With over 30 years buy to let experience, we understand the complexity and risks faced by landlords, particularly if you are new to the game. That’s why, as part of our continued service to landlords and buy to let clients, we’ve here to help you understand the legalities that come with letting property.

Law of the Land

There are very strict laws a landlord must follow when letting property and if they fail to comply with these rules and regulations they could find themselves in trouble and facing a fine.

Common legal issues faced by landlords

It is absolutely essential that as a landlord you understand all the laws you must adhere to when renting out property, particularly the following areas:

  • Tenant eviction
  • Tenancy deposits
  • Tenant health and safety
  • Changes to the rent
  • Harassment of tenants.

Tenant eviction

A landlord can evict a tenant at the end of their tenancy by serving a Section 21 Notice with a minimum of two month’s notice. If the tenant does not vacate the property on the specified date, the landlord must obtain an order for possession from the court before going to a court bailiff if necessary.

To evict a tenant before the end of their tenancy, a landlord must first have sufficient grounds such as:

  1. The tenant is in serious rent arrears i.e. owing at least 2 months/8 weeks rent
  2. The tenant persistently being in rent arrears
  3. The tenant causing nuisance or annoyance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties
  4. The tenant has breached an obligation in their tenancy (e.g. they have a pet in the property when the tenancy agreement specifically prohibits them from keeping any pets)

If the landlord does have sufficient grounds then they must by law serve a Section 8 Notice on their tenant before obtaining a court order for possession and enlisting the help of a court bailiff if the tenant refuses to leave the property.

Tenancy deposits

A landlord must protect the tenant’s deposit and supply the tenant with the prescribed information relating to the protection of the deposit within 30 days of receipt.

Failure to comply with the new provisions could result in the tenant making a claim for:

  • The return of the deposit, or
  • For the deposit to be protected, and
  • A penalty payable by the landlord of up to 3 times the amount of the deposit.

Section 21 Notices will be invalid if they are served on the tenant before the deposit has been protected and/or the prescribed information has been supplied to the tenant. If a landlord fails to protect a deposit within the 30 day period then they must return it to the tenant (in full or with such deductions as agreed with the tenant) prior to the service of a section 21 Notice.

Tenant Health and Safety

Landlords must provide tenants with a safe place to live throughout their tenancy. It is a legal requirement for all properties to have an annual gas safety check, electrical items must be PAT tested and furniture must meet fire safety standards.

Landlords are also responsible for most repairs of the property and must keep the equipment which supply water, gas and electricity in safe working order.

Landlords letting out Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) must comply with additional regulations. This includes having:

  • An HMO licence
  • Written fire assessment, a mains operated fire alarm system and at least one fire blanket and/or fire extinguisher
  • Five-yearly electrical safety check
  • Annual gas safety certificate
  • Minimum one toilet per every five people
  • Minimum one shower/bath per every six people.

Changes to the rent

There are two periods when a landlord can legally increase a tenant’s rent; the most common being at renewal of the tenancy i.e. the fixed term has come to an end and the landlord and tenant wish to enter into a new tenancy rather than a ‘periodic’ tenancy. In this instance a new tenancy agreement detailing the increased rent is required.

A landlord can also increase the rent during a periodic tenancy by serving notice on the tenant proposing the new rent and the date upon which it will take effect. There must be a minimum period of time between the date the notice was served and the date the new rent comes into effect. This minimum period is dependent on the nature of the periodic tenancy.

Harassment of tenants

It is a criminal offence for a landlord to unlawfully harass a tenant. This means landlords must not unnecessarily disturb the tenants. If a landlord requires access they must give sufficient notice and arrange a date and time which is convenient to the tenant. Under no circumstances can a landlord enter the property without consent, even if the tenants are failing to respond to your correspondence.

It is essential landlords follows these legal requirements to the letter; failure to do so could give tenants the opportunity to claim compensation against you.

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