The DIY Landlord’s Bible - Checking Tenants In


Taking the plunge to become a do-it-yourself landlord can be a daunting experience, but with our handy HomeRenter checklist it really needn’t be. Once you’ve successfully managed one property through a tenancy you may question why you ever did it any other way - especially as more often than not it would have been at ten times the annual expense!

So, if you’re toying with the idea of jettisoning an agent in place and going it alone, please make sure to review our hit list of ‘nice to know’s, ‘must know’s and ‘you really could be in some trouble if you don’t know’s before you embark on your new DIY rental journey.

The ‘Nice to Know’s

  • If you’re preparing to show your property yourself for the first time - have no fear. Believe it or not, estate agents have no special ‘lettings’ gene and the vast majority of would-be tenants prefer to be shown their next rental home by their landlord, not least because they want to put a face to the name before moving in.

  • Referencing is at your discretion and if two blue-chip solicitors make you an offer on a property - as once happened to the HomeRenter team - you may feel confident with a glance at their LinkedIn resumes. But rare situations like this aside, sourcing a payslip scan and reference from employer can be a smart - but bare minimum - DIY affordability check ahead of paying a third party for credit-worthiness scores and ID verification.

  • For both your protection and your tenants - you’ll be wanting a lease contract signed and in place, but contrary to popular opinion it’s unlikely you’ll need a lawyer to assist as there are numerous ‘open sources’ for standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy contracts, including HomeRenter’s very own free template.

  • Ensure your rental property is spick and span before your tenants move in. The cleaner it is at beginning, the cleaner you can legitimately expect it back at the end!

  • Remember to redirect any mail (if you previously lived in), settle any interim bills, capture current readings and arrange for future bills to be directed to new tenants.

  • Without writing an epic saga on the history of the property, we’ve found that compiling a ‘user manual’ of instructions for all appliances can pay massive dividends in terms of reduced queries.

  • Ensure you’ve created (and inventorised) sufficient property keys for yourself and tenants, including spares for key holders or trusted service providers.

  • We always recommend some form of inventory exercise; this might be a simple Word document that captures the valuable fittings and furniture in your rental property signed by both parties; or it could be a paid-for professional exercise by a specialist.

  • Putting a chilled bottle of bubbly in the flat is a time-honoured tip for putting a smile on your tenant’s faces the first time they open their empty fridge and can get any tenancy off to the best possible start.

The ‘Must Know’s

  • As a landlord you have a legal obligation to ensure your tenants are safe and in England landlords of any denomination must ensure smoke alarms are installed on each floor of your property and carbon monoxide detectors in rooms with a coal fire or wood-burning stove for the start of the tenancy.

  • As a landlord, private or professional, you’re under obligation to furnish your tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate for your home. An EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.

  • Ensure all electrical items are safe and tested. At HomeRenter we recommend an Installation Survey or Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) so you can be sure you are compliant. To find a trusted electrician in your area you can always search our trusted service provider channel, here.

  • Even as a private DIY landlord, you should technically provide your in-coming tenants with a copy of the Government’s How to Rent guide which gives practical advice about what to do before and during a let. You additionally must ensure the new tenants have a record of your full name, address and methods of contact if not already included on lease

  • All furniture must meet safety standards. All compliant furniture must display standard labels in a prominent position, which is to reduce the risk of fire within the property.

The ‘You could be in some trouble if you don’t know’s

  • Before your new tenants settle into their new home, as the landlord you must supply a gas safety certificate for each gas appliance provided in the property and these must be left in the property.

  • As a landlord, in addition to the discretionary referencing you perform to satisfy yourself you’re making the right call in terms of character, credit-worthiness and affordability, your tenant has to demonstrate to you their Right to Rent if in England – if not you risk a fine. This by and large boils down to taking receipt of a passport scan but for foreign nationals on finite visas it can be more complex and we recommend checking out the latest Government rules here.

  • If you’re taking a security deposit - no longer such a cast-iron certainty in today’s world of no deposit renting - and the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), as a landlord you must protect the tenancy deposit with a UK government-approved deposit protection scheme. A landlord of an AST who doesn’t protect the deposit can be fined and it can make it much more difficult to end the tenancy. The three Government-backed protection schemes have rather confusing and similar sounding acronyms but are listed here for ease;-

    • My Deposits
    • DPS aka The Deposit Protection Service
    • TDS aka Tenancy Deposit Scheme
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About Will Handley

Private landlord and prop tech founder writing about all things property, lettings and start-up.
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