Do you know what your tenants are doing in your property?

Are you sure they are looking after it properly?

Are you sure that there are no unauthorised occupiers living there?

Your property is probably one of the most expensive things you own.  But in order to get an income from it, you have to hand control of it over to tenants. This means that you do not know what is happening there.  For example:
  • Has there been any damage done which needs to be repaired before it gets worse?
  • Are the tenants using the property for an illegal purpose which would impact on you or its value?
  • Have they allowed other occupiers to move in without telling you – which could make you liable for HMO licensing?

You may think that your tenants are trustworthy – and maybe they are.  But they may not be telling you  everything

  • They may have lost their job and be in receipt of benefit.  For some landlords, this could invalidate their insurance
  • They may have accidentally damaged the property and not told you because they are worried about the cost of repair
  • They may have taken in a lodger because they need the extra money

Sometimes these things may not be a problem for you.  Sometimes they will be a big problem.  But you need to know about them.

So how do you find out? By doing regular and detailed property inspections

One BIG potential problem: Is your property an HMO?

No?  Think again

If your property has:
  • Three or more tenants, who form
  • Two or more households
It will automatically be an HMO – and subject to the HMO management regulations. It may also be liable for licensing if your Local Authority has a scheme. But if it has:
  • Five or more tenants, who form
  • Two or more households
it will automatically be liable for mandatory HMO licensing.  Meaning that you will need to apply (and pay for) an HMO license – and do any required works – otherwise, you will be renting your property illegally. If you are found to be renting a property which is subject to HMO licensing without a licence this means that:
  • You could be prosecuted and fined
  • The Local Authority could serve a penalty charge notice on you for up to £30,000
  • Your tenants (or the Local Authority if rent is being paid by some form of benefit) can apply to the First Tier Tribunal for a rent repayment order for up to 12 months worth of rent
  • If you are prosecuted and convicted, the Local Authority can apply for a banning order.
Hopefully, none of these things will happen to you.  Probably they won’t.  But they could do.  You need to make sure that they don’t.

Property Inspections are key

The only way you can really know what is happening at your property is to go and see for yourself.

You will be able to
  • See if any repairs need doing
  • Check who is living there, and
  • Make sure that your tenants are not doing anything they shouldn’t
Ideally, property inspections need to be done every three months – or at least every six months with a visual inspection of the exterior every three months.  However many landlords only do them once or twice a year – and some don’t do any inspections at all. This is madness.  For example, if your property is found, when the tenants leave, to have been converted to a cannabis farm (which is far more common than most people think) – even if you are covered by insurance for this loss, your insurers will almost certainly be entitled to reject your claim.  Because they will expect you to have done regular inspections and picked up on this earlier.

Doing inspections the proper way

Then even if landlords carry out regular inspections, they are often not keeping proper records. It is essential that you have a comprehensive record of your inspection visit – with photographs – so that:
  • You can prove, if necessary, to your insurers that you have inspected the property regularly
  • If you find that there is a breach of your insurance conditions you can either deal with the problem (if this is possible) or contact your insurers and upgrade your cover
  • You can prove who was living at the property at the inspection date if the Local Authority accuse you of running an unlicensed HMO
  • You can prove to the Local Authority – if the tenants are breaching fire regulations by blocking fire escapes – that you told them not to do this (which will give you a defence if they bring a prosecution)
  • If you need to arrange for repair works to be done, you can get details and take photographs to give to your contractors
If this all sounds a bit daunting – do not worry.  I have something to help you.

Tessa Shepperson

Developing a solution

I’m Tessa Shepperson, a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer.  For many years I ran my own solicitors firm and now I provide training and information services to landlords and letting agents. I have been concerned for a while about the problems that landlords face if they fail to do proper inspections and so fail to realise that their property has become subject to mandatory HMO licensing due to unauthorised occupiers living at the property.  It prompted me to start work on developing a kit to help. However, once I started, I realised how important regular property inspections are for other problems, not just those to do with unauthorised HMOs.  For example, we now have legislation making it mandatory for a property to be fit for human habitation during the tenancy.  You need to check that this is the case.  Or you can be sued. The kit I have developed is fairly comprehensive and it includes:
  • Instruction pages
  • Standard forms and
  • Draft letters for you to use
If you follow it carefully you should have a fairly complete record of the property at the time of the inspection visit which you can keep in case it is needed.

In short, the kit:

  • Gives you a plan to follow
  • Helps you, via the forms and checklists, so you don’t forget anything
  • Makes the whole thing easier to manage, and
  • Reassures you about your rights

What the kit contains

Here is an outline of the main content.
  • A guidance section on how to use the kit
  • Part 1 – Why inspections are necessary
    • A discussion of the main issues with
    • Videos looking at some special issues (e.g.HMOs and cannabis farms)
  • Part 2 – Preparing for your inspection visit
    • With forms and letters, and
    • A checklist of things to take with you
  • Part 3 – The Inspection visit – which covers
    • Dealing with tenant negative attitudes
    • Completing the inspection forms
    • Taking photographs (with video guidance on your rights), and
    • Things to watch out for
  • Part 4 – Following up, which includes
    • Sorting out your paperwork and photos and
    • Standard letters for you to use.
  • Part 5 – What to do if tenants won’t let you in, with
    • Letters to send to your tenants, and
    • Discussion what you should do next
If you buy the Plus version you also get access to some of my special documents from Landlord Law (see more on this below).

Mobile Friendly website

All our content is hosted on a mobile responsive website, which allows you to read and study the kits easily, and watch the videos on most devices, including smart-phones and tablets. The only parts of the kits which are perhaps best dealt with on a laptop or desktop computer are the forms. However, the kit can easily be accessed, for example on your smart-phone, while travelling or waiting in a queue.

Be aware that the kit is wholly electronic – nothing is sent out by post.

Landlord Law Membership

This kit is available to Landlord Law ‘Business Level’ members as part of their membership entitlement. So please DON’T buy it if you are a Business Level member. If you want to find out more about Landlord Law membership and what it provides then click here (the site will open in a new tab or window).

Read what users of this kit have said:

This kit enables landlords or managing agents to provide a professional service, with a clear process from start to finish that will minimise any issues tenants have with inspections"
Shona Mellor,
Doorway (housing charity)
"This has given me the wake up call I needed to make sure my properties are all in line with the new Standards that are coming out, and to ensure I pay closer attention to what is going on inside my properties! Thanks, Tessa"
Siobhan Sweet,
Landlord​
It confirmed the majority of what I already do but spurred me on to keep better records and getting the tenants to sign the inspection report."
Terry Grainger,
Landlord​
"Helpful and practical"
Andrew Bickley,
Landlord​
I found the kit a useful way of organising my thoughts about my inspections. This gives me some reassurance that I am meeting my obligations as a a landlord" ​
Richard Robbins,
Landlord​

There are two versions
of the Property Inspection Kit:

This is because some of the forms I refer to are already available to Landlord Law members.

The Plus version is so non-members can buy a version with these forms.

The Plus Version

  • Access to the kit as described below
  • Additional documents (as set out below)
  • Landlord Law Members – DO NOT GET THIS VERSION
Price £60 (£50 + VAT)

The Standard Version

  • Access to the kit as described below
  • Get this if you are a Landlord Law Basic Level member
  • Landlord Law Business Level members  – do not buy this as you get access as part of your membership
Price £40 (£33.33 + VAT)

Our guarantee to you

If you find the kit is unsuitable for you in any way – all you need to do is email us requesting a cancellation not later than 30 days after purchase giving your reason why.

We will then cancel your purchase (and your access) and refund your money within 14 days.

Your questions answered:

Q: What if I can’t access the kit or if it does not work on my computer?A: It should do, this is a standard WordPress website.  However, if you have a problem check out our support section, and/or contact Tessa.  If the problems cannot be resolved, you can claim your money back under our guarantee.

Q: I am based in  Wales, can I use the kit? A: Yes the kit will be suitable for you.  Although the HMO licensing rules referred to will only apply in England.

Q: I am based in Scotland, can I use the kit? A: The kit is written for rented properties in England or Wales UK only.  Scotland has a different legal system, as does Northern Ireland.  However, the kit may still be useful on a practical level so long as you are aware that some of the specific legal points will not necessarily apply to you.

Q: How long do I get access? A: You get ‘lifetime’ access – this means that you will be able to use the kit as long as this site is up and running (ie for the lifetime of this website). Although we only guarantee a 12 months access so if the site gets taken down for any reason during the first 12 months after purchase, you can claim a refund of a proportionate part your purchase price.

Q: I use a letting agent – do I need the kit? A: Find out how often your agents are carrying out inspections.  If they are only inspecting once or twice a year, this is not enough and you may want to arrange for some inspections yourself.

Q: I am a Landlord Law member – do I need the kit? A: Not if you are a Business Level member as the kit is provided as part of your membership entitlement.  If you are a Basic Level member you should get the Standard version – as the plus documents are already available to you on Landlord Law.  Or ask us about upgrading your membership!

Q: Can I ask you questions about my particular issues? A: The kit does not include any ‘one to one’ advice element. However, if you are a Landlord Law member you will be able to ask questions via our members’ forum.

Q: I prefer not to pay online – can I pay by BACS or cheque? A: No.  We only accept payment via our online system.  However, you can elect to pay by either credit card or pay pal.

Q: If I get the standard kit but then decide I would like the Pro version, can I upgrade? A: Yes, but there will be a payment of £25 – this is the difference in cost between the two versions plus a £5 admin charge. To upgrade, contact us via the support section.

How to buy the kit:

  • Click one of the orange buy now buttons
  • This will take you to the purchase page
  • You can pay either by pay pal or by credit / debt card (the page just says credit card but you can use your debit card too)
  • Once the payment goes through you will be granted access immediately to the kit. You should also receive several emails – one will be a receipt for your payment, another will provide a link to access your kit
  • If you have any problems you will find guidance in the Help documents linked from the green button at the bottom right of every page or via the Help Docs link on the Services menu on the site header.

Note that all kits are sold subject to our standard terms and conditions (the link will open in a new window or tab)

Please now select one of the options below:

The Property Inspection Kit - Plus Version

This includes the following sections:

  • Access for 12 months to the Beta Version
  • An upgrade to the final version if feedback is provided
  • The kit includes the following sections:
    • A guidance section on how to use the kit
    • Why inspections are necessary
    • Preparing for your inspection visit
    • The Inspection visit – which covers
    • Following up, which includes
    • Finally, we look at what to do if tenants won’t let you in, with
  • Letters and forms included
  • Plus forms are
    • The ‘Right to Rent’ checklist (not necessary for tenants in Wales)
    • The Pets form
    • The Diary Sheet

The Property Inspection Kit - Standard Version

This includes the following:

  • Access for 12 months to the Beta Version
  • An upgrade to the final version if feedback is provided
  • The kit includes the following sections:
    • A guidance section on how to use the kit
    • Why inspections are necessary
    • Preparing for your inspection visit
    • The Inspection visit – which covers
    • Following up, which includes
    • Finally, we look at what to do if tenants won’t let you in, with
  • Letters and forms included

In our survey of our initial users (85 responses) 77% said the kit had changed their views on inspections and how they would carry them out in future.

More comments about the kit:

" Once again, Ms Shepperson has produced a clear and highly informative kit to assist both the new landlord and professionals. Her clear narrative is easy to understand and she covers the topics to the highest level as always"
Tracey Fisher,
Letting Agent
" A great little toolkit written in plain English to put an easy to follow process around a necessary aspect of being a landlord. The standard letters are particularly useful"
reading documents
Vicky Farmer,
Landlord
" Simple yet comprehensive and I doubt there are many, if any, landlords who can't gain something from this kit."
Martin Lloyd,
Landlord
" Clear and simple structure to follow but backed up by sound legal advice. Will now make doing the inspections an easy task instead of something to be concerned about. Thank you"
Houses
Alison Smith,
Landlord
" An easy to follow guide to do inspections and protect the Landlord"
House
B A Mathon,
Landlord
"The kit is well laid out and informative in a much neglected area of housing."
Houses
Stephen Wilson,
Housing Adviser