If you’re considering buying property to let, then it’s important that you’re up-to-date on the latest rental legislation. Overall, the legislation is designed to keep tenants physically and financially safe. It’s constantly being updated, with new rules and responsibilities coming into play almost yearly. In this guide, we’ll discuss both older and newer legislation, detailing what it means for you as a landlord.
The primary concern for landlords and tenants is safety – tenants must be safe in their home, and it’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure official safety standards are met.
Under the Gas Safety Regulations 1998, the landlord is responsible for ensuring that a property’s gas pipes and appliances, such as boilers and ovens, are safe to use. It goes without saying that poor-quality gas fixtures can be a serious hazard for tenants. They must be inspected by a Gas Safe registered engineer every 12 months or when new tenants move in, and a record of the assessment is kept in a Gas Safety Record (GSR). As a landlord, you’re legally required to provide tenants with a copy of this GSR, and records must be kept for at least six years.
Furniture and furnishings
The Furniture and Furnishings Regulations 1993 dictate that landlords must ensure that all furniture is fire resistant. Furniture, including beds, sofas, mattresses, cushions, and garden furniture, need the appropriate ‘fire resistant’ labelling. The risk of fire from uncertified furniture is remarkably high, whether the tenants are smokers or not, and failing to meet these standards can have serious consequences.
Since faulty electrics are one of the leading causes of fires in the home, landlords are responsible for ensuring that all electrical appliances and wiring are fit for purpose under the Electrical Equipment Regulations 1994.
Failure to do so leaves a landlord accountable for any damage or harm that may occur as a result of substandard electrics. It’s recommended that landlords use a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) to regularly check that their property meets the requirements.
Legionella is a bacteria which causes Legionnaires’ disease, a disease with flu-like symptoms that can be fatal. Legionella bacteria are particularly common in water supplies and appliances, including pipework, water tanks, baths, and showers. The landlord, under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1989, must ensure that water systems are regularly checked for legionella and proper standards of cleanliness are maintained. Necessary action must be taken to minimise the risk of legionella developing.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
It’s an undeniable fact: smoke alarms save lives, reducing your risk of dying in a fire fourfold. The relatively new Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015 apply to properties in England only. Landlords must provide at least one smoke alarm for each storey of a property and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room where solid fuel is used, such as a wood-burning stove or coal fire.
On the first day of a new tenancy, all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms must be tested and be in working order. Failing to do so can result in fines of up to £5000.
Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
Sometimes known as “Fitness for Human Habitation”, this legislation allows local authorities to periodically check that rental properties are fit for human habitation and meet certain basic safety requirements. The checks that are done assess the likelihood of certain hazards or harm occurring and present the results in the form of a grading system from A to J. A grades being the safest, and J grades being the most at-risk.
If a rental property is found by local authorities to be substandard, they may take it upon themselves to remedy the problems and charge landlords for the work. It’s in both the landlords’ and tenants’ best interests that the HHSRS standards are adhered to.
The other vital factor in every landlord-tenant relationship is finance, and ensuring all parties’ best interests and rights are protected and in order.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
A Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), sometimes called Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP), securely holds a tenants’ deposits. It came into effect in 2007, before which landlords themselves would be able to hold onto the security deposits. A TDS is designed to protect tenants’ money in the event of a dispute with a landlord and ensures that the deposit is either returned to the tenant or transferred to the landlord at the end of the tenancy. Disputes are far more easy to handle when the money is held by a third party.
The landlord must transfer the deposit to a TDS within 30 days of receiving it.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPCs)
The Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations 2007 compels landlords to ensure their properties have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before letting them out. An EPC will give a property a rating from A to G based on how energy efficient it is. This is part of the wider initiative to reduce our Carbon Footprint as a society.
As of 2018, landlords are required to ensure their property meets the standards for an E grade, and as of April 2020, renting properties below an E grade is unlawful. Not only is this better for the environment, but it’s also better for tenants as it results in cheaper energy bills.
Houses in Multiple Occupation
A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property that’s rented out to tenants who aren’t a family group. As well as the aforementioned requirements, landlords must make sure that communal areas are maintained, washing and cooking equipment is supplied and functioning correctly, and that the property is not overcrowded. If the house you’re letting has five tenants or more, it’s classed as a “large HMO” and as a landlord, you must secure a licence from the local council.
How to Rent Guide
The How to Rent Guide, as its name suggests, offers information and guidance on actions to be taken before and during a tenancy. A landlord must provide their new tenants with a copy of this guide at the start of their tenancy. It helps to inform tenants of their rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the landlord, thus helping to resolve any issues that may arise.
Right to Rent checks
A Right to Rent check is essentially a background check for all prospective tenants that must be carried out before they are given a tenancy agreement. Landlords must ensure that their tenants are legally allowed to reside and rent in the UK by taking copies of official ID documentation for all potential occupants. Official documentation includes a passport, national identity card, residence permit, immigration status documents, and more. More information on Right to Rent checks can be found here.
Tenant Fees Act 2019
Arguably the most significant update to rental legislation in recent years is the Tenant Fees Act 2019. As of June 2019, tenancy fees were banned. Before this, landlords could charge their tenants for services including inventory, gathering references, making phone calls, postage, and other administrative tasks that take up the landlord’s time with regards to tenancy. This usually amounted to a cost of £200 to the average tenant. Now, depending on the estate agent a landlord uses, they may be expected to make up the cost of these fees themselves.
For further guidance on rental legislation, get in touch with us here at James Anderson today. We have years of experience in the property industry and would be happy to help with your rental enquiries.