Catherine Cockcroft, Head of Aylesford's Lettings Department, advises on becoming a landlord for the first time…

“As an agent, we have every different type of landlord. Normally, we get more involved when managing a property on behalf of a client and come across the landlord who wants to spend as little as possible on a property.

When managing a property, it is very important to look at a problem objectively and assess in line with the terms of the tenancy agreement and statutory regulations.

In general, it is a landlord’s responsibility to maintain a property and ensure that everything is safe and in working order. It is the tenant’s responsibility to look after the property, to report any issues to a landlord or managing agent promptly and to pay for the repair of, or replace anything damaged by them or their family/guests.

A tenant is also usually expected to keep gutters and drains clear. We tend to send out a letter to our tenants around September time, reminding them to clear their gutters as they often get blocked with falling autumn leaves, resulting in leaks that were avoidable.

Some landlords tend to put up with minor problems in their own homes and expect a tenant to do so as well. Tenants tend to be less laid back and want problems fixed successfully and quickly. It is important that landlords realise that keeping the house in full working order benefits them as well as the tenant and that a problem not fixed immediately, can lead to a much greater problem occurring as a result of the delay.

It is important to note that whilst bills mount up, the costs can in most cases be tax deductible and so are the agent’s fees should you wish to use an agent to manage your property.

Some tenants will react quickly to something that affects them (for example the dishwasher breaking down), but will ignore a damp patch. Therefore, it is important to visit the property regularly, to pick up issues that may have been ignored. We visit the properties that we manage during the tenancy and report our findings (often with photos) to our clients so we can catch this sort of issue quickly to avoid further damage.

Having the agent between the landlord and tenant depends very much on both parties. We liaise between landlord and tenant on the properties that we manage and most of our clients are more than happy that we deal with the issues and have the contact with the tenants. Where a landlord manages a property themselves, they should build up a relationship with the tenant and ensure that problems are dealt with swiftly and efficiently. This helps the situation at the time of renewal when you are trying to negotiate rental increases. Most tenants acknowledge the importance of an efficient management process and some will go so far as to check how the property is managed at the time they put forward an offer to rent it.

As a managing agent it is important to look at the problem as if it was occurring at your own house. This way a clear path is usually evident and the decision as to who pays the bill (landlord or tenant), can be established if necessary after the event.

Finally, the cheapest quote is not always the best and it is always important to double check exactly what you are getting from each contractor.”