Fit for human habitation
Any property you rent out should be fit for human habitation and in a reasonable state of repair, both internally and externally. In other words, there should be no damp creeping up the walls or holes in the roof. Don’t forget that you might also be responsible for the upkeep of any communal areas, such as the hall or stairs, depending on the type of property.
Liable for damages
If anyone has an accident or is injured on your property because of its poor condition, you could be liable for damages. So you should take repairs and maintenance seriously. You will, though, have to give your tenants 24 hours’ notice if you want to carry out any repairs to the property. The law prevents you from barging in unannounced.
The local authority has a duty to make sure that all accommodation, even privately rented property, is safe. If it has any reason to suspect that a property is hazardous, it can assess the accommodation in accordance with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). The HHSRS scores the property against 29 different hazards and can force the landlord to take action if there are any serious breaches of health and safety standards.
Gas safety checks
Landlords are obliged under the Gas Safety Regulations to make sure that any gas appliances are safe and that a safety check is carried out every year by a CORGI registered engineer. You must also give a copy of the safety check to the tenant and keep records for two years. Non compliance with the regulations is a criminal offence and, in the worst case scenario, you could end up facing a manslaughter charge.
Landlords have certain responsibilities towards their tenants and it’s important that they comply with the various rules and regulations
All the electrics in the property must be safe, whether it’s a fixed installation, such as wiring, or a portable appliance, such as a kettle. If you own Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), the fixed appliances must be checked by a qualified electrician every five years. The rules are not so strict for other types of rented accommodation, but you are advised to check the electrics regularly and certainly at the end of each tenancy. You should also only buy appliances that meet British safety standards – look out for the CE symbol.
Furniture and furnishing must meet fire resistance standards, so if you let out a furnished property, you should make sure you understand your responsibilities and replace any old furniture, or furniture that does not come up to scratch.
Fire safety regulations are complex as the exact responsibilities vary according to the type of property you rent out. Landlords can also be confused because they often have to abide by both the Housing Act 2004 and the Fire Safety Order. For more information, you should contact your local authority or fire service.
Energy Performance Certificate
A property to let must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which rates the energy efficiency of the home. By law, the EPC must be available to the tenants as soon as the property goes on the market. So if you haven’t got an EPC, you should make sure you arrange for a suitable assessor to come and rate the property. Prices vary, but you shouldn’t pay more than £100.
Insurance is not a legal requirement but if you take out a mortgage on your buy-to-let property, the lender will almost always insist that appropriate buildings insurance is in place. Landlords should also consider contents insurance, especially with a furnished let, even though the tenant is responsible for covering his or her own possessions. Take a look at our landlords insurance page to see what type of deal on insurance you could get.