With lettings laws often being different from one property type and let to another, below we have listed the top laws to know about when letting a flat.
1. How long is the lease?
If you’re buying with a mortgage, be aware that mortgage lenders may require at least 80 years remaining on the lease when you buy and at least 35 at the end of the mortgage term. Below 70-75 years, interest rates tend to go up and if you need to sell, the shorter the lease term, the lower the market value is likely to be.
If you own outright or with finance, it’s essential to know whether you can extend the lease and how much that would cost
2. Does your lease allow you to let the property?
Some leases don’t allow you let a property as they insist you must live in it. Others don’t allow letting to students and some even state that the freeholder has the right to see prospective tenants. Put in writing to your legal company that you’re planning to let it, so they can check lease clauses that may affect renting the property.
3. Lease restrictions
Some leases say you’ve got to have carpets, rather than hard flooring, and some don’t allow any internal change of layout – i.e. you might not be able to put up or take down any walls to configure the flat as you want.
4. Does the lease allow pets?
Some leases allow pets, but many don’t. Tenants with pets can make long term renters, so if it’s possible to have a flat that allows tenants to have pets, this could help reduce voids and boost rental returns.
5. Is a licence required?
Selective licensing by local authorities may mean if you own more than one flat in a block, or the whole block, you need to apply for a licence. If letting a large flat as an House in Multiple Occupation to 5 or more unrelated people, you’ll need an House in Multiple Occupation licence.
6. What does the service charge include at what cost?
Service charges can include different things, so understand what you pay for on a regular basis and what you may have to pay for, for major charges such as a new roof. Check how much service and ground rents can be increased by as these charges can quickly eat into your profits which you may not be able to cover by increasing the tenant’s rent.
7. What does the flat insurance cover you for?
Usually, the freeholder or management company pays the buildings insurance and you pay your share though the management charge. However, this is likely to be standard residential insurance whereas it may be better to consider specialist landlord insurance. Check the detailed cover and speak to a provider who can ‘top up’ your insurance to cover things like malicious damage and liability insurance.
8. Flat security
As a landlord you must make sure the property is safe for the tenant, so although the security of the block is likely to be the responsibility of the Freeholder to fix, you need to ensure this will happen. Letting a flat with a proactive and responsive management is a must to keep the communal areas free from rubbish which could reduce your rental income and ability to let the property quickly.
9. Communal areas need to be kept clear
Find out who looks after the communal areas. It might be a committee of owners or a single freeholder that never visits the property or a managing agent. Whoever it is, you still need to meet health and safety guidelines for letting a property. For example, communal areas need to be well lit and clear of debris in case of a fire. If that’s not something your control directly, always bring any issues to the attention of whoever is responsible.
10. Rubbish collection
Landlords are required to ensure there is adequate collection of waste from the property let. Check if bins are overloaded on collection day or if there is plenty of waste disposal for existing flat owners and tenants.