What Are the Legal Requirements of a Landlord?

Owning a rental property can be a lucrative investment, but the private rented sector comes with its set of legal obligations that every landlord must adhere to. It is particularly relevant to private landlords.

Failure to comply with these requirements not only risks the welfare and rights of your tenants but can also result in hefty penalties and legal action against you.

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A guide to landlord legal requirements

Our tenancy experts guide you through your legal requirements as a landlord. We dive into the main obligations, ensuring you are well-prepared to navigate the legal landscape effectively.

Tenancy agreements

The tenancy agreement outlines the roles, rights, and responsibilities of both parties and serves as the primary guide for what is expected during the tenancy. You should include key components such as the lease, rent details, deposit information and what is commonly known as the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme.

With so many aspects that you must include and many more lesser-known mechanisms that can protect your property investment in the case of challenges, it is best to consult expert landlord advice when drawing up this critical document.

Right to Rent checks

Failing to conduct these checks can result in severe penalties, including fines and potential imprisonment.

Gas and electrical safety

Landlords must ensure the gas and electrical systems in the rental property are safe for use. Legally, you must arrange for a Gas Safety Check to be carried out annually by a Gas Safety registered engineer, after which a Gas Safety Record must be provided to the tenants. When it comes to electrical safety, regulations specify that landlords must have electrical installations inspected and tested by a qualified person at least every five years, summarised in an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR).

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)

Before you can rent out your property, you require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This is an obligation overseen by local council regulations. The EPC rates the energy efficiency of a property and its environmental impact, providing ratings from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). You must make the EPC available to prospective tenants and provide a copy to the tenant who takes up the tenancy.

An EPC is valid for 10 years but must be updated if you make changes that affect the property's energy efficiency, such as installing a new heating system or insulation. It's worth noting that, as of April 2018, it is illegal to rent out a property with an EPC rating below E unless you have a valid exemption.

Deposits and deposit protection

When you take a deposit from a tenant, it must be placed in a government-approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme within 30 days of receiving it. This is a legal requirement designed to protect both landlords and tenants. The three approved schemes in the UK are the Deposit Protection Service, My Deposits, and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

The purpose of these schemes is to ensure that tenants will get their deposit back if they meet the terms of the tenancy agreement, don't damage the property and pay the rent and bills. At the end of the tenancy, if there is a dispute over the deposit amount to be returned, these schemes also offer a dispute resolution service that is generally faster and cheaper than going to court.

Right to Rent checks

As a landlord in the UK, you have a legal obligation to ensure that your tenants have the Right to Rent residential property here, which is an obligation enforced by local authorities.

Before the start of a new tenancy, you are required to check all tenants aged 18 and over, even if they're not named on the tenancy agreement. You'll need to check and make copies of original documents that prove the tenants can legally rent a property in the UK. Failure to conduct these checks or allowing someone without the Right to Rent to occupy your property could result in a hefty fine or even imprisonment.

Property repairs and maintenance

As a landlord, it's your responsibility to keep the rented property in a good state of repair. This includes the structure and exterior of the property, as well as plumbing, heating, and electrical systems. While minor repairs might be the responsibility of the tenant as stipulated in the tenancy agreement, major repairs like fixing a leaky roof or a broken boiler are typically the landlord's obligation.

You must respond promptly to repair requests, and in certain urgent cases, you may be required to complete repairs within a specific time frame. Failure to do so can result in legal action, and the tenant may have the right to withhold rent until the necessary repairs are made.

Licensing and multiple occupancy

In some areas, particularly those with high levels of rental property, you may be required to obtain a landlord licence. The criteria for needing a licence varies by local authority, and you must check whether you need one for your specific property. Additionally, if your property will be occupied by five or more people from two or more separate households, and they share facilities like a kitchen or bathroom, then you'll need a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence.

Securing an HMO licence involves meeting certain safety standards, including fire safety regulations and providing sufficient waste disposal facilities. Penalties for renting out an unlicensed property can be severe, including potentially unlimited fines and repayment of up to 12 months' rent to the tenants.

Tenant deposits and protection schemes

Securing a deposit from your tenant provides you with a financial buffer in case of unpaid rent or damages to the property. However, you must place this deposit into a government- approved protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it. You are also legally obliged to provide the tenant with details of the scheme, how the deposit is protected, and the conditions for its return. Non-compliance with these requirements can result in financial penalties, and you may find it difficult to end the tenancy.

Safety certificates and inspections

Safety is paramount when renting out a property. You must hold various safety certificates to prove that the property meets legal standards. This includes a Gas Safety Certificate for any gas appliances, Electrical Installation Condition Reports for the electrical systems, and an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing the property's energy efficiency. Additionally, smoke alarms must be fitted on each floor and carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with a solid fuel-burning appliance.

Regular inspections to ensure that the property remains in a safe condition are not just good practice; they're a legal necessity. Remember, neglecting safety standards can result not only in hefty fines but also endanger the lives of your tenants.

Rent collection and increases

There are various legal parameters governing the collection of rent. The frequency and method of rent collection should be clearly outlined in your tenancy agreement. If you intend to increase the rent, you must follow the guidelines specified in the tenancy agreement or comply with the Rent Increase Procedure, which generally requires you to give the tenant written notice. Rent increases must also be fair, realistic, and in line with average rents for similar properties in the area.

When it comes to rent, knowing your rights and responsibilities as a landlord ensures that you are not overstepping and committing an infraction on your tenants’ rights. By having landlord experts by your side, you can be sure to act within your rights and can manage your property with less stress.

Repairs and maintenance

Landlords are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the rental property. This includes:

  • structural repairs
  • heating and hot water systems
  • electrical wiring
  • sanitary fittings like sinks, toilets, and baths

While the tenant may be liable for any intentional or accidental damage they cause, the overarching duty for property maintenance rests with you. Failure to address repair issues in a timely manner can result in legal repercussions, and tenants may have the right to withhold rent if the property is deemed uninhabitable.

To understand what types of repairs and maintenance fall within your responsibility, seek services that help landlords manage their tenancies effectively.

Right to enter the property

Though you own the property, you must respect the tenant's right to 'quiet enjoyment'. This means that you cannot enter the property without giving reasonable notice, usually at least 24 hours, except in emergency situations. Always specify the reasons for needing access, whether it's for inspections, repairs, or viewings for future tenants. Ignoring this rule could be viewed as harassment or illegal eviction, both of which carry legal consequences.

Eviction procedures

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to evict a tenant, you must follow the correct legal procedures. Depending on the type of tenancy, there are specific notices you must serve and waiting periods you must adhere to. Rushing the eviction or trying to force the tenant out without following the proper channels could result in legal action against you. Be aware that eviction laws are changing, so always consult the most current guidelines or employ the advice of landlord assistants.

Health and safety regulations

One of the most critical legal requirements for landlords pertains to health and safety. You must ensure that all gas and electrical appliances are safe and regularly inspected by certified professionals. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors must be fitted and functional. Any furnishings supplied must meet fire safety standards. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines and even imprisonment.

Record-keeping and documentation

Proper documentation is not just good practice; it's a legal requirement. This includes contracts, correspondences, receipts and any relevant certifications. Such records should be kept for a minimum of six years. Failing to maintain adequate records can make it difficult to resolve disputes or challenges in court and can result in legal penalties.

Contact AST Assistance for stress-free tenancies

Understanding and complying with the legal requirements is fundamental for any landlord in the UK. It not only safeguards the rights of your tenants but also protects you from legal consequences. With complex laws that are subject to changes, it's advisable to seek professional advice to ensure you are meeting all your obligations.

Contact our team today on 01706 619 954 or fill out our contact form below and we will get back to you at a convenient time.

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