Checklist for landlords 2020

There is no getting away from it; being a landlord involves a lot of work. The first stages of letting a property are commonly the busiest, time-consuming and potentially the most stressful, there is quite a lot to think about and organise if you are to avoid trouble, fines and expense further down the line. So we have written up some essentials and provided a free essential checklist for landlords.

These guidelines are based on English law (other regions/jurisdictions have similar principles but may not have the same rules) and are not a definitive interpretation of the law; if in any doubt seek expert advice.

If you are letting and managing the tenancy yourself you must be aware of the basic pointers below. If you are using a professional letting agent there’s still quite a lot you need to know and you should always make sure you use an agent that’s a member of one of the professional associations or listed on the Trading Standards approved and checked “Buy with Confidence website”.

Essential documents that you must issue before any tenancy

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms (England) Regulations 2015 come into force on 1st October 2015. Landlords and managing agents may be liable to a £5000 fine if they fail to comply. The new legislation requires that all landlords must install a working smoke alarm on every floor of a property as well as carbon monoxide detectors in all rooms where solid fuel appliances are present. More guidance and information here.

Gas Safety Check

An annual Gas Safety check is required and must be provided by a Gas Safe engineer. The inspection ensures that all gas appliances, pipework and flues that are provided within the property are safe and in working order. A certificate is obtained after an inspection and a copy has to be issued to existing tenants within 28 days after getting the check. New tenants should be given a copy at the start of the tenancy.

Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020

Duties of private landlords concerning electrical installations: Inspections of electrical installations by a qualified electrician will be mandatory at intervals of no more than 5 years or less than 5 years if specified in a previous report for landlords for all new tenancies from 1st July 2020. This will be rolled out to all existing tenancies from 1st April 2021. The new regulations were tabled by the Government on Monday 13th January 2020, requiring pre-tenancy and five-yearly checks of all fixed appliances and wiring. Landlords failing to comply with the new rules could face a financial penalty of up to £30,000.

Once the electrical installation has been tested, the landlord needs to receive a written report from the inspector, with the results of the inspection and test and the date of the next inspection and test. They must then;

  • Supply a copy of that report to tenants within 28 days of the inspection and test.
  • Give a copy to the local housing authority, if requested within seven days.
  • Retain a copy of the report until the next inspection and give it to the person carrying out the next inspection.

For new tenancies, the landlord must:

  • Give the tenant a copy of the most recent report before they occupy the property.
  • Supply a copy of the most recent report to any prospective new tenant who asks for it in writing, within 28 days

More detailed information and guidance can be found here

How to Rent Guide

The ‘How to Rent guide’ is an essential document that you MUST give to your tenants before renting them the property. You can read more and download a copy of this from the Gov.uk website here.

Carry out a Right to Rent check

As of the 1st February 2016, you must check that a prospective tenant or lodger has the legal right to rent your residential property in the UK. Immigration status can be identified by checking and taking copies of tenants’ identity documents in their presence. The Government has identified which documents will be considered legitimate. These include UK passports, European Economic Area passport or identity cards, permanent residence cards or travel documents showing indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Also accepted as proof of a right to rent are a Home Office immigration status document or a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen. Landlords will be able to carry out the checks themselves or request a letting agent to do the additional work on their behalf. Those that are found not to be carrying out the checks could be fined up to £3,000 per tenant for each breach. Further guidance can be obtained from the Government website here.

Arrange an Energy Performance Certificate

The law requires you to have a valid up to date EPC which must be provided every time you subsequently let your home to a new tenant. From October 2008 it became law that all advertisements must contain the property’s EPC rating which shows prospective tenants how energy efficient the property is. 

When an EPC is needed:

  • Individual house/dwelling (i.e. a self-contained property with its own kitchen/bathroom facilities) – one EPC for the dwelling.
  • Self-contained flats (i.e. each behind its front door with its own kitchen/bathroom facilities) – one EPC per flat.

The minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) Regulations mean that since 1 April 2018, private landlords may not let domestic properties on new tenancies to new or existing tenants if the Energy Efficiency Certificate (EPC) rating is F or G (unless an exemption applies).

Guidance for landlords of domestic private rented property on how to comply with the 2018 ‘Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency’ standard (EPC band E) can be obtained here. 

Lodging a Deposit

As a landlord, you must put your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007. You have 30 days from receiving the deposit to lodge in a scheme and provide the schemes prescribed information within 30 days of receiving it.

The maximum refundable tenancy deposit is capped at no more than the equivalent of five weeks rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above. It is important to have a detailed inventory to avoid disputes at the end of the deposit. 

Tenancy Fees

Most tenancy related fees are banned with a few exceptions you cannot give a valid section 21 notice if you took a higher deposit or a banned fee unless you return the overcharged amount first. 

Tenancy Agreement

When a tenant agrees to rent your property you must supply them with a tenancy agreement – this is the official contract that gives the tenant the right to live in your property, and you the right to receive rent from them.

The most common tenancy type is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), which includes the basic information of the tenant, landlord and property. It will also contain the proposed dates and duration of the tenancy, a breakdown of payments and required notice periods should the tenancy be terminated by either party. Your tenants are also legally entitled to know who you are and where you live, as their landlord. You must provide your tenants with this information within 21 days of starting the tenancy or you could be fined.

If you fail to provide your tenant with the above before they move into the property, it can affect your ability to evict your tenant in the future. A Section 21 notice is not considered valid unless the tenant has received (and you can prove they have received) the above.

Every year brings additional changes to legislation and increased regulations for landlords to keep their rental properties safe and free of health hazards. A failure to act on these changes can lead to hefty fines or even a prison sentence. Ignorance and not knowing the law are simply not a defence in the vast majority of cases. Even if you are not planning on using a letting agent to manage your property, it could be worth considering an agent’s tenant-find service. 

Additional Points

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms (England) Regulations 2015 come into force on 1st October 2015. Landlords and managing agents may be liable to a £5000 fine if they fail to comply. The new legislation requires that all landlords must install a working smoke alarm on every floor of a property as well as carbon monoxide detectors in all rooms where solid fuel appliances are present. More guidance and information here.

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