A multitude of obligations: an aide memoire for residential Landlords

In these times of austerity, more and more property owners are becoming reluctant Landlords of residential properties. Also,existing private residential Landlords who currently utilise property management organisations, faced with increasing insurance premiums and falling rents, may be considering dealing with all property management issues themselves as a way of cutting costs. 

Unfamiliar with the legalities surrounding the letting of residential properties, some Landlords mistakenly think that they need only concern themselves with the terms of the tenancy agreement (assuming that there is a written agreement). As ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the Court, an innocent oversight on the part of a Landlord could result in a substantial fine or even imprisonment.

The following is a non-exhaustive brief summary of some of the key obligations owed by a Landlord letting a single residential property to 1 household under an assured short-hold tenancy to help a Landlord avoid falling foul of their legal and contractual responsibilities. It is not intended to consider Houses in Multiple Occupation ("HMO") which are subject to an array of additional obligations outside the scope of this article.

Repair

Landlords are required to keep the structure and exterior of a residential property in a state of repair and proper working order. "Exterior" is the outside part of the property but does not extend to garden walls or gates ."Structure" covers the main fabric of the property such as the main walls, foundations and roof but does not include decorative items such as door frames, plaster, coving, skirting boards etc.

A Landlord's obligation to repair any defect will not arise until the Landlord has notice of the defect. However, as discussed in our "Knowledge is not everything: Landlord liable for unknown defect" article, knowledge of a defect can, in certain circumstances, be inferred and a Landlord held responsible for any damage suffered as a result of a defect,  even if a Tenant has not expressly notify the Landlord of a defect

Gas, Electricity and Water

Landlords must ensure that all gas appliances at a property are maintained and in good order. A record must be kept of all safety checks undertaken by a properly qualified contractor with a copy of an up to date gas safety certificate provided to the tenant within 28 days of each annual check being carried out or before they move in. Tenants must also be shown how to turn off the gas supply in the event of a gas leak

The supply of electricity must be safe, although there is no obligation upon a landlord to have professional checks carried out by a qualified contractor on the electrical system or appliances.

Landlords are required to ensure that all basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary or drainage installations are in good working order.

Fire

All properties built after June 1992 must have a mains operated inter-connected smoke alarms fitted on every level of the property. There is no obligation to install a fire safety system, whether mains or battery operated. in any residential property built pre-June 1992.

Where a property is let on a fully or partly furnished basis,, any furniture and general furnishings supplied by a Landlord must be fire resistant.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Landlords must provide an Energy Performance Certificate to all new and prospective tenants which records  the energy efficiency levels of the property. An EPC does not need to be provided if the Landlord reasonably believes that a prospective tenant does not have the means to pay the required rent.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Where a Landlord takes a deposit from a tenant relating to a tenancy entered into after 6 April 2007, the Landlord must ensure that they lodge that deposit with an appropriate Tenancy Deposit Scheme. A failure to lodge the deposit with such a scheme could prejudice a Landlord's ability to recover possession of the property and also expose the Landlord to a fine. For a summary of recent changes to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, see our "Tenancy Deposit Scheme: back from the brink - again?" article.

Contractual Obligations

Strange as it may seem, some Landlords are unfamiliar with the terms of their own tenancy agreement. Whilst they may pay close attention to a tenant's duties, they overlook their own obligations. Whilst most tenancy agreement limit the Landlords responsibilities to the obligations set out above, Landlords should nonetheless ensure they understand and appreciate the extent of their contractual obligations.

Most mortgage companies prohibit or at least restrict a property owner's ability to let a property to a third party without the prior consent of the mortgage provider. Likewise, a Landlord's property insurer will likely need to be advised of an intention to let a property. In both cases, it should not be assumed that consent will be provided. 

Rollits' Property Dispute Resolution Team, headed by partner Ralph Gilbert, has a wealth of experience in assisting commercial and residential Landlords in not only resolving problems that may arise from their legal duties and obligations but also providing proactive advice to minimise the risk of any issues arising in the first place. If you have any contentious property related queries, please contact Ralph Gilbert, partner and Head of the Property Dispute Resolution Group on 01482 323239 or at ralph.gilbert@rollits.com.

Rollits' Property Team, headed by partner Neil Franklin, advise  to Landlords on all aspects of residential and commercial property. If you have any non-contentious property related queries, contact Neil Franklin, partner and Head of Rollits' Property Team on 01482 323239 or at neil.franklin@rollits.com.

Posted on: 19/11/2012

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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