Landlords have responsibilities and obligations. These hold whether you are a professional, full-time investor in buy to let property or you are an “accidental” landlord who has come into the business almost by chance and without any great conscious business goal.
So, what are your responsibilities as a landlord?
Duty of care
The duty of care – or the “good neighbour” principle as it is also called – is well established in English common law. Essentially, it means that you need to take every reasonable step to ensure that your actions, or failure to act, cause no injury or damage to the property of anyone else.
As a landlord, those reasonable steps extend to ensuring that no harm or property damage comes to your tenants, their visitors or members of the public.
Any breach of your duty of care which results in injury or damage may lead to a claim for compensation – and this may be a considerable amount.
In addition to that general duty of care, moreover, you also have certain legal obligations, which are also designed to ensure the health and safety of your tenants:
- gas safety – you are required to arrange for an annual inspection and safety check of the gas supply and appliances in your let accommodation;
- the inspection needs to be made by an engineer registered with Gas Safe and a copy of the certificate must be made available to your tenants;
- electrical safety – although the law does not define the scope or frequency of inspections, you have a responsibility for ensuring that the electrical supply and all appliances you make available to tenants are safe;
- fire safety – you must follow national and local fire regulations and ensure that tenants always have access to adequate escape routes;
- carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms – with effect from the 1st of October 2015, landlords are now required to install at least one fire alarm on each floor of the property they let, together with a carbon monoxide alarm in any room in which there is a solid fuel burner (a fireplace or wood burning stove, for example);
- tenants deposits – if you accept a deposit from tenants of any assured shorthold tenancy (the most common form of tenure), the law requires you to place that deposit for safe keeping with a government approved, independent third party;
- if you and your tenant fail to agree on the proportion of the deposit to be returned at the end of the tenancy, the deposit protection scheme provides for a free arbitration service to resolve the dispute.
These are just some of the responsibilities you take on from the moment your property is let to tenants. Depending on the area in which your property is located, there may be other regulations relating to the licensing of the let property or to your responsibility for checking any tenant’s Right to Rent, too.