Frequently Asked Questions

These Frequently Asked Questions aim to give both Landlords and Tenants a better understanding of the services Prime Property (NI) provides as well as the terminology and what is involved with letting residential property in Northern Ireland.

Landlords FAQs

Q: Why should I use Prime Property NI?

Prime Property has over 10 years experience personally managing residential property. Many landlords are too busy to keep on top of the administration and hassles in creating and managing residential tenancy agreements. Even if the landlord is in a position to keep on top of everything that is involved, Prime Property can help to find and reference tenants, draw up paperwork and lease agreements and ensure that all the legal requirements are met.

Q: Should I let the property furnished or unfurnished?

You may choose to rent your property furnished or unfurnished and largely speaking it does not have a significant impact on the level of rent. The demand in residential lettings often depends on the type of property and the profile of the prospective tenants. We will always discuss with landlords the requirements of prospective tenants. Unfurnished properties must always have suitable carpets and/or floor coverings. Whether a property is to be let fully or partially furnished both new and second hand furniture must meet all the fire resistance requirements.

Q: Do I need permission to let my property?

If you have a mortgage on your property the terms of your mortgage must give you permission to let the property. If it does not you should obtain permission from your lender, otherwise you are likely to be in breach of the mortgage terms. If the mortgage is not a buy to let one the lender may charge to allow you to do this. If your mortgage does allow you to let the property, there may be specific conditions relating to terms of the tenancy. For example, the type of tenant or the maximum term of each tenancy. A tenancy which is created without a mortgagee's consent would be unlawful. Permission may also be required from insurance companies and freeholders or head leaseholders. Letting a property without specific letting insurance or without the insurers permission would invalidate the insurance.

Q: Do I need to insure my property?

Whilst there is no legal requirement for a landlord to take insurance there are very strong reasons why they should. Most mortgage lenders will insist that borrowers have adequate buildings insurance whether or not the borrower is living in the property. If the property is let unfurnished or with a small number of low value items there may be no need for the landlord to take contents insurance. In such circumstances the tenants should be advised that they should take out their own contents insurance. Landlord contents insurance may give them limited Public liability insurance but if not or if contents cover is not taken the landlord should consider taking this type of cover. Other insurance polices the landlord may wish to consider include Rent Guarantee Insurance and Landlord Emergency Protection.

Q: Do I have to have an inventory?

A landlord does not need to carry out an inventory or schedule of condition report. However, it is a vital document and it is the only way of properly evaluating the state of a property at the beginning and end of a lease. A new inventory and schedule should be carried out at the start of each lease. Carrying out the report allows damage to be identified over and above wear and tear. Prime Property includes a full inventory and schedule of condition report as standard with our full management service.

Q: What are Client Check In's / Check Out's?

A tenant check-in will ideally take place before a tenant moves furniture or personal possessions into a property. It gives the tenant the opportunity to go through the inventory and compare to the property. A short report is compiled and attached to the inventory and schedule of condition. Prime Property will conduct a check in as part of our full management service. A tenant check-out should be conducted as soon as possible after the tenancy has ended, ideally with the tenant present. The check out will compare each entry on the original check in with the current condition. A written report is prepared. Prime Property will prepare a check out report for all full managed properties.

Q: What is the tenancy deposit scheme?

Any deposit taken after 1st April 2013 in relation to a private tenancy must be protected in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. Two types of scheme have been approved for Northern Ireland tenancies. The Custodial scheme is free but requires the deposit being handed over to an approved administrator for safe keeping. At the end of the tenancy the tenant or the landlord may apply for the deposit to be refunded. The administrator will hold the deposit until any disputes on deposits are resolved. The Insurance scheme allows the landlord to hold the deposit but the landlord must pay a fee / insurance contribution to the administrator. The landlord refunds the deposit at the end but where there is a dispute, the landlord must handover the disputed amount to the administrator until the dispute is resolved.

Q: What is the landlord registration scheme?

The landlord registration scheme is centrally held and aims to collect and maintain up to date and accurate information on landlords and their properties. From 25th February 2014 all private landlords in Northern Ireland must register before they create any new tenancy. However, if the landlord has existing tenancies, they have a 12 month period before they must register (until 25th February 2015). The registration covers all a landlords properties and lasts for 3 years. The fee is £70 for electronic registration or £80 for paper. It is the landlord's sole responsibility to register and they are responsible for the information added to the register (even if your agent registers on your behalf).

Q: Who chooses the tenants?

The landlord chooses the tenants. We will find prospective tenants on your behalf, reference them and find out enough information to allow you to make an informed choice on whether to accept them as tenants. We will also carry out viewings of the property and ensure that it is appropriate to the tenants needs. If you wish, you can meet the tenants before making your decision, especially if there are more than one interested party.

Q: What referencing do we do?

We make it clear to all prospective tenants that offers are not guaranteed and are subject to the landlord's consent, references, credit check and contract. We use a regulated credit reference agency to check whether the tenant has any outstanding debts or CCJ's. These can affect the tenant's credit rating for up to six years. The reference will show if the debt has been paid off. We will also contact employers (or accounts if self employed) and previous landlords/agents. Where the tenant has a poor credit rating, has insufficient income or is in receipt of benefits we will always require a Guarantor who will complete an application.

Q: Should I accept housing benefit?

The decision to accept tenants in receipt of housing benefit is yours and we will discuss this with you prior to introducing any prospective tenants. If you decide to accept tenants in receipt of benefit, we will carry out full referencing in order to make sure that the tenants are responsible and the reason why they are claiming. We will also require a guarantor if the tenant is claiming benefits and we will reference the guarantor. You must make sure that both your mortgage lender and your insurance company will allow housing benefit tenants.

Q: Who arranges repairs / maintenance work?

Landlords have a duty to maintain the property "as seen" by the tenant throughout the term of the tenancy. Where we are managing your property, we will arrange minor repairs on your behalf. If the likely repair cost is more than £100 we will contact you to authorise the repair before it starts and depending on its cost we may require pre payment. The costs of minor repairs are deducted from the next rent payment and will be detailed on your statement, together with a copy of all invoices. We normally use our own contractors but if you have a preferred contractor we can use them.

Q: Do I have to have an EPC?

All residential property must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) carried out before it can be let and a copy must be made available free to the tenant by the landlord. Currently an EPC is valid for 10 years, so it may be reused when new tenants are signed up. We can provide costs for carrying out an EPC on your property.

Q: Do I have to have an electric check?

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 states that all electrical equipment supplied by the landlord must be safe. Whilst it is not mandatory to have electrical equipment checked each year, failing to make sure equipment is not safe is a criminal offence. Unless equipment is brand new at the start of the tenancy the landlord should ensure that it is safe by having a PAT test carried out before the property is let and checked regularly thereafter. We can provide costs for PAT tests. Instruction manuals should be provided for all appliances provided by the landlord.

Similar to electrical appliances, landlords have a legal responsibility to ensure that their properties are safe. An electrical check on the property should be carried out by a suitably qualified contractor on a periodic basis and certificates normally last for five years. We can provide costs for carrying out this work.

Q: Do I have to have a gas safety check?

Gas Safety regulations places legal duties on landlords in connection with appliances, pipework, flues and gas bottles. Landlords must ensure that annual checks are carried out by a suitably qualified gas safety engineer. Records of past inspections must be maintained and a current gas safety record must be given to tenants before they move in. It is a criminal offence if you do not comply with the regulations.

Tenants FAQs

Q: How Much is the deposit and where is it held?

Deposits are payable before the tenancy commences and are normally one month's rent, although some landlords may ask for 1.5 months. We will always confirm the amount before you apply. All new deposits since 1st April 2013 must be held in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. There are two ways the deposit can be held. Firstly, the landlord will hold the deposit and pay an insurance contribution to the scheme administrator. Secondly, the deposit can be handed over to an approved administrator for safe keeping. It is the landlord's decision which method he uses.

Q: How do I pay rent?

All rent payments are payable monthly in advance and are due on the anniversary of the start of the tenancy. The first month's rent is payable in advance to our Agency. Subsequent monthly payments must be made by standing order. Where we manage the property on behalf of the landlord, the standing order will be paid into our Agency bank account. Where the property is managed by the landlord the payment will be into the landlords account. You will be asked to complete a standing order when completing the Tenancy Agreement.

Q: Do I need Insurance?

The landlords insurance does not cover your personal possessions in the property and as such you should take cover to protect them. As a tenant, you also have a contractual obligation to look after the landlord's property. It is possible to take out accidental damage cover for this.

Q: If I make an offer, will the tenancy go ahead?

Making an offer does not mean that the tenancy will go ahead. The tenancy will be subject to the landlords consent, references and a contract. If there are more than one applicant to rent the property paying the application fee or submitting the application first does not guarantee the tenancy will proceed.

Q: How often will the property be inspected?

It is a condition of the tenancy agreement that inspections take place on a regular basis, normally 2 to 3 times per year. All visits are arranged with your prior agreement.

Q: How do I apply for a property?

Once you have viewed a property and want to be considered, each of the prospective adult tenants will be given an application form. They must complete and return this together with the appropriate fee for credit checks. We will carry out a credit check and obtain suitable references and then contact a landlord with the information. It is the landlord who will make the final decision on whether the tenancy proceeds and they may wish to meet the prospective tenants before they make their decision.

Q: What is a guarantor and do I need one?

A guarantor is someone who guarantees to pay the rent if the tenant defaults. The guarantor will also be responsible for expenses, losses or damages if the tenant fails to carry out their responsibilities. The guarantor is often a family member or close friend. The decision whether to request a guarantor is the landlord's and can happen where the tenant has a poor credit score, low income or if they are in receipt of benefits. The guarantor will complete an application form and will be referenced. The guarantor should be resident in Northern Ireland, have a regular income and be financially capable of taking on the debt.

Q: Am I allowed a pet?

The landlord must give his permission to have pets before the tenancy starts and this will be confirmed within the tenancy. The agreement will normally state the type and number of pets you are permitted. If permission is given, you must have any carpets professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy.

Q: How long will the tenancy last?

The initial tenancy term will normally be between 6 and 12 months. At the end of the initial tenancy the landlord and the tenants will both decide whether they wish to extend. The landlord may request a further fixed period tenancy or it may run from month to month at the landlords discretion.

Q: Who is responsible for repairs?

As tenants, you are expected to take proper care of the property, keep it clean and make good any damage caused wilfully or through negligence. You are also expected to keep the interior in reasonable decorative order. This would include changing light bulbs, smoke alarm batteries and keeping outside drains clear of debris. You have a legal obligation to report any problems with the property as soon as you notice them. The landlord is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the property structure.

Q: What happens if there is an emergency?

If we are managing the property on behalf of the landlord we will provide you details of what is considered and emergency and what you should do in this situation. If you use the "out of hours" emergency service for non emergencies you will be charged for this and will be responsible for all costs.

Q: What happens at the end of the tenancy?

Both you and the landlord should give the appropriate notice to end the tenancy as detailed in your tenancy agreement. If the property is being re-let or sold we will contact you to arrange suitable times for viewings. You will also allow for sale or for let boards to be installed at the property. The house must be cleaned throughout and if the landlord gave consent for pets the carpets must be professionally cleaned. The garden must also be tidied to ensure that it is presented back in the same state that it was originally let in and lawns cut. Keys must be returned to our office or to the landlord, if they are managing the property, on the last date of the tenancy and a forwarding address supplied.

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