As a landlord there are a number of legal responsibilities and obligations which you MUST (and should) abide by.
These are all necessary; failing to comply with these could result in prosecution.
Being a landlord comes with its share of commitments and obligations. The law on protecting tenants is particularly heavy – with good reason. There are several obligations which you need to fall in line with, from safety to deposits, so it’s important you know what they are.
To make sure you understand these obligations William Theakston have put together an easy but extremely thorough online guide for you.
Authority to let the property should be obtained from all joint owners, who should be named on the Tenancy Agreement. Where any party comprises more than one person, the obligations and liabilities of that party, under this agreement, shall be joint and several. This means that all joint owners are obligated & liable for the Tenancy Agreement.
In the event that you sell the property to a third party whilst the tenant remains in occupation, you WILL remain liable for our letting fees for the whole of the duration of the tenancy, unless, to our satisfaction, you procure the new owner of the property to enter into an Agreement with us on similar terms to this or a mutual release from your obligations to William Theakston is negotiated. At this time we will release you in writing from further liability to pay our fees under this agreement.
Under Section 3 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 it is your responsibility to write to and inform the Tenant of such change of ownership, giving the new details for notice to be served, within a maximum period of 2 months from change of ownership, otherwise you will remain liable for your contractual obligations as a Landlord for the term of the tenancy.
William Theakston will require Proof of Ownership for the property you intend to rent. Please ensure that we have a copy of your Land Registry title deed or have sight of an original solicitor’s letter confirming ownership.
William Theakston are able to obtain a Land Registry Title Deed for your property for the sum of £6.00 (including VAT).
Approval To Let
Where the property to be let is subject to a mortgage, permission is required from the mortgagee to let or to sublet the property. We require you to provide confirmation in writing, that you have obtained your Lender’s permission. Please note that applying for permission after a Tenant has been found could prejudice the tenancy.
If there are any additional clauses that the mortgagee requires to be incorporated into the Tenancy Agreement then you agree to inform Sewell & Gardner of these clauses, prior to the Tenancy Agreements being drawn up, or you may incur an additional administration charge for amendments to be made. In particular make sure that you are allowed to accept NonHousing Act Tenancies or Housing Benefit Tenants (these are different to ‘Council Tenants’), or agreements for longer than 6 months, as some Mortgagees do not allow these.
Freeholder Approval and Sub Letting
If you are a Leaseholder rather than a Freeholder (usually flats / maisonettes, where you pay a Ground Rent or Service Charge to a 3rd Party) it is essential that:
- The intended letting is permitted by your lease
- The intended letting is for a period expiring before the expiry of your lease
- Your landlord’s written permission is obtained prior to the sub-letting
- You provide us with the relevant schedule of your lease to ensure that any clauses within your lease are advised to the tenant and included or attached to the tenancy agreement
Since 1st October 2008, under the Energy Performance of Buildings 2007 (amended 2011) all rental properties in England and Wales are required to have an Energy Performance
Certificate (EPC) prior to letting. This is a European directive to help reduce the Carbon Footprint of your rental property, so it is exceptionally important to the environment.
These reports & graphs enable tenants to SEE AT A GLANCE how your property is assessed against other properties, and advises how some simple remedies (such as the use of low energy lighting, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation) can have a huge impact on the environment and also on the tenant’s energy bills! EPCs are valid for 10 years (unless taken from a Sales Home Information Pack ‘HIP’, whereby they are only valid for 3 years).
Under The Energy Act 2011 the government ‘Green Deal’ is available to help you make energy-saving home improvements, like boiler updates, wall & roof insulation, draft proofing & updated windows in order to make your rental property more comfortable. From 2016 Landlords should not be able to refuse reasonable requests for consent to install Green Deal measures from their tenants.
From 2018 Landlords should ensure their privately rented properties meet a minimum energy efficiency standard (likely to be set at EPC rating ‘E’) or that they have installed the maximum package of measures under the Green Deal.
For more information on Green Deal contact Energy Saving Advice Service (England, Scotland and Wales) on 0300 123
1234 or visit www.gov.uk/greendeal
Tax & The Non-Resident Landlord
All owners of property in the UK are required to pay tax on their letting income unless the income after allowable expenses is less than an individual’s personal allowances. However, special rules apply to the UK rental income of non-residential landlords (NRL) or landlords who live abroad (usually for more than a six month period).
Non-Resident Landlord Scheme
The NRL scheme operates for rental income paid on or after 6 April 1996 and replaces the old rules under Taxes Management Act 1970. If you rent your property through an agent they will deduct tax from your rental income (currently at a rate of 20%), unless written notification to the contrary is received from the Inland Revenue in the form of an Approval Certificate.
An approval certificate will allow you to receive all rental income due without deductions to cover tax liabilities and you can apply for this by completing an NRL1 form which William Theakston can provide for you. Alternatively the forms are available from The Inland Revenue at the address below, and you can apply for approval if:
- Your UK tax affairs are up-to-date
- You have never had any UK tax obligation or
- You do not expect to be liable to UK tax
If you do not have Inland Revenue Approval at the outset of the tenancy William Theakston or your tenant will be required to withhold and pay the tax due on your behalf, if you are a non-resident Landlord, and this tax deduction will continue if approval has not been received within 30 days of each quarter. Whilst your eventual liability for tax may be less than the amount forwarded to the Inland Revenue, William Theakston will not be liable for refunds and you will need to liaise with the Inspector of Taxes directly. All tax deducted and held pending quarterly assessment will not earn interest on your behalf. Quarters end on:
|30th June||30th September|
|31st December||31st March|
|Rental income (for the quarter)||£1800|
|Less: Allowable Expenses||£300|
|Tax Retained @ 20%||£300|
Allowable expenses are those paid by the agent in the respective quarter. Expenses are allowable if they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the rental of the property, and they are not of a capital nature. Thus, for example, any repairs to the property, water rates, insurance, management fees or other professional fees are allowable. However, letting agents cannot deduct expenses paid directly by the landlord.
Contact Details: Centre for Non-Residents
Fitzroy House, P O Box 46, Nottingham, NG2 1BD Tel: 0151 472 6208/9 or www.hmrc.gov.uk/cnr
In the event that you are not accepted for the Non Resident Landlord Scheme, or choose not to obtain approval, William Theakston shall make an administration charge of £235.00 incl. vAT per annum for forwarding monies to the Inland Revenue on your behalf.
Amendments to the Housing Act 2004 took place on 6th April 2007, when Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) came into force on all new Assured Shorthold Tenancies and stated that a landlord may no longer hold a security deposit on behalf of their tenant.
The Landlord is responsible for ensuring:
- That the Tenant’s Security Deposit is forwarded to or insured by an approved scheme to be held for the term of the Tenancy
- That the Tenant or the person paying the deposit (ie. parent or guarantor) receives the relevant Prescribed Scheme Information
- This all must happen within 30 days of receipt of the deposit
At the present time this legislation does NOT apply to Non- Housing Act Tenancies, which are:
- Tenancies with an annual pure rent of over £100,000 or less than £1,000
- Tenancies with a resident landlord
- Tenancies where the property is a 2nd home and not the tenants main residence
- Company Tenancies
However, as all client money including security deposits needs to be held in a ring-fenced account, we are more than happy to securely hold the deposit for non-housing act tenancies in our deposit account.
Inventory and Schedule of Condition
William Theakston strongly advise you to employ the services of one of our APIP (The Association of Professional Inventory Providers) qualified Inventory Clerks, to arrange a make of inventory and schedule of condition and ‘check in’ at the outset of the tenancy, the cost of which is borne by the Landlord. At the end of the Tenancy the Inventory Clerk should be instructed to ‘check out’ the Tenant, the cost of which is borne by the Tenant. In the event of the property being let to a company, both parties will usually be liable for appointing their own inventory clerk and bearing the cost of both the check-in and check out reports.
Please Note: If you do not have an unbiased, comprehensive document prepared by a qualified Inventory Clerk, checked and agreed by the tenant at the outset of the tenancy, and the tenant does not agree with the deductions you require at the end of the tenancy, you may be UNABLE to prove your case to the Independent Case Examiner appointed by the Deposit Scheme you have chosen to use, and therefore will be UNABLE to withhold money from the tenant’s deposit.
Frequently Asked Questions regarding Inventories
- Why do I need a professional inventory?
In April 2007 the law regarding your tenant’s security deposit changed: The deposit now has to be lodged with either an insurance scheme (Tenancy Deposit Scheme or My Deposits) OR with a custodial scheme (Deposit Protection Service). At the end of the tenancy the Landlord is NOT able to make deductions from the deposit, without the permission of the Tenant.
If the tenant does not agree with the deductions requested by the Landlord you will have to rely on evidence, such as the Inventory and Schedule of Condition, the Check-in & Check-Out Reports and any interim Property Inspections, as well, of course, as the Tenancy Agreement.
The Tenancy Deposit Services Says:
“We cannot emphasis strongly enough the importance of a well prepared and clearly presented inventory and schedule of condition at the beginning and end of the tenancy.
We are aware that Landlords may sometimes be reluctant to prepare these comprehensive documents but they should understand that it will be very difficult to demonstrate that the property has deteriorated during the tenancy, or that the tenant is liable for repairs or damage without proper documentation. Failure to produce such evidence will be taken into account by the Independent Case Examiner in his adjudication and may lead directly to a determination being made in favour of the tenant.”
- Why can’t I prepare the inventory myself?
The simple answer is that you can. It is just advisable to use a trained & qualified inventory clerk who knows exactly what is required for the document to be useful in the case of a dispute. If you have the time to study inventory preparation and are confident that your reports will be comprehensive and sufficient for the purpose, then Sewell & Gardner are happy to accept such documentation. If in doubt please speak to one of our qualified clerks on 01923 721900.
- What is a schedule of condition and why do I need one?
The schedule of condition explains whether the property has been recently decorated, whether it has been professionally cleaned (and usually an invoice for works is attached) or domestically cleaned, whether the carpets have been vacuumed or professionally shampooed, if there is any lime-scale build-up, if the windows are clean (inside and out), if the upholstery has been dry-cleaned (with receipts) etc. At the end of the tenancy you will only be able to ask the tenant to shampoo the carpets or professionally clean the interior, if these were documented as carried out at the outset of the tenancy.
- What if I do not want to provide an Inventory & Schedule of Condition?
The tenancy can still proceed, but your tenant may take this as a sign that you are not really bothered about the condition of the property and, of course, you are unlikely to be able to make deductions from the deposit at the end of the tenancy, unless the tenant is in agreement.
If you do not have an extensive record of the property and it’s condition, from the start of the tenancy you will not have evidence to back up any deductions you wish to make. It makes the deposit pretty worthless.
Eg. If you pay £250 for an inventory make, schedule and check-in at the beginning of the tenancy and when the tenant vacates the property is not clean, the carpets are stained, items are damaged, walls require decorating, you can make all appropriate deductions to bring the property back to the same standard as at the outset of the tenancy (less fair wear & tear), but without the correct inventory documentation, if the tenant does not agree to the deposit deductions you will have no evidence to provide to the Independent Case Examiner and you could find yourself footing the bill for a lot more than £250.
Please Note: If you are including brand new or expensive fixtures and fittings in the property please ensure that you attach to the inventory the proof of purchase, in the form of a sales receipt, and, where possible, the manufacturer guidelines.
Landlord Insurance Obligations
The property and it’s contents should be comprehensively insured to include 3rd Party Liability and Occupier risks & Public Liability, as well as cover furnished lettings if applicable. your tenant should be given a copy of your insurance schedule for buildings and contents, as this will form part of your tenancy agreement.
Failure to inform your Insurance Company that the property is let out could render the policy void. It is the Tenants responsibility to arrange and insure their own personal belongings.
Please remember that William Theakston are able to organise your Landlord Insurance for you and a quote is obtainable by calling 0208 304 0997.
Just because you let your property unfurnished, it doesn’t mean that it’s empty; as a Landlord you could be exposed to more risks than you realise. Landlord’s Contents Insurance for Unfurnished Properties covers:
- Up to £5000 for your carpets, curtains, blinds, light fittings and your kitchen appliances & goods
- Protection for you and your tenants with £5 million property owner’s liability so that if your tenant injures themselves in your property and you’re found to be negligent, you could have a hefty bill and damages to pay
- Loss of rent or re-letting costs if something really serious happens and your tenant needs to move out (see policy wording)
- Replacing locks if the keys have been stolen
- Premiums could be tax deductable!
Under the Consumer Protection Act 2008 the Landlord and the Agent have a legal responsibility to fully notify the ‘average consumer’ of anything which is likely to cause them to take a ‘different transactional decision’.
Applies not only to your tenant but also to prospective tenants including anyone enquiring about your property from an advertisement, website, newspaper, To Let board etc. Different Transaction Decision
Applies not only to your tenant but also to prospective viewers of your property. If a viewer travels some distance and then finds that the property is unsuitable because of something which should have been disclosed at the time of booking the viewing appointment.
What should be disclosed?
Put yourself into the consumer’s shoes and think about anything which might put you off renting the property, other than personal opinion (of decor, style etc). Ensure that Sewell & Gardner are notified, at the time of valuation or instruction, of anything which is not obvious and is something a prospective tenant should be aware of prior to viewing.
- Public notices ie. planning applications which would affect the property or neighbourhood
- There is no parking available near the property
- Somebody recently died in the property
- Property backs onto a graveyard
- The property next door is a building site with scaffolding up
Please Note: William Theakston expect you to notify of anything you feel could have an effect on the tenant or prospective tenant and take no responsibility for any actions under the CPR due to negligence for anything which should have been disclosed prior or during marketing of the property or throughout any tenancy to a tenant whom we introduced to you.
The Condition of the Property
If you are a landlord, then not only do you need to keep your property in good condition, but there are a number of legal, safety and maintenance issues that you must adhere to. If you don’t fulfil these duties then you will be potentially liable for any accidents which occur to your tenants whilst they are in the property or within the property boundary.
If you fail to comply with your obligations under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, and a Tenant is seriously injured or dies as a result of faulty gas or electric issues, you may be prosecuted for voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter. This is a very serious issue and Sewell & Gardner will NOT deal with your property if you do not take your safety responsibilities seriously.
Let us take care of it!
If you feel that these duties are too time consuming, then you can always ask William Theakston Management Department to act as your property agent, to help you with your property requirements.
As well as keeping your property safe, you need to make sure that it is well maintained. Whilst a poorly maintained property might not be illegal, it will surely lead to a quicker turn around of tenant, more difficulty in re-letting and, hence, lack of rental return.
As well as maintaining the property, as long as you follow a few simple legal requirements then both you and your tenant will remain happy and safe from legal trouble.
Management Team t: 0208 304 0997 | e: ??@williamtheakston.com
Statutory Repair Obligations
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
As a Landlord you need to make sure that both the outside and inside of your property are well maintained and kept to a high level of repair.
The Landlord needs to comply with the obligations to repair the Premises as set out in sections 11 to 16 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as amended by the Housing Act 1988).
These sections impose on the Landlord obligations to repair the structure of the premises and exterior (including drains, gutters and pipes);
- Certain installations for the supply of water
- Electricity and gas
- Sanitary appliances including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences
- Space heating
- Water heating; but not other fixtures, fittings, and appliances for making use of the supply of water and electricity
Please Note: This obligation for repairs arises only after notice has been given to the Landlord by the Tenant.
The Condition of the Property HHSRS
Fitness for Human Habitation (HHSRS)
The fitness for human habitation rules under the Housing Act 1985, have been replaced by the more extensive and complicated provisions of Part 1 Housing Act 2004. These provide a new system for assessing housing conditions and enforcing housing standards called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (or HHSRS for short) and there are 29 hazards and each hazard is assessed separately and, if judged to be serious, with a high score, it is deemed to be a Category 1 hazard.
There are 29 hazards, which need to be considered, and these have been divided into four groupings: Physiological:
- Damp and mould growth
- Excess cold
- Excess heat
- Asbestos and manufactured mineral fibre
- Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
- Uncombusted fuel gas
- Volatile organic compounds
- Crowding and space
- Entry by intruders
Protection against Infection:
- Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse
- Food safety
- Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
- Water supply for domestic purpose
Protection against Accidents:
- Falls associated with baths
- Falling on level surfaces
- Falling associated with stairs and steps
- Falling between levels
- Electrical hazards
- Flames and hot surfaces
- Collision and entrapment
- Position and operability of amenities
- Structural collapse and failing elements
Category 1 Hazards should be removed or remedied within a set time, generally 28 days. In most serious cases the local authority will serve a prohibition notice.
Taking Care of your Responsibilities
Failing to provide adequate safety measures could leave you liable for damages or legal action. Remember, you could be prosecuted for manslaughter, IF your tenant dies or are seriously injured from something in your property that you should have repaired.
As long as all the safety measures are met and you keep your property well maintained both inside and outside, it will remain in demand from tenants. Keeping a safe and properly maintained property will also ensure that you remain free from potential legal problems.
The government has produced a comprehensive booklet which can be downloaded from their website. Just type “HHSRS Gov.uk” into your search engine or telephone William Theakston if you would like a copy, on ??
What is legionella and Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria and it is caused by the inhalation of airborne droplets. The symptoms are initially similar to those of flu but in severe cases can develop into pneumonia and there is a fatality rate of approximately 12%.
The bacteria are widespread and outbreaks of the illness occur where water, in pipes, tanks, cooling towers, showers, spa pools, pools and hot water systems in all sorts of domestic premises are maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth. Legionella can survive in low temperatures, but thrive at temperatures between 20°C and 45°C, however, high temperatures of 60°C and over will kill them. Legionnaires’ disease can affect anybody, but some people are at higher risk including those over 45, smokers and heavy drinkers, those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, and people whose immune system is impaired.
As a Landlord you must understand the health risks associated with legionella because you are responsible for health and safety of your tenant and need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella. In the first instance you should understand the water system in your rented property, the equipment associated with the system such as pumps, heat exchangers, showers etc, and its constituent parts. Identify whether they are likely to create a risk from exposure to legionella, and whether:
- Water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system
- The water temperature in all or some parts of the system is between 20°C–45°C
- There are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matters
- The conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply
- It is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, whether they can be dispersed over a wide area, Eg. showers and aerosols from cooling towers
- It is likely that any of your tenants are more susceptible to infection due to age, illness, a weakened immune system etc and whether they could be exposed to any contaminated water droplets
Precautions which will help control the risk are:
- Keeping water in pipes and tanks below 20°C or above 45°C
- Making sure that low use systems are flushed through regularly (for example by running taps routinely)
- Keeping the system clean to avoid the build-up of sediments which may provide nutrients or harbourage
- A water treatment programme which involves the testing, disinfection and maintenance of the system
- Ensuring that the system is well maintained
- Allow the shower to run for a couple of minutes before using it
- Avoid creating unnecessary spray when running taps
- Swimming pools which appear clean and which have a smell of chlorine are unlikely to be a risk
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
Gas safety is exceptionally important and you need to ensure that all gas appliances such as boilers and ovens are fully maintained and annually inspected for their safety and suitability. By law, a Landlord’s Gas Safety Certificate MUST be carried out by a Gas Safe Engineer annually or at the change of tenants. A copy of this certificate MUST be given to EvERy INDIvIDUAL TENANT and the Landlord must keep proof of receipt of this certificate. Records MUST be kept for a minimum of 6 years and, where possible, a copy should be put up in the property for all to see.
Penalties for non-compliance are:
6 months imprisonment and/or £5,000 fine.
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
Although the above act does not demand a Landlord certificate for electrical equipment within a rented property, the Consumer Protection Act 1987 clearly states that any rented property MUST BE SAFE FOR THE PURPOSE. Unless you are able to categorically confirm that ALL electrical appliances & equipment in your rented property are safe (which means it must be checked by a competent person) then you will remain criminally negligent if anything happens to your tenant as a result of faulty electrical equipment. It is our understanding that Trading Standards Officers will expect all cabling, fuses and electrical equipment to be inspected as part of a Periodic Inspection every 5 years with a Portable Appliance Test or visual Inspection taking place annually or at the change of tenancy.
The Building Regulations 1991 – Smoke Alarms you need to make sure that all buildings, if built since 1992, are fitted with smoke detectors and alarms that are mains operated. However, it is advised that whatever property you have is fitted with smoke alarms in all important parts of the property to ensure tenant safety.
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety Amendment) Regulations 1993
This is an important legal requirement, and not following it could result in serious injury or even death for tenants. Since the legislation was changed in 1993, you NEED to make sure that all furniture is fire resistant and complies with current regulations. If it does not, you could be liable for prosecution. Please remember that, even if you store items in a shed, garage or cordoned-off section of the loft, these items MUST still adhere to the legislations and it is NO GOOD ‘selling’ the items to the tenant, they still HAvE TO COMPLy with this legislation. Please ensure that the following items comply, and have a safety label STILL ATTACHED (unless stated otherwise).
For those items without a compliance label, receipts showing purchase date for all items manufactured after 1 March 1989:
- Furniture intended for private use in dwellings including children’s furniture
- Beds, headboards and mattresses (mattresses & bed bases do not require the label to be attached but must still comply)
- Sofa beds and futons
- Nursery furniture
- Garden furniture, if suitable for use in a dwelling
- Scatter cushions and seat pads (do not require the label to be attached but must still comply)
- Pillows (do not require the label to be attached but must still comply)
Carbon Monoxide & It’s Risks To Your Tenant
Please arrange for a Carbon Monoxide Detector to be installed at your rented property because CO is a silent killer and it is vital that you take all precautions to prevent your tenant from being seriously injured or worse!
Please remember, the most reliable way of checking CO levels in your house is to install an audible CO alarm. However, you should never rely on them entirely as they are a warning system, and not a replacement for regularly servicing appliances.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) “Sharers”
On 6th April 2006 licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation came into force. There are 2 types of licenses available.
Mandatory licensing: A building, or part of a building, set over 3 floors (which would include any shop below, even if this is not included in the tenancy), in which five or more people (as their only main residence) live, forming two or more ‘households’, who share one or more basic amenity (Eg. kitchen / bathroom facilities) and for which rent is paid by at least one person.
Discretionary licensing: A building, or part of a building, in which two or more ‘households’ live, comprising of three or more people (as their only or main residence) who share one or more basic amenity (Eg. kitchen / bathroom facilities) and for which rent is paid by at least one person.
Or a building, or part of a building, which has been converted into, and consists of, self-contained flats but was not converted to the 1991 Building Regulations and still does not comply with them, and, less that 2/3rds of the self contained flats are owner-occupied.
“A Household” = a couple (married / common law / same sex) or a family, extended family (relations) and any staff (au pair / nanny etc).
If you think that your property COULD be subject to HMO regulations you MUST ensure that you have made the relevant enquiries and obtained a licence, if necessary, from the Local Authority. If as your agent, we feel that this has not been organised, enquiries WILL be made on your behalf with the Local Authority and you WILL be responsible for the cost of any necessary license or remedial works required for the property to comply with legislation.
The fine for NON-COMPLIANCE is £20,000
Three Rivers District Council T: 01923 776611
Watford Borough Council T: 01923 226400