A Beginner's Guide to Landlord Law

landlord law

The laws guiding and detailing the responsibilities of a landlord can be overwhelming, especially for a new landlord. But it doesn’t need to be so. Having a good understanding of the most important requirements you need to meet is essential for all landlords, and it will allow you to sleep easy knowing you’re taking care of your responsibility. The main piece of legislation governing the private rental sector and tenant-landlord relations is the Landlords and Tenant Act 1985. While you don't necessarily need to read the entire document, you may find it useful and interesting to take a look at the Legislation.gov.uk overview of the Landlord and Tenant Act here.

Any major default can be punished with punitive fines that will erode your profit or worse. However, taking the basic steps outlined in this piece will ensure that you remain on the good side of the law.

gas safety

Gas Safety Laws

Gas safety laws detail your responsibility and obligation with regards to gas supply and gas appliances, where applicable. Apart from attracting fines of up to £25,000 and imprisonment when they are not obeyed, a landlord loses the right to serve a section 21 notice and start eviction process if gas safety certificate is not given to the tenant.

The law requires that landlords engage the services of a Registered Gas Engineer to carry-out annual gas safety inspection on gas supplies and appliances. A registered Gas Engineer is one registered with Capita.

This regulation is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive, and it is required that the written report detailing the state of the appliance is presented to the tenant within 28 days of the inspection being carried out.

The requirement can be summarized as follows:

  • Ensure gas flues, pipe-work and other appliances are in safe condition.
  • Employ the services of a gas engineer registered with Capita to carry out annual safety checks and ensure gas appliances are in shape.
  • Maintain a record of each safety check.
  • Make the report available to the tenant within 28 days of inspection.

Register for the gas safety obligation newsletter from HSE to ensure you are updated on new changes to the regulation.

electrical safety

Electrical Safety Laws

The electrical safety is designed to ensure that all electrical installation and equipments are safe, and meet the set standard. Under this law, landlords are mandated to commission electricity safety checks before the beginning of tenancy. As with gas safety checks, electricity safety checks must be carried out by a qualified engineer using what is known as portable appliance testing equipment (PAT).

Failure to comply with this law can attract a fine of£ 5000 and/or six months in jail under the Consumer Protection Act of 1987.

You must ensure that all electrical appliances supplied for use by the tenant are certified safe. The minimum required safety marking is CE, which specifies that it meets all European standard safety requirement.

The obligation can be summarized thus:

  • Before the tenant moves in, ensure that all electrical installations and appliances are safe and secure. You will need to maintain all electrical equipment throughout the tenancy
  • Ensure that the CE marking is on all appliances you supply for the property, such as cookers and boilers
  • Although not legally mandatory, it is advisable that checks are carried out annually by a qualified engineer using PAT
  • It is legally required that checks are carried out every 5 years by a registered electrician if the property is a HMO (House in Multiple Occupation)

fire safety

Fire Safety Laws

The law covers the responsibility a landlord has to his/her tenant on fire safety.  It requires that fire safety assessment be carried out as detailed in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO). You should employ the service of a fire professional to carry out the following:

  • Help identify possible fire hazards
  • Identify people at risk.
  • Ensure all regulations are met such as provision of an escape route.
  • Ensure whatever is supplied such as furniture and furnishings are fire safe.
  • Evaluate and eliminate risk of fire outbreak where possible, and take steps to minimize remaining risk.
  • Ensure you provide fire alarms, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors. Fire extinguishers are only legally required if the property is a House in Multiple Occupation.
  • Ensure records of safety checks and measures are kept.
  • Make sure that your tenants are fully aware of the fire safety procedures and that they fully understand the steps to take if a fire occurs
  • Review periodically. 

Failure to provide adequate fire safety checks or follow through with recommendations of the assessor is a crime that warrants jail time. This article on 10 Legal Musts for Landlords from the Residential Association of Landlords gives a useful summary of your major concerns including fire safety.

Energy Performance Certificate

It is legally required that landlords provide an Energy Efficiency Certificate that is up to date to any prospective tenant. The average energy rating is 46 (band E) for dwelling in England and Wales.  Energy efficiency is even more important now for landlords, because it is expected that the standards will be raised in future in line with Government’s green agenda.

Factors taking into account when considering energy efficiency include heating, hot water system, insulations, fuel used and ventilation.  While recent innovations, such as photo-voltaic cell, ground source heat pumps and wind turbines allow you to make significant energy savings, they are too expensive for the average landlord.

However, there are other measures that can be undertaken to achieve energy efficiency such as:

  • Installation of quality double glazing
  • Insulation of the loft and ensuring proper ventilation around it
  • Using cavity wall insulation
  • Insulation of hot water cylinder and pipes
  • Where a water metre is not already in place, fit in a water metre. 

Failure to provide energy performance certificate when a house is built, sold, or rented warrants a fine of £5,000.

A domestic energy assessor should be employed to handle energy certificates. From 2018, only houses with an energy performance rating of at least E will qualify legally for letting.

tenancy deposit protection

Protecting Your Tenants' Deposit

It is now a legal requirement to ensure tenant’s deposits are protected in a government-approved deposit scheme. This requirement is meant to protect tenants’ deposit from rogue landlords who keep the deposit for flimsy claim.

It is required that you give the tenants details of how the deposit is being protected.

Some Government approved agencies include:

Failure to protect a tenant’s deposit will warrant a fine as much as 3 times the deposit. Also, notice of eviction cannot be served to a tenant if the relevant paperwork concerning deposit protection has not been served.

Other Conditions and Repairs

There are other general guidance you must abide by. Basically, they deal with the condition of a property before it should be considered for rent. They include:

  • It should be free from any serious damage.
  • The drainage system should be effective.
  • The toilet, bathroom and wash basin should be suitably located.
  • The building must be structurally sound.
  • The lighting, ventilation and heating must be standard and adequate.
  • It should be free from dampness that could be detrimental to health

While this is not exhaustive, taking care of these basics will ensure that you are on the right side of the law as a landlord. And of course, you should always consult with your solicitor or letting agent. For more information on your rights and responsibilities as a landlord, check out the Citizen's Advice Service Information for Landlords section.

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