Whether you’re an experienced landlord who has been managing a portfolio of properties for many years, or a new landlord about to advertise your first “buy to let” understanding your legal obligations as a landlord helps you to protect your investment, yourself, and your tenants.
This blog post is designed to help you access everything you need to know about your legal obligations as a landlord.
If you have any questions relating to your legal position for a current tenancy, you should consult with a legal expert.
In this post we will look at your legal obligations as a private landlord:
- Your Landlord Obligations: Safety
- Gas Safety
- Electrical Safety
- Fire Safety
- Your Landlord Obligations: Paperwork
- Deposit Protection
- Energy Performance
- ‘How to Rent’
- Right to Rent
- Your Landlord Obligations: Admin
- Paying Tax
- Licensing and Permission
- Your Landlord Obligations: Condition and Repairs
Your Landlord Obligations:
As a landlord, by law you must have an annual gas inspection at your property if there is a gas supply. A copy of the gas safety certificate must be provided to tenants. Often the gas safety inspector will provide this when they have completed the inspection, but is down to you to ensure this has been done.
During a gas safety inspection, all of the property’s gas appliances, installations, pipes, air vents, and anything else be checked to ensure they are in working order.
Only a registered engineer can complete a gas safety inspection and issue a gas safety certificate for your property.
All electrical fittings within the property – all plug sockets, lights, and any electrical appliances you provide as part of the tenancy – must be safe throughout the tenancy. Devices must have a CE mark, which you can see below. This is the manufacturer’s declaration that the product is compliant with European law.
If you are a landlord of a house in multiple occupation (HMO), by law you must have an electrical safety test carried out on the property once every five years.
You are not legally bound to needing electrical safety tests completing for non-HMO properties. Nor do you legally need to carry out a portable appliance test, though you may choose to do so anyway
To fulfil your fire safety obligations as a landlord you must:
- Ensure your property has access to escape routes at all times.
- Provide fire safe furniture and furnishings. Furniture may not be applicable in non-furnished properties, but this still applies to any fittings in the property.
- Ensure fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted in the property. It is not a legal requirement to provide a fire extinguisher, but it is worth doing so as an added measure.
- Smoke alarms must be present on every floor of your property.
- Carbon Monoxide detectors must be present in any room with fuel burning devices (i.e. where your solid fuel boiler is).
Your Landlord Obligations:
You must protect your tenants’ deposit in one of the three Government approved tenancy deposit schemes.
You have to:
- Protect your tenants deposit within 30 days. Failure to do so could lead to a fine of up to three times the deposit amount.
- Provide tenants with a copy of the deposit registration certificate, and the Prescribed Information (paperwork relating to their deposit protection).
As well as being liable for a fine, if you ever need to issue your tenants with a Section 21 Notice, you will be unable to do so if you have not protected the deposit.
As a private landlord you are legally obliged to provide your tenants with a valid energy performance certificate (EPC). If you fail to provide an EPC you are not legally able to rent out your property, and are liable for a fine of £200.
An EPC highlights the energy efficiency of your property as well as opportunities for improving this. Investing in your property to make it more energy efficient can make it more attractive to tenants, as a more energy efficient property will significantly reduce their utility bills.
An EPC lasts for ten years.
‘How to Rent’
You must give your tenants the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide before they move in. This document lists both your obligations and your tenants’ rights.
You can provide a hard copy to your tenants or send them the ‘How to Rent’ guide via email.
As with deposit protection, if you have not provided your tenants with the ‘How to Rent’ guide you cannot issue a Section 21 Notice.
Right to Rent
If, as a landlord, you let to anyone without the right to rent, you could be prosecuted and fined up to £3,000 per tenant you have illegally housed, and/or sent to prison.
Ensure you keep copies of any documentation you have seen confirming tenants have the right to rent in the UK.
Your Landlord Obligations:
Paying Your Taxes
You are legally obliged to report your rental income to HMRC. Not declaring this income can lead to hefty fines as well as imprisonment.
If completing a self-assessment tax return is going to be something new for you.
If you own and rent out a property in the UK but live abroad, you still have to declare rental income and pay any subsequent tax unless you have an exemption certificate.
Many of your expenses as a landlord are tax deductible, which will reduce the final amount of income tax you need to pay on your rental income.
Licensing and Permission
If you own the leasehold on a property rather than the freehold, then you must have the permission of the freeholder if you want to rent out the property.
If there is an outstanding mortgage on a property, you must let your mortgage provider know of your intention to rent it out. You will need to switch to a specific buy-to-let mortgage deal and may have specific terms and conditions you need to adhere to. These will likely include being covered with a landlord insurance policy and having rent protection insurance.
In some locations around the UK, you need a landlord license if you are renting out your property. Check if your local council requires you to be licenced.
If you are a HMO landlord, you may need a HMO License
Your Landlord Obligations:
Condition and Repairs
To meet your landlord obligations, you must ensure that your property:
- Is structurally sound and free from major disrepair
- Does not have any damp that may be considered hazardous to help
- Must have a water supply, adequate drainage, a suitably located toilet, a bath or shower, and a wash basin
- Has proper heating, lighting, and ventilation
While your assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST) and the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide will outline your obligations around repairs, we have highlighted the repairs a landlord is always obliged to have completed below:
- To the property’s structure both internally and externally
- To wash basins, sinks, baths, and other fittings including pipes and drains
- To the property’s heating and hot water systems
- To gas devices, pipes, flues, and ventilation. Note it is not acceptable to wait until the next gas inspection if you know something is in need of repair
- To electrical fittings and devices in the property
If you fail to meet your landlord obligations when it comes to the condition of the property and repairs, your tenants may complain to the local council, who can force you to make repairs under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) via an improvement notice.
As a landlord, if you find yourself always thinking ‘repairs can wait,’ don’t. As well as causing you problems like costing you more money fixing issues that have gotten worse, you will also be unable to serve a Section 21 Notice for six months if a tenant complains and you are issued an improvement notice.
Your Landlord Obligations:
Legionella Risk Assessment
Legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia caused by inhaling small droplets of contaminated water that contain Legionella bacteria; the disease can be fatal. The conditions in which Legionella can grow include a suitable growth temperature range, water droplets that are produced and dispersed, water that is stored and re-circulated and ‘food’, such as rust or scale, which feeds the organism. Under these conditions, bacteria can multiply and increase the risk of exposure. Legionella can develop in any type of man-made hot or cold water system both large and small, so the risk needs to be managed.
As a landlord, you must ensure the property is safe and free from health hazards that could impact your tenant. Under the ACOP (Approved Code of Practice), a landlord has a responsibility to assess the risk of exposure of Legionella to their tenants. Whilst there is this duty, a detailed assessment is not required in practice. Generally the risk in residential properties is quite low due to the regular use of water and turnover of occupants. Also, most residential properties do not have stored water tanks and the main outlets of water are toilets and sinks.
A simple assessment of the water and heating supply of the property will most likely show a low risk with no further investigation needed. If something changes in the system, it would be wise to review the assessment. Simple steps you can take to minimize the risk include;
- Set control parameters (i.e. set the temperature of a hot water cylinder to store water at 60c)
- Flush out the system prior to letting a property
- Ensure cold water tanks have a tight fitting lid to stop debris getting into the system
- Ensure pipework no longer in use is removed
- Invest in a combi boiler or electric shower so there is no water storage
Along with these control measures, you should make sure your tenant is aware of the risks too. Ask them not to change temperature settings on a hot water cylinder if you have set a parameter, ask them to report any heating issues promptly and to ensure showerheads and taps are regularly cleaned. The risk of Legionella is hugely reduced by the regular use of a water system, so ask your tenants to inform you if they will be leaving the property vacant for an extended period of time. Generally, hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week to minimize chances of stagnation. For longer periods, you should consider flushing or draining the system.
Many landlords seem to be unsure on who can assess a Legionella risk. The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) advises that in most cases, a landlord can carry out their own assessments to comply; there is no need to be professionally trained or accredited. However, if landlords do not feel able to carry out an assessment, they can arrange for someone to do so on their behalf. This would involve microbiological monitoring (sampling) of the water system to check for Legionella bacteria. The law to ensure the risk of Legionella is minimized does not require a landlord to obtain or produce a Legionella test certificate. There is also no requirement for repeat testing on an annual basis. The guidance is to carry out further checks on the water systems at periodic inspections, perhaps when carrying out a gas safety check, or if the occupation changes. However, a landlord would be liable if a tenant contracted Legionella due to the property’s water supply, so it’s important you do monitor the risks.
How Godfrey Noles Can Help You as a Private Landlord
Here at Godfrey Noles we’re committed to helping you, as a private landlord, every step of the way. We want to help you succeed and be a great landlord while also enjoying the fruits of your labour.
To ensure you’re up to speed on everything you need to know about being a successful landlord and meeting your legal obligations as a landlord.
Please contact me if you have any further question or help you.
Swindon Property Blog