Do you know your responsibilities as a landlord?

When you take on the role of a landlord, you also take on a number of responsibilities – primarily, of course, to the tenants with whom you have a tenancy agreement.

Duty of care

Your fundamental responsibilities as a landlord stem from the long-established principle in English common law relating to your duty of care. This principle is described by Wikipedia to be one establishing that an individual owes a duty of care to ensure that someone else comes to no unreasonable harm or loss.

Furthermore, if that duty is breached, the individual may be held negligent and as a result ordered to pay the injured party damages by way of reparation. Depending on the seriousness of the personal injury sustained or the loss or damage to property involved, those damages may be very substantial.

For that reason, landlord insurance policies typically include provision for indemnity against public liability (also known as property owner’s liability) claims – whether these are made by tenants or even members of the public who visit your property.

Note that most landlord insurance policies do not include employers’ liability insurance as part of their cover. So, if you have cleaners and letting agents for example, who work at your property, you may need to consider this protection.

Health and safety

The reasonable steps you are responsible for taking include the protection of your tenants from the effects of faulty gas and electricity installations and appliances and the maintenance of adequate fire precautions and safety regulations.

The official Gas Safe Register, for example, reminds landlords of their statutory duty to ensure that all gas flues, fittings and appliances are safe for tenants to use and the need for an annual inspection by a qualified engineer registered with Gas Safe. The record of that inspection needs to be provided to any existing tenant or a new one before they move in.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides similar guidance on the need for checks and inspections of electrical installations and appliances in order to ensure their safety.

Detailed guidance on fire safety within rented accommodation and the landlord’s responsibilities for ensuring adequate fire prevention and warning measures is also the subject of a joint publication by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Chief Fire Officers Association.

As part of their duties for ensuring the overall safety standards in let property, local authorities also have powers to make inspections and rate the premises using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which examines a range of 29 potential trouble spots and scores them according to the seriousness of any defects.

Tenants’ deposits

Landlords customarily request a deposit from a tenant as security against and damage or breakages. For any tenancy that started after the 6th of April 2007, the landlord has a legal responsibility for placing that deposit for safekeeping with a registered, government backed tenancy deposit scheme.

At the end of the tenancy, the landlord needs to agree with the tenant the amount of the deposit that is to be returned – that is to say, the initial amount, less any deductions for damage or breakages. If the two parties are unable to agree their respective shares of the money, the tenancy deposit scheme offers a free arbitration service to resolve any disagreement.

You can read more here about your legal obligations.