Law you can afford

Confused?
Click Help or call 0845 838 4074

Obligations of a landlord

Related services

Contents

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.

Deposits

In England and Wales, for shorthold tenancies valued up to £100,000 per year, you must put any deposit you receive into a government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme.

In Northern Ireland, you must do the same for all residential property tenancies.

For more information on a landlord's obligation in relation to deposits see: Tenancy deposits

Landlord registration (Scotland and Northern Ireland only)

Scotland

All landlords of a private rented property must be registered. It is a criminal offence if you do not do this.

You can register on the Landlord Registration Scotland website. You will have to pay a fee for the local authority area in which you own the property, as well as another fee for each property. Charities will not need to pay these fees.

You will need to renew registration every 3 years.

Registration is not automatic and only those considered to be 'fit and proper' can hold a registration. If you have any convictions for violence, dishonesty, drugs or breaches of housing legislation, this will all be taken into account. If you are not considered to be fit and proper, you cannot hold a registration and rent private property.

Northern Ireland

All landlords of a private rented property must be registered with the Landlord Registration Scheme, which was introduced on 25 February 2014. However, you will not need to do this if you have already paid to register a house in multiple occupation.

You must register before you let the property. If you have properties that are already let, you must register by 25 February 2015.

If you do not register, or if you give false information, you will be committing a criminal offence. As a result, you can be issued with a penalty of between £500 and £2,500.

You can register online on the nidirect website. You will have to pay a fee if you register online. When you register, you will receive a unique registration number. You must include this number in any correspondence you have about your position as landlord. You will need to renew registration every 3 years.

Tenant Information Packs (Scotland only)

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.

Health and safety

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 safety

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.

Click here for the site.

The website also includes a link to the Gas Safe Register

For further information on gas safety see: Gas safety

Fire safety

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: Fire safety

Electrical safety

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: Household electrical safety

Energy Performance Certificates

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.

Rent

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.