Five tips to let your UK prope

London-based South Africans Daniel and Martina Lees wrote The Accidental Landlord to help homeowners let their UK property with peace of mind

Five tips to let your UK property with peace of mind

Accidental landlord and bestselling author Daniel Lees shares advice for South Africans who are about to let their British homes for the first time.

Five tips to let your UK prope

London-based South Africans Daniel and Martina Lees wrote The Accidental Landlord to help homeowners let their UK property with peace of mind

I blame my wife. When Martina and I got married — intentionally — we ended up letting my bachelor pad in southwest London — accidentally. It helped us to travel the world, start a business and buy our first family home.

It also made us landlords. There are now about 500,000 such accidental landlords in Britain: people who never meant to let a property, but have done so through circumstance. Some inherited a home, or struggled to sell so let instead. Others changed jobs, partners or countries — like many of our South African friends, who bought in London and then moved back home.

Yet there is surprisingly little help for people like us. We have had to learn the hard way, initially through letting my first flat, then the homes of friends who left Britain. In the end, I started Swift, a letting agency that looks after the London homes of accidental landlords living in 13 countries. As well as handling the usual paperwork and broken boilers, I’ve had to close a neighbouring brothel and rescue a pet python. Martina, meanwhile, became an award-winning property journalist at The Sunday Times.

Together, we have written The Accidental Landlord to help others like us. Here are five of our top tips.

  1. Be deliberate

Though you may have started out accidentally, you won’t succeed if you carry on like that in a rental market that has become more expensive, regulated and taxed than ever. Define your goal: do you want monthly rental income to pay school fees, for example, or long-term price growth to help you retire in comfort? Will your property give you what you want? If not, you may be better off selling and investing elsewhere.

  1. Get consents

Your lender can call in your residential mortgage if you let your home without telling them — and yes, this is becoming more common. Ask their consent to let or switch to a buy-to-let mortgage, for which you will need at least 25% equity and rental income 145% higher than the mortgage payment. Also take out landlord buildings insurance: your standard cover will be invalid, leaving you with nothing but a mortgage to pay if the house burnt down. And, for leasehold flats, inform your freeholder.

  1. Get tax advice

You must register with HMRC for self-assessment tax and complete the property section as part of your annual return. If you live abroad for six months or more while renting out a UK home, apply to HMRC to do your self-assessment as a “non-resident landlord”. Under tax changes that hit landlords in April, you can no longer deduct all your mortgage interest from the rent before working out your profit. Speak to a tax expert to plan ahead: if you’re married, for example, transferring some ownership to the lower earner may save you thousands in tax.

  1. Tick the legal boxes

If you supply it, make sure it’s safe. By law, you must do an annual gas safety check and get an energy performance certificate before you advertise your let. You must also fit smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and you may need a landlord licence — check with your council or The buck stops with you, not your agent: their “oops, my bad” is your unlimited fine or invalid insurance. If you, or your agent, forget to give your tenant these bits of paper, you’ll lose your automatic right to take your property back at the tenancy term’s end:

  • Copies of the gas safety and energy performance certificates.
  • The government’s “How to Rent” leaflet.
  • “Prescribed information” from one of three state-backed schemes where you must protect your tenant’s deposit within 30 days of receiving it.
  1. Get the paperwork right

In almost all lets you’ll have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). That gives you and your tenant certain rights and duties that you can’t wriggle out of, even if you scribble ‘this is not a tenancy’ all over your contract. Download the government’s free model AST contract at Save hours by signing it through a secure digital service such as HelloSign (free). Hire an independent clerk to create a written inventory with photos of the property’s contents and condition (£100–£250; — without that, you’ll struggle to make deposit deductions.

The Accidental Landlord is an Amazon bestseller published by Rethink Press. £12.99,