Landlord Legal Responsibilities, Obligations & Regulations
As a landlord there are a number of legal obligations you MUST (and should) abide by. These are all necessary obligations; failing to comply with these could result in prosecution.
Please note, regulations vary depending on the type of property. The regulations discussed in this article are for private residential properties, which may not necessarily apply to mixed use premises such as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) where unrelated occupiers, who live independently from one another, share common areas of the same building.
Gas safety appliances
The Gas Safety Regulations 1998 place a statutory duty on all landlords of residential property to ensure that all gas appliances, pipe work and flues are maintained in a safe condition.
A inspection of all gas appliances that is provided with in the property by the landlord must be inspected annually by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer. After inspection a warranted Gas Safety Certificate will be issued for proof of inspection; both tenant and landlord should keep a copy.
Fire Safety, Housing Act 2004
Fire Safety in Rental Property
This area of law is covered by both the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Landlords are under a common law duty to ensure that the property they provide is safe. All residential properties in England and Wales should comply with building regulations.
There is no legal requirement to provide fire extinguishers or fire blankets in single occupation tenanted properties, but again, this may be a wise precaution, at least in the kitchen area.
Having made the decision to provide fire extinguishers though, the landlord or agent must then arrange for regular servicing – usually on a 12 monthly basis. They should also not be used by untrained persons.
There is currently no legal requirement for landlords to provide fire/smoke alarms in single occupation tenanted properties. However, neglecting the installation of smoke alarms could mean that the Landlord is failing to ensure that the property provided is safe, which is his duty under common law. It is strongly advised to have smoke alarms installed.
Reference: Smoke alarms not required.
Smoke alarms are required for houses of multiple occupation (HMO). The building regulations require that all properties built after June 1992 must have a mains operated inter-connected smoke alarms fitted on every level of the property. Although older properties do not have to comply, it is advised for landlords to provide at least battery operated smoke alarms in the property.
The Furniture and Furnishings Regulation 1993
All furniture a landlord provides must be fire resistant. Furniture must meet the fire resistance requirements in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
These regulations require that the following furniture supplied by the landlord in let properties meet fire safety standards:
- beds, headboards of beds, mattresses
- sofas, sofa-beds, futons and other convertibles
- nursery furniture
- garden furniture which is suitable for use in a dwelling
- scatter cushions, bean bags, window seats and seat pads; pillows
- padded stools and padded chests
- put-u-up beds and garden loungers/seats
- loose and stretch covers for furniture
Furniture manufactured since March 1989 will comply with these regulations and most will be marked with a label showing compliance.
The regulations do not apply to:
- sleeping bags
- bed-clothes, duvets and pillowcases
- loose covers for mattresses
- curtains and carpets
- furniture and furnishings manufactured before 1 January 1950 as the inflammable materials were not in use prior to 1950
- properties let continuously to the same tenant since prior to December 1996 until there is change of tenancy
Non-compliance with the above regulations is a criminal offence and carries penalties of a £5,000 fine, 6 month’s imprisonment, or both. In the event of a death, charges could extend to manslaughter.
Repairs & Maintenance- Section 11, Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
The landlord is responsible for the structure and exterior of the property; baths, sinks and other sanitary items; heating and hot water installations. However, this only applies if the tenant has a fixed tenancy contract for under 7 years, else these issues become the tenants responsibility. The landlord is not responsible for damages caused by the tenants.
This legislation requires landlords to:
- keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair, including drains, gutters and external pipes
- keep installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation in good repair and proper working order
- keep installations for space heating and water heating in good repair and proper working order
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
Every electrical appliance supplied by the landlord must be safe to use; the electrical installation in the house must be completely safe.
Unlike the Gas Safety Regulations, there is no mandatory requirement for the equipment to undergo any safety testing, but that should NOT be an incentive to be careless.
Although there is no requirement for equipment to be checked, it’s recommended for every landlord to check all electrical appliances and electrics before the start of a tenancy and regularly thereafter.
The following guidelines apply to all electrical appliances supplied for the tenancy:
- live parts should not be accessible
- leads should not be worn or frayed and be complete with no joins
- trailing leads and the use of multiple plug adaptors should be avoided
- correct plugs (marked ‘B SECTION 136’) should be fitted and correctly fused
- plug sockets should be firmly fastened to the wall or skirting
- any moving parts should be guarded
- electric blankets should be serviced according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- microwave doors should be clean, free from corrosion and effective
- washing machines, cookers, etc, should be serviced and in good working order
- electrical heaters and central heating appliances should be serviced annually
- fireguards should meet BS3248
- any fire extinguishers should be marked ‘BS6575 1985’.
Plugs and Sockets (Safety) Regulations 1994
This regulation requires that any plug, socket or adapter supplied for intended domestic use complies with the appropriate current standard, and specifically that:
- the live and neutral pins on plugs are part insulated so as to prevent shocks when removing plugs from sockets and all plugs are pre-wired.
Obtaining consent to let a property
Before letting a property, landlords must obtain permission and/or inform the following:
- mortgage lender
- In respect of leasehold properties, the head landlord
- Any housing association or other body which has regulations applying to the property, e.g shared ownership
- Any adult who has been living in the property with the landlord as husband, wife or partner who may have occupancy rights.
- The landlord’s insurance company who must confirm that cover will be maintained if the property is let.
Tenancy Deposit Protection
Landlords must secure their tenants deposits into one of three government approved Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) schemes.
Over the years a lot of tenants have complained that they have unfairly lost their security deposit; consequently the government introduced this legislation to help apply some unbiased moderation to the disputes. For more in-depth details about this ‘landlord obligation’, please go to my Tenancy Deposit Protection Easy Guide article.
Taxation of Income from Land (Non-Residents) Regulations 1995
Any landlord who is considered non-resident for taxation purposes is liable to pay tax on their rental income from letting property.
The details can be complicated depending on your circumstances, so it’s best to check with the Inland Revenue how much tax you’re liable to pay, or if you’re permitted to be exempted from tax.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
Landlords must provide an Energy Performance Certificate to all new and prospective tenants.
The certificate will give each building a SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure – out of 100 possible) rating, and this will equate to an energy rating from A to G, similar to those seen on white goods. For those who don’t speak geek, in English it means, it will show the energy efficiency levels of a property.
More information on Energy Performance Certificate
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