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Landlords legal responsibilities and obligations

Whilst we take care of many aspects of your legal obligations, it is important that as a landlord you are also aware of these. Current legislation makes both the landlord and ourselves as letting agent legally responsible should safety issues not be dealt with correctly. Failure to do so can potentially lead to significant fines and in the worst instances a prison sentence for both parties. As such, we will not let or manage any property that does not meet the stringent legal requirements and we are dedicated to protecting yourself as Landlord whilst also ensuring the tenants safety. To achieve this, we will work with you to ensure that your property fully meets current health and safety requirements, however below is a brief overview to provide an understanding of those obligations.

Gas safety regulations – It is a legal requirement that a Gas Safety inspection is carried out every 12 months by a qualified and registered Gas Safe engineer. This tests all heating and any additional gas appliances in the property and a certificate is providing confirming that your property meets the regulations.

Electrical safety -  it is a legal requirement that the electrical installation is safe when tenants move in and is also maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy. This inspection will also look at any appliance provided, i.e. cooker, microwave, kettle, etc and that these are at least CE marked as meeting the requirements of European law. This involves a periodic inspection to be carried out by a qualified and registered NICEIC electrical contractor.  

Fire safety – The Fire and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988 and the amended regulations of 1993 dictate that you are legally responsible for any furniture you leave in the property and that it meets current fire regulations.

Smoke alarms – It is a legal requirement for at least two smoke alarms to be fitted in the property. Future legislation is likely to require the fitting of combined smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, certainly near where central heating boilers are located, so we would recommend going that extra step now.

Energy Performance Certificate – An EPC provides information about a property’s current energy efficiency and provides recommendations on how to make the property more energy efficient and how this might be achieved. It provides approximate costings of these improvements and the value of potential energy savings. These certificates last for 10 years. New legislation comes into force in April 2018. Taking information from RICS this legislation states that from the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy EPC. The regulations will come into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020. It will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption. A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches. There are separate regulations effective from 1st April 2016 under which a tenant can apply for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements in privately rented properties.

Insurance – You are responsible for holding buildings insurance for the property throughout your ownership. Should you leave contents/furnishings in the property you should also cover these items at an appropriate level. One thing to be mindful of is that the insurance must cover you as a Landlord rather than as an Owner/Occupier.

Maintenance – Whilst the tenant is responsible for ‘maintaining’ the property in good order, actual maintenance falls to you the Landlord. You have the option of nominating your own contractors for given issues or allow us to instruct contractors to inspect and quote. You are not obligated to take up these quotes and can still instruct your own contractor. However, it is important to keep in mind that in many instances a swift response can save additional cost.

Mortgages – If you have a mortgage on your rental property and it is a standard residential mortgage rather than a buy to let mortgage, you should in the first instance request permission to rent from your lender. Most lenders will levy a small charge for granting consent and in some instances your lender may require further information regarding our credentials.  

HMO’s (Houses in multiple occupation) – Your home is a HMO if both the following apply: at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household and they share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities. Your home is a large HMO if ALL of the following apply: It’s at least 3 storeys high; at least 5 tenants live there, forming more than 1 household and they share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities. Properties of this type often require an HMO licence from the relevant local authority.
Selective Licensing – A number of local authorities now make it a requirement for Landlords to apply for licences within certain areas. The intent of these is to improve the quality of housing stock available to rent in the area. The local authority will require some basic information regarding you as the Landlord, ourselves as agent, the property itself, along with copies of safety certificates and a licensing fee. This varies by authority but is generally in the order of £400-£500.  
Tax - Rental income received is subject to tax, however, many expenses incurred against the property, such as maintenance, management fees and insurances can be offset against your tax liability, as can the interest paid on your mortgage. We would strongly recommend that you seek the advice of your accountant in this regard. 
Overseas Landlords - Landlords resident outside the UK for more than six months per annum can apply to the Inland Revenue to receive their rent without deduction of tax. Landlords must apply for an exemption certificate from the Inland Revenue, the forms for which we can supply. In the event that exemption is refused or not sought, tax is deducted from your rent by us and forwarded to the Inland Revenue along with quarterly accounts. In this instance we will levy a charge of £100 per annum. Please note that it is imperative that all party’s resident outside the UK (i.e husband and wife) with a legal interest in the property apply for individual exemption to maximise nil band tax allowances.     
Empty Property - As a matter of course we carry out regular inspections on all empty properties whilst they are being marketed by ourselves. 
Keys -  It is requested that two full sets of keys for each property is provided to us. Tenants will be given one set on commencement of a tenancy and the other will remain in our offices for access. Should you require the keys at any time, please bring suitable identification for security purposes. 
Legal costs - All private tenants are provided with rent guarantee and legal expenses cover (specific terms and conditions available on request) which in most instances should negate the need for any expense being incurred by the Landlord in relation to rent arrears or other matters relating to the tenancy. However, in instances that fall outside the terms of these insurances or where the tenants are in receipt of Housing Benefit, the landlord will be responsible for the payment of all fees and costs. 
Mail - We do not accept responsibility for any lost, returned, misplaced post or for the re-directing of your mail. You should arrange the re-direction of your post with the Post Office prior to the commencement of any tenancy.