For new landlords in particular, making sense of all the responsibilities you have to your tenants can be quite a challenge. This handy guide will help you understand your landlord legal obligations.
The increasing legal, regulatory and tax burdens on landlords have prompted some to believe that the government is committed to ‘taking on’ or even eradicating the buy-to-let sector. Whether or not you believe this to be the case, it is certainly true that the obligations and responsibilities on landlords have grown in recent years. Here are just a few examples:
Your landlord legal obligations stem in large part from our country’s laws and regulations, and partly from the terms of your particular tenancy. Private landlords in particular are subject to a significant number of obligations regardless of what’s included in their tenancy agreements. Let’s turn to these now.
Here is a brief summary of your safety obligations as a landlord in England and Wales. (Be aware that changes to the legislation happen often, so it’s advisable to seek regular advice, ideally from a legal expert or directly from the government.)
As a landlord you have to fulfil your fire safety obligations, which include:
Any gas safety equipment you supply must be safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer. You must also have a registered engineer carry out an annual gas safety check. The tenant must receive a copy of the gas safety check record before they move in or no longer than 28 days after the check has been carried out.
While there is no legal requirement to perform an annual electrical safety check, the landlord is still obliged to ensure that the electrical system, sockets and fittings are safe. Also, if any electrical appliances have been supplied by you, of if you have responsibility for them, your obligation is to make sure they are safe. Moreover, it is recommended that you make the relevant instructions available to your tenant(s) so they are aware of how to use appliances safely.
You have a legal obligation to obtain an Energy Performance Certificate and show this to new and prospective tenants. Under no circumstances can the tenant be charged for this. However, even if the EPC rates the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the property poorly, the landlord is not legally required to improve it.
Your responsibilities in terms of maintenance and repair should be mostly laid out in the tenancy agreement. Outside of these terms, you may have additional responsibilities if the problems with the property amount to a:
Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) bring with them a separate set of standards and obligations on landlords. These include ensuring that there is/are
Administrative responsibilities of a landlord
Landlords also face administrative obligations, covering issues such as:
Since April 2007, landlords in England and Wales have had a legal obligation to put their tenants’ deposits in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP). This is to make sure that tenants receive the money they’re owed at the end of their tenancies. The TDP scheme applies even if a third party (such as the tenants’ parents) paid the deposit.
You are obliged to declare your income fully to HMRC and pay the appropriate taxes. See our infographic for landlords for an overview of how recent tax changes affect buy-to-letters.
Commercial property landlord responsibilities differ sometimes markedly from those in the residential market. The terms defining what a commercial landlord is and isn’t responsible for tend to be more dependent on the lease agreement than statutory legal and regulatory obligations.
Most commercial lease agreements are FRI (full repairing and insuring) leases. This puts the onus onto the tenant to carry out electrical and fire safety checks, dealing with asbestos and maintaining the hygiene and cleanliness of the environment.
However, this is not to be considered ‘catch all’ guidance and we recommend getting legal advice to be sure of where the landlord legal obligations end and those of the tenant begin. Also see our article on commercial landlords’ responsibilities around safety .
Take the next step as a responsible landlord and obtain landlord insurance from NatWest.