List of landlord legal responsibilities and obligations which MUST be complied with. Failing to comply could result in prosecution.
Please note, this article is for Single Let private residential properties in England and Wales that is Governed under the Housing Act (the official rule book).
For HMOs, please go the HMO Landlord Legal Requirements & Regulations blog post.
Before getting into it, my obligatory disclaimer (so my solicitor will throw me out the window): I’m just a simple landlord blogger, I am not qualified to give legal advice. Any information I provide is my opinion based on my experience, and is never legal or professional advice. You should always get professional advice on any legal matters!
For Rentals in England & Wales
Sections 79, 80 and 81 of the Housing Act 2004 provide for the introduction of a “landlord licensing” scheme.
Landlords with properties in selective areas are required to get a “landlord license” from their local council before being permitted to let their property. These areas are selected based on low demand for housing and significant or persistent anti-social behaviour problems. Failing to do so can result in punishable fines of up to £20,000.
To qualify for a licence a landlord must be able to demonstrate that they are acting within the law and taking appropriate steps to manage their properties, which is defined by the local council. If you’re unsure if your property is in a landlord license zone, you can call your local council or speak to local letting agents.
Go here for more information on the landlord licensing scheme.
Gas Safety Regulations
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.
New tenants should receive a copy of the certificate BEFORE they are given the keys and occupy the premises, while existing tenants of premises should be served a copy within 28 days of the date of the check (unless the property is without gas).
Fire Safety, Housing Act 2004
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.
The Furniture and Furnishings Regulation 1993
Furniture provided by the landlord must meet the fire resistance requirements in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
Furnishings and upholstered furniture supplied by landlords must meet fire resistance requirements, which includes:
- 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.
Fitness for human habitation
Landlords are required to ensure their properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ at the beginning and throughout the tenancy.
Section 10 of the Housing Act sets out the factors that are taken into consideration when determining if a house is ‘unfit for human habitation’, which are as follows:
- repair (i.e. the building shouldn’t be neglected and in bad condition),
- stability (i.e. the building shouldn’t be unstable),
- freedom from damp (i.e. if there are serious damp issues),
- internal arrangement (i.e. the property shouldn’t have an unsafe layout),
- natural lighting (i.e. there should be enough natural light),
- ventilation (i.e. there should be enough ventilation),
- water supply (i.e. there should be a supply of hot and cold water),
- drainage and sanitary conveniences (i.e. if there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories),
- facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water;
- and the house shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.
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.
Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord is responsible 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
Here’s a more detailed guide on the Landlords Responsibility to Repair and Maintain.
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
Landlords letting property in the UK have a legal obligation to ensure that the property being let is safe to occupy, which includes ensuring the electrics, including appliances supplied with the property, are in a safe condition.
Unlike the Gas Safety Regulations, there is currently no mandatory legal requirement for any inspections or certificates. However, the best to prove that the electrics are safe is by conducting regular and routine checks (e.g. ‘PAT testing’ and ‘Electrical Installation Condition Reports’) by a qualified electrician. You can find out more about electrical safety tests in rentals in this blog post.
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 with in 30 days of receiving the deposit, and they must also serve their tenants with Prescribed Information related to the deposit, within 30 days.
Over the years a lot of tenants have complained that they have unfairly lost their security deposit, and consequently the government introduced the deposit legislation to help apply protection and unbiased moderation to the disputes. For more in-depth details about this ‘landlord obligation’, please go to my Tenancy Deposit Protection Easy Guide article.
Failure to comply can lead to financial penalties, and also impede on your ability to repossess your property, which means you may not be able to repossess your property unless you have grounds for eviction e.g. the tenant falls into rent arrears.
Taxation of Income from Land (Non-Residents) Regulations 1995
Being a landlord is like any other profiteering business, which means any profit made is subject to taxation.
Generally speaking, this can work in two ways…
- If you’re not operating your properties through a limited company, you’ll need to file a Self Assessment tax return form for each tax year. The standard income tax rules and price brackets will apply.
- If you are operating through a Limited company (because it can be more tax efficient), then your company will be subject to business taxation rules.
Needless to say, it’s always best to discuss your finances with a specialist tax accountant.
More information on Landlord tax
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
Landlords must provide an Energy Performance Certificate to all new and prospective tenants during the viewing, or at least before the tenancy agreement is signed.
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. Essentially, the report shows the energy efficiency levels of a property, so tenants can assess how much they will need to spend on utility bills e.g. heating.
A certificate is valid for 10 years, and then property needs to be reassessed again and issued with a new and valid certificate.
Since April 1st 2018 it has been a legal requirement for landlords to ensure their rental properties in England & Wales have a minimum EPC rating of ‘E for new tenancies and renewals.
As of 1st April 2020, all existing tenancies must have a minimum EPC rating of ‘E, not just new ones or renewals.
More information on Energy Performance Certificates
Minimise Risks of Legionella
This is a bit of an odd one. It’s fairly new, and probably the most unknown and neglected legal requirement.
The person responsible for managing the property, whether it be the Landlord or letting agent, is responsible for combating Legionnaires Disease.
Health and safety legislation requires that risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria which cause Legionnaires’ disease are taken. The assessments must identify and assess potential sources of exposure, and steps taken to prevent/control any risk that is identified.
Anyone can be appointed to assess/monitor Legionella as long as they have the relevant skills to implement the control measures and strategies i.e. they are suitably informed, instructed, trained and assessed. There must be evidence to show that the risk assessment has taken place, and records showing what precautions were taken.
Here’s a more detailed article on the Landlord Legionella Legislation
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
GDPR came into effect on the 25th May 2018, and it applies to ALL landlords.
In laymen’s terms, GDPR is a new set of rules designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data.
Essentially, as landlords, we need to process and control our tenants information in a transparent fashion, which includes explaining:
- What personal information we collect.
- Why we need their personal information.
- How we might use their personal information (including who the information might be shared with), and ensuring we only use it in that way (unless there are overriding legal precedence requiring the information).
- How long their personal information is retained for.
Here’s a more detailed article on Landlords and GDPR
Information Commissioners Office
Under the Data Protection Act individuals and organisations that process personal information need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Basically, if you store, use or delete personal information of your tenant(s) (e.g. name, email, telephone, address etc.) on any electrical device (i.e. computer, phone or tablet) – which is almost all landlords in the 20th century- then you should be registered with the ICO. You can register here.
Registration currently costs £35-40 per year (depending on payment method).
There are a few exemptions, but it most likely won’t apply to you. If you want to double check, you can use this tool on the ICO website that will help you determine whether you not to register or not.
On a sidenote, from my experience 1) most landlords aren’t aware of this requirement so aren’t registered 2) many of those that are aware of the ICO don’t think it’s even necessary for landlords to register – there’s a bit of an ongoing debate among landlords on the issue.
One thing is for sure, I’ve yet to hear of a case where a landlord has been prosecuted for failing to registered. But that’s not to say it’s NOT required.
Make of that what you will, I’m “just saying” :)
I discuss ICO landlord registration in more detail over in my GDPR blog post (it’s all related).
Deregulation Act 2015
I want to end this section on a quick note, which isn’t really a legal obligation, but more so a consequence of not complying with some of requirements above.
Providing that you abide by all the applicable requirements listed on this page, you should already be complying with the requirements of the ‘Deregulation Act 2015‘. The Act was introduced in October 2015 to protect tenants from unfair eviction and to ensure landlords have complied with certain legal responsibilities.
To comply with the Deregulation Act 2015, landlords must have:
- secured tenant’s deposit with in 30 days
- served tenants with additional information relating to deposit being secured (Prescribed Information) within 30 days of receiving the deposit.
- supplied tenant with a valid Gas Safety Certificate before the tenants occupy the premises.
- supplied tenant with an up-to-date copy of the “How to rent” guide at the beginning of the tenancy.
- supplied tenant with copy of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) during the viewing or at the beginning of a tenancy (preferably during the viewing).
As said, I have already discussed everything mentioned in that list, but just so you know, if you fail to comply with the above, it may impede on your ability to serve a valid section 21 notice, which means you may not be able to repossess your property unless you have grounds for eviction e.g. if your tenant falls into arrears.
In laymen’s terms, that means, you may be stuck with tenants unless they give you a valid reason to evict them, or until they wish to leave.
For Rentals in England Only
In addition to everything listed above, Landlords in England are also expected to oblige to the following regulations…
‘Right to Rent’ immigration checks
Under Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, Landlords in England should not authorise an adult to occupy property as their only or main home under a residential tenancy agreement unless the adult is a British citizen, or EEA or Swiss national, or has a “right to rent” in the UK.
You can use this tool provided by the GOV to check if the legislation currently applies to you.
Essentially, the landlord is required to check for proof of ID and citizenship. More details can be found on the landlord ‘Right to rent’ guide, including how to fully comply.
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
Landlords in England are required, from 1 October 2015, to:
- have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their rental property which is used as living accommodation, and
- have a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel appliances are contained. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm booklet provided by the Government defines that as appliances that are powered using a type of solid fuel, such as coal, wood etc.
- check that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy (this part only applies to “new” tenancies that start on and after the 1st of October 2015).
More information can be found on the Landlord Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulation page, along with a useful free downloadable release form.
Tenant Fees Act 2019
On the of 1st June 2019 the “Tenant Fees Act 2019” came into force, which is a legislation that focuses on banning and restricting letting agents and private landlords (in England only) from charging tenants with certain fees, which includes referencing fees, oversized deposits and end of tenancy cleaning services.
In short, if your tenancy (in England) started on or after 1st of June 2019, you are only permitted to charge tenants the following “Permitted Payments” as set out by the Act:
- Tenancy deposit (capped at five weeks’ rent if rent is less than £50k per year, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50k or above).
- Holding deposit (capped at one week’s rent)
- Payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant (capped at £50).
- Payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant.
- Payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax.
- A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device, where required under a tenancy agreement.
If you charge your tenants with anything other than what is listed above, such as ‘referencing fees’, ‘inventory costs’, or costs associated with ‘professional end of tenancy cleaning’ services, then you’ve most likely unlawfully charged your tenants with a “Prohibited Payment”, which is punishable by hefty fines, starting from £5,000.
For more details, refer to the “Tenant Fees Act 2019” blog post.
“How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England” Guide
Landlords should provide their tenants with a document titled “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England”, as published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, at the beginning of new tenancies that start on or after October 2015 in England only.
It’s important to note that the guide will get updated over time, so you need to provide your tenants with the most up to date version at the time the tenancy begins. If a ‘new’ tenancy agreement is granted with the same tenants and a new version of the guide has been released, you should supply a copy of the latest version.
Serving the booklet isn’t a legal requirement, however, it is part of the ‘Deregulation Act 2015’ (more on that below), and failing to comply can impede on your ability to repossess your property.
You can either email your tenants a copy or provide them with a hard copy (i.e. provide them with a printed version).
Official UK Gov Websites on Landlords & Renting
- England: Gov.uk
- Wales: Rent Smart Wales
- Scotland: MyGov.scot
- Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Housing Executive
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger; I'm not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information I share is my opinion based on my personal experiences as an active landlord, and should never be construed as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.