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, for whatever reason, you need to rent out a home, it’s crucial that you 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.
To get you started, here are some of the responsibilities you’ll have when you become a landlord.
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 making sure 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, in rooms with useable woodburners or fireplaces, a carbon monoxide alarm. 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 which makes your property unsafe or insecure while tenants are living 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 arises that could pose a risk to your tenants’ health and safety, you’ve 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’re required to provide an energy performance certificate (EPC). If you’re based in Scotland, you must also display this document 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, which are valid for 10 years, give properties an efficiency rating from A (the most efficient) down 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
● Tenancy Deposit Scheme
In Scotland, they are:
● Letting Protection Service Scotland
● Safedeposits Scotland
● My|deposits 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 10 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 have an obligation to check tenants’ right to rent. This involves determining whether people are legally allowed to rent residential property in England. 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 have to assess each new tenant, not just those you suspect may not be British citizens.
You’re required to check original documents that allow tenants to live in the UK, making sure this paperwork is genuine and doesn’t show signs of having been 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 you 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 these properties if certain conditions are met. 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 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.