How do you make sure the landlord you’re about to rent from is a good one?
Landlords tend to get a bad press.
There are certainly criminally inclined individuals in the bigger cities taking advantage of the vulnearble, but we don't come across that too much in Inverness. The vast majority of under-performing landlords are simply unaware of what they need to do and of what the law requires, and in the absence of a one-stop-shop information source it's not easy for them to find out. The admirable Renting Scotland website goes a long way to plug that gap, but how many folks are aware of its existence? Legislation affecting landlords is largely unenforced and so many blythely stumble on unaware that they're breaking the law and, in doing so, unwittingly devaluing their tenants' renting experience.
But good practice does exist: Many landlords strive to be business-like and responsible and genuinely care about their tenants' legitimate interests, wanting them to have a satisfactory renting experience. Many landlords also voluntarily undergo training through the excellent Landlord Accreditation Scotland and go on to become accredited landlords. That is a badge which tells tenants that those landlords can be trusted to work to best practice standards.
So, tenants, you've found your ideal new home and are desperate to secure it. Stand back a bit and consider: What are the management arrangements? Does the landlord manage it directly, or is there an agent? If the former, does he/she understand the business they're in? Renting is no longer about providing a roof for the needy - it's about fulfilling a market need in a highly competitive market and responsible landlords will understand that and equip themselves for the job. If an agent is managing, check to ensure that the agent is regulated by a professional body such as RICS or ARLA Propertymark and is one you'll be happy with.
Questions to ask:
- Is the landlord accredited or using an agent?
- If an agent is managing, are they professionally regulated and what is their track record like?
- How long did former tenants stay?
- Why did they leave?
- What is the procedure for dealing with repairs?
- Who will do the repairs - the landlord, a friend of the landlord, or a tradesman? (The key thing here is that the repairer needs to be competent for the job in hand.) How quickly will they be done?
- What if you have a justifiable need to complain. How are complaints dealt with?
- Would the landlord be happy for you to speak to former tenants before committing?
A responsible landlord will welcome those questions and if you are rebuffed that should sound warning bells.
When suitable properties are in short supply and you are desperate to secure the one you've seen it can be difficult or simply impractical take this approach, and it's much easier when supply and demand are in balance. You do need to make sure that you will be happy with what you're signing up to however. Check and double check what anyone with a vested interest in getting you to sign says. Be wary of accepting statements at face value without digging deeper.
THe Tenancy Agreement should contain the statutory terms set out in the Scottish Government's Model Tenancy Agreement. These are mandatory and are designed to protect the interests of both landlord and tenant. If you are offered an agreement that doesn't contain these then that's a sure sign that the landlord is out of touch with what the law requires.
Oh, and never ever part with any cash until you have seen a Tenancy Agreement. There are well-known scams where people advertise property to let on Gumtree, for instance, with which they have no connection. Pretending to be the landlord, they offer would-be tenants the promise of a tenancy in return for cash "to secure it". Having taken the cash they go to ground and are diffucult to contact, and recovering your cash could be impossible. If you come across such a proposal, and no Tenancy Agreement has been produced, walk way.