What is the law?
When you rent out your property to a tenant, the tenancy agreement will usually be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) unless you agree otherwise in writing, or the agreement is made outside the legislation governing ASTs.
In most cases, using an AST will mean that you have a guaranteed right to get your home back after six months should you need to. You can also charge rent at the current market rate and can repossess the property if your tenant falls behind on rent payments by at least two months (or 8 weeks). In additin, ASTs give you the power to evict any tenants that cause a nuisance to local people.
How long should an AST last?
You will have to agree how long your AST will last with your tenant, either for a set period (or 'fixed term' as it is also known), or you can agree to leave it open ended.
How can I get my property back?
An AST can be ended at any point after the initial six month period, assuming that any fixed term you originally agreed to is over. You are required to give your tenant a minimum of two months' notice in writing, to let them know you want your property back and to give them time to make arrangements to vacate. If you have grounds to do so, you might also end the tenancy at any time. These grounds might include anti-social behaviour by the tenant or damage caused to your property, as well as the rent arrears as mentioned above.
What if the tenant refuses to leave?
Most tenants leave when asked to, but if they do not then you cannot evict them yourself. You would need to apply through the County Court, though in some cases you can use an accelerated possession procedure which does not entail attendance at a court hearing.
Why not just leave my property empty?
A property standing empty for no real reason can lead to the loss of a great deal of potential revenue, plus a property costs money whether it is occupied or not. Council tax and unoccupied house insurance are necessary expenditures, plus you will need to invest in measures to prevent dilapidation and take additional security precautions. You also run the risk of vandalism, squatting, neighbourhood complaints and an elevated risk of accidental fire or arson occurring.
What are my responsibilities and what will my tenants be responsible for?
You will be responsible for undertaking repairs and maintaining the premises' heating, hot water, basins, baths and other sanitary installations. You will also need to ensure that the gas and electrical appliances provided are safe to use and that all furniture/furnishing you provide are fire safe. Your tenant is responsible for paying rent to you at the rate you agreed upon, usually paying for council tax and utilities unless you include them in the rent agreement. They are also responsible for taking proper care of your property.
Do I need home insurance?
If you are renting out a property it needs to be covered by specialist landlord insurance, which is slightly different from the cover you take out for your own home. You may have difficulty obtaining this from a standard insurance provider. With HomeProtect you can get a quick and competitive online quote for landlord insurance.
Landlords sometime wish to leave a property unoccupied for a period of time, and this will also require specialist unoccupied property cover that is not available from all providers of regular home insurance: many standard insurers will refuse to offer you a quote if your home is going to be empty for a period of more than 30 days at a time, but with Homeprotect you can insure your unoccupied house no matter how long it is vacant.
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