Landlord responsibilities are something you are legally obligated to fulfil even before you start renting out a property. This article will outline the most important landlord responsibilities you should be aware of and information on how to carry them out compliantly.
Luckily for landlords, thanks to the advance in technology, renting property out privately has become much easier than it once was. We’ll give you the most updated advice on how to make fulfilling your responsibilities as a landlord as easy, cost effective and straight-forward as possible.
What is a private landlord?
If you own and rent out one or more properties then you’re a private landlord. You can also be a private landlord if you own a property and rent it out to a relative.
Why do landlords have responsibilities?
As a landlord, you’re renting out a property to another person or persons whom will make that property their home. Landlord responsibilities mainly revolve around ensuring your tenants have a safe home they are free to enjoy in reasonable privacy. This is the perfectly understandable expectation of any tenant who is paying to rent a property.
If you’re a HMO landlord then you will have slightly different responsibilities but we’ll cover this in another article.
As well as safety, landlord responsibilities also relate to tax, right to rent, maintenance and energy usage.
Are landlords still responsible if they use a letting agent?
If you are a landlord who’s paying for a letting agent to rent your property for you, then you need to check all documentation between you and the agent carefully. You should also check the assured shorthold tenancy agreements (if you’re using one provided by an agent) to ensure it stipulates who has responsibility. As a landlord the legal obligations for your property still ultimately fall on your shoulders whether you use a letting agent or not.
What are landlord responsibilities?
We’ll go through these responsibilities and how to carry them out:
– Gas safety
– Fire Safety
– Right to rent
– Repairs and maintenance
– Energy Performance Certification
– Tenancy Deposit Scheme
– Rent increases
– Fair rent
– How to rent guide
Annual Gas Safety
In UK law, the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 cover the responsibility of landlords to ensure any provided gas appliances, fittings and chimneys/flues provided for tenants are safe. You also need to ensure all provided (provided by you, not your tenant) gas appliances and fittings are safe and in good working order, and that all gas pipework and flues are in a safe condition.
To do this, you need to organise for an annual gas safety check to take place on the property by a registered engineer, who will be able to make sure you’re compliant. You can find a registered engineer using the “Find an Engineer” service on the Gas Safe Register website.
Provide and keep evidence
A record of this check should be given to any existing tenants within 28 days of it being completed. If you have new tenants, it should be provided at the start of their tenancy. You should keep copies of the record for two years at least.
Tip: If you use an online service such as Howsy, you will get timely reminders before any documents or certificates are due to expire, ensuring you never forget necessary checks.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
You must ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted in the property. Regular testing of the smoke alarms is recommended, and this is stipulated in the UK gov’s “how to rent guide” for tenants which we talk about later in the article.
Fire safety in flats
Right to Rent – Check documentation
Landlords are now required to check that whoever they rent the property to (or whoever is living in the property, regardless of if they are on the rental agreement) are legally eligible to rent in the UK. Children under the age of 18 don’t need to be checked.
Documents proving the right for the tenant to rent in the UK should be checked in front of the document owner, a copy made and kept for a year after the end of the tenancy. If the document turns out to be false, the landlord will not be responsible unless the document is quite obviously false.
If you need more details on this, you can see the relevant government guidelines here.
Repairs and Maintenance – areas of responsibility
As the landlord you need to make sure that all necessary maintenance and repairs are carried out on the property (including footing the cost). The tenancy agreement you use (available here) should stipulate who is responsible for carrying out repairs to the property but even if it doesn’t, you’re still responsible.
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant act 1985, covers the landlord’s obligation to carry out the basic repairs on a property whether the agreement is in writing or has been orally agreed.
In general, as the landlord you should be responsible for:
– Structure and exterior including the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors.
– Baths, sinks, basins, toilets and pipework.
– Water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters.
If for any reason your tenant does not respond to your requests to access the property for maintenance and repair work, you must simply be able to prove that you took all reasonable steps to contact your tenant.
Tip: If you’re using Howsy, don’t worry, all communications between yourself and your tenants are kept and recorded on your account, to be accessed whenever you need to refer to a message or conversation.
Energy Performance Certificate or EPC
Although the accuracy and effectiveness of EPC’s are debatable, at the moment you’re still required to have an EPC and SAP rating for rented property. They are required for every residential property let, whether it’s a house or an individual purpose built flat. You can get EPC’s from any accredited assessor.
Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme
As a landlord it is advisable and common practice to ask for a deposit. This helps protect against financial loss to the landlord in the event of property or appliance damage or unpaid rent upon a tenant leaving. A deposit is usually one months rent. At the same time a tenant wants to know their deposit is protected and fairly returned upon a tenancy ending.
Tenancy Deposit Schemes are backed by strict government regulations to protect both landlords and tenants. The companies authorised by the government to offer these schemes are The Tenancy Deposit Scheme, MyDeposits, and The Deposit Protection Service.
A landlord has 30 days from receipt of the deposit to let the tenant know the details of the scheme they are using.
When and how you raise rent
To prevent tenants from unfair rent increases, there are rules that regulate its increase that you should be aware of. Your rental agreement should outline the process of how and when you will review the property rent, and it should be compliant with the type of tenancy.
If you have a fixed term tenancy agreement, you can only raise the rents at the end of the fixed term or unless the agreement permits it. Usually though, it can only happen up to once per year.
If the tenancy agreement is periodic then this is a little different. You must agree with your tenants what the rent increase will be by getting the proposal in writing and signed by your tenants at least one month before you wish to make the increase.
Fair Rent – Charge what the property is worth
As a landlord you should not aim to charge over and above the value of a property. To prevent rents that unfairly force tenants from properties, the VOA or Valuation Office Agency decide the maximum rent that can be charged for a property. Although most landlords compare their property to similar properties in similar locations before deciding a rent, you can ask the VOA to review it for you by filling in a fair rent form.
Tax – Informing HMRC
If you rent out property, you must inform HM Revenue and Customs as it’s likely you’ll have to pay tax on any earnings (the amount will be in relation to your overall earnings) unless you’re earning under the stipulated tax threshold.
You can declare income from your property in the standard Self Assessment Tax Return if it’s between £2,500 to £9,999 after any allowable expenses, or £10,000 or more before allowable expenses.
If you’re freelance and being a landlord isn’t your full time job, or if you are not running your property business through a limited company, you can just include any income from renting property on your regular tax return. You don’t need to create a separate one.
How To Rent Guide
Don’t worry, luckily this isn’t something you have to write yourself. It’s right here. All you need to do is provide it to any tenants on a tenancy agreement signed after October 2015. This guide gives a simple outline to tenants on their rights and responsibilities, it includes information on:
– What to look out for before renting
– Living in a rented home
– What happens at the end of the tenancy
– What to do if things go wrong
Luckily, many of the responsibilities you have as a landlord can be easily carried out with the proper preparation and planning. You don’t need a degree to be a landlord, and there is a huge amount of free information available to help. You can also use a whole host of online management systems, one of the most simple and advanced of which being Howsy. Platforms like this automate and fulfil any duties a traditional agent might, but with an aim to provide a faster, more efficient and dedicated service to the individual.
If you’d like more information about being a successful landlord, or visit https://www.howsy.com/.