Well….are you a Legal Landlord?
So, you’ve taken URBAN’s legal landlord quiz and we’re confident that you’ve aced it. However, if you need a reminder of some of the common questions facing landlords today, use this oracle checklist to brush up on your legal responsibilities.
Don’t forget to visit the URBAN Landlord University for everything you need to know about letting and your property. It’s packed with invaluable advice and all the latest important news for landlords.
Question 1: How often do you need to apply for a Gas Safety Certificate on your rental property?
Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants' to make their properties gas safe by obtaining a Gas safety certificate (CP12) every 12 months. This is enforced by law under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
It is your responsibility to ensure that all gas appliances, pipework, fittings and flues in your property are maintained and serviced regularly, and that an annual gas safety check is carried out by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. New regulations introduced in April 2018 allow a landlord to arrange for a gas safety check to be carried out any time from 10-12 calendar months after the previous check whilst still preserving the original check expiry date. Where a gas safety check is carried out less than 10 months or more than 12 months after the previous gas safety check this will have the effect of ‘resetting the clock’ and the new deadline date will now be 12 months from the date of this latest gas safety check.
Question 2: If you successfully apply for a MEES exemption, how long is it valid for?
Answer: The length varies, depending on the exemption
Whilst it is true that most exemptions last for 5 years, not all exemptions have this blanket time frame.
If you are a new landlord and buy a property that does not meet the criteria, you can register a new landlord exemption for six months, following the date you took over the property as the landlord. This gives you a little breathing space to carry out works but does mean you have to get works in order fairly quickly.
The other exemption to consider is one relating to your tenant. If your tenant will not give you consent to carry out the required works on the property – if it may impact their lifestyle or works will cause undue impact for example – the exemption is only valid for the length of time that this tenant is resident at the property. If the tenant moves on, and a new tenant takes over the property, you will be required to comply with the MEES regulations. If you are unable to, you will have to register for a new exemption.
You should ensure that you keep evidence of any surveyors reports and receipts of work completed, which will act as evidence should you seek to get an exemption. An exemption, which will be made public on the Exemptions Register, lasting for five years, during which time you are expected to make every attempt to increase the EPC rating. If this is not possible, a further exemption may be granted.
Question 3: When the new HMO regulations come into force in October, what is the minimum size room you will be able to let to a single adult tenant?
Answer: 6.51 sq m
Under the new HMO regulations, that we are due to see come into force in October, room sizes are a big area of concern.
The new guidelines dictate that rooms slept in by one person over the age of 10 years can be no smaller than 6.51 square meters.
Those slept in by two people over ten years can be no smaller than 10.22 square meters and those slept in by children of ten years or younger can be no smaller than 4.64 square meters.
Regardless of the age of occupant, all rooms must have a minimum ceiling height of 2.14 meters over 75% of the floor area, and if the ceiling height if the room at any stage is less than 1.52 meters, the floor space below that ceiling will be disregarded. Chimney breasts, attached lobbies and en-suite bathrooms are not taken into account, whereas space into a bay window will be included.
Question 4: What are the legal smoke alarm requirements for a rental property?
Answer: One installed on every storey of the premises.
While the government regulations do not stipulate where the alarms should be placed, at least one smoke alarm should be installed on every storey of a rental property and a carbon monoxide alarm placed in every room where a solid fuel burning appliance is present.
However, the advice is that smoke alarms should be fixed to the ceiling in a circulation space, i.e. a hall or a landing, and carbon monoxide alarms should be positioned at head height, either on a wall or shelf, approximately 1 to 3 metres away from a potential source of carbon monoxide.
Question 5: Under the new GDPR regulations, what document should you issue to your tenants to ensure compliance?
There’s been plenty in the press about GDPR, and as a landlord understanding the regulation is particularly important, as you hold a significant amount of key data on our tenant.
This only needs to be a simple document, laying out clear, easily understandable facts surrounding your data management process. You should include:
- Type of data that is being collected – name, date of birth etc
- Who is collecting it
- Legal basis for collecting data
- What will be the effect of sharing to these organisations have this on the individuals concerned?
- How is it collected – email/digital form/in person etc
- Why is it being collected – are there different types of potential processing?
- How will it be used – what are you planning to do with it?
- How it WON’T be used – what will you NOT do with it
- How data will be stored/protected – Cloud storage, how long will you store it etc
- How you would manage a data breach
- The potential consequences of choosing to not provide data (not being able to issue a tenancy agreement, for example)
- Provide a clear way to contact you to stop processing of their data completely, or stop aspects of processing
It’s useful to issue a privacy notice separately to your tenancy agreement (rather than including it), if you have to make any changes, you can reissue without having to change the entire agreement.
Question 6: Issuing Prescribed Information when you take a deposit is a vital step. But who needs to receive it?
Answer: Anyone who included a financial contribution towards the deposit
In most cases, the tenant will supply their deposit themselves. In which case, you only need to worry about submitting the Prescribed information to them.
However, there are plenty of instances when the tenant may not be the sole contributor to their deposit – if indeed they pay for any of it. You may find that if you let to students, the Bank of Mum and Dad may help out with deposits; if you have tenants in receipt of housing benefit of Universal Credit, the local authorities may contribute some or all of the initial payment; for company lets a third party may stump up the deposit. There may even be a combination of the tenant and one, or more third parties.
In this instance, you are required to ensure that the Prescribed Information is served to every party who has contributed financially to the deposit.
Question 7: How long is a Section 21 check valid for once it has been issued?
Answer: Six months from the date of issue
Once served, a section 21 notice will only last for six months. If you do not start court proceedings during this time, the notice is no longer valid, and you have to start proceedings again. If you start proceedings and they are still ongoing six month after the issue date, you can continue, as it can’t be seen as your fault that the proceedings are taking longer than expected!
Question 8: How much notice do you have to give your tenant before you enter the property for a routine check?
Answer: 24 hours
It is vitally important to always give your tenant 24 hours’ notice before you want to enter the property, and you do need their consent to do so – especially if it is simply for a routine check.
When you sign a tenancy agreement, you are passing the property over to your tenant for the duration of the let – you may own the property, but it is their home. You do not have the right to come and go as you please, and they have the ‘right to quiet enjoyment’ of the property, as you would expect!
If you turn up unannounced and look to enter the property, your tenant could accuse you of harassment, and would have a strong case. Harassment is defined as any actions that you take that deliberately disrupts your tenant’s life at home or are a direct action to make them leave the property. These include, but are not limited to:
- Entering the tenant’s property without permission
- Sending tradesmen in without notice, or at unsociable hours
- Cutting off utilities – water, gas, electric
- Interfering with belongings in or around the property
- Interfering with post (this is a criminal act in itself)
- Threatening physical violence
- Discriminating on the grounds of gender, race or sexuality
- Allowing the property to get into such a bad state of repair that its dangerous for the tenant to remain
- Beginning disruptive works and not finishing them
- Refusing to allow your tenant access to certain parts of the property
- Preventing your tenant from having guests
- Intentionally moving other tenants in that are a nuisance to the household
- Forcing the tenant to sign agreements which remove their legal rights
It is wise to remember that instructing someone else to carry out an action that would have this impact – a friend, member of your family, employee or letting agent for example – would have the same effect.
You do have a right to access the property in the instance of an absolute emergency, however, hopefully these instances will be rare.
These instances include:
- A fire in the property
- A smell of gas
- Flooding from the property
- Structural damage which urgently needs attention
- The suspicion of a violent or criminal incident
If you need to access the property in order to deal with an emergency of this nature you can do so, but be sure to contact the tenant to clarify what is going on, chance are that they will want to come home fairly quickly too!
Question 9: In which situation would you use a Deed of Surrender?
Answer: Allowing your tenant to exit a tenancy agreement early
A Deed of Surrender is one of the lesser known landlord documents, but in today’s flexible world, one of the most useful.
Many landlords will be familiar with the situation of a tenant approaching them mid-way through a tenancy, enquiring about the possibility of breaking the agreement early. Sometimes, it can work better to let the tenant go when they request to, rather than run the risk of the tenant leaving anyway. After all, if someone has a new job, of a need to move across the country, it is unlikely that their tenancy agreement is going to stop them!
In this situation, the Deed of Surrender is a perfect fit. It allows you and your tenant, to end the AST contract and go your separate ways.
This legally binding document, signed and dated by both you and your tenant, states that both parties have voluntarily agreed to bring the tenancy to an end – ‘surrendered’ it – and once it has been completed all obligations and rights under the tenancy cease. There is no legal obligation to have your signatures witnessed, however in order to prevent any debate, it is very good practice.
Your tenant would be required to undertake all the standard end of tenancy procedures, return all your keys and remove their belongings etc, and you as the landlord would regain complete control of your property.
Until both parties have signed the agreement, the tenant has a full liability to pay the rent of the property, and you as a landlord still must maintain the safety of the property and comply with any legislative requirements – gas safety certification etc.
Should your tenant fail to hand back possession of your property, you would then be required to obtain a court order to evict the tenant. However, be sure to remember that despite being in possession of the Deed of Surrender you are not permitted to harass the tenant to try and move them on from your property.
Question 10: If your local authority has a selective licensing scheme in place, which properties will require a licence?
Answer: Private residential rental properties that fall within the district subject to the licensing scheme
Selective licensing schemes are becoming more prevalent, with many local authority identifying the need for them.
Selective licensing was introduced to increase the standard of private rental stock within areas that suffer from a low housing demand, or a significant or persistent antisocial behaviour problem. It is hoped that a licensing scheme, which requires private sector landlords to comply with a number of requirements in order to gain a licence, will help increase the quality of housing stock and encourage management of tenant behaviours, increasing the calibre of the PRS in the licensed areas.
Because of the specific issue being tackled, it is only properties which fall within the areas of concern which require a selective license. The local authority will outline the areas of concern, and all properties within the PRS will require a license.
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