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Landlord Insider
On the Landlord Insider blog, you’ll find some excellent resources for landlords of all sizes. From the latest landlord news, to professional advice, tips and guides for landlords, there’s something for everyone. Brought to you by the excellent team behind the Landlord Vision property management software.

A Start of Tenancy Checklist: Before Your Tenants Move In

cardboard cut out of house with pencil and notebook

So, we’ve previously looked at what you should do before finding and accepting a tenant to live in your rental property. In this post we’re going to be listing all of the things you need to do before you hand over those keys and your tenant officially moves in.  

You can view the full blog series, as well as download a tick-box checklist for all your start of tenancy tasks here:  

By now, you’ve made sure the property is ready to receive tenants and that your tenants are all above board, so it’s time to check off all the pre-move in paperwork.  

While we’ve titled this section ‘before move in’, some of the things in this section can take place just after the tenant has moved in. It is best practice though to get them done ahead of moving in day. 

Remember moving home is stressful, especially on moving day when you have no idea where any of your things are and whether you’ll ever find the kettle again. It is sometimes better to get the things in this section sorted either ahead of move in day, or a few days after. Your tenants will thank you for letting them re-gain their equilibrium after a move before asking them to sign or take notice of reams of paperwork. 

Take Meter Readings Before Your Tenants Move In

Unless you’re bundling the cost of utility bills in with the rent, you’ll need to take meter readings at the start of the tenancy. You can’t take these weeks before the tenant moves in. The meter reading should be taken either the night before the tenant moves in, or on the morning that they do move in. The idea here is that you record the meter reading at the point where the tenant becomes responsible for paying it.  

You should take an electricity reading and a gas and water reading if these are applicable. You should also photograph the meters as you record the reading so that there is absolutely no doubt as to the validity of the reading.  

Once you’ve taken these readings, you’ll need to provide them to the tenant along with the name of the company that provides the utility. Some landlords do this in the tenancy agreement, some in the welcome pack and others choose to just supply them via email or text. However you decide to provide these, make sure the tenant is aware of the readings and that they have a responsibility to contact the utility companies to set up regular payments. 

Buy Insurances Before Your Tenants Move In

It isn’t a legal requirement for you to have landlord insurance, but it can provide financial protection from damage to your property that isn’t caused by the tenant. Standard landlord insurances will pay out in the case of fire, theft, escape of water, storms and other unforeseeable perils.  

If you have a mortgage on your property, your mortgage provider may insist that you have landlord insurance to provide financial protection against potential risks.  

Landlord insurance won’t provide cover for your tenant’s possessions, it also won’t typically provide cover for malicious damage caused by tenants or late rental payments.  

If you have (or are buying) landlord insurance, do this before your tenant moves in and make sure you have the coverage that you need. You can find out more in our Landlord Insurance Guide.  

You can require your tenants to take out tenant’s insurance which usually includes tenant’s liability cover. If you insist on your tenants taking this out, you should include the requirement in the tenancy agreement and make your tenants aware that this clause exists.  

While tenant’s insurance won’t cover any landlord contents, it will cover accidental damage to the landlord’s buildings, fixtures and fittings caused by the tenant which gives you an added level of protection.  

Taking Deposits and Using Deposit Protection*  

It is traditional for landlords to take a security deposit before the tenant moves in. This is money that is kept aside throughout the tenancy. The landlord can claim money from the deposit (usually at the end of a tenancy) to cover property damage, missed rent etc. There are rules around how much you can take and where the deposit can be stored, ignoring these rules can result in large fines.  

Some landlords are now moving beyond traditional deposits and using zero deposits which work more like insurances. You can’t force a tenant to use a zero-deposit model, you have to give them a choice between a zero deposit and a traditional deposit.  

With a zero deposit the tenant pays a non-refundable fee to the zero-deposit scheme, the landlord can then claim against the scheme for things that would usually be covered by the deposit at the end of a tenancy, like property damage. 

Zero deposit schemes are popular among tenants who struggle to find an up-front deposit and these schemes are often faster and less hassle for the landlord. These schemes are in their infancy though, so make sure you weigh the pros and cons before offering them.  

If you opt for a traditional deposit you must only ask for a deposit that is equal to 5 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000 or 6 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or more.  

Once the tenant has paid the deposit it must be placed in a deposit protection scheme within 30 days. There are three government approved schemes you can use to protect a deposit. The Deposit Protection Service, My Deposits and The Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Failure to protect a deposit in one of these schemes within 30 days of receiving it means you can be ordered to pay up to 3x the deposit amount back to the tenant.  

Once you’ve protected the deposit you will need to give your tenant ‘prescribed information’ about the deposit protection scheme you have used plus information about the deposit and the tenancy. You must do this within 30 days of receiving the deposit. 

Landlord Law’s article on Prescribed Information will give you more detail on what’s counted as prescribed information, where to get it from and the penalties that apply if you don’t provide it. 

Clean the Property Before Your Tenants Move In

Make sure the property is clean. It sounds obvious, but with so much to remember at the start of the tenancy it can be overlooked. A tenant is usually required to return the property to you in the same state it was let out in, if you want a clean property returned, you have to give your tenant a clean property to begin with.  

Even if you cleaned the property after the last tenant left, it may have gotten dusty over time, especially if it’s been empty for a few weeks between you last cleaning it and the tenant moving in. Give it a cursory dust and hoover just before the tenant moves in or hire a cleaner to give it a quick once over.  

Many landlords include a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that the property must be cleaned by a professional company at the end of the tenancy. It is important to note that unless there is a good reason for requiring this (such as the tenant is keeping pets) it is generally unenforceable. The tenant’s only obligation when it comes to cleaning is to return the property in the same state it was let out in allowing for fair wear and tear. 

Conduct an Inventory Before Your Tenants Move In 

An inventory is a full list of all the items in the property (including fixtures and fittings) and what condition they were in when the property was let. The inventory details the condition of each of the rooms as well such as the cleanliness of flooring and any signs of wear and tear, like marks on walls etc.  

The inventory is an important part of the pre-move in process as it can lessen the chances of a long and drawn out dispute at the end of the tenancy when it comes to deposit deductions.  

The inventory should be put together by an independent inventory clerk. If you or the letting agency are conducting the inventory it should be accompanied by time stamped photographs to ensure the recorded details are unbiased.  

Some landlords and letting agents prefer to provide a copy of the inventory for the tenant to check in their own time. In most cases it is best for you to walk through the property with the tenant going through the inventory so you can both agree on it there and then. It is important that both the landlord (or letting agent) and the tenant sign the inventory. This also reduces deposit disputes as it demonstrates that both parties agreed to the contents of the inventory at the time.  

It is not a legal requirement for you to conduct an inventory, but without it you will find it nearly impossible to claim any money from the deposit (if you need to). The more comprehensive the inventory is and the more evidence you have about the state of the property at the start of the tenancy, the more protected you will be if you need to claim some of the tenant’s deposit later on.  

Get a Gas Safety Certificate Before Your Tenants Move In*  

If your property has a gas installation, you’ll need to provide a Gas Safety Certificate to your tenant before they move into the property.  

If you don’t provide a (valid) Gas Safety Certificate at the start of the tenancy you can be prevented from serving the tenant a Section 21 at the end of the tenancy. Continued failure to carry out a Gas Safety Check can result in prosecution.  

Gas Safety checks should be carried out annually and you will be expected to provide the updated certificate to your tenant within 28 days of the check being carried out.  

Make Sure Your Electrical Inspection Record Is Up To Date

In the Private Rented Sector, all tenancies created on or after the 1 June 2020 in England must have electrical safety checks carried out on the property. These checks must be carried out at least every 5 years by a qualified electrician.  

A report of the works carried out, along with a completion certificate, must be given to new tenants within 28-days and to existing tenants no more than 28-days after they ask to see it. Another copy should be sent to the local authority if one is requested. 

In part four of ‘A Start of Tenancy Checklist for Landlords’ we’ll be talking about the final steps you need to take when you start a new tenancy. This will be a checklist of things to complete after your tenant has moved in. 

To access the full checklist now, download it here: 

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