It is important to know and understand your rights and responsibilities as a landlord as well as the tenants. The tenancy agreement, which is signed by both the landlord and the tenant, will detail most of both your obligations.
Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes
Landlords are obliged to place their tenants’ deposits in one of the Government approved tenancy deposit protection schemes. This is to ensure the deposit is protected and fairly returned to the tenant at the end of the agreed term.
You or your letting agent will need to protect the deposit with such a scheme within 30 days of being paid by the tenant.
If there are any disputes at the end of the tenancy, the deposit will be held until the issue is resolved. If the issue is not resolved, each scheme offers free independent adjudications to settle the matter.
Access to the property
If you want to access the property you must provide the tenant with at least 24 hours prior written notice or as agreed in the tenancy agreement. However, the tenant has the legal right to freely enjoy the property during their tenancy without frequent visits from the landlord and can refuse access.
Safety and general maintenance
The tenant has the right to live in a safe and secure property that’s in a good state of repair, and it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the property meets this standard.
The property must meet the repairing, gas, electrical and fire safety standards stipulated in various Acts and Regulations. Regular inspections are required to ensure the standards are maintained.
If the property develops any defects to its structure or integral elements, including drains, gutters, pipes, wiring, toilets, sinks, as well as the supply of water, gas, electricity, heating and/or hot water to the property, then timely maintenance must be provided.
Landlords are required by law to check all gas-related equipment at least once every year, ensure that all electrical installations and appliances are safe before and during the tenancy and carry out a legionella assessment.
Tenants can be expected to regularly test smoke on carbon monoxide alarms during the tenancy, replace batteries when necessary as well as reporting any issues immediately. This should be outlined in the tenancy agreement.
If a tenant requests an inspection on health and safety grounds, a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) inspection may take place. This could also happen if other properties in the area have failed to meet the required standards and the council suspects that your property may be in a similar condition.
After the inspection, there may be a list of actions that you are required to complete in order to bring the property up to the required standard.
If the property is furnished, the furniture must meet the guidelines set under the Furniture and Furnishings Fire and Safety Regulations 1988 (as amended 1993).
Evicting Tenants and taking possession
In the case of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the tenant has the right to remain in the property for six months, unless they break any major terms of the agreement. The tenancy can be terminated by either party after this time without providing a reason for termination, if the tenancy agreement allows for this.
If the tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement, then the landlord may be within their right to apply to the courts for a possession order by serving the tenant with notice under one of the Grounds contained in Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. This is a formal procedure and landlords must outline the specific terms the tenant has breached. It is always best to seek legal help when issuing such a notice.
Landlords are entitled to dispose of any belongings left in the property after the tenancy has terminated but only by giving the tenant the required notice/warning. Best endeavours should be made to contact the tenants and for them to retrieve their left property. A good tenancy agreement should cover this.
Accidents and injuries suffered within the property
Landlords are strongly advised to take out letting specific buildings and contents insurance cover against any personal injuries claims by tenants, their visitors or tradespeople while in the property.
Other landlord responsibilities
As well as the responsibilities mentioned above, the following are also applicable:
- You cannot discriminate against tenants or treat them differently because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, or religion
- Pregnant and disabled tenants should also receive fair and equal treatment.
- You must keep to the terms outlined in the tenancy agreement
- You must supply your contact details to your tenants
- You must supply an up to date EPC which complies with Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES)
- Locks cannot be changed without informing the tenant
- Give the tenants space to freely enjoy the rental avoiding unnecessary frequent visits
- Obtain all necessary contents to the letting, lender freeholder insurer
- Maintain the property in line with statutory requirements
- Safely protect any tenant data
- Carry out Right to Rent checks on all occupants of the property over the age of 18 before the start of the tenancy and as required during the tenancy