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Landlord Services

Useful Information for Landlords

Types of Tenancy

The vast majority of people who rent their home are on assured short hold tenancies (AST), but other agreements do exist which afford different levels of rights.

For tenants who are not on an AST, if they are a council or housing association tenant then they may be on a secured or assured tenancy which holds increased rights against eviction and for passing on tenancies.

In contrast, if a tenant lives in accommodation that is occupied by their landlord, rented from the Crown, a student residence, or a hostel or bed and breakfast then they may have only basic rights.

If your rent is more than £100,000 a year, you will have a standard tenancy contract, not an assured short hold tenancy contract. This level was raised from £25,000 on 1 October 2010. Any tenancies that would have been assured short hold tenancies but for the rent being above £25,000 will become assured short hold tenancies from that date if their rents are below £100,000.

The level was lifted because the £25,000 limit was a throwback to when ASTs were first introduced and £25,000 annual rent was a very high amount. However, many London rents and families homes outside the capital will be above this figure now.

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Assured Short Hold Tenants

Private rented tenants will automatically be assured short hold tenants if they moved in after 28 February 1997, pay rent to a private landlord who does not live in the same building, and can prevent others' access to their home. This will also be the case if they moved in after 15 January 1989 and were given a notice informing them they were assured short hold tenants.

An assured short hold tenancy gives people a legal right to live in their home, either for a fixed-duration or on a rolling contract known as a periodic tenancy.

The law provides basic rights and other conditions may be added into the tenancy agreement to be signed by the tenant and landlord. Tenants have the right to live there until the agreement ends or a court order is sought, to get information about their tenancy provided within 28 days, stop others entering their home and get repairs done.

A tenant has the right to live in their home without being disturbed. The landlord and other people cannot enter freely when they wish and must seek permission to visit - typically at least 24 hours at a mutually convenient time.

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Deposits

Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) means that landlords who collect deposits, or agents who do so on their behalf, must join a statutory scheme to ensure tenants deposits are returned, or part of it back, if they have kept a property in good condition. Disputes over how much should be returned will be mediated by an independent dispute solving service. New regulations now mean that landlords in Northern Ireland who receive a deposit in relation to a private tenancy, on or after 1 April 2013, must protect the deposit with a government approved scheme.

There are three authorised tenancy deposit schemes. Two are insurance based and the third is custodial called TDSNI - Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland. We at LPG Property Management favor the custodial scheme T.D.S. Northern Ireland as we feel it offers the best benefits to our landlords and that it is free. Added to this it is being endorsed by Landlords Association Northern Ireland (L.A.N.I) a reputable organisation designed to provide the best advice and guidance to landlords and letting agents within Northern Ireland.

All three schemes provide a free dispute resolution service in the event of a dispute about the return of the deposit.

Under all three schemes, the tenant pays the deposit to the landlord or agent in the usual way. Under the insurance-based schemes, the landlord or agent retains the deposit and pays a premium to the insurer (cost to landlord). Under the custodial scheme the landlord or agent pays the deposit into the scheme (free to use).

Within 14 calendar days of receiving a deposit the landlord or agent must give the tenant details about how their deposit is being protected. Don't fall foul of these timescales as the penalties are stiff. If you fail to register and pay your Tenant's deposit to a scheme within the appropriate timescale, your Tenant can apply to the local council for sanctions against you. If the local council is satisfied that you as the Landlord has failed to comply with the regulations, they must order you to pay the Tenant up to three times the amount of the deposit. In addition to this they may also order you to submit the deposit to an approved scheme.

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Tenancy Deposit Protection - What it means?

The introduction of tenancy deposit schemes for the first time in Northern Ireland is seen as a positive step in the regulation of the private rental sector. It will provide benefits for both landlords and tenants by encouraging a more professional approach to tenancy deposit practice minimise disputes and will go some way towards improving the sector's reputation as a desirable housing option.

Any deposit taken by a landlord or agent in connection with a private tenancy on or after the 1st April will by law have to be protected in one of the approved tenancy deposit schemes. Failure to protect the deposit or abide by the requirements of the Scheme may lead to local councils imposing a fixed penalty or possible court action.

Custodial Option

The landlord/agent is responsible for protecting the deposit with a tenancy deposit scheme within 14 days from receipt from the tenant. The landlord/agent must also pass The Prescribed Information (key information about where and when the deposit is protected) to the tenant within 28 days from receipt of the deposit to fully comply with the legislation.

  1. Landlord/agent joins TDS Northern Ireland custodial scheme (one off process)
  2. Landlord/agent is responsible for protecting the deposit within 14 days of receiving it.
  3. The landlord/agent is also required to supply / pass to the tenant the "Prescribed Information" within 28 days of receiving the deposit.
  4. TDS holds the deposit in a designated bank account for the duration of the tenancy.
  5. Landlord/agent specifies how the deposit should be to be returned at the end of tenancy.
  6. The tenant confirms the deposit amount to be returned.
  7. Once the tenancy has expired it is then the tenant's responsibility to claim their deposit back from T.D.S. Northern Ireland using their DAN number and claiming the deposit back on line. Once the process has started there is a maximum of 30 working days for the landlord to respond to the claim / proposal. Failure to response by the landlords after the 30 days will result in the deposit being refunded. The deposit money is returned as requested within five working days if no dispute. If a dispute arises between the tenants and the landlord, the landlord has a further 10 days to gather all the evidence required over and above the initial 30 days as stated earlier.

Custodial Option Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM) process

If the landlord/agent believes the tenant has broken the agreed contract terms (such as unpaid rent or damage to the property) and the tenant (s) disagree then a free dispute resolution service is available to resolve the issue. The case will then be referred to an independent adjudicator. Any undisputed deposit amount will be returned to the tenant, without waiting for adjudication.

  1. Tenant raises a deposit dispute with the scheme and submits evidence.
  2. Landlord / agent submits evidence.
  3. Adjudicator reviews evidence supplied by all parties within 20 working days of receiving the case.
  4. Adjudicator comes to a decision and will inform all parties of the decision within 5 working days.
  5. The landlord/agent and tenant have 10 working days to challenge the decision, but only if the adjudicator has erred in fact or law.
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Rent and Repairs

An agreed rent must be paid on time and if this is not done landlords may take court action to have tenants evicted. If a person pays weekly rent, a rent book must be provided. It may be possible for tenants to seek housemates to move in as subtenants or lodgers. It is vital to ask a landlord's permission for this otherwise a tenant may be in breach of their agreement.

Landlords must by law do repairs to keep the building in good condition, keep gas, electricity, heating and water equipment up to scratch and do other agreed work. Landlords must have a valid gas safety certificate for every gas appliance and furniture should be fire resistant.

Tenants are responsible for looking after their home, which includes keeping it clean, and simple tasks such as changing bulbs and fuses. If repairs need to be done, tenants should inform the landlord. If the landlord refuses to do them it may be possible to force them to.

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Notice and eviction

A tenancy runs until it is ended by a tenant or landlord through agreed surrender of the property, a notice being served, or eviction.

Tenants on fixed-terms can only end the tenancy during that time if their agreement says so, dependent upon the agreed notice period. From the date the fixed-term ends a tenant can leave, but should still give a month's notice to the landlord. If the tenant opts not to leave, the tenancy becomes a rolling agreement. Tenants on periodic tenancies or rolling agreements should give one month's notice in writing, ending on the day rent is due. A landlord must give notice if they want a tenant to leave. Unless this is for eviction then this should be either be the agreed term in the tenancy agreement, or two months, or how long rent has been paid for, whichever is longer.

Under an assured shorthold tenancy a tenant can be evicted reasonably easily. This is common for problems such as rent arrears, or consistent late payment, but may also occur under a periodic rolling contract, or fixed tenancy that has run out, or if a tenant challenges a rent rise or demands repairs.

Under a rolling agreement or once a fixed term has ended a tenant can be removed with a court order with the correct notice given, without any burden of proving wrongdoing. During a fixed term tenancy a court will require the landlord to give good reason for eviction and then consider whether that is a reasonable course of action.

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Responsibilities

With rights come responsibilities and tenants must keep within the terms of their rental agreement, which may have specific clauses inserted.

General conditions mean rent should be paid, in full and on-time, bills sorted, good care taken of the property, tenants and visitors must behave responsibly, permission be granted for access when needed and requests be made for any repairs or extraordinary occurrences. Tenants should also not leave their home empty beyond a certain period of time, typically a week or fortnight, without warning the landlord.

Just to remind tenants (and landlords) that Section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 provides that a landlord must supply his name and address to a tenant and until he does so no rent is due.

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How to make the Student Housing Market work for you?

Tenants cover a wide cross section of the market and sharers are still very much part of this. Saving for a deposit is still a daunting task for many younger and not so young people and staying at home with parents and relatives sometimes seems the only way to achieve this.

However the sharers market is still thriving as the desire to move on for not only independence and education but sometimes for employment is still a factor in many people's lives.

Students of course fall into this category too and during this summer period Student Landlords make the most of the break to carry out essential repairs and improvements and also enjoy the fruits of the property for their family and friends.

The Student market demands high standards. No longer can any old mismatch of furniture be adequate to keep the rental prices high. Many universities have created their own accommodation now which is meant to attract all Students and not just those in their 1st year. Many of these are modern buildings with excellent facilities and a Student Landlord will need to compete with them. So although the student market may be their target audience the university may have become their stiffest competition.

If you have or own a property within the vicinity of Coleraine University please do call us about how and when to market your property to achieve occupancy and the best return possible. It may mean that you will need to invest in broadband or new furniture but the local business owner and his staff will be able to advise you accordingly.

Non student sharers may be looking for other important factors when searching for accommodation but we at LPG Property Management Ltd. will always ask the correct questions to ensure that we find the best match between Landlord and Tenant. We feel the secret to managing your property professionally and effectively (please visit our section on testimonials from happy landlords) and for you is selecting the right tenants (s). We personally show ALL of our tenants around all of our properties thus getting a feel for what their wants and needs and aspirations are. Therefore finding out who they really are and how we can all work effectively together.

If you are targeting the sharers market consider the room sizes - can all the bedrooms take a double bed? Are there sufficient bathrooms facilities for the number of sharers?

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Housing Benefit - How to make it work for you

Housing benefit and organising collection and payment can be a tough obstacle and put landlords off potential tenants, however we at LPG Property Management Ltd. pride ourselves on our 20 plus years of experience on how to deal with Housing benefit at every level. LPG Property Management Ltd. welcomes applicants who are in receipt of Housing Benefit (Local Housing Allowance) as long as some important rules are followed there is no more risk than renting to a professional.

Many Landlords still fear the Housing Benefit market but then not all Landlords have an agent like LPG Property Management Ltd. We at LPG Property Management Ltd. start the process by talking with Landlords about their target Tenant and discuss the reasons for their decision. Once LPG Property management Ltd. explains the following steps many Landlords change their opinion. Could this be your long term Tenant?

How does LPG Property Management Ltd. make Housing Benefit tenancies a success by the following simple rules?

When we meet a potential Tenant we spend quality time ensuring that we understand what the individual entitlement is for the applicant

  • We obtain a report from the DHSS which will confirm that the applicant has no historic or outstanding debts with them demonstrating that they have conducted tenancies well in the past.
  • We only accept a small "top up" amount from an applicant and this is limited to an affordable amount of no more than £50.00 per month. This reduces any problem that may arise in future when paying rent.
  • All paperwork including the tenancy is presented to the DHSS before the tenancy starts so that they can prepare for the forthcoming commencement.
  • The Tenant must always pay a deposit of a month's rent in advance, this is standard policy.
  • Guarantors are taken at the Landlords discretion.
  • An inventory will always be in place ready for the start of the tenancy and a check in will be conducted.
  • LPG Property Management Ltd. will explain to the Landlord that the Tenant will pay for the first month's rent when they move into the property and from then on the rent is paid in 4 weekly cycles.
  • If the Tenant has been successful in applying for RDS they may also be eligible for the 1st month's rent through the scheme which ensures that the tenancy starts on the right footing.
  • LPG Property Management Ltd. work closely with the local DHSS department, which allow the tenants rent to be paid directly to the LPG Property Management Ltd. office from the start of the tenancy.
  • LPG Property Management Ltd. will manage arrears if or when they occur with regular contact to minimise the impact on the Landlord. Communication is essential.
  • The Housing Benefit is reviewed on a regular basis and this can cause a delay in the payments, LPG Property Management always ensure that a Landlord is made aware of this so that it does not come as a shock.
  • LPG Property Management Ltd. will also explain to the Landlord the possibility of "claw back" whereby the DHSS can reclaim money that the Tenant has claimed and been paid via LPG Property Management Ltd.
  • LPG Property Management Ltd. visit our rental properties to reassure a Landlord that the property has been lived in in a "Tenant like manner".

Ultimately lettings, like any business, do carry risks but these can be minimised by sensible and methodical management throughout the tenancy. However it should be remembered that any Tenant can fall into arrears as even a professional can lose their job and be unable to pay rent. So is the Housing Benefit Tenant any different to a professional Tenant? Weigh up the potential issues in both circumstances and you may find that you will consider a Housing Benefit applicant next time. They could be your new long term Tenant.

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Why do Landlords make claims on deposits?

When a tenancy comes to an end and a landlord wishes to claim from the tenants deposit this process has to be completed via adjudication and applying to the deposit scheme that the deposit has been lodged with. The trick as a Landlord is to be prepared for this scenario by putting certain actions in place at the beginning of the tenancy.

52% of claims /disputes to date via T.D.S. are related to cleaning - of course it is not clear how many of these resulted in the money being returned to the Tenant. All disputes are reviewed on an evidence based system and therefore a Landlord must ensure that they can provide the appropriate evidence if they wish to make a claim for cleaning.

Preparation is key, "plan to fail, fail to plan". The first step is to ensure that the property is clean before it is let. A good spring clean should be undertaken preferably by professional contractors before a property is let for the first time and a periodic professional spring clean undertaken to ensure that good standards are maintained.

T.D.S. Northern Ireland state: "By having the cleaning undertaken by a professional, it gives a good standard of cleanliness to work from and it is then easy to identify problems at the end of a tenancy."

LPG Property Management Ltd. can organise a professional company to ensure that a comprehensive "Inventory and Schedule of Condition" is compiled before a Tenant moves into a property. This ideally is conducted by a qualified independent inventory clerk (Inventory NI http://www.inventoryni.co.uk/) who will visit the property and draw up a written schedule which is supported with appropriate photographs. The clerk will comment on the cleanliness of the property but they will also highlight any areas which are not clean before the Tenant moves in.

Once a Tenant moves into the property they are provided with the inventory and asked to make their own comments should they differ from those noted. The document should then be signed by the tenant and returned to the Landlord or Agent. Once completed, the document will form the basis for the "check out" procedure which will take place when the Tenant vacates the property.

The "check out" should be conducted by the same inventory clerk who conducted the original visit. They will be able to review the condition of the property using the same benchmarks that they used at the commencement.

If a different clerk is used, there is always the possibility of different standards of cleanliness being applied but a consistent view will be likely from the same clerk.

We at LPG Property Management Ltd. would be happy to provide guidance and support on this topic and any other property related matter.

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