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Long term letting in UK


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In the near future, we are going to let our English house and live in France! As we have never done this before We would really appreciate any advice you guys out there might have for us.

We know there are insurance policies that cover rented houses, has anyone had experience with these? I spoke to the insurance company we have our building and contents insurance with at present and the guy there said very honestly that we might be better off with a company who specialise in these landlords' policies. He would not elaborate on why, just said they would cover more than they could! Also we know we must take out a policy to protect us against tennants who default on their rent. Has anyone had experiece of these?

We also intend to keep on our gardener as we would hate to think of that slipping back to a wild state! We might have tennants who love gardens but we are not prepared to take that chance!

Also we are debating whether to pay our neighbours what it would cost with the letting agent to care for the house if things go wrong - eg if a plumber is needed. That way we could ensure the house is looked after by trademen we have faith in and not be serviced by someone who adds on a cut for the agent in his bill! Also they would be right there to deal with problems as they arise!

As you can see we are trying to get things right! Any advice you can give us would be really well recieved!

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Athene a good letting agent will add a lot of value & peace of mind to your decision to let. They will have tradesmen on hand to do all sorts of work usually to a reasonable standard as the letting company will be a good source of business. They will (should) go through 'due diligence' on tenants so you should not be chasing rent nor pacifying you neighbours. They will have a standard contract for the let that is fair to both parties and may include clauses you have not thought about (nor downloaded). They should be able to source new tenants if required.

You will have a business relationship with the agents so if they are not doing their job you can challenge them or sack them. The relationships will friends and neighbours is by its very basis different. If something goes wrong and they cannot sort it out what do you do?

The other side of the coin is that a poor letting agent is a total waste of money and will not help.

I write down a list of what you want to happen whilst you are in France and meet a number of letting agents to see if they can deliver your wishes. Also try and obtain references/recommendations  from other landlords who have used them for some time.

Hope it goes well. 

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Some pointers from people we know who have done this:

Tenants are usually long on promises and short on delivery - for a whole wealth of reasons - so keep your gardener

tenants never look after your house as you would, so be prepared, for example, for washing machines that leak over wooden floors for a year, broken bathroom fittings, removal of everything (including shrubs in the gerden, and in one case the entire rockery) and filthy state of house at the end of a let.  This will not always be the case, but psychologically it's better to expect that "your" house will not feel like yours any longer.

Good neighbours are invaluable but can get caught in crossfire and could be in a difficult position without legal status; best perhaps just to keep in touch with them?

If you have been happy with your insurer up until now then it may be a good idea to find out exactly why they are recommending another firm!  Use the cover supplied by British Gas and other companies for emergency and maintenance contracts - for gas you will have to have the landlord's certificate anyway, if you have mains gas.  That will give peace of mind -(having said that, I know of one tenant who didn't use the call-out service even though she had all the paperwork and phone numbers to hand for the emergency...)

In the light of the above it is a very good idea to use a recommended lettings agent, but even so there can still be surprises.  You may be lucky and have lovely tenants who come with excellent references (bank and personal) and who look after the place beautifully , leaving it clean, all bills paid and no bad feelings - but I know of no-one who has ever met them!

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I fully agree with those who say find a good letting agent. Our house in UK has been let out for 5yrs+ now and the agent has been very efficient. Luckily we have had the same tenants most of the time. We have had to spend regularly on repairs etc, but most things would need to be done if we were still living there. Our original insurers agreed to continue the policy. You need to look into the tax side too. You can deduct fees, repairs and mortgage interest before tax, which is paid in UK not France, but declared in France. Also if you have a mortgage on the property you should get the lender's permission to let. Any specific questions please ask. Pat.
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