Many of my friends rent. In fact, the majority of them do, so I’m frequently getting the inside scoop on how other Landlords run their ship.
One thing is evidently clear – there is no need to worry – because there certainly isn’t a national shortage of asshole landlords cutting corners in order to save a few bucks!
While I’m not surprised by the toxic state of affairs, I’m still constantly feeling overwhelmed by how many dip-shits’ roam among us (when I say “us”, I’m referring to us landlords).
I want you to avoid those types of landlords, and here’s my top tips on how you can…
With a growing amount of landlords self-managing their rentals (because management fees are freaking ridiculous), the chances of you dealing directly with a landlord (as opposed to a letting agent) is pretty likely, and becoming more likely by the day.
I’ve been managing my own rentals ever since online letting agents emerged approximately a decade ago, and I haven’t looked back. Not only has it massively reduced my running costs, but it’s also resulted in better and more personable relationships with my tenants, which has positively impacted the retention rate!
It’s pretty easy for me to say I’m one of the “good one’s” – and I won’t expect you to take my word for it (I am a landlord, after all) – but I still have faith in the fact that if you’re a new or soon-to-be tenant, you won’t completely side-step my advice on how you can avoid the said dip-shits.
Note, my list of tips on how to find a good landlord can all be addressed BEFORE signing any tenancy contracts! Obviously, the whole point is to identify a potential scum-bag before you’re locked into a contractual agreement.
Signs of a good landlord!
Compliance of legal obligations
Perhaps the most important and obvious out of the lot.
However, the problem is that it’s difficult to know whether a landlord is completely compliant with their legal obligations before a tenancy is signed, but here are a few things you can look out for before:
- EPC – it’s a legal requirement for landlords to show prospective tenants a valid Energy Performance Certificate before a tenancy is signed. Most landlords will show the EPC during the viewings.
- Gas Safety – Landlords are legally required to have an annual gas safety check by a qualified ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer. While the landlord is obligated to provide tenants with a copy of the certificate to prove a check has been conducted once you’re a tenant, you should request to see the copy before.
- Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Landlords in England are legally obligated to install smoke alarms on every floor, and provide carbon monoxide alarms if the property contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove). Obviously alarms are easy to check for during viewings.
While this may not be legally required for all UK landlords, I believe every decent landlord will provide fully-functional smoke alarms as matter of good sense.
Selective Licensing Scheme – Some residential rental properties, depending on location, may require a license before landlords are permitted to let their property. You can check on the local council’s website to see a license is required in the area which you intend to move to. If so, you should request to see if your landlord has a valid one.
The Selective Licensing Scheme should not be confused with a HMO license, although the principle remains the same. If you intend to rent a room in a HMO property, then your landlord will most likely need a HMO license. So in that case, you should request to see the HMO license.
Repairs & maintenance
This point kind of overlaps with the landlord’s legal obligations, because every landlord is required to keep on top of repairs & maintenance. Under Section 11, Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord is responsible for:
- keeping the structure and exterior of the property in good repair, including drains, gutters and external pipes
- keeping installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation in good repair and proper working order
- keeping installations for space heating and water heating in good repair and proper working order
You should check everything is in safe working order. If anything seems in disrepair during the viewing, you should question it with the landlord and find out when it will be addressed.
On a sidenote, I would avoid committing to a tenancy agreement until those issues are properly resolved!
I’m a stickler for punctuality, and when someone isn’t on time it tells me that they believe their time is more valuable than mine! It isn’t.
I understand shit happens; we will all be late for something at some point, and I’m cool with that, so I pay attention to how the matter is dealt with.
If a landlord (or anyone, including tenants, for that matter) is late for a viewing for example, without good reason, without giving prior notice (when possible) and is unapologetic, it’s very telling of their character, in my opinion.
Repeat offenders’ are a complete no-no, despite how nice they are about it.
It’s a sign of things to come and I don’t want to do business with unreliable, and quite frankly, rude people. Nor should you.
Similarly with being punctual; unless there are extenuating circumstances, the landlord should be contactable and responsive. I reply to all my tenants with in 24 hours (usually with in a couple of hours). Latest 48 hours.
One of the advantages of dealing directly with a letting agent is that they’re generally always contactable (during office hours, at least), so if a landlord wants to be self-managing, they need to resume the role properly. Otherwise you’re better off dealing with a letting agent.
If at any point during the lead up to signing a tenancy there is a lack of communication which makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t let it go unnoticed.
Once again, it’s probably a sign of things to come!
You should want an active landlord so they can address issues quickly, especially in the event of any emergencies (e.g. heating or water issues).
Stringent with referencing & questions
One of the main priorities of EVERY landlord should be to secure reliable tenants that will pay rent on time and take care of their property (i.e. treat it like a home). That’s all I want and expect from my tenants.
I’d be extremely wary of landlords that don’t insist on conducting credit checks, references from previous/current landlords and previous/current employers, and ask relevant questions (i.e. what your circumstances are, and your reason for renting/moving), because it either means they’re incompetent or potentially running a scam. Either way, best avoided.
On that note, you may want to check out a list of common scams that tenants fall victim to.
Willing to be referenced
Not only should landlords reference tenants, but tenants should also reference landlords. That may consist of:
- Getting references from current and/or previous tenants
- Checking the landlord’s ID to ensure you’re dealing with the person they say they are
- Checking land registry papers to ensure they actually own the property (this will avoid one of the most common scams, whereby unauthorised people illegally let someone else’s property)
Decent landlords will NOT have an issue with reasonable interrogation from the tenant. Any landlord that does is either unreasonable or hiding something sinister.
Welcoming, friendly and accommodating
Yup, first impressions count.
I’m always welcoming and friendly whenever I meet prospective tenants (I like to think I’m always like that anyways). After all, this could be the start of a long relationship so I want it to start off on the right foot.
I also make it clear I’m happy to answer any question related to the tenancy.
Many tenants make the fatal mistake of ignoring first impressions because they believe it’s relevant, because once they’re in the property and start paying rent they won’t have to deal with the bad attitude. Grit and bear.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth!
There will be times when you will need to contact your landlord, whether it be for repairs or anything else, and if s/he isn’t welcoming the first time you meet, they’re probably going to be a complete asshole when you approach them with an actual problem!
I’ll keep this one simple.
Viewings are like job interviews.
If you turn up to an interview with shit in between your nails and stinking of urine, you’re out.
Like I said, first impressions are everything.
Other than saving a buttload of money, I’m also a self-managing landlord because all my rentals are with in close proximity of my home. That means if there is an emergency I’m able to visit the property quickly.
The logistics isn’t so straightforward when you’re dealing with a self-managing landlord that lives on the other side of the country. If that is the case, ask them how they deal with emergencies that requires their presence.
Perhaps something you may want to bear in mind, although not necessarily a deal-breaker.
Provides a clean & tidy property
Needless to say, your landlord should ensure the property is well-presented, which means it’s clean and tidy. I’m baffled by landlords that don’t make the effort to ensure the property is in a reasonable state during viewings.
There are exceptions of course, which can include:
- If the property is going through extension renovation/repairs
- If the current tenants are in the process of moving out, so may have boxes everywhere
- If the current tenants aren’t particular tidy
In any case, you should still be able to assess whether a property is well-maintained, even if it is messy for valid reasons.
First and foremost, your landlord should intend to use a written tenancy agreement, and have it ready.
Request to see a copy of the tenancy agreement so you know what you’re getting into. You should take the copy home and read it carefully.
The tenancy agreement should:
- be written in plain English and easy to understand
- state what your responsibilities are as a tenant
- state what the landlord’s responsibilities are
- state what fees you are responsible for (e.g. utility bills, council tax)
Here’s a blog post which covers more tips on how you can check whether your tenancy agreement is any good or not.
Even though the tenancy agreement should cover it all, your landlord should clearly explain what fees you responsible for, including how much deposit is required and how much the rent is.
More importantly, your landlord should not enforce any unfair or unreasonable fees.
Since 1st June 2019, with the introduction of the “Tenant Fees Act 2019”, it’s actually illegal for landlords in England to charge tenants with any of the specified prohibited letting fees as per the legislation, which includes:
- Viewing Fees
- Tenancy set-up fees
- Check-out fees
- Professional end of tenancy cleaning (tenants will still be required to return the property in the state they received it in, and landlords can still recoup any repair costs from the deposit)
- Referencing fees / Credit Check fees
It is the landlords obligation to cover those costs, NOT the tenants!
If you’re a tenant outside of England, you won’t be protected by the Tenant Fees Act, however, you should still stay clear of landlords that try to enforce any fees that seem excessive/unreasonable.
Every decent landlord will insist on conducting a thorough property inventory – they are put in place to protect both the landlord and tenant.
An inventory will help the landlord and tenant fairly assess any damages at the end of the tenancy.
Use that gut of yours
Last but not least, listen to what your gut tells you. Do NOT fight it!
I’ve gone against my gut before, and it cost me dearly. I decided to give someone a chance after being persuaded. Annoyingly, they ended up falling in arrears almost immediately. Lesson learned.
From the perspective of a tenant, I know how easy it is to ignore the landlord and focus purely on the property. The “dream home”
My advice is to look at the whole package, which includes both the landlord and the property. If the landlord doesn’t tick all your boxes, then the dream home can often become a living nightmare.
Gimme some mo’
So, there we have it.
I hope my tips help you track down a good landlord and avoid the duds. Good luck!
If you think you can add to the list, please leave a comment!
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.