CEO AND FOUNDER OF UPAD.CO.UK
Q.Dear James, I want to sell my flat. What do I have to tell my tenants?
A.It all depends on the tenancy agreement: you can’t conclude the fixed period of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) early because you want to sell. If you’re in a periodic tenancy, you’ll need to give two months’ notice (assuming the rent’s paid monthly).
But for most people, it won’t be that straightforward. Obviously, you’ll want to sell the flat when it’s vacant but it could take months to even find a buyer, let alone complete.
Advise your tenants of what you’re planning and gauge their reaction. Assure them they’ll get their proper notice, but that you’re happy for them to stay for now. You’ll need their approval to organise viewings, because they have a right to “quiet enjoyment” and don’t have to allow viewings if you’re selling the property. Keeping tenants in there as long as possible makes sense: your property will be earning for as long as possible and you’ll avoid a rent void.
You may want to sweeten the pill by offering a rent discount to take account of the favour they’re doing you. And you’ll also want to ensure that the tenants know what’s expected of them: if that involves you paying for a cleaner for a few months, it could be money well spent.
Q.Do I have to get an inventory done by a professional company? Or can I save cash and do it myself?
A.You don’t have to have an inventory at all, but that’s asking for trouble. An inventory exists to protect both you and your tenants. You expect to get your property back pretty much as you let it, minus a bit of reasonable wear and tear. The inventory documents the state of the property at the start of a tenancy, so if there’s a dispute later, a full and detailed record is vital.
Of course, you can do it yourself. But creating a really good inventory is something of an art. An inventory clerk will know what to look for and have a substantial checklist of all manner of things that you might not even think of. They also have the kit. Nowadays, digital cameras are widely used tools of the inventory trade. A DIY inventory may well be a false economy if there is a dispute where your own handiwork isn’t up to scratch and you can’t prove the damage that the tenants have done at the end of the tenancy.
Q.I didn’t know I had to lodge my tenant’s deposit with a protection scheme and have it in my bank account. What should I do?
A.Act quickly. You need to make good on your ignorance and register the deposit immediately with one of the government approved schemes. You should then inform the tenants of the details. Although you have fallen foul of the law, by acting swiftly and in good faith, you shouldn’t be liable to any penalties.
James Davis is CEO of online lettings agent www.upad.co.uk. You can also follow Upad on Twitter: @avoidthevoids.