- Landlord obligations cover various safety issues
- Legal obligations for landlords to meet
- Administrative obligations as a landlord
- Condition of the rental property
- Why it is important to meet your landlord obligations
- Legal obligations for landlords in Scotland
- Landlords must understand their legal obligations
Whether you are investing in a new buy to let property or you have experience as a landlord, understanding your landlord responsibilities in the UK is important.
That’s because you will have legal obligations as a landlord to help protect not only your investment but also your tenants and yourself as well.
Firstly, we will cover these responsibilities for landlords in England and Wales and later in the article the laws affecting landlords in Scotland.
Landlord obligations cover various safety issues
In England and Wales, your landlord obligations cover various safety issues, including:
- Gas safety: By law you must as a landlord have an annual gas inspection at your rental home – if there’s a gas supply. The Gas Safe registered engineer will check that all gas-fuelled appliances are working correctly and the Gas Safety certificate will be given to the landlord and a copy must be handed to the tenants.
- Electrical safety: Within your rental home, all of its electrical fittings must be made safe during the tenancy’s contract period. This means that the lights, plug sockets and any electrical appliances provided by the landlord must be checked. Also, from July 2020, the government has introduced a mandatory five-year electrical safety check that will be enforced on all rental properties in England.
- Fire safety: As a landlord, there are various fire safety obligations you must meet. You must ensure that the property has escape routes that are accessible at all times. You must provide fire safe furnishings and furniture, though in a non-furnished property the furniture regulations do not apply.
- Smoke alarms: These must be fitted to the property and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed where there is a solid fuel heating source.
- Energy performance: All landlords must now meet Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) regulations and from April 2020, all rental properties in England and Wales needed to have a minimum EPC rating of E.
Legal obligations for landlords to meet
In addition, there are other legal obligations for landlords to meet including:
- Deposit protection: When you receive the tenant’s deposit, you must place it into a Government-approved tenancy deposit scheme and there are three to choose from. You need to tell your tenants where this deposit has been placed or face a fine for not doing so. You must also give them a copy of its registration certificate and the paperwork related to it.
- How to rent: You must give your tenants the ‘How to Rent’ published by the government before they move in. This document will list your tenant’s rights as well as your obligations.
- Right to Rent: For landlords in England, you must prove that your tenant has a right to rent a home in the country or face a fine of up to £3,000 for each of the tenants.
Administrative obligations as a landlord
And while investing in a buy to let property is still a popular undertaking, the tax situation has changed in recent years and your administrative obligations as a landlord include:
- Paying taxes: You must declare your rental income to HMRC or face a fine for not doing so. This obligation also extends to those who own and rent out a home in the UK while living overseas.
- Self-assessment: You will probably need to complete a self-assessment tax return or have an accountant do this for you.
- Expenses: Most landlord expenses are tax-deductible which will bring down the final income tax bill that may be levied on your rental income.
- Freehold: If as a landlord you own the property as leasehold rather than freehold, then you’ll need the freeholder’s permission for renting out the property.
- Mortgage: If there is a residential mortgage on the property, then you’ll need permission from your mortgage provider for renting out.
- Licensing: You need to check whether your local authority has a scheme whereby you need a landlord’s licence before renting out your property.
Condition of the rental property
It should go without saying that a landlord’s obligations also extend to the condition of their rental property and any repairs that need to be carried out. You must:
- Ensure that your rental home is free from disrepair and is structurally sound.
- Does not contain damp that may be considered to be hazardous to health.
- There must be a water supply, a suitably located toilet as well as a bath or shower, wash basin and adequate drainage.
- There must be proper ventilation, lighting and heating.
- All repairs must be carried out at the property structure, both externally and internally.
- The heating and hot water system must function.
- Gas devices, including ventilation, flues and pipes must be repaired when necessary.
There’s also a requirement to carry out a legionella risk assessment as part of your landlord’s obligations and there’s a legal responsibility for assessing this risk of exposure.
Why it is important to meet your landlord obligations
But why is it so important to meet your landlord obligations? Put simply, failing to keep your property in a sound condition may lead to your tenant making a complaint to the local authority.
Each local council can force a landlord to make repairs using an improvement notice under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System.
At no point should a landlord believe that repairs can wait because leaving a problem may lead to it becoming more expensive to rectify.
Also, should a tenant make a complaint and an improvement notice is issued, you will be unable to serve a Section 21 notice for possession of your property for six months afterwards.
Legal obligations for landlords in Scotland
We have discussed the legal obligations for landlords in England and Wales and there are similar obligations for private landlords in Scotland. They include:
- You will need to register with the local authority that you want to rent out a property
- Landlords will be screened by the local authority to ensure that they meet their ‘fit and proper’ regulations
- If you have serious offences, including violence or fraud, or have broken housing laws, then you may not receive a licence
- If you fail to register as a landlord before you let property this will be a criminal offence and you could be fined up to £50,000
- You also run the risk of being banned for five years from the register.
Also, before advertising a property to rent in Scotland, a landlord must ensure that the home meets the Repair Standard and the Tolerable Standard. This means that the property offers a basic level of repair and is watertight and wind tight.
Since 2015, Scotland has had mandatory electrical testing so the fixed wiring needs to be checked every five years. Electrical appliances provided by the landlord must also be tested.
Landlords in Scotland must also carry out Gas Safety checks with a registered gas engineer.
It’s also now mandatory to fit smoke alarms on every floor that is habitable in the property.
A landlord cannot advertise their property for rent without having an Energy Performance Certificate in place and it must also be displayed within the property.
Landlords cannot charge their potential tenant for paperwork, referencing and inventories, as this is now banned.
Landlords must understand their legal obligations
Essentially, while running a buy to let still offers a lucrative investment opportunity, landlords must only undertake this endeavour if they understand all of the legal obligations.
Failing to do so could be an expensive mistake to make and engaging the services of a professional letting agent may well help because they will ensure that the laws are being met – particularly for the safekeeping of the tenant’s deposit.
Other issues, such as the regular maintenance including having a gas safety check carried out will also be done when necessary so a landlord will not need to remember these tasks and organise someone to carry them out – though it is the landlord who will always be legally responsible ultimately.