'Reluctant landlords' is the term which has been coined to describe a growing group of people who have been affected by the stagnant home sales market.
They are people who can’t sell their homes and have decided to enter the letting market and they are now such a part of life that Sarah Beeny is fronting an advertising campaign promoting insurance specifically for them.
“They can’t sell but they need a bigger house, say a three bedroom instead of a two bedroom,” explained Amanda Wiewiorka of Wardhaugh Property Management in Forfar. “So they decided the rent out their own two-bedroom property to tenants, thus becoming a landlord, and become tenants themselves by renting a three-bed property to live in until the housing market picks up and they can sell.
“They can rent their own home for say £600 a month which will cover their £400 a month mortgage and give them a bit towards the rent they have to pay to their own landlord.”
Figures from leading mortgage providers including the Halifax and Northern Building Society show that August was the second month in a row when house prices nationally dipped so reluctant landlords look like being around for some time.
“Many of these reluctant landlords come to letting naively. They think all they have to do is put an ad in a newspaper, meet a prospective tenant and hope all will be well without realizing there are regulations which need to be conformed with,” Amanda said. With years of experience as a letting agent, she advises that the only safe way to let a property is through an agent.
“There’s no handbook about how to be a landlord and ignorance of the law and regulations is no excuse and no defence.”
Reluctant or not, landlords have certain legal obligations to make and her fear is that homeowners forced into letting out their properties are unaware of these. For a start, they have to let their mortgage provider know that they no longer live in the property and it is now tenanted.
“They probably wouldn’t know to check their wiring or to have hardwired smoke alarms interlinked between floors. I don’t have that in my home so why should it occur to me to do it in a rented property,” she added. Amanada also trades under Let Angus and has recently moved from working exclusively in letting into estate agency.
A landlord needs to have an energy performance certificate and a gas safety certificate which must be updated every 12 months or risk prosecution. He needs insurances he didn’t need as a private householder.
“It’s an absolute minefield,” Amanda admitted. “Nobody knocks on a landlord’s door and tells him about changes in legislation, and if he doesn’t know about changes in the law he won’t be conforming to them.”
All landlords are required to register their properties with the local council, which could well be news to many people currently leasing their homes. “It’s not the council’s responsibility to inform and update landlords about their responsibilities. They are only there if the tenant has an issue,” Amanda added.
The dos and donts go on. The right kind of lease, the order in which forms are signed. Restrictions on pets and smoking.
“But if you have the right property and treat it as a business it can work for you. Use a letting agent whose job it is to know the law ,to advise you about safety checks and running checks on potential tenants and leases and it is money spent. It can be a good business, but you have to take into account the possibility that the property could be empty two months out of 12. You have to recognize that just like any other business you will have to invest in updates and safety,” she pointed out.
So for reluctant landlords, career landlords, long standing landlords and sabbatical landlords alike there’s a lot more to letting than a postcard in a shop window.