Landlords and legislation

If you own buy to let property you probably have some notion of the legislation surrounding your role as a landlord. Especially if you are an accidental landlord – coming by property you want to let out to tenants almost by chance – your knowledge of all the relevant legislation might be still more sketchy.

This might not be surprising, since there is quite a lot of it, determining a number of facets regarding the way you let your property. It might be useful, therefore, to review the principal characteristics of the relationship between landlords and legislation.

 

Health and safety

  • in common law, landlords have a general duty of care for ensuring the health and safety of their tenants, visitors to the premises and members of the public – a liability which may be indemnified by landlord insurance;
  • there is also a steadily expanding raft of statutory legislation;
  • much of that legislation is administered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a summary of the main areas of concern for keeping your tenants safe and their accommodation healthy to live in is published on the main government website;

 

Gas safety

  • the foremost concern for health and safety of tenants is that involving any gas supply and the use of gas appliances in the let premises;
  • your obligations as the landlord are set out in the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, which explain your duty to ensure that gas flues, fittings and appliances are safe;
  • that safety regime requires you to arrange for an annual inspection of the gas installation by a registered Gas Safe engineer;
  • your record of the engineer’s inspection must be kept for a minimum of two years and a copy of it must be given to any existing tenant or to any new tenants moving in within 28 days of their doing so;
  • this is your duty as a landlord and you cannot delegate the carrying out of such annual checks to your tenants;
  • with effect from the 1st of October 2015, you were also required to fit a carbon monoxide detector in any room in which solid fuel is burned and install a smoke alarm on every floor of the let premises;
  • the HSE takes a sufficiently robust approach to any infringement of these regulations – meaning that you might face a hefty fine or, indeed, imprisonment;

 

Electrical safety

  • although there is no formal requirement for annual safety checks of the electrical supply and any appliances you provide, you are nevertheless still responsible for ensuring that these are safe and pose no danger to your tenants;

 

  • clearly, one of the best ways of your demonstrating that all reasonable steps have been taken is to arrange a periodic inspection by a qualified expert;

 

Fire regulations

  • it has already been mentioned that you must now fit a smoke alarm on every floor of the building, but there are further fire safety precautions too;
  • these include your compliance with national and local fire regulations, the provision of unobstructed access to fire escapes at all times, the use of fire retardant furnishings and furniture, and, in the case of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), ready access to fire extinguishers;

 

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES)

  • with effect from April 2016, landlords must upgrade the energy efficiency of properties graded in bands F and G of the Energy Performance Certificate before the accommodation may be let to tenants;
  • from this same date, tenants may also ask landlords to improve the energy efficiency of the rented accommodation;

 

Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme

  • any deposit taken by a landlord – as security against damage and breakages, for example – must be placed for safe keeping with an independent, government-approved tenancy deposit protection agency;
  • in the event of any dispute between landlord and tenant about the amount of deposit to be returned at the end of a tenancy, the deposit protection scheme also offers a free arbitration service;

 

Right to Rent

  • a scheme is currently being trialled amongst landlords in the West Midlands under which they have a responsibility for checking the immigration status of any tenant – and his household – intending to occupy the let premises;
  • depending on the results of the trial, the scheme is expected to be rolled out across the rest of the country during 2016;

 

Further developments

  • other legal developments include the coming into effect of the Deregulation Act 2015, which extends tenants’ right to freedom from eviction in certain circumstances; and
  • the phasing in of the controversial buy to let tax from 2017 to 2020, which effectively removes landlords’ current entitlement to tax relief on interest on their mortgages.

 

About the author  ⁄ Mike

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