Posted on 30th October 2015

Do you Know your Responsibilities as a Landlord?

Martin Williamson, Head of Residential Property

Shocking new research from a housing charity found that one in 10 privately-rented homes have had issues with vermin in the last year.

Nearly half of tenants who were surveyed said they had experienced poor conditions or disrepair in the last 12 months, with 11% saying they had suffered vermin problems and the same number saying they had reported electrical hazards.

Obviously, no one should have to put up with pests like fleas or rats, or be put at risk because of exposed wiring, and no diligent landlord would be happy knowing that tenants were living in such conditions.

The Shelter report, along with new legislation on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, has thrown landlords responsibilities firmly into the spotlight. Many people have found that they are "accidental landlords, after deciding to rent out their home if it failed to sell in a timely fashion.

So, just what are your legal responsibilities as a landlord, whether you have one rental property or dozens?

Gas safety

The tragic deaths of the two children killed on holiday in Corfu as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning highlighted just how vital it is to carry out the correct gas safety checks. New legislation which came into force this month means rental properties must have carbon monoxide alarms. You will also need to appoint a gas safe registered engineer to carry out an annual safety check of each appliance. A handy way to keep up-to-date with your gas obligations is to sign up to the Health and Safety Executives gas eBulletin.

Electric

Landlords must make sure that all sockets and light fittings are safe and that any appliances you supply as part of your contract have the CE marking. If your property is classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), then youll need to have inspections and tests carried out every five years by a registered electrician.

Legionella

While most landlords are aware that gas and electrical appliances need to be checked for safety, many dont realise they also have a responsibility to ensure tenants arent at risk of contracting Legionnaires Disease. All water systems require an assessment of the risk, which competent landlords can carry out themselves.

In most residential settings, a simple assessment is likely to show that the risks are low because daily water usage will be sufficient to turn over the entire system. Its important that water is not allowed to stagnate for extended periods of time, so if student accommodation is left empty over the summer holidays, then make sure you, or someone you appoint, can pop in regularly to maintain a degree of water flow.

Fire safety

Your tenants must have access to escape routes at all times and all furniture and furnishings you supply must be fire safe. While it is tempting, and cheaper, to buy second hand when furnishing a rental property, dont forget to check that it complies with current regulations. If you have a HMO, you also have to provide fire alarms and extinguishers and all landlords have to install smoke alarms.

Energy performance

While most of us are now aware that homes for sale need to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), its not as well known that you also need this for rental property. If proposed legislative changes get the go ahead, then only properties with an EPC rating of E or above will be able to be let legally

Sometimes obligations can seem overwhelming, particularly if you are a first-time or "accidental landlord. These are just some of the main responsibilities you will face along with making repairs, ensuring your tenants deposits are protected and, of course, paying tax. While rental property can be a sound investment, its important to go into it with your eyes open. That way, you can decide whether you really are happy to take on the responsibilities and legal obligations which being a landlord brings.


Please note: This article is intended as guidance only and does not constitute advice, financial or otherwise. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks.

Martin Williamson is Head of Residential Property at Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington. Latimer Hinks has a team of around 40 people serving private and corporate clients. For further information: www.latimerhinks.co.uk or call 01325 341500.