Staying on top of lettings-focused legislation is a must for landlords if they are to keep tenants safe and avoid a range of penalties, but a number of independent studies reveal a shocking lack of knowledge among landlords of all the laws they should be adhering to.
Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, has issued a reminder to landlords who could be flouting regulations and leaving themselves at risk of prosecution.
She says: “There are currently over 140 pieces of legislation which apply to landlords, with more to come over the next few years. It’s a real challenge for landlords to keep up with constantly changing legislation, but failure to do so can result in landlords facing fines, restrictions and even prison terms, so acknowledging, understanding and acting on regulations should be a priority.”
Allison has highlighted eight key pieces of legislation that many landlords are not fully aware of:
1) Right to Rent
Legislation introduced in December means landlords who fail to obey Right to Rent rules now face a fine of as much as £3,000 or up to five years in prison. It means landlords or their letting agents must make adequate immigration checks to ensure a prospective tenant has the right to rent in the UK before letting a property.
2) Energy Efficiency regulations
Rental properties must, in general, achieve at least an ‘E’ rating in their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) by April 2018 - or landlords may not be permitted to let them out.
3) Electrical safety
The government’s recent white paper on housing outlined an intention to tackle the issue of electrical safety. Although no details have yet been announced, new laws are expected in April and could demand landlords prove their property has had its electrical installation check and that electrical appliances have been subject to a PAT test before it can be let.
4) Gas safety
A recent study by Gas Safe Register found more than one in five privately rented homes feature at least one unsafe gas appliance. Landlords are legally required to have a gas safety check carried out by a professional and provide tenants with a gas record at the start of their tenancy (and every 12 months thereafter).
5) Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
Landlords are legally required to install and maintain at least one working smoke alarm on each storey of tenanted properties, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. This became law in October 2015.
6) Want access to a property? Give notice
Landlords must give tenants at least 24 hours’ notice if they wish to enter a property, unless it is an emergency. If they do not, they will be in breach of the tenancy agreement. And even with notice, a tenant can refuse access.
7) Deal with maintenance requests - or lose the right to serve notice
The Deregulation Act in 2015 introduced a ruling that landlords must deal with maintenance or repair requests from tenants in a prescribed way - or face being unable to regain possession of their property. Landlords must now provide an adequate response to such requests in writing, detailing their intentions and a proposed timescale for any work. Those who do not will invalidate any Section 21 notice they serve.
8) Reduction of mortgage interest tax relief
Changes to the amount of mortgage interest tax relief enjoyed by landlords will be phased in from April 2017. It means landlords will no longer be able to deduct their mortgage interest costs against their rental profits. The reduction will be fully implemented by the 2020-21 tax year.
Allison adds: “It is clear there is plenty for landlords to stay on top of when it comes to legislation, so it is perhaps no surprise that so many are unaware of all their responsibilities. However, the penalties for not operating in accordance with the law are serious, so gaining a thorough understanding and staying compliant is a must for everybody letting a property.
“The easiest and most effective way to do this is to work with a knowledgeable, experienced letting agent who can ensure you and your property stay on the right side of the law at all times.”
For more information on meeting your legal responsibilities as a landlord contact your local Leaders branch.