Landlord responsibilities

Read about landlords' legal obligations and responsibilities including making repairs to the property, and installing safety measures.

Key points

  • A landlord can be fined up to three times the amount of a deposit if they don't put it into a government-approved protection scheme within 30 days of receiving it
  • A council can carry out a health and safety inspection to make sure a property is safe for the tenants living there
  • You have to inform your mortgage company if you rent out a property

According to a 2017 report by Knight Frank, 21% of households are now private rentals, and lots of renters will rely on landlords for a good quality of accommodation.

Most landlords take their property responsibilities seriously and have landlord insurance to help them negotiate difficult situations, if they ever arise.

But, we’ve all heard the horror stories of the Rachman style landlords, who refuse to carry out essential repairs to below par buildings, putting people’s lives in danger.

So, legally, what are landlords obliged to do for their properties and tenants?

All landlords in Britain have legal obligations to:

  • Keep their properties safe
  • Make sure the gas and electrical equipment is installed properly
  • Have an energy certificate for the property
  • Keep tenants’ deposits in a scheme approved by the government

Other aspects of renting a property differ depending on which country you live in, including:

  • Tenants’ rights and responsibilities
  • Registering to be a landlord
  • Repairs a landlord is responsible for

This guide covers landlord responsibilities in England and Wales.

You can find out about the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland here:

Safety

To keep tenants safe, a landlord has to adhere to a number of health and safety regulations.

Fire

Landlords must ensure there are clearly marked and accessible escape routes in the rental property.

If the property is furnished, the furniture and furnishings must be fire safe, and the property must have fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors fitted.

Gas

A gas inspection has to be carried out annually by a Gas Safe-registered engineer, and a landlord has to provide their tenants with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate.

Electrical

A landlord has to ensure electrical installations, such as plug sockets are safe for the tenants to use.

The same goes for electrical appliances like cookers and fridges.

They must have a CE mark, which means a product complies with EU safety legislation.

If the property is considered a house of multiple occupation (HMO), a landlord must also carry out periodic inspections of all electrical installations every five years.

It’s considered good practice to carry out an inspection of all rented properties.

Keeping the property in good condition

According to Rob Cooke, director and head of property litigation at Lupton Fawcett, a law firm which provides advice to landlords and tenants:

“Landlords are legally responsible for ensuring basic repairs to property under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985."

This means they are responsible for repairing:

  • The structure and exterior of a dwelling, for example, the roof, walls, foundations, windows, external doors, drains, gutters, and external pipes
  • Basins, sinks, baths, showers and their pipework
  • Water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, boilers and water tanks, and heating systems

Failure to undertake repairs, or not carrying out repair work to a satisfactory standard can be regarded as negligent, and if a tenant is injured, as a result, could result in a claim being made under the Defective Premises Act 1972.

What happens if a landlord doesn’t carry out repairs to a property?

There are a number of avenues a tenant can explore if their landlord doesn’t sort out repairs needed on a property.

If the cost of the repairs is less than £5,000, they can take their landlord to small claims court.

In certain circumstances, tenants can do the repairs themselves, and deduct the cost from their rent.

A tenant can also complain to their local council, who may carry out an inspection under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSR).

An inspection will look for any health and safety hazards in the property.

If they find any serious hazards, the council can then take enforcement action to get the landlord to remedy them.

The council can also put a ban on anyone using a property, or carry out the repairs themselves and charge the landlord for them.

Protecting a tenant’s deposit

Gone are the days where a landlord could put a deposit into their bank account, and the tenant never see it again.

Now any deposits taken for an Assured Shorthold tenancy must be kept in a government-approved scheme.

The aim of the scheme is to protect the deposit on the tenant’s behalf.

As long as a tenant leaves the property in good repair, is up to date with the rent and any bills they’ve incurred, and has met the terms of their tenancy agreement, they’ll get their deposit back.

The paperwork

A landlord has to hand over a pile of paperwork to a tenant when they let out a property, so the tenant is fully informed about the property they’re renting, including:

  • The energy rating of the property
  • Copies of any safety certificates
  • A tenancy agreement
  • Deposit return

They also have to let a tenant know where their deposit is being held, how to get it back, and what procedure to follow if there’s a dispute over its return.

The right to rent

In England, under the Immigration Act 2014 a landlord is obligated to check the immigration status of their tenants before they move in. They also have to provide their tenants with a 'How to rent' guide, which gives details of both tenants’ rights, and landlords’ obligations.

Landlords in Wales don’t yet have to carry out ‘right to rent’ checks, or provide tenants with a guide.

Tax and National Insurance

As with other kinds of income, the income made from rentals is taxable and must be declared to HMRC.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as some expenses relating to the property are tax deductible.

Protect your property with landlord insurance

The best thing a landlord can do to protect themselves from unexpected expenses relating to their rental properties is to get a good insurance policy in place.

Lenders will usually insist a landlord takes out building insurance when they give them a mortgage, which will pay for rebuilding or repairing the property if for example, it gets flooded or subsidence occurs.

Add some additional cover to the basic buildings insurance and you’ve got a comprehensive insurance package to cover most eventualities:

By Kath Denton