Buying a property and letting it to tenants may sound like easy money, but it’s a fiddly and increasingly bureaucratic business. The rules are also constantly changing, so you need to ensure you keep up to date. Here are some of the most important regulations prospective landlords need to know.
The law covering Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) will be tightened up from April 2018. An EPC rates the energy efficiency of a property from A to G (A is best, G worst). At present, landlords only need a valid EPC legally to let a property, but from April next year all private rented-sector homes must have a minimum EPC rating of E. The rule will only apply to new tenancies and renewals at first, but will be extended to existing tenancies by 2020.
Electrical and fire safety is crucial. All landlords have a legal duty to ensure the property’s wiring and any electrical appliances they provide in rented homes are safe. Electrical appliances that have been checked by an electrician should have a portable appliance test (PAT) sticker on the plug, showing the date they were tested. Rental properties must have access to escape routes at all times, along with fire-safe furniture and furnishings, fire alarms on all floors, and carbon monoxide detectors in any room with fuel-burning devices.
Where a property has a gas supply, the landlord must have a gas safety inspection each year. The boiler, appliances, installations, pipework, and air vents have to be checked to ensure they are safe to use. You must also give tenants a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate.
Landlords are responsible for repairs to the exterior and structure of a property, including the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains. They must also make sure the equipment for supplying water, gas and electricity is kept in safe working order. In particular, landlords have a legal duty to ensure tenants’ risk of exposure to Legionnaires’ disease is assessed and controlled. Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacteria found in man-made water systems, such as air-conditioning units, hot water tanks and whirlpool baths.
In houses with smaller domestic-type water systems and regular water usage, the risk is not thought to be high. Large buildings tend to be more vulnerable because they have more complex water systems and more room for the bacteria to spread. A letting agent or a plumber can help you investigate if you aren’t sure. If there is a problem, the remedy usually consists of simple measures such as ensuring water is stored at certain temperatures and getting rid of superfluous pipework.
The list goes on. Some buy-to-let mortgages ban letting to tenants on housing benefit or to members of the landlord’s family. All landlords have to follow the “right to rent” rules, which check tenants have the legal right to live in the UK. Landlords letting to illegal immigrants can be fined up to £3,000 or even imprisoned.
Since 1 October 2015 landlords have to give new or renewing tenants a copy of a government guide called “How to rent”. The guide outlines the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords. Keep in mind too that you are legally obliged to protect any deposit taken from the tenant in a government-backed deposit-protection scheme. There are three of these to choose from: the Deposit Protection Scheme, MyDeposits, and Tenancy Deposit Scheme.