Whether you have made a business investment in a buy to let property or become what might be called “accidental” landlords, from the moment you take on this role, you also assume important responsibilities and obligations – the majority of which are enforced by a variety of authorities as a matter of law.
Compliance with those obligations is not just a question of staying the right side of the law, but may also affect the validity of the landlord insurance you have put into place to protect both the property itself and the business it represents.
So just what those principal responsibilities and obligations?
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
The importance of section 11 of this law is underlined by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and enforces an implied term of any tenancy agreement. This relates to your obligation for maintaining the let property in a good state of repair – an obligation which cannot be negated or overruled by anything expressed in your tenancy agreement with your tenants:
Gas installation and appliances
- as part of your obligations for ensuring that tenants are safely housed, the law requires that you arrange a safety inspection of the gas supply and appliances in the let property every year;
- this needs to be conducted by a qualified Gas Safe engineer and a copy of his report made available to existing tenants and to new tenants as soon as they move in;
Electrical installation and appliance
- although the requirement for annual inspections does not extend to the electrical supply and its connected appliances, you nevertheless have an obligation for ensuring that they remain safe for tenants to use;
- to help give you, your tenants and the local authority that safety standards are maintained, the Residential Landlord Association (RLA) recommends an inspection at least once every five years;
- the above applies to England and Wales only – in Scotland you are legally bound to have five yearly electrical checks at the very least, with checks every time a new tenant arrives;
- your obligation to comply with all national and local fire safety regulations has been extended, with effect from 2016, by the need to install smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors in your let property;
How to Rent guide
- at the beginning of any tenancy, you must provide each tenant with a copy of a document entitled How to Rent and published by the Department for Communities and Local Government;
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- an EPC rates your property according to its energy efficiency – much as the sticky label you find on any fridge or other electrical kitchen appliance.
- a copy of this must be provided to your tenants when they move in;
- it is customary for landlords to require the payment by tenants of a deposit to cover possible breakages and damage caused during the tenancy;
- it is your responsibility to ensure that any such deposit you have accepted from a tenant is held for safe keeping by an approved, independent third party;
Right to Rent
- you are also responsible for checking the documents of any tenant and their household to establish that their immigration status gives them the right to remain in the UK and, therefore, to be able to rent and occupy accommodation.
The list of landlords responsibilities and obligations is already quite long – keeping on top of them will ensure your buy to let business runs as smoothly as possible.