The following is an overview of the legislation that might be relevant to you. The list is not exhaustive and it is strongly advised that legal advice is taken before embarking on a property letting venture.
Landlords are required by law to provide rented accommodation and contents which ensure a safe environment in which the tenant lives. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System Regulations give local authorities the power to serve enforcement notices on landlords to bring their properties up to the required standard. The Landlord and Tenant Act requires a landlord to keep the structure and exterior of the property safe and watertight and to maintain internal systems (water gas electricity heating hot water) in good condition.
Private landlords in Scotland must register with their local authority and satisfy requirements that they are 'fit and proper persons' to let property. The Landlord Registration website has full details. A landlord registration scheme was introduced in Northern Ireland in February 2014. Visit the NI Direct website for details. A similar licensing and registration scheme is in place in Wales from 2015. You can find out more on the Rent Smart Wales website.
Tenant deposit protection
Landlords in England and Wales that take a deposit from their tenants must participate in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). Similar schemes apply in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.
Right to rent
Landlords in England must check a new tenant's passport or biometric residence permit to make sure they have the right to live in the UK. This is part of cracking down on illegal immigrants and the government has announced that the scheme will be expanded across the UK. You can use the Right to rent tool on the Gov.uk website to see if the scheme covers your properties.
You will be responsible for repairs to the following (unless the tenancy is for a fixed term of more than seven years):
- the structure/exterior of the property
- sanitary installations such as baths basins sinks toilets
- heating/hot water systems and installations
Gas and electrical appliances
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations require you to make sure that all gas appliances are maintained in good order. An annual safety check must be carried out by a registered gas engineer.
Electrical equipment and appliances (such as fuses circuit breakers cookers kettles washing machines lawn mowers and so on) must be maintained in a safe to use condition as should electrical cables sockets and plugs. Equipment and appliances should be checked at regular intervals by a qualified electrician so that it can be demonstrated that you have complied with 'duty of care' obligations to your tenants.
The National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) website contains guidance for landlords on maintaining electrical appliances in a safe condition.
Furniture and furnishings
If you are providing furnished accommodation you must make sure that all furniture and soft furnishings meet minimum fire resistance standards and display the permanent label confirming compliance.
Smoke alarms and fire safety
As part of the landlord's duty of care to the tenant you must make sure that mains powered smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are fitted. You must make sure that the alarms are working at the start of each new tenancy. You must also make sure that any fire fighting equipment fire escapes and so on (as appropriate) are well maintained. You can download Housing - Fire Safety from the Landlordzone website.
Smoking bans throughout the UK mean that smoking is not allowed in enclosed public spaces. This means that all communal areas in rented residential accommodation must be smokefree - for example lifts and stairs in blocks of flats or shared areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. It is your responsibility to make sure that tenants (and other people such as visitors or cleaners) don't smoke in these communal areas.
Houses in multiple occupation (HiMOs)
HiMO properties must be licensed (England Scotland and Wales) or registered (Northern Ireland) with the local authority and landlords providing this type of accommodation must make sure that it complies with certain minimum standards.
Landlords should be aware of their duty to manage asbestos under the Control of Asbestos Regulations. This applies to non-domestic premises that you let as well as to the common areas of domestic premises. These are areas such as communal halls corridors and stairwells. You can read more about your duty to manage asbestos on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) websites.
Energy Performance Certificates
If you're letting to a new tenant you must give them an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing the energy-efficiency of the accommodation and its environmental impact rating. If a tenant asks for energy-efficiency improvements to be made to the property you can't unreasonably refuse to agree.
Re-selling gas and electricity
If your letting units are individually metered and you plan to charge customers for the energy they have used the Maximum Resale Price (MRP) regulations means that you cannot charge more per kilowatt hour than you have paid. You can add a proportion of the standing charge. Find out more on the Ofgem website.
If you re-sell water or sewerage services to your tenants you can only charge them the amount you pay to the water company plus a 'reasonable' administration charge. Ofwat says that this is around £5 per year per purchaser if there is no meter and around £10 per year if there is a meter. You can read guidance on water resale on the Ofwat website.
Equality and discrimination law
You must not discriminate against anyone because of their age disability gender reassignment marriage and civil partnership pregnancy and maternity race religion sex or sexual orientation. This applies to every aspect of your business operations from taking people on to dismissing them. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to your premises and working arrangements so that you don't unfairly discriminate against disabled people.
Landlords must not discriminate against anyone because of their age disability gender reassignment marriage and civil partnership pregnancy and maternity race religion sex or sexual orientation. They also have a duty to provide any necessary auxiliary aids or services that may be needed such as a collapsible access ramp.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland websites contain further information on your legal duties.
Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation that you must be aware of include:
- The Employment Rights Act
- The National Minimum Wage Act
- The Working Time Regulations
The employing people section of the Gov.uk website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.
What licences does an architect need?
Private landlords in Scotland must register with their local authority and satisfy requirements that they are 'fit and proper persons' to let property. You can apply to register online on the Landlord Registration website. Similar registration requirements apply in Northern Ireland. You can register your details online on the NI Direct website.
The Wales (Housing) Act 2014 introduces a registration and licensing regime for all private sector landlords from 2015. All landlords must register both themselves and their properties and if they want to self-manage their properties they must also be licensed. You can find out more on the Rent Smart Wales website.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HiMOs)
In Scotland the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 requires HiMOs to be licensed and to comply with certain minimum standards. Contact your local authority for further details.
From April 2006 the Housing Act 2004 introduced a mandatory licensing scheme in England and Wales for larger higher risk HiMos. Local authorities can also selectively licence smaller properties where there are problems. The Gov.uk website contains more information.
In Northern Ireland certain HiMOs must be registered - for example in areas near universities which are likely to have high concentrations of houses in multiple occupancy. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) website contains details.
If you provide a television in your rented property for use by your tenant both you and your tenant share responsibility for making sure there is a valid TV licence. You could either make it clear in your tenancy agreement that your tenant is responsible for the licence or you could obtain the licence yourself. You can add the cost to the rent. You can find out more on the tvlicensing.co.uk website.
Insurance for residentail lettings
Once you have acquired your letting properties you are going to need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain to him or her exactly how many properties you will have what type of accommodation you are letting (eg furnished/unfurnished HiMOs and so on) details of your tenancy agreements and so forth - the insurer will then recommend what cover you should have. This might include:
- landlord's liability
- rent and legal protection
- home emergency assistance (such as cover for cost of call-out and emergency repairs to internal water or heating systems)
Premiums may be paid in a lump or they may be paid in instalments. Your insurer will be able to advise you of the amounts due - enter them in the months when you will pay them.
Contact the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) for guidance on insurance matters.
Further help and information
Contact your local authority housing department a solicitor or Citizens Advice (formerly Citizens Advice Bureau) for help with legal matters.
Two helpful booklets are available free of charge:
- Landlords. A Guide to landlord's duties (Gas Safety Installation and Use Regulations 1998) free to download from the HSE Books website
- Fire safety of furniture and furnishings in the home: A Guide to the UK Regulations available for members to download from the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) website