As the property owner, you should ensure that you keep accurate records for all your rented properties. This should include information on your property's amenities as well as any safety certificates associated with the house. As a landlord, you are running a business and should give the same level of importance to record-keeping as you would for any other business.
If you've never lived in the property which you are letting, you may not be familiar with its layout and amenities. It's a good idea to keep a folder which contains the following information:
- details of any mortgages or loans secured on the property
- a copy of the fitness certificate, if one is required
- records of safety checks carried out on the property, including copies of your Gas Safety Certificates
- a copy of your Energy Performance Certificate
- information on where your stopcock is located in case of damage to pipes or water supply
- an inventory of the property, signed by the current tenants if the property is tenanted
- a copy of the block management contract, if the property is part of a serviced block of apartments
- photographs of the property taken at the beginning of its current tenancy
- the type of heating and reference numbers for metered accounts if applicable
Keeping these records can make life much simpler if any disputes or problems arise.
In addition to collecting information about the property, you should also keep all relevant information relating to your tenancies in one place. You should ensure you have a copy of the following items:
- the tenancy agreement between yourself and the tenants or between the agent and tenants
- copies of any application forms your tenants may have completed or details of their names and contact numbers
- details of any guarantors provided by the tenants
- the rent book provided to the tenants at the beginning of the tenancy
- confirmation that you have received and protected the tenant's deposit
- any agreement between yourself and any agent who is managing the property
- copies of any correspondence between yourself and the tenant
- records of any maintenance carried out on the property during the period of the tenancy
- details of rental payments, particularly if rent has been missed or the account is in arrears
Being able to prove that you have kept up to date and relevant records will stand in your favour if a dispute arises between yourself and the tenant. In cases where disputes end up at court, the judge will often look to see that you, as the landlord, have conducted yourself in a business like manner and have kept appropriate records. Failing to do this could end up costing you money.
If you keep computerised records relating to your tenants, you could be regarded by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) as a Data Controller and you may be required to register as such with the ICO. To register, you must fill in a form and pay a fee to the ICO each year. Contact the ICO to find out if you're required to register.
You should not share information about your tenant with a third party unless you are absolutely sure that the Data Protection Act allows you to do so. An agent, for example, cannot share the results of a tenant referencing check with you, unless the agent has obtained the tenant's consent to do this. Visit the ICO website if you'd like to find out more about data protection.