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Guidance

A guide to our private lettings service

This guidance page provides information for landlords about Horsham District Council's private lettings service, including how we run the service and the minimum standards we expect in order to let your home.

Our tenants

All of our tenants will have gone through a financial check to ensure that they can afford the level of rent required to secure a tenancy on your property. Affordability will usually include housing benefit, possibly some other form of benefit and probably assistance in obtaining a deposit. Some tenants may be employed, but still require a certain level of financial assistance from the Council.

Additional references can also be taken if you require. At no point will we force a tenant upon you, you will have the final say on whether you accept them or not. Under the Data Protection Act we will not be able to disclose any personal details relating to the tenant that are not pertinent to the tenancy.

What to expect when you sign up

You have the choice of what level of service you require. The only cost to you will be for those services where we need to commission an outside agency. Examples of this are an Inventory, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) or a contractor for repairs.

You will not be expected to pay for the drawing up of the tenancy agreement and property inspections during the tenancy should you wish us to carry out these services.

We will visit the tenant within ten days of the tenancy start date to ensure that they are settling in to your property and that no issues have been identified. Following on from this initial visit, we have a schedule of further visits or you may wish to do this yourself by prior arrangement with the tenant.

Tenancy agreement

In accordance with the Housing Act 1988 amended 1996, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement would be drawn up between you (the Landlord) and the tenant. It is recommended that these are for a fixed period of 6 or 12 months. At the end of the fixed period, if it is agreed that the tenant can remain in the property the tenancy will continue as a ‘statutory periodic’ agreement until such a time as either party gives the relevant written notice to leave.

If you wish us to draw up the agreement there will be no charge.

Your responsibilities

If you require Horsham District Council to arrange any of the items listed below or require assistance in sourcing contractors please let us know and we will be happy to help.

  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – Before a tenant moves in to your property you must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This has been a legal requirement following EU legislation that came in to force on 1st October 2008. We can provide details of Energy Assessors if required.
  • Gas Safety – Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 it is a statutory requirement that all gas appliances and flues in rented accommodation are checked for safety every 12 months. This must be done by a Gas Safe registered engineer who will then issue a Landlord Gas Safety Certificate. Where gas appliances are provided to the property an up to date copy of the Gas Safety Certificate is required. Carbon Monoxide detectors must be fitted in accordance with current legislation.
  • Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Legislation states that Carbon Monoxide alarms must be located in all rooms with solid fuel burners. In addition to this, Horsham District Council require you to have a Carbon Monoxide alarm in all rooms with a gas appliance, including any gas boiler.
  • Electrical Safety – Horsham District Council requires that you have a current report on the property’s electrical installation confirming that it is in a safe state. Although this is not a legal requirement, we would expect to see a minimum of an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). If any electrical appliances are left at the property we would also recommend a current Portable Appliance Testing Schedule (PATs).
  • Fire Safety – The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 state that all tenanted properties must have a minimum of one smoke alarm on each floor of the property. In addition to this The Buildings Regulations 1991 state that all properties built since June 1992 must be fitted with mains operated interlinked smoke detectors/alarms on each floor. We recommend that a fire blanket should be fitted in an appropriate location within the kitchen.
  • Insurance and Financial Matters – You are responsible for informing your insurance company that you intend to let your property and that you have adequate cover in place for buildings, contents and public liability. Failure to do so may invalidate your policies. If your property is leasehold you will also need to obtain consent to let your property from the leaseholder. If there is any financial interest secured against the property, such as a mortgage, you must ensure that the relevant parties are advised of your intention to let and again their consent may be required.
  • Income Tax – As a Landlord you will need to inform the Inland Revenue of any income received from letting your home. If you do not intend to remain in this country whilst letting your home, you may be exempt from tax on the rent received. Enquiries to the tax office about tax liabilities for non-resident landlords can be made by calling 03000 516 644/651. Alternatively we hold relevant forms and guidance notes that you can complete and return to the tax office.
  • Maintenance/Repairs – Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 you (the landlord) are responsible for repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations, heating and hot water installations. Responsibility for repairs not mentioned within the act will depend on the terms of the tenancy agreement. If you (the landlord) or your representative, in doing repairs which you are obliged to do, spoil any other part of the property, you should make good the damage. Should you ask us to look after the property maintenance we will agree a limit with you whereby we will proceed up to that limit without reference to you, but at the same time keeping you informed.

Inventories

We would recommend that you employ an independent company to carry out any inventory, check-in or check-out service that you require. Should you need help in finding someone to complete an inventory we can provide details of suitable companies. Please remember that, in the event of any dispute the inventory will be your proof of condition at the commencement of a tenancy. If you choose to produce your own inventory, please seek guidance to try to avoid the possibility of disputes at the end of the tenancy.

Deposit or Bond?

Both options are a form of security in case the tenancy fails. Failure could be that the tenant falls in to arrears or that, on check-out, damage to the property is discovered and additional money from the tenant is required to put it right.

Deposit

This normally amounts to one month’s rent. However, you can choose whatever amount you want. If you wish to ask for more, you may be limiting the number of potential tenants we have, so we do not recommended this course of action. Under current legislation, the deposit has to be placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme for which you have to register. Once placed in one of the deposit schemes you must then provide to the tenant and the Council, a copy of the schemes certificate confirming the amount deposited. Horsham District Council can advise you of the three available schemes.

Bond

The Bond can be for any agreed amount as the scheme does not involve the exchanging of money up front. There is also no requirement for the Bond to be registered in any deposit scheme. A bond is issued by the Council to you (the landlord) and will guarantee an amount of money that is equivalent to that of a deposit. Once a tenancy comes to an end the bond will expire unless there is a dispute arising from the condition that the property has been left in. In this case, the bond acts like an insurance policy and a claim can be made against it up to the agreed amount of the bond.

Rent

You can choose to be paid direct from the Housing Benefit office or by the tenant.

Housing Benefit

Subject to certain criteria payments will be made direct to your nominated bank account every 4 weeks, as opposed to each calendar month. You will receive 13 payments over the calendar year which will equate to 12 monthly payments. Payment of any agreed expenses will need to be discussed separately, but cannot be deducted from the housing benefit payment. A statement of rent paid and expenses can be issued to you at regular intervals if required. In some cases your tenant may be in full or part time employment. This may reduce the level of benefit they receive to a level that is less than the agreed rental figure. When this happens you can still receive their housing benefit payment direct, but any shortfall will be made up by the tenant from their own account. We will assist both parties to ensure this runs smoothly.

Tenant

If you choose to have the tenant pay you direct, you must recognise that they will receive their benefits every 4 weeks. Requesting them to pay you every 4 weeks would be an advantage. However you could ask to be paid monthly. Should the tenant fall behind in their payment of rent, you are advised to contact Horsham District Council as soon as possible so that we can try to resolve the matter. If the tenant misses two consecutive payments, or falls eight weeks behind with their rent payments then it may be possible, at your request, to have the rent paid direct to you from the Housing Benefit office.

Tenants' responsibilities

During the period of the tenancy, unless previously agreed and signed in writing, the tenant will be responsible for all bills in relation to gas, electricity, drainage, water, telephone, satellite/cable TV and Council tax. During void periods the landlord becomes responsible for all of the above. In certain circumstances during void periods, exemptions may apply to Council tax.

The tenant is also responsible for reporting any structural damage, appliance failures and any defects that may breach safety regulations.

Ending the tenancy

Horsham District Council will advise you of the correct procedure for ending a tenancy and of the relevant notice periods to ensure the correct eviction process is followed.

Minimum standards to let your property

  • The Property must meet the “Decent Homes Standard” as set out in the relevant DCLG guidance document. (Please ask for further details if required.)
  • If the property is suspected as having any asbestos or Manufactured Mineral Fibres (MMF) an appropriate risk assessment must have been carried out with a copy provided to the Council.
  • The property must be clear of items apart from floors which must have appropriate floor coverings, unless previously agreed in writing and signed by all parties. Curtains or blinds are also recommended for all windows.
  • The property and any outbuildings should be in good structural order.
  • The Property should be in good decorative order and in a clean condition.
  • All electrical/mechanical items left at the property must have relevant manuals for use eg, boiler, fridge, freezer, washing machine etc and must be in good, safe working order.
  • Any soft furnishings to be left at the property must have been agreed in writing and signed by all parties. They must also meet current Fire and Safety Regulations.
  • All of the doors and windows must be in good working order, and free from any defects.
  • Security of doors and windows should meet with the minimum standards as suggested by the Master Locksmiths Association. (Please ask for further details if required.)
  • All light fittings to be in safe working order and fitted with appropriate light bulbs.
  • Heating systems must be in safe working order with relevant maintenance contracts in place, copies of which must be provided to the Council.
  • Accessible loft areas are to be free from clutter, unless previously agreed in writing and signed by all parties. The landlord may secure shut if they so wish.
  • All sinks, wash basins and baths within the property must have an appropriate plug.
  • Clean toilet seats should be securely fitted on all WC’s. An appropriate toilet brush should be placed next to all toilet facilities.

Outside the property

  • Garage space is to be free from clutter, unless previously agreed in writing and signed by all parties. The landlord may secure shut if they so wish. This also applies to any other outbuildings. Keys must be provided if access is available for the tenant and any such unit can be secured.
  • Gardens are to be adequately maintained. Tools should be left at the property to allow tenants to continue maintenance unless other arrangements have been agreed in writing and signed by all parties. ‘Green Waste’ bins can be provided, however once your tenant is resident they may choose to cancel the service due to the annual cost.
  • Paths and fences must be in good repair inc. walls, patios etc.
  • Appropriate bins should be provided to meet relevant refuse collections. Adequate space must also be available for storage of such bins.

For further information or advice, please contact Nigel Powell (Lettings Officer) at Horsham District Council on 01403 215225, or email him at nigel.powell@horsham.gov.uk