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Once you have secured a buy to let property, and arranged your mortgage you will need to find the right tenants and be familiar with the legal responsibilities of being a landlord. Firstly you need to arrange advertising for tenants. You need to decide whether you are going to go through a letting agent which will incur fees, but offer more protection, or do it privately with lower or no fees.

Don’t be put off by arranging everything yourself though, it’s relatively easy to arrange reference checks and such like yourself, however having an agent saves a lot of time but can end up costing 10-15% of your monthly rental income in fees. Online sites such as Gumtree are free to advertise, and can help to find prospective tenants much quicker.

Once you have found tenants you are happy with and done all the necessary checks, you need to be aware of landlord and tenant laws, particularly your responsibilities and the rights of your tenants. Firstly you need to provide an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, signed by both yourself and your tenants, and any deposit needs to be placed into the Deposit Protection Scheme.

You have responsibilities to carry out essential repairs, and arranging safety checks for gas and electrical appliances. You will also need to provide an Energy Performance Certificate with the tenancy, which will need to be renewed every 10 years. It’s worth noting, that if you look to improve the energy performance rating for your property, you may also be entitled to tax benefits. As a landlord you can claim up to £1500 for energy improvements through the Landlords Energy Saving Allowance. If you need to carry out any repairs or maintenance you need to give at least 24 hours warning to your tenants asking for permission. Remember you cannot simply enter the property unannounced.

It’s a good idea to have rent paid via a standing order or direct debit into an account. This ensures that payments can be tracked, particularly if there are any discrepancies. If your tenant falls behind with their rent, and you cannot come to an arrangement, you cannot simply evict them. You will need to apply to the court, but even this cannot be done unless they owe at least 12 weeks rent.

One of the good things about instructing a letting agent, is that they will often guarantee the rental income, regardless of payment from the tenant or the property being vacant. However this can prove costly, as they will charge a percentage of the monthly rent, but this does ensure a consistent income and the letting agent will take care of most of the legal issues and sometimes maintenance too but obviously at a cost. It is therefore a good idea to contact different agents, get an idea of prices and what they offer. You can then weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether you wish to use a letting agent or arrange everything yourself as a private landlord.

by Cormac Henderson

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