Letting a rental property legally and safely
The fourth episode of the Buy to Let Show looks at how to let out your property legally and safely. We also provide a checklist of landlord obligations and responsibilities.
The duties and obligations listed below are not exhaustive and you should seek independent legal advice for the full range of duties with which you must comply with.
The Gas Safety Regulations 1998 stipulate what a landlord must do in relation to gas appliances, flues and pipework.
In brief, you must:
- Arrange for a Gas Safe registered installer to annually certify that the gas appliances and flues provided for tenants’ use are safe. Give a copy of the certificate to your tenant within 28 days of the check being completed and/or before any tenant occupies the property.
- Keep a record of all gas safety checks for two years.
- Maintain gas pipes, appliances and flues.
- Before reletting a property, make sure all gas appliances are safe - including those left behind by a previous tenant.
Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
From October 2015 it will be a legal requirement for landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property and test them at the start of every tenancy. You will also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms – such as those where a solid fuel heating system is installed. Recommended best practice, though, is to install a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms where there is any type of fuel-burning appliance, e.g. a gas boiler.
You must comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. In brief, you must:
- Ensure all electrical equipment and appliances are safe and free from defects.
- Remove all unsafe electrical equipment and appliances.
Plugs and Sockets
The Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994 require landlords to ensure that all plugs and sockets comply with appropriate safety standards and that the correct fuse is used. The live and neutral pins on plugs must be part-insulated to prevent shocks when removing plugs from sockets.
Energy Performance Certificate
Since October 2008, landlords have been required to provide tenants (before any contract is signed) with evidence of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) detailing the energy efficiency of the property. Landlords could face a £200 fine if they market a property without an EPC.
The above guidelines are not intended to be a comprehensive guide to your legal duties. For further information you are advised to seek independent legal advice.
Useful links for further information:
- Law Society: www.lawsociety.org.uk
Furniture and Furnishings
In accordance with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended in 1989 and 1993), landlords have a legal duty to ensure that the furniture and furnishings in their buy-to-let property are fire resistant.
The Regulations apply to these items:
- Furniture intended for private use, including children’s furniture.
- Beds, including headboards and mattresses.
- Sofa beds, futons and other convertibles.
- Nursery furniture.
- Garden furniture which is suitable for use in a dwelling.
- Furniture in new caravans.
- Scatter cushions and seat pads.
- Loose and stretch covers for furniture
The Regulations do not apply to these items:
- Sleeping bags.
- Bed-clothes (including duvets).
- Loose covers for mattresses.
Failure to comply could result in six months’ imprisonment or a fine of £5,000, or both.
Repair and Maintenance
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, s.11, landlords have a legal duty to:
- Keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property (including drains, gutters and external pipes).
- Keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation. This includes basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity.
It’s now a legal requirement for landlords to place tenants’ deposits in an approved deposit protection scheme. Failure to do so could result in a court ordering a landlord to pay the tenant three times the amount of the deposit.
As a landlord, any rental income earned must be declared to HMRC. Tax evasion is a serious offence and could result in a fine or imprisonment.
Before you start renting out your property you must obtain consent from the relevant organisations:
- Mortgage provider (failure to inform could result in a demand for full repayment of the loan and/or repossession).
- Landlord insurance company (failure to inform may leave you uninsured or under-insured).
- Head lessee (if a freehold property) and any co-owner (failure to inform could result in legal being taken against you).
The above guidelines are not intended to be a comprehensive guide to your legal duties. For further information, seek independent legal advice.