How to be a good landlord in 2020
Tue 29 Sep 2020
A significant amount has changed this year, with Covid-19 leading to a drastic transformation in how we all live our lives.
But the fundamental principles of being a good landlord have remained the same, just with added coronavirus-related caveats.
Here, we outline what you can do to ensure you are a good landlord offering habitable, good-quality accommodation to your tenants.
Make your home safe
This is more important than ever, given tenants may be spending more time at home – whether to work remotely or self-isolate for a period. They will want a home where everything functions well, and where they are put in no unnecessary danger.
Ensure your home is fire-safe and has the necessary fire and carbon monoxide alarms in place. You should also carry out regular checks on gas and electrical appliances, and make sure that any furnishings are fire-retardant.
Issues with damp and mould should be dealt with swiftly to ensure they don’t escalate, and any problems with the boiler should be dealt with as a priority.
Carry out repairs where necessary
As a landlord in Scotland, you or your letting agent are responsible for carrying out some repairs. You are duty-bound to make sure that your rental property meets basic levels of repair, such as the Repairing Standard and the Tolerable Standard.
If your property fails to meet these standards and you refuse to carry out the repair work, your tenant could report you to the Housing and Property Chamber.
There are a number of factors which ensure a home meets the Repairing Standard. It will be compliant if it’s wind and watertight, the structure and exterior (for example the walls and roof) are in a reasonable condition, and the installations for water, gas, electricity, sanitation and heating are in a reasonable state of repair and working order.
In addition, the home must be fitted with suitable fire detection devices – at least one smoke alarm in the living room, one in every hall or landing and a heat alarm in every kitchen. Equally, it must be fitted with a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a carbon fuelled appliance (such as a heater or boiler, but not a cooker) or there is a flue from such an appliance.
Furthermore, electrical safety inspections must be carried out by a qualified electrician at least once every five years.
The property must also meet the statutory Tolerable Standard. Your local council can force you to carry out work to bring your home up to the tolerable standard if there are problems with rising or penetrating damp, it’s not structurally stable (for example, it might be subsiding), it does not have enough ventilation, natural and artificial light or heating, and it’s not insulated well enough.
Similarly, a home will not meet the Tolerable Standard if it does not have an acceptable fresh water supply, or a sink with hot and cold water, if it does not have an indoor toilet, a fixed bath or shower, and a wash basin with hot and cold water, and if it does not have a good drainage and sewerage system.
It will also fail to meet the standard if the electric supply does not meet safety regulations, it does not have a proper entrance, and there are no cooking facilities.
Communicate effectively with your tenants
Now, more than ever, communication is vital. You need to know if your tenants are struggling financially because of Covid-19 and if they need support. You need to know if they are happy with their property or if there is anything that could improve the place they call home.
What’s more, your tenants are the frontline of defence against issues such as damp and mould escalating. They should report issues like this to you as soon as possible, so preventative action can be taken.
By building a good, mutually beneficial relationship, you increase the chances of trust being built and issues being kept to a minimum.
Work with your tenants to understand how they want to receive communication. Because of Covid, there will be less desire for face-to-face appointments, but some tenants – particularly younger ones – may prefer communication via social media, WhatsApp or email rather than a more traditional phone call. Call on your letting agent to tailor their approach to each set of tenants.
Be aware of Covid restrictions
As the likelihood of further local (or even national) lockdowns grows, it’s vital that you know where you and your tenants stand in the new normal.
The Scottish Government has issued guidance to landlords and letting agents operating in the private rented sector, which provides information on how to assist tenants who are struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Private landlords can receive direct payments for rents from Department for Work and Pensions benefits. There are other things, such as mortgage payment holidays from lenders and the government’s short-term emergency loan scheme, which are designed to protect landlords facing financial trouble due to Covid.
The Scottish Government has been clear that no landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to Covid-19. Landlords are expected to be flexible with tenants facing financial hardship, pointing them to the sources of financial support available.
Emergency legislation to help renters in Scotland during the Covid-19 outbreak was passed, with the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 protecting tenants from any eviction action for up to six months.
The new legislation also temporarily extends the amount of notice landlords must give when ending a tenancy. In most cases, landlords will now need to give tenants six months' notice, unless they are ending the tenancy reasons such as anti-social and criminal behaviour by the tenant, or where the landlord or their family need to move into the property where the notice period is three months.
The new law applies in cases where a landlord served notice on their tenant on or after 7 April 2020, but does not apply where a landlord served notice on their tenant before 7 April 2020.
For more information on viewings and moving home during Covid-19, landlords and letting agents should refer to this guidance.
Since July 9 2020, non-essential repairs and maintenance to rented homes have been allowed to go ahead, provided that the tradesperson and occupants of the house are not showing coronavirus symptoms and that no-one in the household who is self-isolating.
“Good communication between landlords and tenants, planning, and taking a risk-based approach are important,” the government advice says.
Here at Letting Solutions, West Lothian’s first dedicated lettings agency, we are open for business, albeit strictly in line with all the required rules around the pandemic.
For more information on our current operations and working hours, please click here.
Don’t hesitate to contact us, even if you are not a current client. You can ring us on 01506 496006 where our team are waiting to help. Or you can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.