Plain english guide to property jargon

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ARLA Propertymark
The Association of Residential Letting Agents, a Government recognised membership scheme ensuring high standards of code and conduct from Letting Agents.

AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy)
This guarantees in writing that the landlord may take back the property at the end of the tenancy agreement. The majority of tenancies are AST as they apply if the applicant is an individual and where the rent is below £100,000 per annum.

Break clause
This gives the tenant - and sometimes the landlord as well - the right to terminate the tenancy during the fixed period of the tenancy.

Buy to Let Mortgage
Since the introduction of AST (see above), banks have been more willing to lend money to people buying a property with the express intention of letting it.

Common law / Non-Housing act tenancy
Where the rent is above £100,000 per annum, the Tenancy Agreement cannot be an AST and the tenant does not have the same rights as under an AST.

Company lets
Where a property is rented to a company for its employees then the tenancy cannot be an AST as a Company cannot be an assured shorthold tenant. There are no rent restrictions.

Contents insurance
Covers damage to the contents of your home from fire and flood and also theft or other events causing loss or damage. It can be purchased separately for those cases where you do not own the property but only rent it.

Buying and converting a property into two or more self- contained units is a tried and trusted way of increasing rental income.

The generic term for newly constructed luxury apartment buildings or old buildings that have been revamped. There are fine examples all over London like Imperial Wharf by the river Thames in SW6, Beaufort Park at the old RAF site in Hendon NW9, Pan Peninsula in Canary Wharf, E14 or the London Dock development in Wapping, E1W.

Some properties suffer abuse that goes way beyond the "wear and tear" that one would normally expect. They are then deemed to have suffered dilapidation and these costs are recoverable from the tenant. However, most of us who rent out a property should expect fair wear and tear during a 1 year tenancy.

Due diligence
The reasonable care that is needed to ensure that landlords let to responsible tenants who will take care of the property and be capable of paying the rent on time. Taking up references and insurance is a good idea before you accept a tenant.

Duty of care
An obligation owed to both sides of the lettings agreement to give the correct advice so as to ensure the well-being and safety of those who may live in the property.

Electrical equipment (Safety) regulations 1994
Rules that govern the installation and maintenance of all electrical appliances within a property. Regular checks by a certified engineer are also required.

Energy performance certificate (EPC)
All privately rented properties in England and Wales require an EPC which, once obtained, remains valid for 10 years. Landlords are required to produce these Certificates free of charge to any prospective tenant. The EPC must be provided "at the earliest opportunity" and in any event before entering into a contract. They must be provided by a Domestic Energy Assessor. There is a fine for non-compliance.

- Click here to some recent changes in EPC Law

After the fixed term of the rental contract has expired, the parties may want to renew their agreement, in order for the tenant to stay on and this is known as an extension.

Fixtures and fittings
A fixture comes permanently attached to the walls, floor or ceiling of a property, whilst a fitting is a freestanding item or something that is temporarily secured. A light switch is a fixture. A curtain is a fitting.

The furniture and furnishings (Fire) (Safety) regulations 1988
It is a criminal offence to let a Property with upholstered furniture which cannot be proven to comply with the Safety Regulations detailed above. You must remove all furniture that does not comply. Furniture covered under the Regulations; the Regulations apply to all upholstered furniture which must pass the 'ignitability test' which means that they must be resistant to ignitability if a lighted match or cigarette is placed on the item. If the furniture was manufactured before 1950 it falls outside the Regulations as toxic substances were not used at that time. Furniture included in the Regulations is all upholstered furniture; three piece suites, beds and divans including the upholstered bases, padded headboards, sofa-beds, furniture with loose or fitted covers, children's furniture, cots and other items used by a baby or small child, cushions, high-chairs, mattresses of any size, pillows, garden furniture which may be used indoors. It includes all furniture normally intended for private use in a dwelling, except bedding, carpets and mats.

How does the landlord comply? All furniture in the Property must have a permanent label clearly stating that it passes the ignitability test. Beds and mattresses do not require these labels but are fire resistant if they comply with the Standard BS7177 which is shown on the mattress label. If furniture or mattresses do not have a label they should be removed from the Property as they may be illegal. If furniture was purchased after 1990 it should comply with the Regulations but if it has not got permanent labels, this may be difficult to prove. A purchase invoice may provide the proof.

The gas safety (installation and use) regulations 1998
A landlord must ensure that gas appliances, pipe-work and installations are checked annually to ensure that they are safe. Testing must be carried out by someone approved by the Health and Safety Executive, currently a Gas Safe registered installer. A record must be kept of when each gas appliance is checked, any defects found and the remedial action taken. The records for the last two years should be available for inspection upon request, usually by the trading standards officer or the environmental health department. A copy of the safety certificate must be given to the tenant, prior to the Tenancy commencing. It is not sufficient to leave a copy in the Property.

High rent tenancy
Rents over £100,000 per annum fit into this category.

This is a detailed list of what is contained in the property and apart from fixtures and fittings (see above), may include the garden. The condition of the items is also noted before and after the tenancy and is best done by a professional inventory clerk or property manager.

Joint & several liability
In a joint tenancy, all of the conditions in the agreement must be upheld by all or both parties, including the full amount of the rent. If one tenant stops paying the rent, the landlord can pursue the other for the arrears.

Long let
Any tenancy that lasts longer than six months is regarded as a long let.

Managing agent
A valuable resource that provides a range of services, from maintenance and rent collection to addressing the legal aspects of the let on behalf of the landlord and making sure the property is kept in good order. This is particularly helpful if you live overseas and you own a London rental property.

Notice period
The length of time that the landlord and tenant must give one another before ending their rental contract.

Part P building regulations
These Regulations cover the installation, repair and maintenance of electrics. An electrician must belong to an approved scheme. A member of an approved scheme can self-certify his work, but any unqualified person will have to apply to the local building inspector for approval for the work before starting. He must then arrange to have any work inspected and a certificate issued after completion.

Pied à terre
A small house or apartment which someone owns or rents in addition to their main home and which they use when visiting for a short time or use part time, perhaps during their working week.

The plugs and sockets etc. regulations 1994
All plugs must have a safety sheath and all sockets must comply by having an on/off switch and being flush to the wall.

Property condition
The landlord must keep the property in a good condition, one that a reasonable tenant would expect it to be in. Your agent should advise you of any work that is required to make the property attractive in current market conditions.

Ring fenced
Funds which may be used for only a specific purpose, such as a tenancy deposit are said to be "ring fenced", that is if they are in a suitable tenancy deposit scheme.

Smoke detectors
A landlord must ensure smoke detectors for a home built in or after June 1992 are in full working order.

Sole agent
An agent that has been given the exclusive right to market and arrange the sale or let of a property.

By holding the deposit as Stakeholder the Agent can only make deductions from it at the end of the Tenancy with the written consent of both parties or following an adjudication by a Court.

Stamp duty
The owner is responsible for paying any Stamp Duty (SDLT Stamp Duty Land Tax). The starting point is currently £120,000 in one agreement, therefore the rental (without any gardening / cleaning or other additions included) would be over £10,000 a month before Stamp Duty Land Tax is payable.

Statutory obligations
These are what the UK government deems as necessary requirements and obligations for all landlords. They are legal requirements and cover gas appliances, fire safety and fire resistance for all furnishings.

Tax exemption
This enables the lettings agent to pass on the rent from tenant to landlord, an exemption number issued by the without a incurring a tax deduction from the Inland Revenue.

TDS - Tenancy deposit scheme
This is the Government scheme which protects tenants deposits in AST.

Tenancy agreement
This is the agreement between a landlord and a tenant under which he is entitled to occupy the Property.

- Click here to find some useful information for tenants.

The Property Ombudsman (TPO)
The TPO ensures that sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants get the highest level of customer care. It is a free, fair and independent mediation service.

Electricity, gas and water are all referred to as utility services and are, under most circumstances, to be paid for by the tenant.

Void period
A time period during which a property remains empty or un-let.

Refers to income from a property calculated as a percentage of its value.