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How To Be A Good Landlord

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If you are thinking of entering the buy-to-let market in 2018, you will be aware that along with an opportunity for making a solid investment, there are many legal responsibilities you must comply with.  If you choose to find the tenants and manage the property yourself, it is easy to be unaware of your legal obligations.  However, the old saying that when it comes to the law “ignorance is no excuse” generally applies.  Failing to fulfil your legal duties and responsibilities could see you facing fines or even committing a criminal offence, in addition to leaving you open to a legal dispute with your tenant.

Below is a list of the legal obligations of a residential landlord.

Right to rent checks

From December 2016, all landlords in England must check that anyone who is living in their property has the legal right to reside in the UK[1].  If they know or have reasonable cause to believe they are letting their property to an illegal migrant, they may be charged with a criminal offence.

To make a compliant right to rent check, you must:

  1. Ask prospective tenants to provide you with acceptable documents that show they have a legal right to reside in the UK. This can include a UK passport or Biometric Residence Permit with unlimited leave.  If you are presented with a visa document which shows the tenant has limited leave to remain in the UK, you must take a note of the expiry date.
  2. Check the documents. Make sure they are original and ensure the date is current.
  3. Keep a copy of the documents and record the date on which you checked them.

To avoid allegations of discrimination, you should conduct right to rent checks on every potential tenant, regardless of their race or nationality.

Deposits

If you have granted your tenant an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, as a landlord, you will need to place the tenant’s deposit in one of the three government-backed tenancy deposit schemes.  You have 30 days from receiving the deposit to put it in one of the following:

At the end of the tenancy, once you have agreed on how much of the deposit will be returned to the tenant, you have ten days in which to return the money.

To protect your interests, make sure you make clear to the incoming tenant what part of the money they pay to you forms a deposit and what is rent in advance.

Safety requirements

Fire safety

As a landlord you need to ensure there are smoke alarms on each story of the residence.  In addition, a carbon monoxide alarm must be provided in any room that has a solid fuel burning appliance.  Access to escape routes must be available at all times and you should have fire alarms installed and provide an extinguisher if the house is large and has multiple occupants (known as HMOs)[2].

Gas and electric safety

All gas equipment must be installed properly and checked by a registered Gas Safe engineer[3].  A registered engineer must also perform a yearly inspection on all appliances.

Your tenant will require a copy of the gas safety check before they move in or within 28 days of the check being performed.

All electric appliances and fittings (for example the sockets and wiring) must be safe, along with any appliances you supply.

Tenancy agreement

The tenancy agreement will form the contract between you and your tenant.  It will cover matters such as:

In summary

Choosing to become a landlord is a big responsibility.  With the right legal advice and support, you can ensure you fulfil all your legal obligations, thereby avoiding potentially costly and stressful disputes.

Hart Reade Solicitors are a full-service law firm with offices in Eastbourne, Hailsham, Polegate and Meads.  We hold a both a Lexcel and Conveyancing Quality Accreditation from the Law Society of England and Wales.  To make an appointment with one of our residential landlord and tenant solicitors, please phone our office on 01323 727 321.

Please note, this article does not constitute legal advice.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/573057/6_1193_HO_NH_Right-to-Rent-Guidance.pdf

[2] A house is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if both of the following apply:

A house is a large HMO if all of the following apply:

[3] https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/