If you are considering renting out a property it is better to avoid any pitfalls right from the start than to find yourself in hot water later.
We can ensure that you comply with your landlord responsibilities right from the beginning and that you don’t have any problems later.
As a landlord we would advise you to:-
- Always have a tenancy agreement, detailing the terms upon which you have agreed to rent out your property;
- Ensure you are aware of your responsibilities as a Landlord before you rent out your property;
- Make certain all safety responsibilities are complied with;
- Ensure health & safety inspections are properly carried out; and
- Be sure that you are aware of and meet your financial responsibilities regarding income.
- Keep your rented property safe and free from health hazards;
- Make sure all gas and electrical equipment is safely installed and maintained;
- Provide an energy performance certificate for the property;
- Protect your client’s deposit in a government approved scheme; and
- Check your tenant has the right to rent your property if it’s in England
The Tenancy Agreement
The Tenancy agreement should include:-
- The names of all parties involved;
- The rental price and how it’s paid;
- Information on how and when the rent will be reviewed;
- The deposit amount and how it will be protected;
- When the deposit can be fully or partly withheld, for example to repair damage caused by tenants;
- The full property address;
- The start and end date of the tenancy;
- Any tenant or landlord obligations;
- Which bills your tenant are responsible for; and
- It can also include information on:
- Whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done;
- Who is responsible for minor repairs (other than those the landlord is legally responsible for); and
- Whether the property can be let to someone else (sub-let or have lodgers).
It is the Landlord’s responsibility to:-
- Fit and test the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms; and
- Follow fire safety regulations for property in a purpose built block of flats or for houses and property adapted into flats.
Health and Safety Inspections
The housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) is used by your council to make sure that properties in it’s area are safe for the people who live there. This involves inspecting your property for possible hazards.
If you rent out a property, the council may decide to do an HHSRS inspection because:-
- Your tenants have asked for an inspection; or
- The council have done a survey of local properties and thinks your property might be hazardous.
HHSRS Hazard Ratings
Inspectors look at 29 health and safety areas and score each hazard they find as category 1 or 2 according to seriousness.
You must take action on enforcement notices from your council. You also have the right to appeal enforcement notices.
The council can do any of the following if they find a serious hazard:-
- Issue an improvement notice;
- Fix the hazard themselves and bill you for the cost; or
- Stop you or anyone else from using part or all of the property.
You will have to pay:-
- Income tax on your rental income, minus your day to day running expenses;
- Class 2 National Insurance if the work you do renting the property counts as running a business; and
- If you have a mortgage on the property you want to rent out, you must get permission from your mortgage lender.
There are special rules for changing rents and terms for regulated tenancies.
Once you’ve let your property you still have ongoing responsibilities to your tenant and legal obligations you have to meet. Here at Law for Landlords we can provide you with the latest, most up-to-date legal advice and assistance with managing these responsibilities thus safeguarding your position and that of your tenants. Housing law can change quickly when Acts of Parliament become law and as case law is formulated, so keeping up to date is essential.
It is also important to keep accurate and up-to-date records of any inspections, work done and maintenance to the property, especially regarding works such as gas & electrical inspections and maintenance. Failure to keep proper records could, in the event of a serious incident, leave you in a vulnerable position. We can advise you in this regard.
As a rule you must allow your Tenants to live in the property without unnecessary interference, however you still have a right to ensure it is being well maintained.
As a Landlord you should give your tenant reasonable notice and arrange a suitable time if you need to visit for inspection or repair. The Tenancy agreement should ideally set out the amount of notice you have to give. If it doesn’t then “reasonable notice” must be provided.
You must protect any deposit received from your tenant within an authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme within 30 days of receipt. You have to confirm certain information with your tenant such as the address of the property, the size of their deposit, the identity of the deposit protection scheme as well as letting them have details of how to get their deposit back at the end of the tenancy and what to do if there is a dispute.
If you fail to protect the deposit you will be unable to take steps to evict your tenant. In addition the court can make you repay a sum to your tenant a sum equal to 3 times the original deposit.
Provision of Address
The law says you must ensure that you have given your tenant an address where notices can be served. Failure to do this means that any rent or service charge is not legally due. The address can be yours as the landlord or the address of an agent.
The law also stipulates that any demand for rent or other sums payable to you as landlord must contain your address, if does not contain your address the demand or notice is not valid. The address of an agent is not sufficient.
Energy Performance Certificates
An EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) is a document containing information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs plus recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money. The EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).
For any letting after 01/10/2008 you as landlord, have an obligation to provide any tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Once obtained a certificate remains valid for 10 years.
Failure to provide an EPC can lead to prosecution by trading standards and a fine. In England, from October 2015, if you do not have a valid EPC, you will effectively be unable to legally terminate a tenancy on the basis of a Section 21 notice.
Repairs to the Property
As a Landlord, you are generally responsible under law for repairs to the exterior or structure of a property. This includes any problems with the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains. You are also responsible for keeping the equipment for supplying water, gas and electricity in safe working order.
Tenants should be always be given an emergency contact number to report any repairs that are necessary. You should also ensure advice is given to your tenants on how to turn off water, gas, electric services – e.g. the location of meters and stopcocks.
Your tenancy agreement should specify what repairs your tenants are responsible for – generally they are only responsible for minor repairs and maintenance, such as internal decoration and changing plugs and light bulbs.
Access for repairs
You may need to enter the property to inspect it or for repairs however you are not entitled to enter the property without the tenant’s permission.
The tenant must allow you the landlord to enter the property to carry out repairs. You must give the tenant reasonable notice of your wish to enter the property.
Any repairs should be carried out at a reasonable time and the tenant must also be given reasonable notice, of your intention to enter the property to carry out repairs.
If there are emergency repairs required you are entitled to immediate access. If a tenant refuses to allow to let you enter, then you will have to obtain a court order to enter the property.
If repairs are substantial, you may need the tenant to move out of the property in order to carry out repair work. In this case you should offer the tenant alternative accommodation. If the tenant is unwilling to move you can apply to the court to repossess the property.
The Gas Safety Regulations deal with landlords’ duties to make sure gas appliances, fittings and flues provided for tenants are safe.
If you let a property equipped with gas appliances you have three main responsibilities.
- Maintenance: pipe work, appliances and flues must be maintained in a safe condition. Gas appliances should be serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If these are not available it is recommended that they are serviced annually unless advised otherwise by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
- Gas safety checks: a 12 monthly gas safety check must be carried out on every gas appliance/flue. A gas safety check will make sure gas fittings and appliances are safe to use. All installation, maintenance and safety checks need to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer; and a record of the annual gas safety check should have been provided before the commencement of the tenancy. Following a new check a copy must be provided to your tenant within 28 days of the check being completed. You as Landlord must keep copies of the gas safety record for two years.
It is your responsibility as landlord to ensure that all electrical installations such as electrical sockets, light switches etc. and any appliances provided by you are safe when the tenancy begins and are in proper working order throughout the tenancy. At the start of the tenancy and throughout both must be free of risk of injury to tenants and residents. The local authority can take action to enforce electrical safety in residential accommodation under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
If you provide any plug-in appliances (for example, washing machine, freezer, tumble dryer, kettle, microwave etc.) as part of the tenancy agreement/let you must ensure that these devices are safe to use. They should be inspected and tested periodically in accordance with IEE guidlines by a qualified PAT testing engineer who will provide you with a schedule of all items tested. This schedule will also include details of each individual item, whether it has passed the test or not and what the electrical measurements were. Each device tested should be labelled ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ depending on the outcome of that particular test (failed items should be taken out of use immediately) and should also carry the date of the test, the device ID, the name of the company or engineer who carried out the test, the tester’s initials and the date the next periodic test is due.
Ending a Tenancy
You will usually be required to obtain an Order for Possession before you can ask your Tenant to leave. There are different ways of doing this depending on why you want to ask the Tenant to leave, but you must follow the correct legal procedure or your Tenant may be able to challenge the process and even get the Order for Possession set aside. If you do not follow the correct procedure you could potentially be accused of harassing the Tenant. If you force them to leave without obtaining an Order for Possession you could be committing a criminal offence. You may then have to reinstate them and allow them to remain in the property until you go through the correct procedure. You may also have to pay them compensation in some circumstances. We can guide you through the whole process from start to finish by identifying the correct grounds for Possession, preparing and serving the Notice Seeking Possession and associated documents for you. We can then take the matter to Court if necessary. Don’t take the risk. Allow our team of experts to conduct the litigation on your behalf, obtain an Order for Costs to cover your legal action, and obtain the best outcome for you for a very competitive price.
The Eviction Process
Don’t assume your Tenant will simply leave the property once you have your Order for Possession. If they have applied to the local authority to be rehoused, then it is not in their interests to leave before you obtain a Warrant for Eviction as this will go against them in their housing application. If they fail to move out, the Eviction process follows on from your successful application to Court for an Order for Possession. The usual procedure is to apply for a Warrant of Eviction. We can instruct Bailiffs to carry out the Eviction on your behalf, and apply to the Court to recoup the costs of doing so from your Tenant.
Inspecting & Assessing the Property
Some Tenants may unfortunately leave a considerable mess behind them and may have also caused a lot of damage which will need to be remedied at a cost to you before you can re-let the property. In cases like this we can help to prepare a Schedule of Damages to serve on your former tenant. You have to make reasonable allowances for fair wear and tear however, and you must not be in a position of “betterment” whereby you are unjustly enriched in reclaiming the cost of damage to the property. The Schedule of Damages will need to accurately reflect the actual loss you have suffered, and we will ensure you comply with this requirement. If the former Tenant refuses to pay, we can then assist you with issuing a Claim for Damages against them in the County Court or High Court, including an application for costs against the Tenant. We can also assist you with enforcing any money judgment obtained against them.
Recovering Unpaid Rent
Sometimes a Tenant will leave owing you substantial sums of rent. We can ensure that a claim for unpaid rent is included in the Possession proceedings. If the Tenant has already left and there is unpaid rent, we can advise you on appropriate recovery action, and how to navigate the fine line between what is considered acceptable debt recovery and unlawful harassment of a debtor. We have years of expertise in this area of law, and can ensure you effectively recover what is owed to you whilst staying within the confines of the law.
Return of Tenancy Deposits
We are happy to advise you in detail on the rules covering the protection and return of Tenancy deposits. When a Tenancy ends, some Landlords mistakenly believe they have automatic rights over the Tenancy Deposit when their Tenant has not behaved in what they consider to be an acceptable manner. However there are processes that need to be followed. We can advise you on how and when you should return the Tenancy Deposit, and how and when it is appropriate to enter into Mediation if there is a dispute.
Disputes with Former Tenants
You may have a dispute with your former Tenant over some issue which has arisen during the course of the tenancy, or at the end of the tenancy. Your Tenant may claim that there are outstanding disrepair issues you have failed to deal with, for example. We can advise you on how to deal with any disputes which may have arisen, and on the correct action to take to ensure you stay within the law and obtain an effective outcome.
Dealing with Tenant Abandonment
There could be occasions when it may appear that a Tenant has left the property without notice and in these situations they often leave behind some of their personal possessions. Landlords then decide to clear the property of the former Tenant’s possessions and re-let the property to new Tenants genuinely believing that their former Tenant has left for good. This can be a legal minefield as very often the former Tenant will claim that they have not actually left the property, but have been away on business, in hospital, or on holiday. In these cases you may find yourself being sued for damages under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as you have not followed the correct procedure to evict them from the property. Don’t take the risk; let us advise you and carry out the necessary procedures to ensure the Tenancy has ended, in accordance with the required legal process. You can then safely re-let the property in the secure knowledge that you have taken all reasonable steps to safeguard the rights of your former Tenant, thereby avoiding the possibility of any future issues.