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Before you begin the process of letting your property, you need to be thoroughly prepared. There is a lot to do before you can think about getting yournew tenants through the door. More and more legislation is coming out every year, making it increasingly difficult for Landlords to comply. Even though some of the legislation is not 'statutory', if anything goes wrong, then you will still end up with a fine or imprisonment. Whilst many of these issues are not explicit legal requirements, they are considered good practice. It is important to note that the Consumer Protection Act 1987 clearly states that any rented property must be safe for the purpose. Unless a landlord can prove they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the property is safe then they may be found criminally negligent if anything happens to their tenant. In these cases the test would be whether the landlord followed best practice.
In case you feel this is all cost and no benefit, it is important to remember that tenants move on from poorly maintained properties. These tenants also tend to be less likely to care for the property whilst they are there. Both these things create a cost for the landlord, which may far exceed the cost of meeting the safety obligation.
Landlords are required to ensure their property is safe. Therefore obvious problems need to be addressed, such as loose or torn floor coverings, sharp edges, broken glass, handrails fitted for the full length of the stairs, greenhouses to be removed and ponds to be filled etc. In any event it is general good maintenance to keep on top of these things. You can download the Department for Communities and Local Government guidelines to 'Housing health and safety rating system' (HHSRS) HERE.
The Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988
All furniture and furnishings must be fire resistant, any that is not fire resistant will need to be removed from the property before the tenancy begins and any replacement furniture would need to comply. More information can be found HERE.
The residential landlord association has a fantastic tool and lots of useful information on their web-site, you can access it HERE.
EPC - An Energy performance certificate provides a record of the energy efficiency rating of a building. The building is assessed on a scale from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). It also recommends improvements that could upgrade this rating, such as installing internal and external wall insulation, replacing the boiler with a more efficient model, or installing double-glazed windows. New homes are rated between A and C and older homes between E and G. The average rating is D.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are needed whenever a property is built, sold or rented. You must order an EPC for potential buyers and tenants before you market your property to sell or rent. To see if your property already has a valid EPC you can check the EPC register.
As from the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The regulations will come into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020. It will be unlawful to rent a property, which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption. A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches. This guidance summarises the regulations.
Gas safety certificate - If there is a gas supply at the property you will need to ensure there is a gas safety certificate in date before the tenants move in, as part of the De-Regulation Act 2015 this will need to be provided to the tenants when they move in and will need to be renewed every 12 months by a qualified gas safe engineer.
Electric safety certificate – It is not a legal requirement for a landlord to have an electrical safety certificate for each property unless it is a HMO. For non-HMO the landlord needs to demonstrate that the electrics are in good working order, it is therefor-best practice to have a certificate in place. With a HMO the certificate will need to be renewed every 5 years.
Legionella risk assessment - There is no legal requirement for a landlord to provide a certificate to prove this has been carried out but they will need to demonstrate that they have assessed the risks before renting out the property.
Licensed HMO's - the general rule is that any property with more than 4 unrelated tenants will require a HMO license and additional certification such as a fire alarm test certificate may be required. Due to the ever-changing nature of the legislation as well as the variance between councils the advice would be to consult with the local HMO officer when looking to rent a HMO property.
Smoke Alarms - As per 'the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015', private sector landlords are required from 1 October 2015 to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg a coal fire, wood burning stove). After that, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. The requirements will be enforced by local authorities who can impose a fine of up to £5,000 where a landlord fails to comply with a remedial notice.
Download the The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations HERE.
De-regulation Act 2015 - On 1 October 2015 a number of provisions in the Deregulation act 2015 come into force. These provisions are designed to protect tenants against unfair eviction where they have raised a legitimate complaint about the condition of their home.
These provisions also require that landlords provide all new tenants with information about their rights and responsibilities as tenants. They provide that a landlord cannot serve a section 21 notice unless they have complied with certain legal responsibilities, and introduce a new standard form that landlords must use when evicting a tenant under the 'no fault' (section 21) procedure. This will make it more straightforward for landlords to evict a tenant where it is legitimate to do so.
These provisions apply to all new assured shorthold tenancies that start on or after 1 October 2015.
Download the guide HERE.
How to rent guide - one of the requirements of the de-regulation act is that each tenant is issued with a copy of the how to rent guide when they move in. Download the how to rent guide HERE.
Deposits - All tenancies on an assured shorthold tenancy since 6 April 2007 must have the deposit protected in a government backed tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of it being paid. Failure to do this can result in the landlord having to pay compensation of 3 times the deposit amount to the tenant, together with returning the original deposit to them. Tenants need to be provided with a copy of the deposit registration certificate and prescribed information which indicates the scheme the deposit is registered with and the schemes terms and conditions. Failure to protect a deposit and/or provide the tenant with the correct documentation will prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant using a section 21 Notice.
Right to rent - The Immigration Act 2014 introduced the concept of 'right to rent' to the private rented sector. Originally introduced in the West Midlands, right to rent requires landlords and agents check the immigration status of their prospective occupiers at the outset of the tenancy. Failure to do so could result in fines for landlords and letting agents as of February 1st 2016 across England. From December 1st 2016, the government has introduced additional penalties and offences relating to right to rent. Landlords now face potential imprisonment for failure to check the occupier's right to rent status, so it is even more important that they do it correctly every time. This guide will help prepare landlords for the current requirements of this scheme. Download the guide HERE.
Watts and Co are pleased to have won the award for the Best Estate Agent for Customer Service and Experience in the LS4 postcode.