The law protects tenants and it is vital that landlords are aware of their legal obligations to tenants. In particular, there are special laws and procedures that govern health and safety and, in England, Wales and Scotland, that protect rental deposits.
In addition, when a tenant fails to pay rent on time or at all, certain steps and procedures should be followed. Landlords should not take the law into their own hands, irrespective of the circumstances; otherwise they may risk a fine or criminal conviction.
In England and Wales, landlords are obliged to place any deposit they receive for an assured shorthold tenancy up to the value of £100,000 per annum in a Government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme. There are 2 types of scheme: custodial and insurance-based schemes. For more information on a landlord's obligation in relation to deposits see:
In Scotland, landlords are required for all private residential tenancies to place deposits with one of three government-approved scheme providers.
Since 30 April 2006 under Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 all landlords of private-rented property in Scotland require to be registered. Failure to register as a landlord is a criminal offence
Registration can be done. A fee of £55 per local authority area in which a landlord owns property is charged plus £11 per additional property. 100% relief from these fees is available for charities. Registration needs to be renewed every 3 years.
Registration is not automatic and only those persons deemed 'fit and proper' may hold a registration. Convictions for violence, dishonesty or drugs can all be taken into account as may any convictions for breaches of housing legislation. A person who is not fit and proper cannot hold a registration and therefore cannot let private-rented property in Scotland.
There are limited exceptions such as agricultural tenancies, holiday lets and properties owned by religious organisations and let to a minister or preacher of those organisations.
Before the start of any new assured or short assured tenancy, landlords must give tenants a Tenant Information Pack, which is a standard document that has been prepared by the Scottish Government. The pack informs tenants about the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and the obligations on both sides during the tenancy. It confirms how a tenancy can be brought to an end and in what circumstances the tenant may be evicted. The wording of the pack cannot be amended but the landlord may provide other relevant information to a tenant if they wish. The pack is to be provided to the tenant free of charge and does not form part of the tenancy agreement.
The landlord should complete the Acknowledgement Form on the first page of the pack, which confirms the landlord's details, the property address and the type of tenancy being created. The form should also be signed by the tenant, unless the pack is sent or acknowledged by email. If there are multiple tenants, then the landlord need only provide them with one pack.
It's the landlord's responsibility to ensure the tenant receives a pack even if the landlord has instructed a letting agent. Failure to provide a pack is a criminal offence and a landlord can be fined up to £500.
Landlords are generally responsible for the maintenance of and major repairs to a property. This includes repairs to the structure and exterior of the property.
A property must be 'fit for habitation' (in Scotland it must be kept to the 'Repairing Standard'), so a landlord is obliged to make sure that water, electricity, gas supplies and sanitation (for example, drains, basins, sinks, baths and WCs) are in working order and that the property is free from any damp that could damage the health of the occupier. There are also further structural obligations upon a landlord.
If the property you let out does not satisfy these criteria and there is a health risk to your tenant, then he or she may be able to take legal action against you.
Gas appliances and installations that are supplied with your property should be maintained in good order and should receive an annual safety check by a professional registered with Gas Safe. A copy of each safety certificate should be issued to new tenants before they move in and again within 28 days of each annual check.
The Health and Safety Executive, with support from the National Landlords Association, has launched a one-stop-shop gas safety website for landlords to help them understand what they should be doing to keep tenants safe in any properties they let.
Clickfor the site.
The website also includes a link to the
For further information on gas safety see:
If you supply furniture or furnishings with the property, you must ensure that they meet the fire resistance requirements sometimes known as the 'match test' in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
Fire safety for any home is important, but if a property has multiple occupants, there are further precautions that should be taken since the risk of fire is greater. For example, considerations will need to be made in relation to the use of fire extinguishers, fire blankets, multiple fire alarms and multiple escape routes.
In Scotland there must be at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of a property. Smoke alarms installed after 3 September 2007 must be mains wired, including replacement alarms.
For more information on a landlord's obligation to take fire precautions see:
Electric appliances and installations that are supplied should be maintained in a good order and should be safe. There is no legal requirement on a landlord to obtain a safety certificate, although best practice is to carry out a Periodic Inspection Report (PIR) every 3 years and a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) annually. For further information on electrical safety see:
Before you can market a property for rent you have to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
An EPC contains information about the energy efficiency of a building and gives the building a rating on a scale from A to G (similar to the rating system for white goods). This can give tenants an indication of how much it will cost to heat a property and help them decide whether or not to rent the property. The EPC must also be accompanied by a recommendation report for the possible improvement of the energy performance of the building. The EPC and recommendation report must be issued by a qualified assessor. There is currently no requirement to implement the recommendations in the report.
If the tenant falls into rent arrears and has not paid, you must act immediately, otherwise the situation will get out of control. In most cases, initial non-legal action will be sufficient. You should make contact with the tenant by sending a letter demanding that the rent be paid. Most tenants will respond when reminded and remedy the situation.
In this section, the advice applies equally to England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland unless otherwise specified.