How do I know the property I’m renting won’t be repossessed or sold?
This seems to be a growing problem. I’ve known several people & families in the last year or so who have had to move because the owners of the property they are renting haven’t paid the mortgage & the bank has started repossession proceedings – it has happened to one family I know twice in around 6 months! So what can you do to protect your home? Some agents will insist that the property owner sign a declaration that there are no debts against the property, including mortgage payments & utilities.
There is provision for the rental contract to be registered with the Land Registry. If registered, then if the property is sold or repossessed, the tenant has ‘sitting tenants’ rights & the contract has to be honoured.
It’s also possible to get a nota simple for the property at a small cost, which will also show any debts or legal proceedings against the property.
How can I be sure that the tenant will pay the rent?
It’s of course possible to check references – although that can be difficult if the tenant has just arrived in the country. It’s not unreasonable in that situation to ask pointed questions about income. Many agents will share information about the reliability of tenants too.
If you’re using an agent, check if this is part of what they will be doing for you. If the rental contract is registered with the Land Registry, eviction for non-payment of rent can be initiated when the rent is just 10 days late.
What about the deposit & the rent? The law requires 1 month deposit, equal to a month’s rent – however the tenant & landlord can agree to more should they wish to. Rent is usually paid a month upfront/in advance. The deposit is supposed to be held in a separate account (in escrow) so that it is available for return when the tenant leaves. It should be returned to the tenant when they leave, less any costs incurred for damages (actual damage, not wear & tear or cleaning) & any unpaid bills. To avoid disagreement as to the condition of the property it is highly recommended that both tenant & landlord have a set of photos & a full inventory of equipment, when the tenant takes possession of the property. Some owners prefer to have the rent paid in cash. If so, a proper receipt should be issued each month. It is recommended that a standing order for the rent to be set up to pay the rent directly from the tenant’s account to the owner’s.
Tax. Landlords are supposed to declare the rental income for tax – they can then claim tax breaks for all sorts of things regarding the upkeep of the property. Many tenants can also declare their rental against their income tax. Not all landlords do declare the income, unfortunately. Tenants who will be including their rental in their tax returns need to be sure that the landlord is also declaring. This is best discussed before a contract is signed.
Energy efficiency certificate. All long term rental properties now have to have an Energy Efficiency Certificate. It is the owner’s responsibility to arrange & pay for this.
Access to the property. The agent or owner of the property can have reasonable access. This means that they can periodically visit to ensure that all is OK. All visits should be arranged in advance & should only take place when the tenant is present. The agent or owner should never enter the property – even the garden – without the tenant’s knowledge or consent. Most of the time all that is required is a quick phone call to agree on a time.
Utility Bills. These are usually the responsibility of the tenant. It is common practice for utility bills to remain in the owner’s name, but be paid by direct debit by the tenant. Some owners prefer to pay the bill & collect the cash from the tenant, and sometimes the bills are put into the tenant’s name. Agree on how this is to be dealt with before the contract is signed. Local taxes are usually the responsibility of the owner. This should be made clear in the contract
The contract. It should be written in Spanish – if there were ever reason to go to court it would have to be in Spanish, so it’s best to just have it in Spanish in the first place. If you – owner or tenant – don’t speak a good level of Spanish, make sure you get an independent translation – not a googletranslate version – or at the very least get a Spanish speaker to check over any translation you might have been provided. Don’t sign anything unless or until you are happy with what you are signing.
The most important thing really is to COMMUNICATE – either with the agent or directly with the owner or tenant.
With thanks to Jo Ivory of Sunset Properties for helping with an ‘agents point of view’.