Landlord Duty of Care – What You Should Know

Before you decide to rent out your house, you first need to make yourself fully aware of the responsibilities you undertake once you become a landlord.

Basic Principles

Even before you choose to advertise your house for rent, you have to make sure your house is suitable for occupancy.  This may seem blatantly obvious but you’d be surprised to hear how many landlords cut corners, purely focusing on the short-term financial gain they’ll receive once their tenants start paying rent.

What they crucially fail to realise is the detrimental effect that this will have in the long run.

Statutory and common law requires that there should be no unacceptable level of risk to the health or safety of the occupiers or their visitors.  If an injury or fatality occurred due to the poor condition of the property (for example a fall caused by a broken handrail) then you could be held liable. 

The last thing you want is a legal battle on your hands.  So make sure you consider all of the following before renting out your house. It will pay dividends in the long-term and keep your tenants happy.

Damp Conditions

This is a contentious subject between tenants and landlords.  As long as you make sure the property is adequately ventilated and there are no potential structural problems that could cause damp, then you have already held up your end of the bargain. 

Any damp issues that occur after you’ve ensured ventilation are likely to be a result of poor house maintenance by the tenant, such as failing to open windows and air the house, weather permitting of course.

Maintenance

Before renting out your property, you should make your self aware of necessary maintenance that you are held responsible for.  Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act1985 declares that for a tenancy that lasts less than seven years, the landlord shall keep in repair:

  • The structure and exterior of the dwelling;

  • The installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation;

  • The installations for the supply of space heating and water heating;

  • The communal areas and installations associated with the dwelling where these are controlled by the landlord.

Safety Regulations

Under the Fire and Furnishings (Safety) Regulations 1993, you are obligated to ensure that all furniture in your property or properties must comply with the fire regulations by displaying a label stating that they are fire resistant.

If items of furniture do not comply with fire regulations, you must either change them or authorise ourselves, as your agent, to either replace or remove the items before the tenancy commences.  Instructions to let a property available for rental will only be accepted if all furniture complies with regulations. Failure to comply can result in prosecution.

Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994 and 1996, all gas appliances must be checked by professional tradesmen and items marked with the date and time of testing to comply with government regulators.  You must carry out such tests annually or we can do them for you prior to the rental of the property and on an annual basis there after - the costs being deductible from the rent.

Under the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and Low Voltage Electrical Equipment Regulations 1989 (Consumer Protection Act 1987), all low voltage electric appliances (between 50 & 1000 Volts a.c.) supplied as part of the property must be “safe” as defined by Section 19 of the Act so there is no risk of death or injury to humans or pets, or risk of damage to property. To ensure your duty of care to supply safe appliances, it is generally accepted that you carry out a PAT test (Portable Appliance Test) at the start of each tenancy to ensure your tenant’s safety and minimise your liability in the event of a claim made against you.

You must also make sure that a copy of the instruction books for all appliances is left at the property.

Again, failure to comply with the regulations can result in prosecution.

HMO Regulations

A HMO is a House in Multiple Occupation.  The house you are renting or looking to rent can be classified as a HMO if:

  • The whole house or flat is let to 3 or more tenants forming 2 or more households (a single household meaning married couples, those living as husband and wife, including those in a same sex relationship or where one is a relative of the other) who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

  • A house converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation that is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained (i.e. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households.
  • A building converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies.

It is important for you to be aware of the extra responsibilities you will undertake if you’re renting a shared house.  You must:

  • Make sure that you have adequate fire safety measures in place – for example, there should be smoke detectors in all communal areas and bedrooms.  Also, there must be a heat detector fitted in the kitchen.

  • Carry out electric checks every 5 years.

  • Conduct gas safety checks on an annual basis.

  • Make sure that there is sufficient washing and cooking facilities for your tenants.

  • Ensure that all shared facilities and communal space is clean and in good condition.

  • Provide a sufficient amount of rubbish bins to accommodate all of the tenants living in the house.

  • Check that your property is not overcrowded.

In certain areas, you may need to apply for a HMO licence before you can rent out your property.  Renting out an unlicensed HMO can incur a fine of up to £20,000, so please make sure to check with your local council whether you need a licence or not. 

In addition, HMO regulations can vary amongst different councils, so you also need to make yourself aware of the regulations specific to your area.

Common Law

The last thing you want is to get tangled in a legal dispute with your tenant, so it’s important you brush up on your law.

Tenants have the right to move into the property without disturbance from you and people acting on your behalf.  Generally, you must pre arrange a visit with the tenant to carry out any property checks - you cannot simply turn up unannounced.

Keeping your tenants happy will profit you in the long-term.  You’ll also build up a solid reputation as a fair and trustworthy landlord, and this reputation is what ultimately influences a tenant’s decision when choosing a property to rent.

Using a professional agent can help assist you in all of these matters.  Contact us today or call into our office today for a friendly face-to-face chat.