LANDLORDS LAW GUIDE – A QUICK OVERVIEW

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Aug 31, 2016

With more and more laws now governing how landlords can rent property in England, we have with the help and creditable guidance of ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) provided you with some guidance on how you can ensure you get the best possible experience in renting out your property.

Using an Agent

All letting agents are not the same and the best way to determine which letting agent is right for you is not down to price. After all, how often is the cheapest the best? The same way you wouldn’t use an airline that is not protected or a travel company that is not apart of ABTA or ATOL, you really shouldn’t use a letting agent that is not ARLA registered. Reason being, in the event that something happens on the days before you fly out, if your airline or travel company is not protected by the governing bodies you will not get your money back. This is also true to the lettings industry as well. Agents that are not ARLA registered can; in the event of going into liquidation, run off with your money or in certain cases as a landlord you can stand to lose rent monies paid by your tenants and also be required to refund any deposit lost or stolen by the agent. By using an ARLA qualified letting agent, in the unlikely event that anything was to go wrong, your money will be reimbursed by ARLA through their Client Money Protection Scheme.

Tenancy Agreement

Contrary to popular belief, the law does not require a written tenancy agreement to be in place, but it is advised and is best practice. It clearly sets out the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant. The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is the standard agreement used throughout England and can last from anywhere between a minimum term of six months to a maximum of seven years. The AST will include information relevant to the tenancy, such as the date to when the tenancy commenced, the landlord’s details, the amount of rent owned and when and where it should be paid.

There are various standard tenancy agreement templates readily available. Although one should be aware of the many complications that can arise with using a very universal agreement. The services of a professional and experienced ARLA licensed agent can help many landlords in overcoming any problems and advise accordingly.

Tenancy Deposit and Other Documentation

If you are taking a deposit from the tenant, then it is important to know that it should be protected in one of the many Government approved schemes and that the deposit belongs to the tenant. Once placed in an approved scheme such as the TDSDPS or mydeposits, you should be providing the tenant with a certificate and prescribed information relating to the deposit within 30 days. Failure to do so, is against the law and could result in a court ordering the full refund of the deposit as well as a fine between one and three times the amount of the deposit on top. Unprotected deposits also mean that it is a lot harder to regain possession of the property from the tenant.

Along with the certification and information about the protected deposit, you should also be providing your tenant with the following information:

  • A copy of the DCLG How to Rent Guide,

  • A valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – valid for 10 Years,

  • A valid Gas Safety Certificate (renewed every 12 months),

  • A valid Electrical Certificate (not legal requirement),

  • Any property license required by your local authority.

Right to Rent checks

As of 1 February 2016 (or 1 December 2014 in parts of the West Midlands) all adult occupiers within new tenancies need to satisfy a Right to Rent check. Landlords are required to carry out ID checks to restrict illegal immigrants from accessing private rented housing. The home office has produced a user guide outlining forms of identification which can be used by permanent and time limited residents to meet the needs of the requirements. See ARLA/Home Office FAQs on Right to Rent checks here.

Property Licensing

House in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) consist of properties in which unrelated people share facilities such as the kitchen and/or bathroom. Large HMOs (more than two floors and five or more unrelated people) need to be licensed. Depending on where the property is situated, you may be subjected to additional and/or selective licensing. Check with your local authority to find out if you need a license.

Discrimination

As defined by the Equality Act 2010, is it against the law to discriminate against any tenant – on the basis of protected characteristics, which include race, sexual orientation and disability. While it is not against the law for the landlord not to make reasonable adjustments to the property, you would be breaking the law if do not give consent to the tenant to make reasonable alterations.

Health & Safety

It is also the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the property is safe. Gas appliances supplied by the landlord must be safely installed and maintained with annual checks by a Gas Safety registered engineer and tenants must be given copies of these certificates within 28 days of the start of the tenancy. In-built electrical supply and appliances provided by the landlord must be safe. Landlords intending to carry out electrical installation work in domestic property are required to either:

  • Notify the local authority building control team before work starts,

  • Have it carried out by an appropriately registered electrician,

  • Have the work inspected and tested by a registered third party certifier (England only).

Landlords providing residential accommodation have a legal duty to ensure the risk of exposure of tenants to legionella (a bacteria) is assessed and controlled.

From 1 October 2015, landlords or agents must ensure that occupied properties have a working smoke alarm on each floor of the property and a Carbon Monoxide alarm in every room which contains a solid fuel burning appliance.   Checks need to be made on these alarms on the first day of the tenancy. Responsibility for changing batteries moves to the tenant during the tenancy but the landlord is responsible for replacing units which develop a fault.

Relevant items of furniture and furnishings need to be able to pass the “smoldering cigarette” and “match flame” resistance test and carry a label confirming this. Any items that do not comply should be removed from the property. A comprehensive inventory signed by all parties at the start of the tenancy is essential in the event of a dispute and a final check is usually scheduled for the day that the tenant moves out.

If you are looking to rent out your property or would like help or advice on renting, please do not hesitate to contact a Harvey Victoria qualified ARLA Letting Agent, on 0121 448 5190. Harvey Victoria is a corporate member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).