Landlord responsibilities

If you are facing action as a result of allegations that you have not met your obligations to the tenants, call our team of residential landlord experts on 0175 321 6399 who can advise you regarding your defence and resolving any issues.

There are an increasing number of legal requirements imposed on residential landlords. In the last five years there have been a number of changes and additions to the responsibilities and legal obligations landlords face whether they have one property or multiple properties. A basic understanding of these factors is crucial to ensure that you do not face action against you and have penalties imposed.

You may think that by using a letting agent the responsibility is with them, this is not the case landlords can be responsible for the agent’s mistakes as well as for the property itself. Below are some of the important areas that you need to be aware of.

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Repair

There are various pieces of safety legislation relating to the repair of the property and as landlord it is your responsibility to ensure you comply with them. Landlords are responsible for repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating and hot water installations, basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations. The legal terminology is that they should be kept in “repair and proper working order.” Landlords are not obliged to effect improvements to the property. Nor are they expected to repair any of the items listed above in cases where the tenant has caused the damage or disrepair.

The landlord's obligations will only arise when he has received notification of the defect. If a landlord fails to carry out the repairs the landlord can be ordered by the courts to carry the repairs out, the tenant can claim for damages or the tenant could carry out the repairs and set the cost off against payable rent.

Health & safety - gas, electricity & fire

Regulations surrounding gas safety provide the requirements for the safe installation and maintenance of gas appliances, fittings, flues, metres, pipe-work, etc.

If you let a property, you must make sure that pipe work, appliances and flues provided for tenants are maintained in a safe condition. You need to have a gas safety check every year and a Gas Safe registered engineer must carry out the safety check. You must give your tenants a copy of the gas safety record within 28 days of it being carried out or before they move in.

You are also obliged to show your tenants how they can turn off the gas supply in the event of a gas leak.

In terms of electricity the law states that, all electrical appliances and installations, as well as all plugs, sockets and adaptors must be completely safe and adhere to electrical safety standards. The Regulations cover all mains voltage household electrical goods but do not include any fixed electrical wiring or built-in appliances such as central heating.

Although there is no statutory obligation on landlords or agents to have professional checks carried out on the electrical system or appliances, the Regulations state that the supply of electrical equipment must be safe. Failure to comply is a criminal offence and may result in: 

A fine of £5,000 per item not complying, Six month's imprisonment; and/or Possible manslaughter charges in the event of deaths. The Tenant may also sue you for civil damages and your property insurance may be invalidated.

Regulations concerning Fire outline that; all furniture supplied by the landlord must be fire resistant and meet fire safety standards.

The Regulations provide for levels of fire resistance for domestic upholstered furniture, furnishings and other products containing upholstery, including the measures to be taken to improve the fire safety of materials.

Where smoking in the property is permitted, Landlords must ensure that there are sufficient smoke alarms in all areas where smoking is permitted

If you break any of these health and safety regulations the Health and Safety Executive could investigate and prosecute.

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Obtaining possession

Many landlords still think that because they are the ‘owners’ of the property they can seek to remove tenants in their own chosen way, without realising that there are set procedures that have to be followed. Landlords are only entitled to bring court proceedings to evict tenants if they have served the proper possession notice first and waited until the notice period has expired. There are two types of notice: section 21 and section 8 which are set out in the respective sections of the Housing Act 1988. These notices are particular to the type of tenancy and details relating to it. Once the Notice has been served on the tenant, the landlord must wait until the Notice has expired. Should the tenant not have vacated the property, or otherwise rectified any applicable default, the landlord should apply to court for an order claiming possession.

Unlawful eviction

Landlords should be mindful of entering the property without a court order, even where you think the tenant has vacated. Unlawful eviction is a criminal offence and you could also be liable in the civil courts for a substantial order in damages and legal costs.

Deposits

Landlord need to be aware that they can no longer hold deposits independently. From April 2007 a mandatory system was introduced for all assured shorthold tenancy deposits. Landlord must select either a Custodial Scheme or Insurance scheme and pay deposits into this scheme within 14 days of the receipt of a deposit. If landlords do not follow this, they can face fines of up to three times the deposit value or the inability to serve a notice and remove a tenant. Both of these penalties can be extremely costly to the landlord so using one of the nominated deposit schemes is essential.

Insurance

Ensuring the building is covered by insurance is the homeowner's obligation. However, any personal possessions are the responsibility of the tenant so they should ensure a contents insurance policy is in place from the date they move in. 

Lettings agents advise landlords to check their homeowner's insurance policy. Most don’t cover damage by a tenant or any liability issues that arise in the event of an injury to an occupant whilst they are in the property. An additional policy may be required to ensure appropriate cover and this is worth looking into.

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