Covering the Highlands from John O' Groats to Inverness-shire
Sell or let your property
As local solicitors since 1887, we have huge experience both of the North of Scotland property market and the know-how to guide you through the whole process of selling or leasing your home.
There have been immense changes in the law relating to selling & leasing your property and nothing is as it was. We have fully trained staff and we aim to make it as simple and seamless, for you, as possible.
Selling your property
- We can arrange a property valuation for you
- We have the best website around
- We can create fabulous videos and 360° interactive tours of your home
- Local mainstreet offices and service
- Access to the Caithness Property Journal
- A preferential newspaper deal
- Online advertising
From December 2008 with a few exceptions (such as new homes), it became illegal to market a property in Scotland without a Home Report consisting of a Single Survey, an Energy Report and a Property Questionnaire. The Home Report is paid for by the seller who, through their agent, arranges for a Chartered Surveyor to provide the Single Survey and Energy Report and must, themselves, complete the Property Questionnaire.
The cost of a single survey and energy report will be set by individual surveying firms and vary according to the size of the property. Georgesons have negotiated an exceptional deal and, at the time of writing, have the most inexpensive reports on the market.
Most people wonder if the single survey is going to achieve anything as there are a number of problems which make this unlikely. Firstly, purchasers may obtain a number of surveys and cherry pick the one that suits them to present to you and me. In those circumstances, will you be willing to rely on the survey? Secondly, even if you are, will you be willing to rely on a survey that is out of date? There are different viewpoints out there as to the “shelf life” but the maximum is reckoned to be twelve weeks. Thirdly, it seems likely that lenders will be obtaining their own survey, anyway. Lastly, just because a survey raises an issue, does not mean that the seller has to do anything about it.
The energy report is supposed to focus the mind on how energy efficient the house will be. People buy houses for myriad reasons, for instance, the design and the view but energy efficiency is not a reason that I have heard many folk mentioning. The legislators are gambling that it will change our mindset.
The questionaire is actually a good thing. Most Solicitors have had their own version for some time because, since they have to do the legal work as well, they are aware that issues can emerge from the woodwork at the last minute. This is probably the only sensible part of this expensive legislation.
All buyers can ask for a copy of the home report. Copies from a website are likely to be free but hard copies may well be priced at anything up to £15 and have to be provided within nine working days.
Letting your property
From April 2006, landlords letting properties in Scotland should either be registered or have submitted a valid application for registration. It will be an offence to let a property, (unless the property is exempt under the legislation) after this date without having either been registered or having submitted a valid application for registration. The aim of the landlord registration scheme is to ensure that all private landlords are fit and proper to be letting residential property. The requirement will help local authorities to remove disreputable landlords from the market and to protect tenants and their neighbours from the impact of anti social behaviour and mismanaged property in the wider community.
Registration will be required for private landlords letting residential property in Scotland, unless all the houses they let are covered by one or more of the exemptions. Letting part of the home is exempt as is a house let to the tenant of an agricultural holding or croft. There are some other minor exemptions, including holiday homes or letting to members of the landlords own family.
Landlords and Agents can register on-line by visiting www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk. There is a 10% discount on the registration fee and on the property fee for online applications.
Alternatively paper application forms will be available from all Highland Council Service Points or can be requested by contacting:
The Highland Council
Ross and Cromarty Area
Telephone: 01349 868525
Or download a copy from www.highland.gov.uk
Landlords who are holders of a House in Multiple Occupation Licence do not need to register as they will be passported into the system. However their agents will need to be registered if their details were not included in the landlord’s HMO application.
We offer many options to do with the lease of your properties.
- Find a tenant, rent-check tenant, preparation of lease and factoring property throughout lease.
- Find tenant, rent-check tenant and preparation of lease only
- Preparation of lease, rent-check tenant where you have found the tenant
- Find tenant only, were you will prepare lease
- Preparation of lease only
Option 1, 2, and 4 include:
- Photo’s of Property
- Displayed in Window & Boards in both offices
- Unlimited Printed Schedules
- Georgesons Website
- Caithness.Org Website
- Facebook/Twitter web pages
Your responsibilities as a landlord
This sets out some of the responsibilities of a landlord which we would wish to bring to your attention at this time. This is not an exhaustive list nor is it comprehensive as that would require a letter of many scores of pages. It is not a substitute for legal advice about any specific situation and should you require specific advice, please be in touch.
It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the various requirements are met. Any work in which we are involved in any other connection would incur fees in addition to the commission which we presently charge for rent collection.
If you have a mortgage, then it will be part of your contract with the lender that you do not let the property without their permission. This permission may have already been given if you have a Buy-To-Let mortgage but otherwise you will need to seek specific permission before instructing us. If you do not do so, you may well find yourself to be in breach of your contract with the lender. The consequences of informing the lender of your intention may be that they increase your interest rate or, indeed, refuse permission.
On letting your property, you should ensure that you are no longer the person to whom the services such as gas, electricity, telephone, etc. are billed. Ensure that the meter is read and the above information transmitted to the service provider. In the event that a tenant runs up a substantial bill and does not pay, you may well be responsible if your name appears on the invoice.
It is advisable to notify Highland Council, for the purposes of Council Tax, of a change of tenant or when a property becomes vacant. At the time of signing of the Lease, we will arrange for the tenant to complete a Change of Address form for Council Tax and will forward this to the Council Tax authorities for their records. We, as agents, will not be further involved in any way in this connection unless we are specifically instructed by you to do so. If you do not notify, you may well be asked by the Council to pay the tax. Remember to advise Highland Council when a tenant leaves. You can apply for relief for a limited period if the property is empty.
Energy performance certificate
As from January 2009, prior to letting a property you require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) available to exhibit, free of charge, to any prospective tenant. This must be provided within nine days of request. Failure to have fulfilled this obligation renders the Landlord personally liable to a fixed penalty fine of £500. We cannot market a property without an EPC. We can arrange for an EPC, if you require one.
Repairs and the repairing standard
A landlord has a duty to ensure the property meets a certain standard at the start of the tenancy and, thereafter, to repair and maintain the property to that standard at all times during the tenancy. This includes a duty to make good any damage caused by carrying out this work. Upon notification or awareness of a defect, a landlord must complete the work within a reasonable time.
You must inform your tenant about the Repairing Standard at the start of each tenancy, and if at any stage a tenant believes that you have failed to meet that standard, they can apply for an order for works to be carried out and for a reduction in rent to the Private Rented Housing Panel. Before the tenant can go to this body, he or she must have given you a reasonable time to carry out the repairs but if the body believes that you have not carried out reasonable repairs, they may make an Order requiring you to do it. It is a criminal offence to fail to comply and another to re-let the property while the order is in force.
Now that the tenant has this remedy, it is advisable that you ensure that you keep a note of all correspondence and it is perhaps best to put everything in writing.
You should make sure that you have adequate landlord’s insurance.
Fireand smoke alarms
It is now necessary to ensure that the house is fitted with fire / smoke alarms. If they were fitted before 3rd September 2007, they may be battery-operated.Â Any fitted after that date must be hard wired and, as such, may require Building Warrant. That is general guidance but please note that the situation is complicated and you need to read the guidance on the PRHP website.
A landlord should ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that all electrical appliances supplied as part of the let are safe to use. A landlord should arrange for a qualified electrician or qualified person holding the appropriate Portable Appliance certificate to complete:
- an annual portable electrical appliances safety test (PAT) and
- a regular five year check of electrical wiring circuits and mains board;
In each case, an electrical safety report should be obtained from an approved electrical contractor to ensure equipment or circuits conform to current relevant Electrical Regulations.
A record of all inspections and of any defects detected and the remedial action taken must be maintained and this record must be available for inspection by the tenant after reasonable notice of their wish to do so.
A landlord must ensure that any gas fittings in let premises are safe and ensure that they are maintained in a safe condition. The term gas fittings includes gas appliances and pipework in the premises if the landlord owns them or has control over them, and any appliances / pipework which serve the premises.
The landlord must arrange and pay for safety checks and any necessary work to be carried out on appliances. Safety checks should be carried out every twelve months at least and the checks must be carried out by a person who is registered with or employed by a company registered with CORGI (the Confederation of Registered Gas Installers) and approved by the Health And Safety Executive.
A record of all inspections, safety checks and any defects detected and the remedial action taken must be maintained and this record must be available for inspection by the tenant after reasonable notice of their wish to do so.
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended in 1989 and 1993) set levels of fire resistance for domestic upholstered furniture, furnishings and other products containing upholstery and these regulations apply to furniture and furnishings included in holiday homes and residential furnished accommodation which are let in the course of business.
The Department of Trade Andnd Industry have published a guide to the regulations and they recommend that anyone wishing to ensure that their furnishings meet the requirements of the regulations should contact their local trading standards department.
If a house is occupied by three or more persons, not members of the same family, a licence is required.
Georgesons cannot act as agents for any person who is the owner of a house in multiple occupation unless they hold an appropriate licence. The local authority can require us to disclose the name and address of the owner of any property they suspect of being occupied without such a licence.
Antisocial behaviour by your tenants
It will be possible for the local authority to force you to take action against your tenants where they are acting in an antisocial way. This can include eviction action. If you do not take these actions, you may well be guilty of a criminal offence.
In addition, the local authority can impose an Antisocial Behaviour Order upon your tenant. Both of these may involve a significant cost to you.
HM Revenue And Customs
As you will no doubt, be aware, a return of all rental income should be made to HM Revenue And Customs on an annual basis. We are required to provide to them a list of all clients for whom we collect rents.
The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (Scotland)
A tenancy deposit scheme is a scheme provided by a third party to protect deposits until they are due to be repaid. Three schemes have been approved:
- The Letting Protection Service Scotland (www.lettingprotectionscotland.com)
- Safedeposits Scotland (www.safedepositsscotland.com)
- My Deposits Scotland (www.mydepositsscotland.co.uk)
The landlord must pay deposits into an approved scheme for the duration of the tenancy. The landlord must be registered with the local authority – proof of this required when the deposit is paid over. Any landlord not required to register (such as rent to family members, life rents, holiday lets, agricultural, and crofting tenancies) will not have to comply with tenancy deposit regulations. The landlord may use a letting agent, but it is up to the landlord to check that the agent acts in accordance with the regulations.
There is no charge for landlords or agents to participate in the scheme – scheme will be financed from the interest on the deposits, meanwhile all the schemes have had to show that they have sufficient funds to operate the scheme until this income is generated.
Duty to provide information
Under the regulations the tenant must be informed of the following:
- Landlord registration status
- Confirmation of receipt of deposit
- Date it was paid to the approved scheme
- Name and contact details for the scheme holding the deposit
- The address of the property
- The reasons why part or all of the deposit might be withheld at the end of the tenancy (e.g. damage tenant has caused to property, cleaning costs if property left in poor condition, bills that are left unpaid fuel, CT, phone etc., any unpaid rent.
Return of Deposits
The landlord / agent should apply to the scheme for repayment after the end of the tenancy, giving details of how much should be paid to the tenant. The scheme administrator will write to the tenant asking them to confirm whether they agree with the application, or whether they wish to dispute the amount. If the tenant agrees the administrator will repay the deposit within five working days. If the tenant does not reply within thirty days, the administrator will pay out any amount claimed by the landlord and continue to hold the balance for the tenant to apply for it at a later date.
The landlord may not make a claim until the end of the tenancy, but he may apply for it to be placed with another scheme. If the landlord fails to place the deposit and / or fails to inform the tenant, as above, the tenant may apply to the sheriff to enforce the regulations, which will incur a penalty.