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Landlords' Obligations: What are you responsible for?

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Renting out a property can be a great source of income. But if you’re just starting out as a landlord, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the responsibilities it entails. To protect your legal interests and of course to keep the landlord-tenant relationship harmonious, there are certain obligations that you will need to fulfil. For this week’s blog, we run through the main things you’ll need to take care of.

Having a tenancy agreement

This is a contract that sets out the terms and conditions of the tenancy and the rights and responsibilities of you and your tenant. Once you have agreed the terms, the document will need to be signed by both parties.

Having a thorough and well-drafted tenancy agreement in place is essential – it makes your legal position clear to both parties and can save you from disputes with your tenant later on.

‘Right to rent’ check

It is the law for all landlords to check whether any tenants aged over 18 can legally rent your property. In order to do this, you’ll need to ask for proof that they are allowed to live in the UK such as a British passport or the relevant immigration documents. To avoid discrimination claims, it’s essential that you do this for all tenants.

Providing your tenant with information

Your tenant needs to know who owns the property and who to get in touch with, so be sure to provide them with correct and up-to-date information. You will also need to provide them with an energy performance certificate and a gas safety certificate for the property, as well as a copy of the government’s How to Rent booklet.

Protecting the deposit

Under UK law, when you take a deposit from your tenants you must put the money in a tenancy deposit protection scheme (TDP) and it must be one of the three schemes backed by the government. If you fail to do this you could face fines or court action.

Ensuring the property is safe

One of the most important obligations is making sure your tenants’ environment is safe. All the necessary fire, gas and electricity safety measures must be in place, such as:

  • Ensuring the electrical system, including any appliances you supply, are safe and in working order
  • Having a Gas Safe registered engineer carry out installation and maintenance of gas equipment, and an annual gas safety check.
  • Working smoke alarms on every storey and carbon monoxide alarms where necessary
  • Complying with safety regulations e.g. fire doors, adequate escape routes, fire extinguishers if necessary

Paying tax

You must declare your rental income to HMRC and pay income tax on it. It’s important to note that as of April 2017, the way tax is calculated for landlords has changed and further changes will be made over the next few years. For more information about the new tax structure visit the Government website.

Carrying out maintenance and repairs

Repairs and maintenance to the structure and fixtures of the building will up to you as the landlord. However, some smaller repairs can be the responsibility of your tenant, depending on what your arrangement is. A breakdown of each party’s responsibilities for parts of the building should be set out and agreed upon in the tenancy agreement in order to avoid disputes later on.

Giving adequate notice if you visit

Your tenant has a right to what is called “quiet enjoyment” of the property, meaning if you are planning to visit you must always give them at least 24 hours’ notice, unless it is an emergency. It’s a good idea to have a clause within the tenancy agreement regarding the period of notice so that you and your tenant know where you stand.

Following the eviction procedure

Ending a tenancy can be an awkward situation at the best of times. Whether your relationship with your tenant has turned sour or you simply need the property back, it is imperative that you follow the correct legal procedure when evicting a tenant. Usually you will need to use a ‘Section 21’ notice, but in certain circumstances the procedure will be different. If you don’t take the correct steps to evict your tenant, you could find yourself in legal hot water and they could end up staying even longer.

In order to stay on the right side of the law, it’s important to be clear on all the legal implications. If you’re not sure where you stand or have questions about your legal obligations, help is at hand. Bird & Co’s expert property solicitors are able to assist with all kinds of Landlord and Tenant matters. To find out more, call us on 01476591711 or send us an enquiry today.