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Landlord Responsibilities

Despite tax relief changes, people are still turning to bricks and mortar to fund their retirement or provide a reliable investment vehicle by becoming a landlord. Good returns are possible, but there's more to being a landlord than just return on investment. There are unavoidable legal obligations that must be followed.


As a landlord you have a number of legally imposed and unavoidable responsibilities and duties, no matter what the lease says. The landlord is usually responsible for repair and maintenance of the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering, external pipes, windows and external doors as well as internal fixtures and fitting such as basins, sinks, baths and toilets.

More recent obligations include a duty to check the tenant's immigration or residency status and their 'right to rent', fitting fire and carbon monoxide alarms and taking steps to prevent legionella. Private landlords are also legally required to service all gas-related equipment at least once every 12 months and keep a record of service visits. These checks must be conducted by an engineer approved under the Gas Safe scheme. Tenants must be provided with a copy of this certificate and be given full written instructions for the safe use of all gas appliances.

Any electrical wiring in the property must be safe and should be inspected by an electrician approved by the NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Inspection Contractors). Wiring should be regularly inspected and electrical equipment (fridge, hob, microwave, kettle, etc) provided for the tenants' use must also be tested for safety and labelled accordingly.

Regulations about fire-resistant furniture are strict for rental accommodation and all relevant items must conform to the guidelines set out in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Amendment Regulations 1993.

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Since 6th April 2007 any deposit taken from a tenant as part of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (either by a landlord directly or a managing agent) must be protected by lodgment in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Under the legislation, if private landlords fail to protect the tenant's deposit using these schemes, they may have to pay the tenant up to three times the value of the deposit. It’s essential to lodge any deposit with these schemes as soon as possible.

New rules requiring landlords to serve additional relevant information to all new tenants in order to be eligible to serve Section 21(1) or Section 21(4) notices were introduced in October 2015. New legally enforceable regulations about the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are also now live as from that date, as is the need to provide a valid Energy Performance Certificate.

Another consequence of the Deregulation Act 2015 (section 33) is to end so-called 'retaliatory eviction'. if the tenant makes a complaint about repairs, a landlord must give an 'adequate response' within 14 days stating (preferably in writing) what he is going to do to resolve the problem and the time limit proposed for dealing with it.

If the repairs are not done, the tenant can complain to the local authority which will then serve a notice on the landlord meaning a Section 21 notice cannot be served for six months.

What are my landlord responsibilities with carbon monoxide detectors?

The law on this subject was changed on 01 October 2015. It is claimed that new regulations that came into effect on this date could help prevent up to 36 deaths and 1,375 injuries a year.

The law now requires landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property. In addition landlords need to test the alarms at the start of every tenancy. Landlords are also required to install carbon monoxide alarms in certain places. This is in addition to smoke alarms. These places are high risk rooms and include all those where a solid fuel heating system is present. During the tenancy the testing of the alarm becomes the tenant's responsibility.

There are duel detectors which detect both the presence of Carbon Monoxide and smoke. The vast majority of smoke alarms landlords have already installed, especially where they are battery powered rather than mains powered, can detect only flames, heat or smoke.

Landlords who have not installed smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can face prosecution and may be liable for a civil penalty of up to £5,000.

What are my legal responsibilities to my mortgage company?

The most common way of buying a property to let is through a buy-to-let mortgage, although there are restrictions on the age and property type these mortgages may cover. Buy-to-let borrowers will also face similar 'affordability' tests to homeowners.

There are plenty of buy-to-let deals available from mainstream lenders and specialist brokers, but they do tend to be more expensive than conventional mortgages. The majority of lenders also demand a much bigger deposit than with a standard mortgage, normally a minimum of 15% of the property value, although many can ask for up to 30% or more.

There are numerous other costs to factor into the equation: conveyancing costs, legal fees, stamp duty, survey costs and possible letting and managing agent fees. Income tax (on the rental profits you make) and capital gains tax (if you sell the property). The cost of landlord insurance, ongoing maintenance and repair and buying furniture if you want to let furnished will also need to be accounted for.

Mortgage repayments will still have to be met even if the property is empty. It's essential that you consult legal, financial, tax and property management professionals such as the team at Access Legal before purchasing any property you wish to let. Their advice will hopefully prevent any unforeseen problems and give you the information you need so you can make an informed decision about becoming a landlord.

What responsibilities do landlord’s have regarding the control of legionella?

The law now provides clear guidance concerning the control of legionella in hot water and cold water systems, cooling and heating systems.

The updated guidance was initially intended for people like employers rather than landlords. The law is now clear that the rules do apply to residential landlords and they, as the person in control of the premises and responsible for the water systems in their premises, have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure of tenants to legionella is properly assessed and controlled.

Where a letting agent is used, Access Legal can ensure the management contract specifies who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks. This includes managing the risk from legionella. Where there is no contract or agreement in place the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises. In most cases this will be the landlord.

Not all systems require elaborate control measures. The law requires simple, proportionate and practical actions to be taken, including identifying and assessing sources of risk, managing the risk, preventing or controlling the risk and periodically checking that any control measures are effective.

Our Experts

  • Lisa Paul - Access Legal Landlord Law Team Leader

    Lisa Paul

    Team leader

    Disputes, Landlord and tenant

    Lisa is a Team Leader within the Property Litigation and Landlord & Tenant Team.

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  • Lauren Faherty, Access Legal Landlord Law Team

    Lauren Robinson

    Chartered Legal Executive

    Disputes, Landlord and tenant

    Lauren joined Access Legal in December 2014 as a Trainee Paralegal whilst undertaking her exams to become a Chartered Legal Executive Lawyer (CILEx). Lauren qualified as a Fellow of the Institute in December 2018.

    View full profile

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