A guide to your responsibilities as landlord
With more than 175 rules and laws governing what landlords can, can’t and must do, we’ve decided to keep things simple.
Seven key areas of responsibility
We can’t list everything. So we’ve selected seven key areas of responsibility landlords need to consider, and will gladly discuss them and indeed any other regulations with you in detail should you wish.
1 – Electrical
Under the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, landlords must check their property electrics at least every five years, with a properly qualified person doing this. This has applied to new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and existing ones since 1 April 2021. The electrics must be safe, and you must give your tenant proof of this with an Electrical Installation and Condition Report (EICR).
2 – Gas
A gas safety certificate is a legal requirement for any gas appliance or installation. As landlord, you must give your tenant an up-to-date copy of this certificate before they can move into the property. You must also provide the tenant with a copy of the new certificate after each annual gas safety check.
3 – Fire and carbon monoxide safety
Landlords must fit at least one smoke alarm on every storey of a property they let out. In addition, if you have solid-fuel appliances such as wood-burning stoves or open fires, you must provide carbon monoxide detectors. This regulation is set to be updated, meaning you’ll also need carbon monoxide alarms for gas boilers.
4 – Deposits
If your tenant has paid a deposit (highly advisable), you must protect it in a government-approved scheme within 30 days and give the tenant information about this. We can advise on which of the available deposit schemes will best suit your needs. Keep all paperwork linked to deposits safe and easily accessible. Deposits are capped at five weeks’ rent, and landlords can no longer hold a higher deposit for things such as keeping pets. You must give your tenant the prescribed information document relating to their deposit (talk to us about this).
5 – Energy
At the start of their tenancy, you must give your tenant a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) containing the property’s energy performance rating.
Since April 2020, all privately rented properties have needed an energy performance rating of EPC band E or above (unless a valid exemption applies) before they can be let out. You can search online for the EPC and check its rating via https://www.gov.uk/find-energy-certificate.
EPCs last for ten years. The certificate also gives helpful advice on improving a property’s energy rating.
6 – Right to Rent
Landlords must carry out ‘right to rent’ checks on prospective tenants before they can move in.
The government guidance in the form of ‘Landlord’s guide to right to rent checks’ runs to 86 pages. That’s probably why many landlords get an experienced letting agent to handle this part of renting out a home.
In a sentence, the ‘right to rent’ check is done to confirm a prospective tenant has the legal right to live in England.
Ignoring this check can lead to hefty fines and even imprisonment.
Oakfield’s top tip
You or your letting agent must give your tenant a copy of the government guide How to rent: the checklist for renting in England. You need to do this at the start of any new tenancy – provide either a physical paper copy or email a PDF.
7 – Financial
As a landlord, you’re responsible for paying the right taxes (and, in some cases, National Insurance) linked to your income from your property investments. This complex area is best looked at by an accountant or specialist tax adviser. You’ll also need to have a buildings insurance policy in place. We strongly recommend investigating other policies such as rent and legal protection to cover you for void periods, legal disputes and unpaid rent.
Other responsibilities to consider include:
- Maintenance of any furniture or appliances you have provided as part of the tenancy.
- Repairing things within the property that may have stopped working, e.g. showers, boilers, taps, etc.
- Ensuring the property is free from serious hazards from the start of and throughout any tenancy.
- Make sure blinds (if provided) are safe by design, and that they do not have looped cords.
- In some cases, ensuring the property is not at risk of Legionnaires’ disease.
Common myths busted
There are many myths around, and incorrect information about landlords’ responsibilities that they must understand.
The most misleading ones usually surround responsibilities and obligations that landlords don’t have to follow. Here are seven common myths we’ve often had to bust.
I own the property, so I can turn up whenever I like to check it out.
FACT: The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 allows a landlord access to inspect the property, as long as they have given at least 24 hours’ notice and their proposed visit is at a reasonable time.
However, the tenant must also have the opportunity not to allow the visit.
I can change the locks and take back my property at any time if my rent isn’t paid on time.
FACT: You must follow a strict set of procedures and legal steps including court orders and, potentially, bailiffs. Call us to discuss this further if you need more detailed advice.
I can leave white goods/items in the property but I don’t have to repair them.
FACT: You are responsible for maintaining and repairing anything supplied with the property at the start of the tenancy, providing no damage has been caused through misuse or neglect.
I can have a copy of my tenant’s referencing forms.
FACT: You can request this, but you’ll need the tenant’s consent before these forms can be provided.
I can chuck a tenant’s stuff out if they abandon the property.
FACT: You must check your original tenancy agreement for an abandonment clause. If no clause is there, a landlord is typically duty-bound to hold/store items for three months before disposing of them. Remember, there is a process in place for regaining possession/surrendering tenancy for abandoned properties.
I can make a profit on utility bills on inclusive rents.
FACT: No, you can’t. You must charge whatever the tenant has used and not add anything on top.
I can make deductions to the tenant’s deposit.
FACT: There’s a process to follow before you can make deductions to a deposit. These deductions require agreement from the tenant or arbitration from the authorised deposit scheme you’re using.
Five ways to spot an exceptional letting agent
An exceptional letting agent can make your life a lot easier, especially when it comes to complying with rental laws and regulations. But not all letting agents are client-focused, fully trained or experienced in navigating the complex maze of rules and red tape affecting rental properties.
With that in mind, we’ve created the checklist below, to help you identify the best letting agents to look after your needs.
Recommendations and reviews
Word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends can be invaluable. But always ask if they have actually used the agency they’re putting forward. Also, read Google and social media reviews of agencies you’re looking at. An agency’s best (or worst) advert is always what their clients say about them.
Upfront about the small print
An exceptional letting agency will be transparent and upfront about its fees and contract terms. We want our relationships with landlords to be long-lasting, so we treat everyone honestly and fairly.
Check out how the agency is marketing other rental properties they have on their books. Are you impressed or depressed by what you’re seeing? The best agents know that every aspect of a property’s marketing matters if you are to attract great tenants willing to pay the best rent.
Embark on a mystery tour
Unfortunately, this isn’t as exciting as it sounds, but it can be hugely revealing when seeking out the best agents for you. Mystery shop three agents in your area that you like the look of.
Who gives you the best impression over the phone and/or in person?
Cheap but not cheerful
The old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is never more accurate than when it comes to cut-price letting agents. Established operators who deliver personal and professional services to landlords know their value and charge accordingly. However, cut-price deals from agents usually mean standards of service drop and little/no money is invested into the management and marketing of your property.
Oakfield’s top tip
To read more about your responsibilities as landlord, visit www.gov.uk/renting-out-a-property
The rules are changing all the time. So you either need to update yourself constantly, or use a letting agent who can do this for you.
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