You are legally required to give your new tenants a lot of different papers at the start of the tenancy. It's probably easiest to do this on the day your tenants move in or to make an appointment to call round in the first week of the tenancy.
It is an offence to fail to supply some of these items within 28 days of the start of the tenancy.
Legally required paperwork
The law says you must give your tenants
- a rent book
- a gas safety certificate, for any gas appliances in the property
- an Energy Performance Certificate and
- information on the tenancy deposit protection scheme you've chosed to protect the tenant's deposit and some prescribed information relating to the deposit.
Although you are not required to provide an inventory, it would be foolish not to do so as this is the best way to avoid disputes over deposits at the end of a tenancy. The tenancy deposit protection scheme works on the principle that the deposit is the tenant's money and must be returned unless a landlord can prove that he is entitled to keep some of this money as compensation for damage. You'll need to have a properly completed check in and check out inventory to have any chance of making a successful claim on the deposit at the end of the tenancy. The inventory which you agree to at the beginning of a tenancy will be a necessary piece of evidence if you need to make a claim against your tenant for damage the tenant has caused.
When you carry out an inventory you should:
- inspect the property with the tenant and complete an inventory, noting any elements of disrepair or damage
- record the condition and the cleanliness of every item, you'll need to be specific and avoid vague terms like "some damage"
- give your tenants an opportunity to view the tenants and record any changes they think are necessary
- sign the completed inventory form, once it has been agreed by both you and the tenant, and provide a copy to the tenants
- keep the inventory somewhere safe - you'll need this at the end of the tenancy.
If your tenants don't return the completed inventory you need to chase them up. If there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy over the deposit the tenants may claim that they did not receive an inventory. You will need to be able to prove to the court or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme adjudicator that you gave the tenants the inventory and that you gave them an opportunity to record their comments on it.
You don't have to give your tenants a tenancy agreement. Tenancy agreements are useful for tenants and landlords because they should clearly explain the conditions of the tenancy. As with any documents provided to your tenants, you should make sure the agreement is written in plain English and is not overly complicated.
There are a few key points to remember when drafting a tenancy agreement. If you are renting to a group of people you should consider whether they should all sign one tenancy agreement or an agreement should exist between you and each of the tenants. The legal standing of your tenants and their rights depend very much on what the tenancy agreement says.
Agreement between you and a group of tenants
The most common form of tenancy agreement where a property is rented to a group of people is a joint tenancy agreement. This will name all the parties and will usually stipulate that the tenants are jointly and severally liable for rent and damages.
This means that if one tenant chooses to leave or stops paying rent, you can choose to ask the remaining tenants to make up the shortfall. You do not have to pursue the absent tenant for the unpaid rent.
Similarly, if a tenant causes damage to the property and you are then unable to trace this person, you can use the "jointly and severally liable" clause to pursue one or all of the remaining tenants, or the guarantors supplied by them, for compensation.
Individual agreements between you and each tenant
Generally individual tenancy agreements will only be issued to each tenant in a shared house where the property is a House of Multiple Occupation.
If a tenancy agreement exists purely between you and one tenant, you cannot take any action against the other tenants in the property if this tenant defaults. You cannot expect the remaining tenants to make up the shortfall in the rent or make good any damage caused by the absent tenant.
Agreement between you and one tenant
On rare occasions, a landlord will choose to rent a property to one person who will then have the authority to sublet rooms in the property.
The tenancy agreement exists purely between you and the sole tenant named on the agreement and the named tenant will be liable for the full contractual rent and other obligations contained in the tenancy agreements. You will only be able to pursue the named tenant for any rent arrears or damages.
The other people living in the property will enjoy the same rights as the named tenant for as long as the tenant wishes them to remain in the property. If he asks them to leave, they have very few rights to remain in the property and would be seen as licencees rather than tenants.
It's important to remember, that if you do decide to have this kind of agreement with your tenant, you need to check who else will be living in the property. If there are more than 2 people living in the property who are not related, your property is probably a HMO and you will have to abide by additional legal requirements.
Tenancy information pack
Managing a letting efficiently requires up-to-date paperwork. Keep a folder or ring-binder for each property you let and put copies of all the information relating to that tenancy in the folder. The property information pack should include:
- copy of the rent book
- copies of the deposit protection certificate and associated information
- a copy of the inventory and any tenancy inspection reports
- copy of the tenancy agreement
- name, address and guarantor details for each tenant
- copy of the Energy Performance Certificate
- records of all gas and electrical safety checks carried out on the property
- copies of any correspondence between you and the tenants
- copies of any receipts for rent or deposits paid or for work carried out by you that the tenant was liable for.
It's also useful to provide a similar pack for tenants, although this pack should be geared towards the tenants' needs and have information relating to the property.