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Growing number of long-distance landlords

Monday 12th March 2012

A new survey of landlords shows that long-distance lettings dominate parts of the Private Rented Sector in the UK.

Research from the Association of Residential Letting Agents suggests that in Central London, there are almost twice as many properties in the PRS than landlords who reside in the capital, with a ration of 1:1.98 (landlords to properties in the PRS). Long-distance landlords are also prevalent in Scotland where ARLA's data shows a ration of 1:1.74 (resident landlords to properties in the PRS).

In contrast, the South East and South West of England showed the least prevalence of long-distance landlords, with the ratio of resident landlords to properties in the PRS standing at 1:1.13 (South East) and 1:1.18 (South West).

ARLA Operations Manager, Ian Potter said: "It is a common phenomenon for landlords to let properties in different parts of the country and it is likely that trend will grow, for example as owners increasingly opt to let out a property rather than sell when the time comes to move on, or when parents who've bought a student property choose to continue renting it out when their child has left university.

"However, anyone who owns property away from their home town should be mindful of the challenges that long-distance lettings can pose if not effectively managed. Letting through a professional, local agent can be the best first step to ensuring your property is efficiently managed and as hassle-free as possible, but whether you chose to let with or without an agency, there are some important issues to consider."

ARLA has the following top tips for long-distance landlords:

* Research - If the area is unfamiliar to you, it is important to ensure you're setting reasonable and realistic rent levels. Research the area thoroughly and check for precedents regarding issues like length of tenancy and whether to let the property furnished or unfurnished. An ARLA agent will be able to give you comprehensive insight into an unfamiliar neighbourhood and will be able to give you an idea of achievable rent levels, as well as likely demand.

* Compile a detailed inventory - If inspections of the property will be infrequent or difficult to coordinate, a comprehensive inventory will be even more vital than usual in helping keep track of the condition of contents and features. Take photographic evidence throughout, and ensure the final documentation is jointly approved by you as the landlord, and your tenant. This will minimise the potential for disputes over the return of deposit when a tenant leaves.

* Nominate a Representative - When it comes to moving day, it can be very helpful to have a representative - ideally a letting agent - acting on your behalf if you are not able to travel to the property. This person can hand over keys to the tenants, sign off inventories, and note the level of utility meters.

* Maintenance - Depending on how far away from the rental property you live, it is advisable to build a network of trusted local maintenance contractors - plumbers and electricians in particular - to deal with any issues in the property. This will ensure any minor problems can be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

* Reference Checking - Obtaining a reference from every incoming tenant is important to help ensure they have the means to pay the rent being charged. This becomes essential if face-to-face contact with tenants will be rare. If an individual's rent is being funded by a family member or other benefactor, a guarantor form can provide a similar level of assurance for tenant and landlord.

* Keys and security - Where possible, and in discussion with your tenants, try and leave a spare set of keys with a letting agent or trusted contact close to the property. This will allow quick access should any problems arise, such as a burglar alarm going off or a water leak.  Remember, however, that neither the landlord nor a contractor or agent is permitted to enter the property without 24 hours' notice to the tenant, except in an emergency.

Potter said: "All licensed ARLA agents are bound by a strict code of conduct, and must have a number of consumer protection mechanisms in place, including client money protection. This means that if things do go wrong long or short-distance, there is a way to seek redress."

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Mike Jones





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Editorial Contact Details - Conor Shilling
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