of this and we can make arrangements to do so (there will be an extra cost for this service).

As a landlord, if you may decide to sell your property at any time, we offer a dedicated, professional and experienced selling service. Just contact our sales team for an up-to-date market valuation of your property at any time.  In many instances we are able to sell the property with the tenant still in situ to another landlord, whereby you receive rent up to the very last day of your ownership.

We require a set of keys for each tenant to the property. We also require a set of keys to be retained in our office for emergencies. If additional keys are required the appropriate charge will appear on your monthly statement subject to our current Scale of Fees and Charges. 

NOTE: if you wish to use or collect these keys at any time you must bring proof of identification as a security measure.

We are required by the above regulations to have in place anti-money laundering controls in order to anticipate and prevent our business being used by criminals to launder money and fund terrorism.  Consequently, we are required to request that landlords provide the following documents:

  • Proof of ownership of the property, e.g., solicitors’ letter and/associated documents at the time of purchase
  • Copy of landlord’s passport, driving license and utility bill

We hope that after having discussed in detail the management of your property with a member of our staff, and having studied this Landlords Guide, you are ready to instruct VIKINGS ESTATE AGENTS to market your property. If so, you will be asked to complete our Landlords Questionnaire and return it to our office together with a signed copy of our Landlords Sole Agency Agreement. Upon receipt of these documents we will commence marketing your property.

If, after reading our informative guide to letting your property with VIKINGS, you have any questions you may like to raise, we welcome you to contact us and we will endeavour to assist you in any way possible – whether that be in person, by telephone or by email.