Guidance Notes for Landlords

We aim to provide a full professional letting service, at a sensible cost, that will reduce your concerns, worries and risks to a minimum. As Landlords ourselves we fully appreciate just what an important and necessary role a good property management service can play in making the letting of your property an enjoyable and profitable success.

Our extensive register of managed property includes Furnished and Unfurnished, Studios, Flats, Houses, Cottages and Bungalows with rents that range from £80 per week to £2000 per month. We act for Landlords as far away as Australia and as close as Redruth. We have professional Landlords who buy property to provide a rental income on invested capital, we have Landlords who buy property on borrowed money using the rental income to pay the mortgage and generate capital over a period of years, we have Landlords who let inherited property and we have short term Landlords who let their homes for perhaps six or twelve months whilst working away or globe trotting.

We also now have property owners who have become reluctant Landlords because selling now is not a sensible or viable option.

We therefore feel confident that whatever your circumstances our service can satisfy your requirements. In order to maximise our efficiency we do however restrict our operational area to within roughly a half-hour drive of Camborne/Redruth. The towns of Perranporth, Truro, Falmouth, Helston and Hayle therefore form the perimeter of our “patch”.

Despite our many years of experience, managing the letting of hundreds of properties, we cannot guarantee that your tenant will always be perfect – our job is simply to minimise the risk factor. The unpredictable part in the equation is always human nature and there is “nowt so queer as folk”‘.

The Cost

Please ask for the Real Estates “Property Management Terms of Business” form which fully details our management service and the cost to you. Briefly though we charge 15% of the collected rent plus an Initial Setting-up Fee of 60% of the first months rent to cover the costs of marketing, completing Tenancy Agreements, preparing a Schedule of Condition with digital photographs, rechecking at the end of the Tenancy, etc. This Fee will be deducted from the first months rent. No commission will be charged for the first month of any Tenancy. A reduced Re-Letting Fee of 30% of the first months rent will then be charged for every subsequent change of occupants. Should an Inventory be required of a furnished Tenancy, an additional Fee will be charged subject to negotiation. All of these charges include VAT.

We also provide a Tenant Finding service in which we do exactly the same as our fully managed service except that we hand everything over to you once we have installed your tenant. This service costs a one-off fee of 90% of the first months rent (subject to a minimum fee of £420.00). These charges include VAT.

If neither of these options match your requirements then we have a wide variety of reduced services with equally reduced fees for Landlord’s wanting to manage their own properties. Please ask for our latest price list, we are very flexible.

The Property

Poor quality property will only attract poor quality tenants!

The ideal letting property is probably modern with a low maintenance exterior and small easily managed gardens. Internally plain emulsion walls and stained woodwork all warmed with full gas fired central heating would be ideal. However, circumstances and money usually provide limitations on perfection. Whatever your circumstances it is important that the property is freshly decorated to a good standard before the tenancy starts. This ensures that everyone, including the tenant, is aware that any subsequent damage to the décor is all attributable to the tenant, creating a much more responsible attitude. An effective, economical heating system and good ventilation will encourage tenants to keep your property warm and condensation-free, preserving the décor for much longer. Better quality residential areas attract better quality tenants or put another way, an ex-council house in poor condition on a large council estate will not!

Rental Value

We will be pleased to inspect your property, or indeed any property you are considering buying, to discuss its current rental value, making suggestions and recommendations to improve this figure wherever possible. Generally smaller modern properties tend to produce a higher gross return on invested capital. We can also provide written confirmation of anticipated rental income should your “Buy to Let” mortgage lender require.

This valuation and advice service is free of charge with no obligation whatsoever.

Rental values have risen quite considerably over the last few years but do please remember that with a six-month tenancy, a few extra weeks vacant spent trying to find a tenant at even £50 a month higher rent, will still not show a profit.

Is there a Demand for Rented Property

As a Nation our attitude to property ownership seems to becoming more European with less apparent necessity to own our own home. The lack of increase in property values over the last few years coupled with the difficulty in satisfying mortgage lenders increasingly onerous requirements has accelerated this process.

Renting provides a much higher degree of “life style” flexibility, creating the opportunity to try new jobs, new locations and even perhaps new partners simply by giving one month’s notice.

The psychological millstone of a mortgage doesn’t appeal to many tenants until they finally become “first time buyers” in their early thirties – they still leave the parental home in their early twenties but rent for the intervening years.

Broken relationships (married or otherwise) create a growing need for two smaller homes with at least one of the new homes being rented. Job moves are now commonly accompanied by a six to twelve month tenancy in the new area whilst the tenants search for the ideal home to buy. Chains of linked house sales are now often broken by a period in rented accommodation, removing much of the stress created by trying to co-ordinate the buying and selling process.

Retired property owners sometimes release capital by selling and becoming tenants. They then pay the rent and boost their pension out of invested capital. In short, the answer is unreservedly, yes; there is plenty of demand for rented property from a wide range of good quality tenants.


The Internet now provides an enormous and ever increasing level of enquiries. Our own website is updated on a daily basis and coupled with Rightmove, the largest property portal in the country as well as the various search engines, generates literally thousands of hits every single day.

Our own bespoke website provides a very useful Google map showing the exact location of our available properties. It also automatically updates the Rightmove website as well as updating our own Facebook page. We also have a mailing list facility which automatically sends out emails and texts whenever we add a new property or reduce a price. GPS (Global Positioning System) is a major upgrade to the old and inaccurate postcode system for placing property on a map, our system shows exactly where is it to the nearest meter including which side of the road it is!

Our website is continually being worked on to improve its usability and we add important features on a regular basis.

Finding a Suitable Tenant

Because we have been established in business since 1988 and our large recently refurbished offices occupy a prominent main road location, we automatically attract an excellent level of enquiries, on a daily basis, for rented property.

Whilst we are therefore never short of prospective tenants, the skill is in matching the quality of tenant with the quality of your property.

You will see from the Tenancy Application form (available on request) that we collect a large amount of information about all prospective adult tenants, detailing their lives for the last few years. Then, using a referencing agency, we seek to verify this information taking up references from current and former Landlords, current and former employers, accountants reference if self employed, character references and carry out a credit search and identity check. We also check “affordability” looking for a household income of at least 3 times the rent. This referencing process usually takes three working days depending on the complexity of their lives. We then, unless you say otherwise, discuss this information with you, so that between us we can decide on what we hope will be an ideal tenant.

However in the real world no referencing process can ever hope to guarantee total satisfaction. Circumstances including perhaps your urgent need for money and a low level of enquiries may combine to make you want to relax your high expectations – we will try to persuade you otherwise! Letting to a bad tenant is easy – evicting a bad tenant is potentially much more difficult and expensive, both on your pocket and your nerves.

The Ideal Tenant

Obviously, like us, your picture of an ideal tenant is someone who pays a full market rent always on time, looks after the property, does not annoy the neighbours and moves out when asked. In practise most of our tenant’s do all those things! However, because the property was your own home or you live next door, you may well have specific requirements for the preferred type of tenant. Some Landlords prefer not to have students, house sharers, smokers, pets, children or tenants claiming Housing Benefit. Within the limits of the Law of Discrimination we will be pleased to discuss the merits or otherwise of excluding some types of tenants. As in all things, finding a sensible balance is the secret – too many restrictions will severely limit the demand – too few restrictions will increase the chances of finding a bad tenant.

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is now paid directly to tenants on a four-weekly cycle in arrears. Housing Benefit cheques cannot be counter-signed so have to be paid into a tenant’s bank account, cleared and then the money withdrawn to pay the rent.

Any tenant threatened with eviction, who seeks help with re-housing from the Council, will be told to stay in residence until evicted by the Court Bailiffs. If they simply vacate when the properly served “notice to quit” expires they will be deemed “intentionally homeless” and the Council only help “unintentionally homeless” people. This process of first obtaining a Court Order and then a Bailiff’s eviction will then take six to eight weeks and cost £355.00 in court fees plus £121.00 Bailiff’s fee, our advice is therefore to refuse prospective tenants on Housing Benefit. Whilst this will not totally eliminate the problem (a working tenant could always lose their job mid tenancy) it will reduce the potential risk to an acceptable level.

Currently however the problem with letting to tenants claiming Housing Benefit relates not just to the quality of the tenants but also to the local delay in this Council area where verifying a claim and eventually making payment can take a very long time – official figures show an average delay of three months but in our experience it can be as long as six months! Then just when the claim is finally established and you think you can relax, the claim becomes due for renewal and the whole process (including the delay) is repeated.

Most of our Landlords cannot afford to suffer from such an irregular and unpredictable cash flow and therefore choose to leave this sector of the rental market to the social landlords such as the Housing Associations.

The Tenancy Agreement

Our standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (currently twelve pages long) covers most eventualities (a copy is available on request) but this can be altered to include any special terms or conditions relevant to your circumstances or to cover anything unusual with the property. Department of the Environment information leaflets which detail the key legal facts for Assured Shorthold Tenancies are available from us free of charge.

The Tenancy Term

Most of our tenancies are for an initial fixed term of six months and then, without the need for any further paperwork or any additional cost, automatically continue to become Statutory Periodic Tenancies. All the terms and conditions of the original Tenancy Agreement (including the right to increase the rent annually) remain fully enforceable throughout any subsequent periodic tenancy.

During any fixed term tenancy it is not possible to evict a tenant without first proving the reason in court – in most circumstances we therefore advise letting for the shortest enforceable fixed term (six months) – we then enjoy the freedom to terminate any subsequent periodic tenancy by serving two months notice with no need to prove a reason.

Some Letting Agencies renew Tenancy Agreements every six or twelve months, creating extra fee charging opportunities for themselves, restricting your options and offering no real benefit to you.

Starting the Tenancy

Once satisfactory references have been obtained, we will draw up the Tenancy Agreement incorporating any special conditions that you or the property require. The tenant will then pay the balance of the deposit (having already paid a Holding Deposit) to make up one months rent as a Deposit plus a months rent in advance before the keys are handed over – any personal cheques would need clearance first.


From the 6th April 2007, there is a requirement by Law to hold the Tenant’s deposit in a qualifying Deposit Scheme. Failure to do so will mean that you are unable to serve a Form 6a (Section 21) notice and therefore will not be able to evict through the Courts. Real Estates are members of the Government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme which is an Insurance-based scheme run by an organisation called The Dispute Service that was established back in 2003 to provide independent dispute resolution and complaints handling for the lettings industry. It has been running a voluntary tenancy deposit scheme for use by regulated agents since that time and is backed by the three professional bodies for letting agents in the residential property sector, ARLA, NAEA and RICS. This scheme allows us to hold the deposit in our audited and strictly regulated Clients Account providing the Tenant is told within 14 days which scheme his deposit is in and that it is insured by The Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

This new legislation has had major implications for the whole letting industry. We now have to convince an independent third party that any deduction from a deposit is both fair and reasonable. This is only possible using a detailed written Schedule of Condition complete with numerous digital photographs prepared prior to the start of the tenancy followed by a similarly detailed “checking out” process again complete with digital photographs. After making allowance for “fair wear and tear” any provable deterioration, as evidenced by the difference between the “before” and “after” statements and photographs is therefore claimable from the deposit.

The deposit has to be returned in full unless there is a dispute about rent arrears, damage or cleaning. The undisputed amount must then be repaid within 14 days and the disputed amount sent to the Dispute Service for their arbitration. Once a ruling has been made, their decision is final and the money is apportioned and paid by the Dispute Service direct to the relevant parties.

Paying the Rent

Tenants usually pay their rent monthly in advance, some pay by Standing Order, some by cheque and some by cash. We then pay you monthly by direct transfer from our Clients Account to your Bank/Building Society Account, usually within a week or so of cleared funds arriving in our Bank. We will also send you a printed monthly statement showing how much rent has been collected and when it was collected, together with what has been deducted and why. Annual statements for tax purposes are available on request as part of your management fee.

In accordance with the requirements of the National Association of Estate Agents, as a member firm, our Clients Account is audited annually by a firm of Chartered Accountants and satisfies their stringent requirements. For your added peace of mind, Real Estates is also a participating member of the National Association of Estate Agents, the Clients Money Protection Scheme and the Ombudsman for Estate Agents scheme.

The Bills

All the service suppliers (gas, water, electricity and telephone) and the Council Tax Department will need to be informed by the new tenant (as they are the occupier and consumer) and the relevant meter readings provided. Any tenants unpaid bills will then not be your responsibility. If you have just moved out, you will need to make your own arrangements to close your accounts including final meter readings.

House Insurance

It is essential that you inform your House Insurance company, preferably in writing, that the property is to be let and then receive their confirmation that they will still be providing full insurance cover. This is entirely your responsibility – in the event of a claim, if the insurance company have not been informed of the tenancy, they will almost certainly not pay out. This could leave you with a burnt-out ruin, no money to re-build it and still a mortgage to pay!

As members of the Cornwall Landlords Association we can arrange insurance cover that is underwritten by Norwich Union, so if you have problems with your existing company do please let us know. Lots of policies do not cover malicious or accidental damage by tenants, ours do, and most probably at a lower cost.

Mortgaged and Leasehold Property

If you have a mortgage on the property, then check your paperwork – it is probably a requirement that you obtain the lenders permission before setting up a tenancy. Similarly, in the case of leasehold property you may have to obtain your superior Landlord, or the freeholders, written permission before sub-letting.


The rental income from your property will be added to your earned income and taxed at your relevant marginal rate of Income Tax. Our management charges, maintenance costs, replacement costs, depreciation, insurance and interest on any mortgage can all be offset against tax. Major items of expenditure such as installing double glazing or central heating need to be purchased out of rental income (not carried out prior to the property first being let) and justified as repairs not improvements, to have any chance of being considered against Income Tax. Repairs and replacements are usually set against Income Tax but improvements are usually set against Capital Gains Tax, which is only applicable in the event of a future sale. If the property is owned jointly then this rental income, net of qualifying expenditure, will be allocated in the same proportions as the ownership.

Unless the necessary exemption certificate is obtained (we have the appropriate application forms in our office), any Landlord resident overseas for six months or so will only receive rent net of tax – we become mandatory unpaid tax collectors under the Taxes Management Act.

We recommend that you fully discuss your potential tax situation with a qualified accountant or the tax office before letting your property.

Property Repairs

We actively encourage all our tenants to tell us immediately when any problem, however trivial, occurs with their home. We then respond as soon as possible (usually within a few hours) by inspecting the problem ourselves. This immediate response reassures the tenant that we really do care about them and their problem. It also enables us to decide whose responsibility the problem is (broken glass is the tenants responsibility but a rotten window frame is the Landlords responsibility).

The other very real benefit of our immediate “repair” inspection process is that we also get to see just how the tenants are looking after the property, on a day-to-day basis. Poor housekeeping, undeclared pets, lack of gardening, smokers and perhaps lodgers can be much easier to spot with this unscheduled visit. Obviously, any concerns at this stage would then trigger an early full “condition inspection”.

Simple DIY jobs (that is those that take less than an hour and don’t involve getting dirty!) will probably be carried out there and then by Real Estates, with you paying for any required parts and possibly a nominal labour charge. More serious problems will be referred to tradesmen for an estimate. Whilst our normal Terms of Business include a mandate to spend up to £100 on normal everyday maintenance and repair, we will always endeavour to contact you to discuss the situation before spending any money. We can refer the work to you or your own tradesman if required but it must be understood that the tenant is legally entitled to “enjoy” a home kept in reasonable repair and those repairs should be carried out within a reasonable time period.

A tenant’s goodwill is easily fostered by a quick reaction to a reported problem but this goodwill is even easier to lose with a delayed response. Once lost, that goodwill will not easily be regained and an unhappy tenant is sure to create an unhappy Landlord…. eventually!

Condition Inspections

Usually three months or so into a new tenancy we carry out a full inspection of the property. We always provide the tenant with plenty of notice since we are not checking their housekeeping, just ensuring that they are fully aware of the standard of care that we expect. Dependent on what we find on this initial inspection, we will then re-inspect as often as is sensible in the circumstances. You should note that the tenant is legally entitled to enjoy uninterrupted occupation of the property – we (and that includes you) are not legally allowed to gain access without first providing reasonable notice, usually at least 24 hours in writing. It is a criminal offence to harass a tenant.

Furnished or Unfurnished

A popular misconception is that it is easier to evict a tenant from a furnished tenancy – not true – there is now no difference in security of tenure. The disadvantages of letting furnished property include the cost of supplying the furniture, the time and cost of preparing/checking an inventory of contents, the cost of replacing/repairing/maintaining these contents, Council Tax & Water Rates liability when unoccupied, insurance costs and potential damage/theft by the tenant. All contents must comply with the Furniture & Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations and the Electrical Safety Regulations.

There is a reduced demand from long-term tenants for furnished property and to complete this sorry tale; rental values are virtually the same.

An unfurnished property should include fitted carpets/laminate/vinyl, curtain tracks/poles, perhaps curtains, kitchen units with space for a tall fridge/freezer, plumbed space for washing machine, space for a cooker (the actual cooker is optional), bathroom fittings (shower screen/curtain, mirror, towel rail, toilet roll holder, etc), some form of heating (ideally full central heating) and seriously consider providing a dehumidifier (condensation is becoming a very real problem). This unfurnished property is then much more tolerant to occupation by smokers, pet owners and children and will appeal to the widest possible market.

Gas Safety

The 1994 Gas Safety Regulations place a legal obligation on you/us to have any gas appliances (including bottle gas appliances) and flues checked and certified annually by a GAS SAFE registered tradesman. A copy of the Landlord’s Gas Safety Record has to be supplied to the tenant. Non-compliance is a criminal offence. Cost and inconvenience are reduced if all gas-fired appliances, including central heating systems, are serviced once a year at the same time as they are certified.

Unless we anticipated problems with the gas appliances, we would usually leave obtaining the Gas Safety certificate until just a few days before the first tenancy started to get maximum value from this annual cost.

Electrical Safety

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 have now come into force and it is now mandatory for a rented property to have an Electrical Inspection Condition Report (EICR) prior to being Let. All existing Tenancies must have an EICR in place by 1st April 2021. The EICR has to be renewed every 5 years.

We therefore recommend that all rented properties have the fixed wiring checked and certified on a regular basis by suitably qualified electricians and a EICR lodged on file.

Fire & Carbon Monoxide Safety

From 1st October 2015 it is a legal requirement to install working Smoke Alarms in rented dwellings with one smoke alarm per floor. In addition to this, a working Carbon Monoxide Alarm must be installed in any living area with a fossil burning appliance, i.e. gas fired boiler, oil boiler, open fire, etc.

These alarms must be tested prior to each new Tenancy and this would be carried out as a standard part of the Schedule Of Condition. Any non-working alarms would then be replaced at the Landlord’s expense.

The Tenancy Agreement will also make it the tenants responsibility to test the alarms and check the batteries on a regular basis.

Energy Performance Certificate

Although sellers of property are no longer required to provide a HIPS package, Landlords of rented properties are still legally required to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

The law requires an EPC to be available so that prospective tenants can to make an informed choice before signing a tenancy agreement. The EPC also has to be a minimum of an “E” grade to be Let. Currently we can organise an EPC for £60 or thereabouts but we will be able to access the EPC online if it has been already assessed. The good news is that EPC’s have a shelf-life of ten years.

Non-Payment of Rent

Yes, despite all our care and expertise, it can happen! But by taking a months rent in advance plus a deposit of another months rent we do have at least a two-month safety margin in which to react.

We then need to determine why the rent has not been paid since different causes require different solutions. Housing Benefit problems often only need more paperwork, but eight weeks arrears mean that Housing Benefit can be paid direct to the Landlord. Sometimes the tenants have a grievance and are withholding the rent – most grievances are sortable. Perhaps the tenant decided that their need was more important than yours was! We always talk to the tenants – money problems affect most of us at some stage in our lives, perhaps they need help and advice. Accident, illness, injury, pregnancy, job loss, divorce, separation and car problems can all cause hiccups in rent payments. A previously good tenant is worth looking after, perhaps by accepting payment of the arrears by instalments. Court action should only be a last resort. However, the bad tenant who simply refuses to pay needs to be evicted as soon as possible and the rent arrears chased through the small claims court.

Insurance for Non-Payment of Rent

There are various Insurance schemes available which cover non-payment of rent, Landlords legal expenses, temporary hotel accommodation, damage by tenants etc. and we will be pleased to discuss the merits of these with you. As always the difficulty is in trying to balance cost (probably 3-4% of the rent) against the risk of things going wrong. The Insurance Companies will usually only insure the better quality tenant (reducing their risk) but that type of tenant probably does not need insuring. The decision is yours!

Early Termination

No – killing tenants is a criminal offence! But occasionally tenants, perhaps because of a change in circumstances, want to terminate their tenancy before the initial six-month period has expired. Since they have signed a legally binding document we would be perfectly within our rights to demand the full rent for that period regardless of whether or not they continue to occupy. Some agencies do just that and gamble that the disgruntled tenant will actually pay the full rent and not wreck the place. We prefer not to gamble and instead offer to release the current tenant as soon as a suitable replacement tenant can be found and referenced. We do however ensure that our client, the Landlord, does not suffer financially in the process. In these circumstances we therefore charge the outgoing tenant the Initial Setting-up Fee normally payable by the Landlord every time a new tenancy is started.

Legal Notes

As already mentioned, a Department of the Environment booklet is available on request and free of charge which explains in detail amendments made to Assured Shorthold Tenancies by the Housing Act 1996 with effect from 28 February 1997. These amendments have made it “easier to set-up tenancies and quicker and simpler to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent or cause a nuisance and annoyance to other local people”. A solicitor specialising in Landlord and Tenant Law is obviously the best person to provide advice on any legal questions. We do have immediate access to our own legal advice so do please ask if you have a specific query.

Notice to Quit

The tenant is always entitled to two full months notice of your requirement for possession. Under normal circumstances it is not possible to terminate a tenancy before the initial fixed term has expired or at least six months have passed. The earliest a six-month tenancy can therefore be terminated is by giving notice before the end of the fourth month to expire on the sixth month. In any subsequent Periodic Tenancy two months notice is still always required.

Once the fixed term of the tenancy has passed there is currently no legal requirement to provide a reason or justification for termination and if necessary the court, without the delay of a hearing, will decide the matter under the Accelerated Possession Procedure. Court costs are currently £355.00 with no need to employ a solicitor as we process the Court papers on your behalf. Regardless of the tenants circumstances the courts do not have the power to delay possession beyond a maximum of forty-two days – fourteen days is much more usual.

However because life is not fair, the Tenant is only required to provide notice of one month (measured from the last day of a rent period), again once the fixed term is over. The Tenant however has to make the property available for prospective replacement tenants to view during this notice period, hopefully this then enables you find a new tenant and therefore enjoy continuity of rental income despite the change of occupier.

End of Tenancy

At the end of a tenancy we thoroughly inspect the property to see if there is any cleaning, decorating, repairs, gardening, etc that may be needed. If any of these are the responsibility of the Tenant we will inform them of such, fair wear and tear excepted. If they are unable to carry out the required works, we will obtain suitable estimates from our contractors and any cost involved can be deducted from the deposit.


Most tenants are good responsible people who pay on time, look after your property and move out when asked. So, despite the horror stories most Landlords make a profit without too much wear and tear on either their nerves or their property.

Whilst we trust that these Guidance Notes have been helpful, we have only attempted to provide an outline of the letting process. Undoubtedly there will still be some unanswered questions or specific problems that relate to your individual circumstances. Please ask and we will be delighted to help.