A Compliance Primer for Residential Property Lettings in the UK
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
This article provides an overview of the common tasks to consider to stay compliant when letting a residential property in the UK. A failure in compliance can often result in costly fines.
Non-compliance can also result in losing your Section 21 rights needed in order to take back a property from a tenant. As a managing agent it also leaves you open for the landlord to potentially claim damages.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 lays out many of legal requirements that landlords of residential properties must comply with. These cover health and safety requirements, information disclosure, and repairs. Section 21 is part of the Housing Act 1988. However, there are over a hundred pieces of legislation that govern renting residential properties in the UK. These are meant to protect both tenants and landlords but both parties have to be aware of their rights and responsibilities to avoid fines or losing said rights.
If you are thinking of letting out a residential property here is a list of the common requirements to help keep you compliant:
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
You are legally required to complete an EPC before you can even market your property. This certificate contains information about the average energy costs for the property as well as suggestions on how occupants can reduce these costs.
The certificate is usually valid for a 10-year period and includes an energy efficiency rating for the property. Your property can be graded between A and G, where A is given to the most efficient properties and G to the least efficient. Only accredited assessors can assess your property and produce an EPC. As a landlord, you have to present this to a tenant before they sign the tenancy agreement or move in.
However, there are some properties that do not require you to order an EPC. These include listed buildings and residential properties that will not be used for 2/3rds of a year.
Health And Safety Standards
The health and safety standards for residential properties are enforced by your local council. This is done using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This system checks a residential property by using 29 different areas relating to health and safety. These range from checking drainage and sanitation to falling hazards in the property. These also cover electrical and gas safety checks as well as fire hazards.
An HHSRS inspection can be done by the council at the request of your tenants, or by themselves if they deem it necessary. However, we advise that all landlords should get an HHSRS inspection done on their own to ensure that their property is safe to live in. This is also important as non-compliance, such as failure to act on enforcement notices, can often result in heavy fines.
To ensure the safety of residents in a property, in this case, tenants, the Gas Safety Regulations of 1998 requires all gas flues and appliances in the property to undergo a yearly gas safety check. This is exclusively done by an engineer registered with Gas Safe. After the inspection, the engineer issues a Gas Safety certificate or a Landlord Gas Safety Record.
You have to keep a record of all Gas Safety checks, as well as the details of any repairs that may have been carried out. Both you and the tenant must have a copy of this information. You have to provide your tenants with a copy of the most recent Landlord Gas Safety Record no more than 28 days after a new inspection. Although gas appliances owned by the tenant are not your responsibility, you are still responsible for any connecting flues that may be connected to appliances you own.
The law requires landlords to ensure all electrical fittings, wiring, and appliances are compliant with safety regulations. This includes portable appliances such as kettles, freezers, and washing machines, as well as the main circuit breaker.
Portable Appliance Test (PAT)
The PAT test is specifically designed for portable appliances and tests their safety levels. This has to be performed by a competent person, ideally someone who has the required knowledge and training on electrical safety. Although this test is not required by law, it should be a part of your electrical safety checking regime.
Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
As opposed to the PAT test, The EICR is required by law. This report is produced after an inspection and testing of electrical installations in a property to check for compliance with electrical safety regulations.
This inspection and testing have to be done once at least every five years. Like the Gas Safety Record, a copy of this report has to be provided to a tenant no later than 28 days after an inspection. For new tenants, this has to be provided to them before they move in. There are exceptions for long leases, typically longer than 7 years.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulatory Compliance
The law requires all residential properties as well as each of their floors where there is at least one habitable room to have working smoke alarms installed. You should know that heat detectors are not considered suitable replacements for smoke alarms.
In addition to this, a carbon monoxide alarm has to be installed in all rooms that have a solid fuel-burning appliance. Landlords are encouraged to install carbon monoxide alarms in rooms where gas appliances are installed as these can also emit carbon monoxide.
Landlords must ensure that all alarms are in working order when the tenancy begins after which they become the responsibility of the tenant.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment
As a landlord, you are required by law to conduct a fire safety risk assessment. You can perform this assessment yourself by following a guide. The assessment involves looking at potential fire hazards, the presence of escape routes, and checking appliances that may be more prone to fire-related risk.
Property Cladding - BR135
The UK Governments, BR135 publication covers the fire performance of external cladding on buildings that have been installed for thermal insulation. The document helps with the understanding of how different claddings can contribute to the spread of fire. Getting the cladding inspected and having a BR135 Fire Safety Certificate should be made part of the system that maintains fire safety standards in a property where it is part of a block. A link to the Gov.UK website is available here.
How To Rent Guide
As part of “The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015”, private residential landlords in England are required to provide their tenants with a copy of the “How To Rent” Guide issued by the Government. Failing to comply will limit your ability to repossess your home with a Section 21 notice. A link to the Gov.UK website is available here.
Right to Rent Check
Right to Rent checks requires landlords and agents to determine the immigration status of all prospective adult tenants by checking ID before the start of a tenancy. Failure to carry out these checks could leave landlords and agents facing civil penalties of up to £3,000.
The check assesses the status of new tenants to ensure they have the right to be in the UK before renting out a property. The checks should be carried out within the 28 day period leading up to the start of a new tenancy. A link to Gov.UK website is available here.
Landlord RentProfile Check
Agents should check their landlord clients are entitled to rent a given property in order to protect against possible fraud. The UK Government recommends RentProfile the check the landlord can be linked via the land registry to the property. A link to the Gov.UK website is available here.
Non-UK Resident Landlord Check
Agents need to withhold tax for any non-UK resident landlords. This is the basic rate of tax and is currently at 20%. Failure to withhold this tax will leave the agent potentially liable. A link to the Gov.UK website is available here.