Landlord responsibilities have increased tenfold over the last few years as the government has introduced a raft of new legislation designed to protect tenants. The difficulty is that the vast majority of landlords are not seasoned professionals, but rather people who purchased or inherited an extra property and use it to prop up their income. This means that many landlords struggle to keep on top of the changes. However, failing to comply with legal obligations as a landlord can be a costly mistake, particularly if the relationship between tenant and landlord breaks down and the landlord seeks to recover possession of the property.
We’ve compiled some common questions and provided some top line tips:-
1. What legal obligations should landlords be aware of and what paperwork needs to be in place before a tenancy begins?
Three very important legal obligations for landlords to
1) A valid Gas Safety Certificate. This must be renewed each year on expiry by a Gas Safe registered engineer and the tenant must be given a copy before they move in.
2) An up to date Energy Performance Certificate which provides the property's energy efficiency rating. From April 2018, minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) mean that newly-rented homes and those with renewed tenancies must have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E or above. On the day that the tenant signs their tenancy agreement, landlords must issue them with the EPC.
3) Protect the tenant’s deposit in one of the government approved schemes. Once the deposit is protected landlords must provide proof and details of the scheme to the tenant and issue them with the Prescribed Information. The deposit must be protected within 30 days of receiving the money.
2. What tips and advice would you give for making sure these are met?
If you are not confident in your knowledge of landlord legislation, seek professional help. We often have landlords contacting us with a problem which has presented itself as a result of non-compliance and sometimes it can be more difficult to put right later down the line, so it is better to get it right first time.
Enquiries from concerned landlords who are unsure of their obligations have increased so much so, that we now offer compliance advice on Right to Rent, Deposit Protection, EPC and Gas Safety, to help landlords get it right and avoid paying penalties.
A reputable letting agent will also be able to advise you on all your obligations, or you may even decide, for an additional fee, to hand over the responsibility to the agent.
3. Are there any new developments they especially need to be aware of?
From 1 April 2020, the rules on minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) will extend to cover existing tenancies too, meaning landlords will no longer be able to rent out homes with an EPC rating of F or G. Fines for doing so will be up to £5000.
4. Are there any common
pitfalls they need to avoid – and how can they do this?
Some landlords will be aware of the Caridon Property Ltd v Monty Shooltz case. In short, a landlord failed to obtain a possession order based on their Section 21 notice, because a judge ruled that that the requirements of the Deregulation Act 2015 meant their failure to issue a gas safety certificate before the tenancy began invalidated the subsequent Section 21 notice for repossession. What is so crucial to recognise in this situation, is that there is nothing landlords can do to resurrect this issue. If they failed to provide a gas safety certificate before the tenancy commenced, even if they provided it since, landlords cannot evict a tenant using a Section 21 notice. So, ensure you ALWAYS have this covered.