Q. I’d love to start investing in property as a secure pension plan for the future but am so worried about all the pit falls and nightmares that you hear about with tenants trashing the place and what worries me most is the thought of them just not paying the rent, is there anything I can do to protect myself if one of these horrors were to occur?

A. Investing in property as a future pension plan is an excellent idea and will get my vote every time, even with the unsettled financial climate as long as you are in it for the long run. Of course as with everything in life there will always be pitfalls along the way but there are definitely some things you can put in place to avoid these. If you want to step away from the day to day running of the properties altogether then I’d strongly advise you appoint a reputable estate agent that’s a licenced member of the NAEA or Arla to look after things for you, they will reference the tenants properly through a specialist company which will straight away eliminate any unsavoury characters. The tenant will need to fit certain criteria to pass the references, so you will feel more secure from the start, it shocks me how often private landlords agree to rent their properties to someone that has answered a private ad and they never bother to run any checks on them whatsoever. These are usually the landlords that end up in hot water as often they don’t  bother with a decent tenancy agreement, just something that has a couple of pages they have downloaded for free from the internet! Licenced agents will use an Arla contract which are 22 pages long, suffice to say they are watertight covering everything that could possibly go wrong so in the event of a serious problem the courts will be on your side and offer  the protection you need. As long as the tenants have been properly referenced most referencing agencies will then offer for around £100.00 per annum a rental warranty that will cover your monthly rental payments if the tenant were to default, the warranty would also cover any legal costs associated with taking the offending tenant to court if you had to evict them, they usually handle the case too so you would have nothing to worry about at all as the rental payments would continue whilst this is going on. As far as the tenant damaging the property is concerned you should make sure that a professional inventory is carried out prior to the commencement of the tenancy, that way any damage will be easily proven. A security deposit should always be taken this is usually 6 weeks rent and will normally go a long way in covering any damage that is made to the property. You only need to fear becoming a landlord if you do not do things correctly at the onset, never try to cut corners when you are dealing with your investment, it will not be worth it in the long run. And if things do go wrong if you have put all the above safety measures in place then they are easily resolvable.