A checklist for first-time landlords

Renting a property for the first time can seem like an overwhelming prospect. There is a huge range of tasks that must be completed before a tenant can move in, and it is easy to lose track.

If you are worried about forgetting to complete that vital task, why not print off our checklist? While it is designed for first-time landlords, it could be a useful memory jog for even the most experienced professional.

1. Get references

You may require a range of references from prospective tenants. At the very least, most landlords would request employment details. In addition you may wish to take details of their previous landlord.

Having received these references, it is important to check them. Many landlords do not follow up references – rendering them virtually pointless.

2. Check guarantors

Depending on the nature of the tenant, you may also wish for them to provide a guarantor. In this case, you should ensure that you have their name, their current address, and their previous address if they have moved in the past year. This information will be required if you wish to run credit checks.

3. Gather bank statements

Some landlords choose to request bank statements from prospective tenants, in order to ensure that they are in a position to pay the rent. This can be particularly useful if the individual is self-employed, or not in regular employment.

4. Take and protect deposit

If you are satisfied by the documents provided by the tenants, your next step is to take a deposit. Most landlords take a deposit equivalent to one month’s rent. You are legally obliged to protect the deposit in a government-supported deposit protection scheme, and to provide the tenant with details of the scheme being used within 14 days.

5. Draft and sign tenancy

The tenancy agreement is the most important document at your disposal. You should make sure that your tenancy agreement is properly drafted, and that it relates specifically to your property. It should name each of the tenants individually. The agreement should be signed and dated by you, and by each of the tenants.

6. Label important items

Make sure that tenants are aware of the location of important items like stopcocks and gas meters. You may wish to label these items, or to provide a map. This may seem like a hassle, but it can be important; if a tenant knows where the stopcock is they will be able to turn off the water quickly in the event of an emergency, thus reducing the potential for damage.

7. Conduct an inventory

You should conduct an inventory at the start and end of a tenancy. Make a list of all items in the property, along with details of any existing damage. You and your tenants may also wish to take photographs to support the inventory.

The document should be signed and dated by both parties, and any amendments made should be initialled by the signatories. Both you and the tenants should retain a copy.

8. Redirect mail

If the property is registered in your name, you may need to arrange with Royal Mail for post to be redirected. It is generally not wise to rely on tenants to forward your mail.

9. Inform the council

You should inform the council once the tenancy has been signed. Pass on the names of your new tenants, and the date on which the tenancy agreement began. This will help to prevent disagreements over any outstanding council tax, at either end of the tenancy. If the tenants are entitled to a council tax discount they should take this up with the council themselves.

10. Provide contact details

Finally, you should make sure that your tenants know how to contact you in the event of an emergency. Provide them with your contact details, and consider leaving a paper copy in the property.

You may also wish to read our articles on writing an inventory, and the top 5 landlord mistakes.