Whether you've deliberately made the decision to invest in buy-to-let property or you're one of the country's rising number of 'accidental landlords' and you've found yourself in a position where you need to rent out a home, you must understand your responsibilities before you welcome your first tenants.

There are a lot of rules in place that apply to landlords, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed at first. However, as long as you do your research, you shouldn't find it a problem to meet your obligations and remain on the right side of the law. Here are some of the responsibilities you'll have when you become a landlord to get you started.

Ensuring your property is safe

One of your most fundamental obligations is to ensure your rental properties are safe for people to live in. This includes ensuring all of your electrical and gas equipment is safely installed, regularly checked and properly maintained. You also have to provide a smoke alarm on each floor of your property and a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with useable woodburners or fireplaces. In addition, any furnishings you provide have to be fire-safe, and there must always be access to escape routes in the event of a fire.

If an emergency arises that makes your property unsafe or insecure while tenants live in it, you must resolve the problem and pay for any repairs. Whether your doors or windows are damaged, there's a problem with your cooking equipment or plumbing, or another issue that could pose a risk to your tenants' health and safety, you have a responsibility to act. It's worth noting that there's specialist insurance available to cover the cost of any such repairs. Our Landlord Emergency Assistance covers up to £500 for each incident, and it's included as standard with our Landlord Contents Insurance for Furnished Properties and our Landlord Buildings Insurance.

Providing an energy performance certificate

Before you market your property to prospective tenants, you must provide an energy performance certificate (EPC). In Scotland, you must also display it in the property (for example, next to the boiler or in the meter cupboard). EPCs contain information on the typical energy costs and energy use in a property and they give recommendations on how energy consumption can be reduced. The documents are valid for ten years and give properties an efficiency rating from A (the most efficient) to G. To get an EPC, you'll need to contact an accredited assessor.

Protecting your tenants' deposits

When you get a deposit from your tenants, you must place it in a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme. This rule applies to all assured shorthold tenancies that started after 6 April 2007.

In England and Wales, the TDP schemes are Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and Tenancy Deposit Scheme. They are Letting Protection Service Scotland, Safedeposits Scotland and Tenancy Deposit Scheme in Scotland.

Backed by the Government, these schemes ensure tenants get their deposits returned to them as long as they meet the terms of their tenancy agreements, pay their rent and don't damage properties. You, or your letting agent, must put the money your tenant provides as a deposit into one of these schemes within 30 days of receiving it. At the end of a tenancy, you have to pay the money back within ten days of agreeing on the sum to be returned. These rules don't apply to holding deposits provided by future tenants to hold a property before an official agreement is made. They only take effect once contracts have been signed.

Checking tenants' right to rent

If you're renting out a property in England, you must check the tenants' right to rent. This involves determining whether people can rent residential property in England legally. To abide by the law, you must make suitable checks on all tenants and occupiers aged 18 or over, even if they aren't named on your tenancy agreement. You must assess each new tenant, not just those you suspect may not be British citizens.

You're required to check original documents allowing tenants to live in the UK, ensuring this paperwork is genuine and doesn't show signs of being changed. You must also make copies of the documents and note the date you conducted the checks. If you don't follow these rules and accept a tenant who doesn't have permission to rent property in England, you risk being fined up to £3,000.

Understanding your rights of entry

As a landlord, you can't simply walk into your rental properties as and when you wish. There are strict rules governing access. However, you can enter the property under certain conditions. For example, you have a right of reasonable access if you need to conduct repairs. What 'reasonable access' means will depend on the nature of the repairs. If there's an emergency, you may be entitled to enter immediately to carry out work. You also have a right of entry to inspect the state of repair of your property or, if you have one, to empty a fuel slot meter. To comply with the law, you have to give your tenants a minimum of 24 hours notice before you do this. Most tenancy agreements also stipulate that visits must be made at 'reasonable' times so that tenants can be in if they wish to be.

If you have an agreement with your tenant that you'll provide a room-cleaning service, you don't need permission before entering the property.

This isn't an exhaustive list of your responsibilities as a landlord, but it does cover some of the basics and should give you a better idea of what to expect. If you'd like further information and insights, take a look around our website. You might also be interested in our tenant referencing service and the range of landlords insurance products we offer. Making sure you find the right people to rent your property and taking out suitable financial protection can help ensure your experiences as a landlord are positive.

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