It’s pretty simple – if you rent out your property, then you have landlord responsibilities and rights. Unfortunately, that’s the only easy thing about owning and managing a property for let. Whether you’re currently contemplating an investment purchase, have owned rentals for decades, or perhaps just inherited a property with a tenant in place – the laws are the same.
Although certain expenses and liabilities are assumed by a renter – and addressed in your particular lease contract – there are obligations for which you cannot hand off any culpability to someone else, which include the following:
Safeguarding your tenant’s deposit – If your rental is based on an assured shorthold tenancy, the deposit must be placed in a TDP scheme, unless it is in the form of another type of valuable item (such as jewellery or a car). There are separate TDP schemes for England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
Utilities must be properly installed and maintained – Your gas and electrical equipment must meet specific standards in order to let the premises.
Follow defined laws for fire protection – New fire safety regulations also require installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Tenant protection from health hazards:
- Inspection by your council, using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) – These may be requested by the tenant, or when the council determines that other local properties like yours have had issues. Twenty-nine health and safety areas are scored according to their severity. If not attended to, the council can fix the hazard and bill you, or stop anyone from using the property.
- Obtain an Energy Performance Certificate – This document contains information about the energy use and typical costs for your home (or business), as well as recommendations on how to save money by conserving use. EPCs are necessary whenever a property is built, sold or rented, and are valid for ten years. In Scotland, the EPC must be displayed inside the premise. An A rating is most efficient, while a G is the least.
- residential buildings to be used less than 4 months out of the year
- places of worship, industrial sites, non-residential spaces which use low energy
- building set to be demolished or for temporary use of less than 24 months
- listed buildings for which certain work might alter their character
- a stand-alone with useful floor space of less than 50 square metres
LANDLORD RIGHTS TO SETTLE DISPUTES
Sorting out any issues directly with your tenants is going to save you time and money, and hopefully create an open and honest communication funnel for the future. That said, there certain things you can still do in order to give even the smallest discrepancy its due.
- Have a conversation with your tenant – Listen to their issue, giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they do not feel their position is compromised by being controlled, they will open up more. If you take the defensive position out of the gate, you’re more likely to have a tangle and end up incurring legal costs.
- Memorialise the resolution – If your discussion has satisfied the tenant, be sure to follow up by reiterating your understanding of the issue, the resolution and actions promised. Send an email or fax, keeping records and proof of submittal in their file, along with any acknowledgements.
- Make written changes to any contracts – Has your dispute and its resolution resulted in an adjustment to terms and conditions of the lease or any other contract? If so, put it in writing! Virtually nothing to do with real estate is lawful unless it’s written, with proof of both parties having seen and acknowledged the contents. For something this important, it’s best to have your formal letter delivered by post or courier with the recipient’s signature required.
- Choosing mediation as an option – Sometimes, you just can’t come to a meeting of the minds without further assistance. You can look up mediation for England and Wales, as well as Scotland mediators and even obtain mediation with your local council. Mediation can also be provided through lawyers with expertise in real estate law.
- When legal action becomes necessary – You can opt to take the claim to small claims court (involving less than £5,000). If you need to gain possession for non-payment of rents, you can file a possession claim online. If your tenant denies owing the money, a court hearing is in store, but if they admit owing you then you can usually get the court to order them to pay. If they still won’t pay, the court can enforce a judgement.
Book a call with our legal team and we’ll give you advice and help to structure your contracts in ways to ensure protection of your property and assets.