Part of being a landlord includes complying with legislation, which limits what you can and can’t do. In this article, we look at what landlords can, should, and cannot do and some common mistakes landlords make when managing their portfolios.
- What laws shape how a landlord should run their rentals?
- What do landlords legally have to do?
- Things landlords should avoid doing
A number of laws in the UK shape a landlord’s responsibilities to their tenants. These laws are designed to protect tenants’ rights and ensure a safe and habitable living environment. Some of the key laws and regulations that landlords must comply with include:
- The Housing Act 2004. This is the main legislation governing the private rented sector in England and Wales. It sets out minimum standards for housing conditions, including requirements for fire safety, heating, ventilation, and elimination of hazards such as dampness and mould.
- The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. This Act came into force in 2019 and amends the Housing Act 2004. It clarifies the law on what constitutes a “fit for human habitation” property and gives tenants new rights to take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain their properties appropriately.
- The Tenant Fees Act 2019. This Act came into force in 2020 and restricts the fees that landlords and letting agents can charge tenants. It prohibits charging tenants for things like credit checks, tenant referencing, and tenancy agreements.
- The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Regulations 2012. These regulations require all landlords to have an EPC for their property and to provide it to potential tenants before they move in. The EPC provides an energy efficiency rating for the property, which can help tenants make informed decisions about their rental choices.
- The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020. These regulations require landlords to ensure that all electrical installations in their properties are safe and maintained by a qualified electrician.
- The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. These regulations require landlords to ensure that all gas appliances and installations are safe and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Some laws apply specifically to the rented sector in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. These are:
- Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. This legislation applies to properties in Wales and governs the rental market, including standardising tenancy agreements and clarifying the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants.
- Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. This covers many aspects of the private rental sector, including HMOs, the regulation of letting agents, tenancy deposit schemes, and rent repayment orders.
- Private Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. This order provides the legal framework for private tenancies in Northern Ireland. It includes provisions related to the creation and termination of tenancies, the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, and resolving disputes.
At the time of writing, the Renters Reform Bill is progressing through parliament. This legislation seeks to put an end to ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions, abolish fixed-term tenancies, create a national landlord register, limit how often landlords can raise rent and ensure properties meet the Decent Homes Standard. You can learn more about the proposed reforms here.
Given the large amount of legislation applying to the rental market, it’s difficult to provide a definitive list of what landlords legally must do. However, as a landlord some of the key things you need to do include the following:
- Provide a written tenancy agreement. You should provide a written tenancy agreement outlining the tenancy terms and conditions. Most commonly, this is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement.
- Protect tenants’ deposits. You must protect the tenant’s deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receipt and provide the tenant with prescribed information on the scheme.
- Ensure the property is fit for habitation. You must ensure the property is fit for human habitation at the beginning and throughout the tenancy. This particularly includes addressing any hazards that could affect the health and safety of tenants.
- Conduct gas safety checks. You are legally obliged to arrange annual gas safety checks by a Gas Safe registered engineer for all gas appliances and flues in the property.
- Provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). You must provide tenants with an EPC at the start of the tenancy. This gives them information about the energy efficiency of the property.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. You must install smoke alarms on each floor of the property and carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with solid fuel appliances.
- Maintain electrical safety. You must ensure that electrical installations in the property are safe. In England, landlords must have an electrical installation condition report (EICR) conducted by a qualified electrician at least every five years.
- Provide notice before accessing a property. Landlords must give at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property for inspections or repairs, and they should respect tenants’ privacy rights.
- Comply with local licensing requirements. Some areas may require landlords to obtain a license for certain types of properties, such as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) or homes in specific areas. You should check with your local authority for any specific licensing requirements.
- Follow proper eviction procedures. If you need to regain possession of a property, you must follow the proper eviction procedures. Read our article on evicting tenants for more information.
While your legal responsibilities give you a broad idea of what you should do, there are also things landlords shouldn’t do, some of which are illegal. In particular, you should avoid doing the following:
- Ignoring repairs and maintenance. Doing this not only inconveniences tenants but can lower the value of your property. You’re also legally obliged to repair certain things, such as gas appliances and heating and hot water systems, and provide a safe living environment.
- Entering the property without proper notice. You must not enter the property without giving at least 24 hours’ notice and gaining the tenants’ permission. Not doing so could be deemed landlord harassment. The only exception is if there’s an emergency, such as a fire or gas leak. See our guide to landlord access rights for more details.
- Invading privacy. Tenants have a right to privacy and ‘quiet enjoyment of a property’, so you should avoid contacting them and visiting too frequently unless necessary.
- Taking retaliatory actions. You must avoid taking any retaliatory actions against tenants. Even if a tenant damages the property or stops paying rent, you should always deal with these problems in accordance with the law.
- Not supplying the right documents. There are various documents you must give tenants. If you don’t do so, it can make it more difficult to evict a tenant further down the line. Documents you must provide include details of the deposit protection scheme you use, an Energy Performance Certificate and the latest How to Rent guide (or Tenant Information Pack in Scotland).
- Not conducting Right to Rent checks. You must check if any tenant has the legal right to rent a property in England (this doesn’t apply in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland).
- Not communicating efficiently. You should make it easy for tenants to get in touch with you and you should deal with any issues they raise promptly. If you use a letting agency, ensure they communicate with your tenants.
- Not creating an inventory. If you don’t create a thorough inventory for your rental property when a tenant moves in, it can lead to disputes over the deposit at the end of the tenancy. If you have written and photographic evidence of the property’s condition and contents, disagreements can be settled quicker.
- Not paying the right taxes. There are laws governing what tax you pay on rental income. Not paying the right taxes can lead to large bills and penalties. For help on getting your taxes right, see our landlord tax guide.
- Failing to undertake tenant referencing. It’s wise to undertake tenant referencing before agreeing to a tenancy. It increases your chance of finding good tenants who keep up with the rent. Failing to do it can also invalidate any rent guarantee insurance policy you may have.
As we’ve seen, renting out property is governed by legislation determining what you must and mustn’t do as a landlord. There are also many common-sense things you shouldn’t do if you want to maintain a good relationship with your tenants. Fostering good relationships with your tenants helps increase the likelihood you’ll have decent tenants who respect your property and pay their rent on time.
Complying with the law as a landlord is essential and can help avoid unnecessary legal problems and associated legal expenses. It’s also important to protect your investment with tailored landlord building insurance. Of all the costs of being a landlord, suitable insurance gives you peace of mind your portfolio is protected.
Alan Boswell Group is an award-winning provider of landlord insurance products. If you’d like to learn how our dedicated experts can help you protect your rental properties and income, visit our landlord advice hub or call 01603 216399 today.