Landlords have certain legal rights and responsibilities to their tenants, whether they are renting out a property for the first time, or have done it many times before. Hiring a good letting agent means they can offer advice and ease some of the stress of finding a good tenant, but ultimately the legal responsibility lies with you. Below are some duties that you should be aware of when renting out a property.
Before the tenant moves in
As the landlord, you should conduct Right to Rent checks on all occupants of the property who are over the age of 18 and you should ensure that the tenant has your contact details prior to the date they move in. You must also supply an up to date EPC rating that complies with the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards, a Gas Safety Record and a How To Rent Guide. You must keep to the terms that are outlined in the tenancy agreement. As a responsible landlord, you should be aware that it is illegal to discriminate against a tenant based on any of the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010,
Landlords are required to have a gas safety check carried out by an approved Gas Safe Engineer on an annual basis, and ensure all electrical appliances are safe before the tenancy commences. As well as this, you should carry out a legionella assessment. If the property that you are supplying is furnished then you should ensure that the furniture meets the guidelines set under the Furniture and Furnishings Act 1988 (as amended 1993).
You are obliged to put the tenant’s deposit in a Government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days of the payment, and you must also provide the tenant with evidence that this has been done. This is to ensure that the deposit is protected and returned fairly at the end of the agreed let. If there are any disputes, the deposit will be held in the scheme until a resolution is reached. Each scheme may also offer free, independent adjudications to settle the dispute between the parties.
The payments for which you can charge for in connection with a tenancy also changed on 1st June 2019.
These new changes mean you can only charge:
- The rent
- A refundable tenancy deposit, capped at no more than 5 weeks rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000
- A refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than 1 week’s rent
- Payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50 (or reasonable costs incurred if higher)
- Payments associated with the early termination of the tenancy, if requested by the tenant, which are capped at £50.
- Payments in respect of utilities, TV licences and council tax (if necessary)
- A fee for the late payment of rent or replacement of a lost key.
Prior to making any charges, please ensure that you speak to a professional agent to ensure you are not asking the tenant for a prohibited payment.
Safety and general maintenance
Landlord compliance also requires you to ensure that your tenants live in a safe and secure property that is in a decent state of repair. You must follow safety regulations and provide at least one smoke alarm on each storey (and a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with solid fuel burning appliances such as a wood burning stove). If the property develops any faults to its integral elements, such as drains, pipes, toilets, gas/electrical supply and/or hot water and heating, then it is your duty to provide maintenance in a timely manner. If you have supplied an appliance such as a washing machine that breaks during the tenancy, then you have to replace or repair said item, unless it is due to tenant’s negligence. You must give the tenant at least 24 hours notice to access the property, and please be aware that the tenant can refuse access as they have the right to occupy the property freely without frequent visits from you as the landlord. It is also advised that landlords take out letting specific buildings and content insurance to cover against any personal injury claims that could be made by tenants whilst in the property.
Tenants leaving the property
When it comes to a tenant leaving a property at the end of the tenancy, you are entitled to carry out checks before returning their deposit. Over the period of the tenancy, most household furniture and contents will deteriorate to some degree as a result of normal use. This is known as general wear and tear and the tenant will not be liable for the repair. Please note that if the result of wear and tear becomes hazardous throughout the tenancy, then it is your responsibility to replace the item. However, if there is damage to the property not as a result of wear and tear then you can use the tenant’s deposit to claim back the cost of the damage.
If the tenant has vacated the property without giving the required notice, then they will be in breach of contract. As a landlord, you are entitled to charge the tenant rent up to the end of their agreed tenancy.
It’s useful for landlords to keep a record of when rent payments are due and when they are paid for each tenant. You can also send your tenants receipts each month with the date, time period and amount paid to ensure that they know if there is any outstanding rent. This system can also be useful if you have multiple tenants in the same property that pay separately, so that both landlord and tenants are aware of who has and hasn’t paid their portion of the rent. Ensure that you remind tenants on a joint tenancy that they are all responsible for the rent as an equal party, and they must clear any outstanding debt together.
If a tenant falls into rent arrears or has breached any specific terms of the contract then it is within your rights to make an application for possession of the property. However it is always best to seek legal advice and help from your letting agents when doing so.