If you’re thinking of renting out a property, it’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities as a landlord, not only in the day-to-day management of your portfolio but also in the event of a dispute.
Renting a home to tenants comes with many responsibilities that are set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Housing Act 1988. You must draw up a written tenancy agreement, as informal oral agreements can lead to problems later.
Once the tenant is in residence, you can’t make them sign an agreement varying the terms of the tenancy, so it’s vital that the agreement is correct before they move in. Read on to find out exactly what being a landlord involves.
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Repairs and maintenance
The landlord is responsible for keeping the property safe and in a state of good repair, so they must continually maintain the home, carrying out all necessary repairs. The landlord is also responsible for maintaining and cleaning shared areas within the building, such as the hallways.
In the majority of cases, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to carry out all major and structural repairs. This includes walls, the roof, floors and windows, including the window frames. Also included in the landlord’s remit are repairs to plumbing, sinks, wash basins, the toilet and the bath and the safety and maintenance of electrical wiring, fixed heaters and gas pipes.
The landlord must also arrange and pay for safety checks at least once every 12 months by a qualified person who is registered on the Gas Safe Register.
Normally, the tenants are obliged only to take reasonable care of the property, which commonly includes doing minor jobs such as general housework, to keep the place clean and keeping the garden tidy.
The tenancy agreement can be written to include specific stipulations for the tenant’s obligations, such as decorating the interior and keeping it in a good state of repair.
It must be remembered, however, that if the landlord makes the tenant responsible for too many aspects of the property’s maintenance, the law will intervene. This is why it’s important to have a watertight tenancy agreement from the onset, so that both parties know where they stand.
The landlord must take reasonable precautions to prevent personal injury to the tenant or damage to their personal belongings due to any issues with the property.
The landlord must provide access to electricity, hot and cold water, heat and fuel such as natural gas. You’re not allowed to shut off these services, even when the tenant hasn’t paid the rent. The landlord can turn off these services only temporarily in order to carry out repairs.
If the services are included in the rent, the landlord and tenant must agree in writing that the tenant will pay for these services, either based on what they use or as a standard fee each month.
Alternatively, if the electricity and gas are not included in the rent, then the tenant must make a personal agreement directly with the utilities company to pay the bill to them.
The landlord is entitled to receive the rent regularly and on time. Always keep a written record of when payments have been made. If you have more than one tenant in the property under a joint tenancy, you must make it clear they are jointly responsible for any rent arrears, even if it’s just one tenant who isn’t paying their rent on time.
If you decide to try and repossess the property due to non-payment of rent, it can be a rather long process, during which time the landlord must follow the correct procedures. Write to the tenant first to point out the rent arrears, asking for them to be paid and to ensure the rent is paid on time in future.
If it still isn’t paid, send another letter demanding payment and stating that if the arrears aren’t paid, you’ll be seeking to repossess your property. If you still don’t receive any rent and 21 days have passed, send a third and final letter advising of repossession action, if the rent is two months in arrears.
Then, under the Housing Act 1988, you can begin legal action to repossess your property.
Similarly, if you have problem tenants who are creating a nuisance, or who have damaged your property, there are legal steps that you must take to act within the law to protect your property.
It can be a lengthy process to repossess your property and it may be necessary to seek professional legal advice. You will need to serve a Section 21 notice of possession, or a Section 8 eviction notice, under the Housing Act 1988.
Even then, the tenant may dispute it and it may be necessary to go to court, which can take time. A landlord can serve a Section 21 notice of possession, even if the tenant has done nothing wrong and they merely intend to recover vacant possession of your property, but the notice must be served in the correct manner if it’s to be enforced in court.
If as a landlord you’re in doubt about any aspect of your letting arrangement, it’s always best to seek professional advice.
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