LANDLORDS LEGAL OBLIGATIONS
Renting out property can be rewarding and profitable, but being a landlord comes with certain legal obligations and responsibilities which you’ll need to get to grips with from the start.
The law surrounding lettings can be a bit of a minefield and it’s important to remember that that the rules change quite often for the private rental sector. New requirements, rules and pieces of legislation are being introduced with what feels like alarming frequency and you’ll need to take them all on board.
Based on our experience of helping landlords we’ve produced this guide to keep you up to date with every area of legislation and ensure you comply with your obligations.
Fitness for Human Habitation
Landlords must ensure the home they rent out is ‘fit for human habitation’ at the start of, and throughout, the tenancy.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force in March 2019, and gives tenants the right to take their landlord to court if the property fails to meet the standards outlined in Section 10 of the Housing Act.
A property could be deemed unfit for human habitation if, for example, it has damp issues, no hot and cold water, or problems with the ventilation, drainage, and lavatories.
Repairs and Maintenance
Landlords have a statutory duty under to repair and maintain:
- The structure and exterior of the property, including walls, roof, drains, pipes, and gutters
- The electrical wiring and circuits
- The supply of gas and any appliances provided
- The supply of water, heating, and sanitation
- Basins, sinks, baths etc
- Internal structures like stairs and bannisters
- Chimneys and ventilation
Landlords have a statutory duty under to ensure that all gas appliances, pipe work, boilers and flues are maintained in a safe condition.
An inspection must be carried out every year by a Gas Safe engineer, who will issue form CP12, giving details of exactly what has been inspected, any defects identified and any remedial action taken or required.
Landlords are required to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) carried out every five years.
This covers all fixed electrical parts of the property, such as wiring, plug sockets, light fittings and fuse box, as well as permanent fixtures like showers or extractors.
Any remedial work required must be completed within 28 days, or less if specified in the report.
Portable Appliance Testing PAT is not a legal requirement, but we recommend that it is carried out at least every 2 years on all moveable electric appliances provided by the landlord.
Fire Safety and Carbon Monoxide
Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that the property they provide is fire safe.
All furnishings and upholstered furniture you supply must carry the fire-resistant symbol.
There must be at least one smoke alarm on each storey of the property, and a carbon monoxide alarm in each room with a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g., a boiler, gas or wood burning fire). Gas cookers are exempt.
All alarms must be checked and working before a new tenancy starts.
It is also the landlord’s responsibility to repair or replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, once they have been informed of a fault.
Energy Performance Certificate
It is illegal to advertise a property for rental without a current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). A copy of the certificate also needs to be provided to the tenants before they move in.
Failure to obtain a “pass grade” of an E will render your property unrentable, and failure to provide an EPC can result in a fine of up to £5,000 unless an exemption has been applied for.
Certificates are valid for 10 years, but if energy-saving improvements are made, such as double glazing or cavity wall insulation, you can apply for a new EPC to receive a new rating.
Depending on where you live in England, you may be required to obtain a property licence from your local council.
Failure to register can result in fines of up to £20,000 in areas that are subject to licensing. Each council operating ‘a discretionary licensing’ scheme has its own criteria for landlords to meet before they will be granted a licence. You will need to check with your local council if they are part of the scheme.
If you are purchasing or renovating a property that you intend to rent to more than 2 household, please also check your local authority HMO (House of Multiple Occupation) regulations.
Some authorities will not issue new HMO licenses in certain areas. Check up on HMO legislation and ensure you understand any additional legal compliance the property may require.
Landlords are required to carry out a Legionella risk assessment and follow the guidance set out by the Health and Safety Executive for this.
Landlords are not legally required to have a professional inspection carried out, but it is their responsibility to ensure the property has minimal risk of Legionella.
Right to Rent
Landlords are legally required to check the immigration status of all tenants. This includes anyone over the age of 18 who will be living in the property.
Landlords must not break equality laws when performing right to rent checks. They should not make assumptions on who has the right to rent but instead check all tenants regardless of race, colour or ethnicity.
Read Horizon Let’s blog post on Right to Rent checks for a complete guide
As a landlord you must protect any deposit you take from your tenant within 30 days under one of three government-backed deposit protection schemes.
Details of the scheme must be provided to the tenant within 30 days.
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 (England only) limits security deposits to the equivalent of five weeks’ rent (or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above).
As well as protecting the deposit in one of the Tenancy Deposit Schemes, Landlords must also provide the tenant with the prescribed information within 30 days of the receipt of the deposit.
The prescribed information must include details of where the deposit is kept and all terms & conditions of the scheme.
The failure to provide this information can result in a landlord being ordered to pay the tenant 3 times the deposit by way of compensation.
It is also important to note that a valid section 21 notice cannot be served by the landlord until the prescribed information is served by the landlord on the tenant.
How to Rent
All landlords in England are required to provide their tenants with a copy of the “How To Rent” Guide issued by the Government.
Failing to comply could prevent you from being able to serve a Section 21 notice to repossess your property.
Anyone who holds or processes personal data must comply with GDPR data protection legislation, including landlords.
This involves notifying tenants:
- What personal information you collect on them
- Why you need their personal information
- How you might use that information, including who else could potentially see it
- How long you keep the information for
As a landlord, you acquire lots of personal information about tenants, especially when you receive a referencing report on them. Therefore, it’s important that you understand how GDPR applies to you and your relationship with tenants to protect yourself from liability for unlawful handling of personal data.
Landlords who handle personal data must also join the ICO (the Information Commissioners Office). Their website also contains the most up to date guidance on GDPR
Use our handy checklist to tick off the completed legal requirements for your rental property