A guide to understanding landlord responsibilities
You’ve made the decision to invest in rental property or perhaps you’re in the UK’s growing number of ‘accidental landlords’ and need to rent out a newly acquired home. Either way, as a new landlord there are lots of rules and regulations to adhere to which may seem daunting, and difficult to know where to start.
It’s vital you know your responsibilities and understand the actions needed before marketing the property for tenants. Do your homework – there’s more to it than simply preparing the property, it’s also about making sure the required elements are in place to meet obligations and standards required by law.
Here are some of the responsibilities to be aware of when you become a landlord to help get you started.
Although not a legal requirement, it’s in your interest, as a landlord, to create an inventory at the beginning and end of each new tenancy agreement. Or to ensure the letting agent, if you’re using one, draws this up. The purpose is to record and provide an overview of the property, it’s condition and a list of contents for each room. It should include:
- walls, ceiling and floor
- carpets and curtains
- furniture and appliances
- fittings and fixtures (cupboards, handles, lights)
- windows and doors
- smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
- meter readings
The tenant will review the inventory against the property and has the right to amend if anything is incorrect, missing or broken. Once both parties are satisfied the inventory is accurate, it should be signed, dated and copied for records.
Having an accurate inventory in place could help resolve or avoid disputes over the deposit when tenants move out.
Your tenancy agreement is the contract between you and your tenants laying out the legal terms and conditions whilst they’re renting out your property.
It doesn’t matter if you have one or several tenants, you’ll most likely be renting through an Assured Shorthold Tenancy in England & Wales (the most common type of agreement).
The tenancy agreement should include:
- the names of all people involved
- the rental price and how it’s paid
- information on how and when the rent will be reviewed
- the deposit amount and how it will be protected
- when the deposit can be fully or partly withheld, for example, to repair damage caused by tenants
- the property address
- property access and procedure
- the start and end date of the tenancy
- any tenant or landlord obligations
- which bills your tenants are responsible for
- if tenants are responsible for the energy bill, if they can change suppliers and when to inform the landlord
- whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done
- who’s responsible for minor repairs (other than those that the landlord is legally responsible for)
- whether the property can be let to someone else (sublet) or have lodgers
The terms of the tenancy must be fair and comply with the law. You can find further details about making changes and ending agreements on the Government website, and download a model template agreement here.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Any deposit your tenants hand over must be held in a government-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme (TDP).
There are three to choose from:
Failing to keep tenants’ deposits in a TDP scheme or failing to share information about where the money is being held, could mean tenants can take you to court if a dispute arises regarding their deposits.
A point to note. It’s your responsibility as a landlord to put your tenants' deposit in the scheme within 30 days of receiving it.
At the end of a tenancy, you must return the deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing how much of the deposit will be paid back. If you’re in a dispute with your tenant, the deposit will remain protected in the TDP scheme until the issue is resolved.
Any rent increase must be fair and in line with average local rents. If the tenancy agreement outlines a procedure for increasing rent, you must follow this.
- seek permission from the tenant if you want to increase the rent by more than previously agreed
- renew your tenancy agreement at the end of the fixed term, but with an increased rent
- agree on a rent increase and produce a written record of the agreement that you both sign
- use a ‘Landlord’s notice proposing a new rent’ form, which increases the rent after the fixed term has ended
You must give a minimum of one month’s notice (if you pay rent weekly or monthly). If you have a yearly tenancy, they must give you 6 months’ notice.
When it comes to Health and Safety you can’t afford to take any chances. It’s crucial you ensure your private rental property is free from any hazards and meets the legally required standards. You will need:
- Electric safety certificates to verify that all electric equipment you have available for tenants is safe to use.
Details of which can be found here.
- All gas appliances must be installed and maintained by a gas safe registered engineer and only a registered engineer should carry out the annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue.
You must give you a copy of the gas safety check record to your tenant before they move in, or within 28 days of the check.
- If you have a furnished property, the furniture must also be in line with fire safety standards.
- Provide a smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (for example a coal fire or wood burning stove).
- Check the access to escape routes is accessible if this applies.
For other useful information visit GOV.uk.
Maintenance and Repairs
It’s vital this is clearly laid out in the tenancy agreement, so when the time comes to carry out essential repairs, both parties know and understand who’s responsible for what elements.
The majority of repairs are the landlord’s responsibility and include:
- the property’s structure and exterior
- basins, sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings
- pipes and drains
- heating and hot water
- gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- electrical wiring
Be aware, if you or any tradesmen used for jobs cause further damage, you’re responsible for this.
Your tenants can be held responsible for smaller repairs and maintenance, providing this is clearly outlined and agreed in your tenancy agreement.
This could include:
- keeping the property clean and tidy
- general maintenance (replacing fuses, light bulbs etc.)
- maintaining decoration
- fixing anything they have broken
- garden maintenance and general appearance (mowing the lawn, weeding)
Undoubtedly there’ll be times when you need to visit a property that you own, to carry out necessary repairs or inspect the property to see what work is required. However, it’s important to understand your visits cannot be made when you feel appropriate or convenient.
By law, you’re required to give 24 hours’ notice before you visit the property, failure to do so could result in being refused entry which your tenant is well within their rights to do.
For more information, and to view your rights and the rights of your tenants set out in the Housing Act 1988.
Whilst specific landlord insurance isn’t a legal requirement, it’s worth giving this some serious consideration. Normal home insurance covers the occupier’s possessions and the building itself, but specific landlord insurance covers a multitude of incidentals including: missed rental payments, loss of income if the property is left vacant for long periods, legal fees and expenses (in case of disputes with tenants) and home emergency cover if the property’s supply of gas, electricity, heating or water is cut off.
There are several types of cover available, so it’s worth investigating to establish what type will work best for you and your property.
As a quick guide...
- Landlord building insurance – covers any structural damage (fires or floods).
- Landlord contents insurance – if your property is rented out furnished, this covers the cost of replacing/ repairing furniture, carpets, kitchenware or electrical items.
- Landlord liability insurance – covers you if a tenant or visitor is injured in the property.
Energy Performance Certificate
You are required to provide an energy performance certificate (EPC) for your rental property. EPCs contain information on typical energy costs and energy use in a property, with recommendations to reduce energy consumption. All newly let rental properties must achieve a minimum energy performance rating of E.
You can get an EPC through any accredited assessor. Some letting agents might offer to include the cost of an EPC in your rental contract, but it’s worth looking around to find the best deal. Once you’ve got it, an EPC lasts for 10 years.
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