Stephanie Robinson answers your rental questions

Stephanie Robinson.
Stephanie Robinson.
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Sometimes it becomes necessary to rent out your own home. In this month’s column, Stephanie Robinson sets out the basic principles of becoming a landlord and the procedures you must follow…

I am going to be working abroad and I want to rent out my house. What laws will I have to abide by?

When you let your property, the new occupier is automatically granted an assuredshorthold tenancy (unless you agree otherwise).

This means you have a guaranteed right to claim your home back if you need to, that you can charge rent at market value and evict the tenant if they owe you at least two months’ rent or they are causing a nuisance.

How long does an assured shorthold tenancy last?

That is for you to decide. You can agree on a set period (known as a fixed term) or leave it open-ended. It is normal for an assured shorthold tenancy to run for six or 12 months, which usually commits the tenant to paying rent until the end of the fixed term, even if they leave before.

How would I go about reclaiming my property?

You can end a tenancy once any fixed term has elapsed by giving your tenant two months’ warning that you want the property back, using the specified form of written notice. A tenancy can be terminated at any time if there are reasons such as rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and damage to the property.

What if the tenant won’t leave?

You cannot evict a tenant yourself but you can ask the court to have them removed. In certain cases, you can use an accelerated possession procedure that avoids a hearing.

Would it not be easier to leave the property empty?

You could lose more than £5,000 a year by leaving your property empty, taking into account rent loss, council tax, insurance, dilapidation and security measures. You also run the risk of vandalism, squatting and complaints from neighbours.

What are my responsibilities?

Repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating, hot water installations and sanitary fittings are your responsibility, as are the safety of gas and electrical appliances and the fire resistance of any furniture you provide.

You must also fix any damage caused by someone with no connection to the tenant, for example a break-in or vandalism.

What would my tenant be responsible for?

Paying the rent as agreed. They are required to take proper care of the property and, in most cases, to pay council tax, water and sewerage charges. If you pay them, you are entitled to include the cost in the rent. Bills for gas, electricity and telephones are the tenant’s responsibility, unless you agree otherwise.

What should I do if the property needs repairs before it can be let?

Housing associations can help by providing a grant and managing the property for you.

Alternatively, you may qualify for a local authority renovation grant – contact your council for details.

What will letting the house do to my tax position?

In general terms, you will pay tax on your gross rental income but expenses can be deducted. More information can be found by visiting the gov.uk website.

If you let out your UK home whilst living abroad, you pay income tax on the rent in the normal way. There are special rules on how you pay the tax, so contact the HMRC for details.

Stephanie Robinson is a solicitor specialising in property and commercial litigation at Sheffield’s Taylor&Emmet LLP. Telephone 0114 218 4000 or visit www.tayloremmet.co.uk and www.landlorddisputes.co.uk.