Whether you are looking to invest in your first rental property, looking to let a property that you have inherited or looking to rent out your current home, rental legislation can be a minefield for new landlords.
Many first-time landlords are unaware of exactly what has to be done as a matter of law and it is in this respect that the advice of a professional letting agent can be invaluable.
Initially, (and perhaps most importantly) you need to ensure that you have permission to let the property. Leaseholders, mortgage providers and joint owners will all have to give their consent in order to allow you to let the property. We were once approached by a prospective landlord who was looking to invest in a two-bedroom flat that was available at a very appealing price and had the potential to achieve a healthy rental income. We were confused why the property had been on the market for so long and after contacting the sales agent we established that the flat had a covenant which meant that it couldn’t be let!
Secondly, you will need to tell the insurance provider that the property is going to be let. It is advisable to have a specific landlord policy in place. If you do not inform your insurer it may be that they won’t pay out if you ever do need to claim.
You should prepare / budget for the documentation and compliance certificates that will be required. It is a legal requirement to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) in place when marketing a property and a Gas Safety Record is also required by law for all properties with a gas supply. It is also strongly recommended that an electrical certificate is carried out and we expect that these will also become a legal requirement very soon!
Legally, landlords are required to ensure that there is a valid, working smoke alarm on each floor of their property and a carbon monoxide alarm where solid fuel is being burned. Again, it is best practice to install a carbon monoxide alarm for boilers and gas appliances. Of course, usable chimneys should also be swept by a HETAS approved sweep.
You also need to be aware that any deposit paid by a tenant must be registered with a government scheme - if you are using a letting agent this will usually be taken care of for you.
It is advisable to have a Legionella Risk Assessment carried out by a competent person prior to the commencement of any tenancy. Whilst the risk can be assumed to be small, if Legionella is found to be the cause of illness or worse, the death or your tenant, you as the landlord will be held responsible if you have not had this assessment carried out.
The law isn’t black and white in terms of a landlord’s overall responsibilities. Introduced in 2004, the underlying principle of The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is that ‘any residential property should provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupier of visitor.’ Essentially a landlord has to supply accommodation that is fit for habitation. Landlords are responsible for not only maintaining the structure and exterior of a property but also the supply of water, gas and electricity, sanitary facilities, heating, hot water, food preparation areas and ventilation. The HHSRS is governed by the local authority and whilst the above provides a summary of a landlord’s responsibilities we would recommend reviewing the gov.uk website for further information.
If you would like further advice on your responsibilities when becoming a landlord then please contact our lettings team on 01530 271313.