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Landlords: do you know your responsibilities?

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As a landlord, you have a number of legal responsibilities towards your tenants. Many of these help to underline your general duty of care in common law to maintain a safe environment in which your tenants live. 

Tenants’ safety is clearly paramount. Breaches of your responsibilities under the various pieces of safety legislation may not only incur financial penalties but even closure of your property and a prohibition order by the fire services or the local authority for its use as rented accommodation – as a guidance note published by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) makes clear.

The following are among the most important of your legal requirements as a landlord: 

Gas safety

  • the website Informed Landlords, stresses the importance of legislation requiring landlords to arrange an annual safety inspection of all gas supplies and appliance in the let accommodation; 
  • the inspection must be conducted by a registered Gas Safe engineer and a copy of the safety certificate which is issued must be provided to tenants within 28 days of the inspection being carried out or whenever new tenants move into the let property;
  • the gas safety regulations are probably the most stringent of your responsibilities as a landlord and your breach of them is taken so seriously that maximum penalties include fines of up to £25,000 and even imprisonment; 

Electrical safety

  • although there is no legal requirement for any annual inspection, a landlord is nevertheless obliged to ensure that any electrical installation – together with any appliances supplied with the let property – are safe and fit to use;
  • for your confidence and peace of mind that this is the case, an inspection of the installation and its appliances needs to be carried out at the beginning of each new tenancy or at least once every five years;

Fire safety

  • you must comply with all national and local fire safety regulations – especially with respect to fire exits, which must be kept clear and unobstructed at all times;
  • each floor of the let property needs to have at least one smoke alarm fitted and any room which has a solid-fuel fire (a coal fire or wood-burning stove, for example) must have a carbon dioxide (CO2) detector;

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

  • because of the particular vulnerabilities of HMOs (where facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom are shared by more than one household) there are stricter safety requirements on landlords of these let properties; 
  • local authorities may require that any HMO (and all large HMOs) is licensed by them and may issue enforcement notices to ensure that safety standards are maintained; 

General responsibilities

  • in addition to these specific safety standards, you also have a number of general legal responsibilities designed to protect tenants’ rights;
  • included in these, for example, is your obligation to place any deposit you receive from a tenant for safekeeping in an approved tenancy deposit protection scheme; 
  • your tenants are also entitled to receive a copy of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and of the official How to Rent Guide published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. 

It is important that you understand the various responsibilities and legal obligations you have towards your tenants – they are designed to protect both you and those towards whom you have a duty of care.