Guide

Legislation for landlords: Everything you need to know - Total Landlord Insurance

March 20, 2023
Total Landlord Insurance
Legislation for landlords: Everything you need to know - Total Landlord Insurance

Laws for landlords can be a minefield. It is estimated that there are more 170 rules and regulations that apply to the private rented sector, and these are often amended and updated – sometimes at relatively short notice.

So, when it comes to landlord responsibilities, not only is there a lot for landlords to know and understand, but if you don’t have a reliable way of staying up to date with changes, you could easily find yourself unknowingly falling foul of the law, which could be very costly - both financially and personally.

To find out about penalties for landlords who break the law and the potential consequences of being fined – or worse – read our article: Landlord fines: How much are the charges and how do you avoid them?

The Government’s last English Private Landlord Survey, carried out in 2021, revealed that more than a fifth of those questioned didn’t check a tenant’s right to rent, 36% did not issue tenants with the Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide and only just over half (56%) said they had carried out a fire safety risk assessment. All of these are legal requirements when letting a property.

To help you understand your legal obligations, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide, updated for 2024. However, it’s important to always seek your own legal advice when letting a property to make sure all rules and regulations are met, as there are also local as well as national laws that may apply to your property.

Our article, a roundup of what 2023 has meant for landlords, highlights the key changes that affected landlords last year.  

1. Have you obtained any necessary ‘consent to let’ your property?

Before letting a property, you may be required to inform and gain consent from other people or organisations, such as a mortgage lender, insurance company or the main landlord of a leasehold property. You must make sure that letting the property does not contravene any pre-existing signed agreements, such as covenants or housing loans.

It’s particularly worth checking consent if you’ve become an accidental landlord – especially if there is a standard residential mortgage on the property. The lender may grant you consent to let on the existing mortgage for a limited period of time – in which case they’ll usually raise the interest rate to account for the increased risks associated with letting – or they may require you to apply for a buy to let mortgage.

Note also that if you rent out property in breach of your insurance policy, your insurer can refuse to pay out if you make a claim.  If your property is leasehold and you are subletting in breach of the terms of your lease, you could at risk of losing your lease altogether. For more information, read our article ‘Accidental landlords – do you have consent to let your property?

2. Do you need a landlord licence?

At present in the UK, only a property let as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) where there are five or more occupiers from two or more ‘households’ (there are additional requirements in Wales) falls under mandatory licensing requirements, although there are further rules that can apply at a local level. The exact definition of a licensable HMO and the terms of the licence varies between the nations: in England & Wales the blanket rule only applies to large HMOs, while in Scotland and Northern Ireland, every HMO requires a licence.

Then in England and Wales, individual councils have the power to introduce additional and selective licensing schemes. Additional licensing allows them to expand the definition of a licensable HMO, and selective licensing can require any rented property to be licensed.

This helps local authorities to maintain a balance of housing stock, keep track of the rented properties in their area and make sure rented accommodation meets certain standards. It also makes it easier for them to tackle anti-social behaviour and identify and prosecute landlords who break the law.  

Courts are known to hand out huge fines to landlords who do not comply with licensing requirements – particularly HMO landlords. So it’s essential to check with your local council to find out whether your rented property is classed as a licensable HMO and whether there are any additional or selective licensing schemes in place.

For more information on licensing, check out our comprehensive guide: What is licensing – and do I need a landlord licence to let my property?

3. Are you compliant with MEES requirements?

Under the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard Regulations (MEES), all privately rented properties must achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E or above in order to be legally let and landlords must provide their tenants with the EPC before the tenancy begins.

These requirements were introduced to help improve the energy efficiency of private rented properties, making heating costs more affordable for tenants and giving them a more comfortable home, as well as helping with environmental targets. Breaching the regulations can lead to a fine for the landlord of up to £5,000 per property.

When could the minimum ‘E’ rating be raised?

The Government has long been committed to raising the minimum rating to ‘C’ by 2030, and had proposed for this to take effect from 31 December 2025 for new tenancies and from 31 December 2028 for all existing tenancies.

However, although around 80% of landlords had already prepared to meet this deadline, in September 2023, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unexpectedly announced that the minimum ‘E’ rating might now be raised.

Nevertheless, if your rented property is currently rated ‘D’ or ‘E’, it’s still worth looking at what you can do to improve that to ‘C’ or above over the next few years. Not only will a more energy-efficient property help attract and retain tenants, but with the Government committed to introducing a legally binding Decent Homes Standard for the private rented sector, it’s likely we will see minimum EPC ratings change in the coming years.

In Scotland the current minimum EPC rating for rented properties is ‘E’. The Scottish Government had intended to raise that to ‘C’ from 2025 for a change in tenancy and from 2028 for all tenancies. However, in December 2023 they scrapped the 2025 deadline, and it is now proposed that all rented properties must simply meet minimum C by the end of 2028.

In Northern Ireland, while every rented property must have an EPC, there is currently no minimum standard, although there are proposals to change that, under the Private Tenancies Bill.

For more information and advice on making energy efficiency improvements, check out our comprehensive guide to having an eco friendly property. You can also listen to our podcast, Decarbonising the rented sector – what do landlords need to know?,  with Ben Beadle, CEO of the NRLA, who highlights EPC upgrades as a significant challenge for the sector.

4. Is your property safe?

Your main legal landlord responsibilities are about making sure that your rental property is safe – that there are no obvious hazards and it complies with all letting rules and regulations relating to health and safety.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is the main enforcement tool used by local councils to address poor conditions in private rented homes. It details 29 separate hazards that landlords must take all reasonable steps to protect their tenants from, including electrical and gas safety faults, damp and mould issues and even trip hazards such as frayed carpets.

To help landlords understand more about the hazards listed in the HHSRS and what steps should be taken to minimise risks for tenants, we’ve compiled a separate guide on how to rent a safe home.

The Government has been planning an overhaul of the HHSRS for some time, with the intention of simplifying the system and developing minimum standards for common health and safety hazards.

With the long-awaited Renters (Reform) Bill currently making its way through Parliament, we expect a revised HHSRS to follow. For now, we advise that all landlords continue to use the HHSRS guidelines to complete a full risk assessment of their property to keep their tenants safe.

5. Have you carried out an annual gas safety inspection?

Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, landlords must keep gas appliances, pipework and flues in safe condition. And part of this obligation involves securing a gas safety certificate every 12 months.

The annual gas safety inspection must be undertaken by a Gas Safe registered engineer, who will check that all gas appliances and pipework are in safe working order (see details here) and then issue a gas safety certificate – after carrying out any remedial works required.

The original certificate must legally be kept safely by the landlord or agent for a minimum of two years (although landlords should keep them for at least the duration of the tenancy) and a copy must be given to the tenant within 28 days of the check. The current certificate must be given to new tenants before they move in. These rules are the same throughout the UK.

On rare occasions, a tenant may try to refuse access for gas safety duties. This can be a tricky situation given laws around accessing tenanted properties, but there is a step-by-step process that landlords can follow to comply with their obligations.  

For more detailed information, check out our ultimate guide to gas safety and landlord gas safety certificates.  You can see government guidelines via the Health and Safety Executive and visit the Gas Safe Register to find a local engineer.

6. Are you compliant with electrical safety regulations?

Landlords in England must make sure that any privately rented property’s electrical system and any electrical appliances supplied to tenants are safe throughout the tenancy.

Under The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, landlords are required by law to have a full electrical inspection and test every five years – sooner if it was recommended on the previous report. The inspection must be carried out by a qualified electrician or approved contractor, who will then issue an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). Any investigations or repairs required must be completed within 28 days.

A copy of the report must be given to existing tenants within 28 days of the inspection and to new tenants before they move in. Although Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is not an official legal requirement for single-let properties in England and Wales, landlords should be aware that some local councils in England may require it and it is considered best practice to have the electrical appliances in rented properties tested annually (or at least between tenants).

In Wales, a five-yearly full inspection became mandatory from 1 December 2022 when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 came into force. If you are letting property in Wales, it’s essential to make sure you understand all the new landlord regulations and tenant responsibilities (see point 22, below).

In Scotland, an electrical safety inspection must be carried out before a tenancy starts, and at least every five years during the tenancy. The inspection includes securing an Electrical Installation Condition Report and Portable Appliance Testing on any portable electrical appliances provided by the landlord.

In Northern Ireland, there are no laws that specifically cover electrical safety in privately rented accommodation. However, landlords should check that the wiring and electrics in the property are safe before it’s let because Northern Ireland Electricity can disconnect the electrical supply to any property they believe is unsafe.

7. Are you compliant with smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations?

Under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, landlords in England and Wales are required to make sure there is at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of their rental property, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms that have a solid fuel-burning appliance, such as a coal fire or wood-burning stove, or a gas or oil-fired boiler. A CO alarm must also be fitted when any solid fuel-burning appliance is installed or replaced.

In Wales, smoke alarms must be mains powered and interlinked.

It is also the responsibility of the landlord to check that each alarm is working at the start of each new tenancy – and it’s good practice to test the alarms during periodical inspections. If you can, get your tenants to sign a document to confirm that they witnessed the alarms being tested and are satisfied that they are in working order – particularly at the start of the tenancy.

If tenants report a fault with a smoke or CO alarm during the tenancy, the landlord is responsible for repairing or replacing it.

For more detailed information and advice, see our dedicated guide to smoke and carbon monoxide regulations for landlords.  

HMOs in England and Wales

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) must have:

  • A smoke alarm on each storey with living accommodation
  • A smoke alarm in each individual ‘unit’ – whether that’s a bedroom or bedsit
  • A heat alarm in high-risk rooms, such as kitchens

The alarms must be interconnected and mains powered. If the HMO is three storeys or higher, an appropriate alarm system with a central panel must be installed.

Landlords must also make sure the alarm system is kept in good working order and has maintenance carried out by a competent person as per the manufacturer’s instructions – commonly every six months. Evidence of the regular checking/servicing of fire alarms must be provided to the local authority if they request it.

See our ultimate guide to letting an HMO property.

Scotland

The following regulations that already existed for privately rented properties were extended to all homes in Scotland in February 2022. Residential properties must have:

  • One smoke alarm in the living room or the room most commonly used during the day
  • One smoke alarm in every main circulation space on each floor, e.g. hallway or landing
  • A heat alarm in the kitchen

All smoke and heat alarms should be ceiling mounted, mains powered and interlinked. Rooms with a carbon-fuelled appliance – such as a boiler or fire – must also have a carbon monoxide detector, but this doesn’t need to be linked to the fire alarms. New tenants must be advised of the expiry dates of smoke and heat alarms before the tenancy begins.

Full fire safety information, including guidance on alarm installation, is available on the Scottish Government website.

8. Have you carried out a fire safety risk assessment?

Unlike gas and electrics, there is no fire safety certificate for landlords to obtain.  However, to meet their legal responsibilities landlords in England and Wales are required to carry out periodical fire risk assessments under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into force in October 2006.

A fire risk assessment is a careful analysis of the property and its fire hazards, so that potential risks can be identified and mitigated. For instance, all furniture and furnishings supplied must be fire safe and bear manufacturers’ labels confirming the relevant requirements have been met – usually these will be ‘match’ and ‘cigarette’ test labels.  

The fire risk assessment can be carried out by landlords themselves if they’re competent, or by a third-party fire safety specialist. In all rented properties, tenants must have clear access to escape routes at all times.

HMOs require an escape route lit with emergency lighting that can resist fire, smoke and fumes long enough for everyone to leave. This could mean an external fire escape or specially treated fire-resistant internal stairs and corridors.

Fire extinguishers aren’t obligatory (unless the property is an HMO, in which case at least one fire extinguisher must be provided on every floor), but they are a good idea and show that a landlord takes tenant safety seriously. If you do provide extinguishers, they must be serviced regularly – ideally annually, and tenants must be trained in how to use them. HMOs also require at least one fire blanket in each shared kitchen.

Although fire doors are only legally required in HMOs, it is a good idea to fit them in other types of rental property. They help to delay the spread of fire and smoke, providing your tenants with added security and valuable extra time to escape in the event of a fire. Although watch out for tenants disabling the fire door self-closing devices and check they are meeting their tenant responsibilities.

Note: Where a building contains more than two sets of domestic premises, there are additional obligations under the Fire Safety Act 2021, which came into force on 16 May 2022.

To help landlords minimise the risk of fire, we’ve put together our own top tips, and the London Fire Brigade also provides useful guidance on fire safety in private rented sector properties.

9. Have you carried out a legionella risk assessment?

Landlords are responsible for carrying out a legionella risk assessment, under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002). This also forms part of your obligations under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (see next section).  

Legionella bacteria can form where the water temperature is between 20 and 45°C and nutrients such as sludge, scale and rust are present. In homes, that could be in water storage units, air conditioning units, hot tubs or any other man-made hot or cold water systems.

If the bacteria is inhaled via water droplets, it can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially very serious type of pneumonia which, if left untreated, can be fatal. It’s therefore extremely important that landlords identify and evaluate any potential sources of legionella bacteria and take steps to prevent or minimise this risk. The level of risk assessment required depends on the type of property.

The reality is that if a property is occupied, the risk is low, as the hot and cold water are used regularly, which keeps the supply moving. And if your rental has electric showers and a combination boiler, the risk is even lower, as water isn’t being stored.

Here are some key steps you can take to minimise the risk of legionella bacteria forming:

  • Flush the system between lets
  • Have any redundant pipework removed
  • If you have a hot water cylinder, ensure the water is stored at 60°C
  • Check the water temperature during property inspections

10. Are you familiar with the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018?

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 requires landlords to make sure their rented homes are fit to live in at the start of a tenancy and remain in good condition for the duration of the let.

The Act, which is an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, was introduced in March 2019 for new and renewed tenancies, then extended to all tenancies from 20 March 2020. Although the Act doesn’t impose any new obligations on landlords in terms of health and safety measures, it clarifies the law to make sure minimum standards are met at the outset of a tenancy and allows tenants to take legal action if standards drop. You should be aware that there is no limit to the level of compensation that can be awarded to the tenant – it’s at the discretion of the judge.

To find out more about what ‘fit for human habitation’ means and whether you are compliant with the Act, check out our comprehensive guide.

Note: this Act extends to England and Wales, but its practical changes only apply to properties in England. Wales has its own fitness for human habitation rules, which came into force from 1 December 2022, under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 (see section 22 below).

11. Are you aware of landlords’ repairs obligations?

Under Repairs and Maintenance Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, landlords are responsible for repairs to the exterior and structure of a property, including problems with the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains.

Legal requirements are that landlords must also make sure that the equipment for supplying water, gas and electricity is kept in safe working order, as well as sanitary fittings including basins, sinks and baths.

This is particularly important to check at the start of spring, as winter weather may have affected the condition of guttering, water supply, ventilation and wooden door frames.

In particular, a neglected garden is a common cause of dispute between tenants and landlords, so be sure you know your basic obligations. Also, stipulate clearly in the tenancy agreement who is responsible for what aspects of garden maintenance, in case any issues arise during or at the end of the tenancy.

When it comes to repairs, prevention is the best course of action. You can find out more about landlords’ and tenants’ responsibilities for repairs in our in-depth guide.

We’ve also created a checklist to help landlords carry out key maintenance checks all year round, reducing the need for costly repairs further down the line.

It’s also important to recognise that, under the Deregulation Act 2015, it is illegal to evict a tenant who has complained about the condition of the property if adequate repairs have not been made and if the local authority have then served notice.  Any Section 21 notice served after your tenant has complained and (in most cases) within six months of the local authority notice, will be invalid.

Note: If access to the property is required to make an inspection or conduct repairs, landlords must give the tenant reasonable notice in writing and obtain their explicit consent. Even if you have complied with the precise notice period stated in the tenancy agreement, you still cannot enter the property until the tenant has given consent.

12. Have you carried out right to rent checks on all occupiers?

Landlords in England have a legal responsibility to check that any occupier over the age of 18 – whether they are named on the tenancy agreement or not – can legally rent residential property in the UK. That includes, for example, tenants’ family members, carers or lodgers. And you may want to check the age of older teenagers as appearances can be deceptive.

That means non-UK nationals must be able to provide documentation to prove that they have the legal right to be in the country, in accordance with immigration laws.      

You must have sight of original documents, with the tenant or prospective tenant present. If they have an application or appeal outstanding with the Home Office, or the Home Office is currently holding their documents, landlords can use the online Landlord’s Checking Service.

For British and Irish applicants who hold a valid passport, you can use certified identification document validation technology (IDVT) service providers to carry out digital identity checks.

If you fail to make right to rent checks, you can be fined £10,000 for a first offence, £20,000 thereafter and, in serious cases, you could even face a prison sentence. GOV.UK has full information on which documents are acceptable and a step-by-step guide on how to make the checks.

It is important that you do not discriminate against prospective tenants who are less easy to carry out right to rent checks on, and the Government has recently issued a consultation document here looking at this issue.

13. Are you compliant with the tenant fee ban?

The Tenant Fees Act (2019) came into force for new or renewed tenancies on 1 June 2019, preventing landlords and letting agents in England from charging certain letting fees to tenants. That was extended to all tenancies from 1 June 2020.

As a result of the fee ban, when signing a new tenancy agreement, tenants are only required to pay a holding deposit – which is refundable in most cases – their rent and any security deposit.

The only additional charges that can be made are ‘permitted’ fees, such council tax, utility costs, TV licences plus charges for replacing lost keys and late payment of rent (which is limited to interest charges at three per cent above bank base rate).

Under the Act, a cap has also been set on the amount that can be taken as a security or holding deposit. Landlords or agents found in breach of the Tenant Fees Act by charging a ‘prohibited payment’ could be fined £5,000 for a first offence and risk an unlimited fine if they break the rules again within five years. Also, no Section 21 notice can be served until the prohibited payment has been refunded to the tenants, and tenants can apply for a refund to the First Tier Tribunal.

Letting fees are also banned in Scotland and Wales. More detailed guidance is available at mydeposits.co.uk.

In Northern Ireland, letting agents cannot charge tenants for work that’s done to benefit the landlord when setting up or renewing a tenancy, including fees for credit checks, guarantor checks and deposit administration. However, there is no law covering fees that might be charged directly by a landlord.

14. Do you know about the cap on tenant deposits?

Under the Tenant Fees Act, landlords and agents must comply with the following caps on tenant deposits:

  • No more than five weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000
  • No more than six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or more
  • No more than one week’s rent in respect of a refundable holding deposit to reserve a property

It is important to note that the cap does not apply to on-going tenancy agreements signed before 1 June 2019, so there’s no need to return tenants’ deposits where this is the case. Read our ‘Ultimate guide to deposit protection legislation’ for more information.

15. Do you know your landlord responsibilities around protecting your tenant’s deposit?

Since 2007, landlords have been legally obliged to protect tenancy deposits in a government-approved deposit protection scheme.

There are three schemes that landlords in England and Wales can use to protect their tenant’s deposit, offering two options:

  • Transfer the deposit monies to the scheme (custodial)
  • Keep hold of the deposit monies and take out insurance with the scheme (insured)

HFIS is the parent company of mydeposits, which provides simple deposit protection for landlords, letting agents and tenants.

As well as making sure the deposit is kept secure during the tenancy, these schemes also arbitrate over any disputes between tenants and landlords. So, if you want to retain any of the deposit monies at the end of the tenancy to cover the cost of things like damage, cleaning or rent arrears, the scheme will decide what is a reasonable deduction.  

For more detailed information, take a look at our tenancy deposit protection guidance or visit mydeposits.

Different scheme providers operate in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Prescribed information

When you protect your tenant’s deposit in a scheme, you are obliged to provide them with ‘prescribed information’, which falls into two categories:

Information about the scheme. Every scheme provides a leaflet to landlords to pass on to their tenants.

Information about the tenancy. This includes contact details for both parties and the circumstances under which all or part of the deposit may be retained by the landlord.

If you fail to give the tenant this prescribed information, they can sue you for a penalty of up to three times the deposit amount and you will not be able to serve a valid Section 21 notice until after the prescribed information has been provided.

Deposit replacement options

In recent years, a number of ‘deposit replacement’ products have entered the market, offering tenants an alternative to paying a deposit to their landlord in the traditional way.  

These can be very good, but landlords need to be careful as these schemes are not ‘insurance’ but a guarantee.  So, you need to be sure that the scheme company will be good to make any payments due to you when your tenancy ends (which in some cases may be many years hence).

You should also check out what fees are charged.  For example, unlike the government-approved tenancy deposit schemes, the adjudication service is not normally free.

16. Have you provided tenants with the ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’ guide?

Before beginning or renewing a tenancy, all landlords who let properties in England are legally required to provide tenants with a copy of the Government’s ‘How to rent’ guide.

The guide was created to help tenants and landlords in the private rented sector understand their rights and responsibilities and includes key information on:

  • What to look out for before renting
  • Living in a rented home
  • The process at the end of the tenancy
  • What to do if something goes wrong

The guide is updated frequently so, to make sure you’re always giving tenants the most recent version, it’s best not to download and save the guide, but to always access it directly from the GOV.UK. At the time of writing (February 2024) the last update was published on 2 October 2023.

This is particularly important in the event that you need to serve a Section 21 notice for a ‘no fault’ eviction, as any notice served before the correct version of the guide is provided to the tenant will be void and unenforceable.

17. Do you allow pets?

There is a general perception that letting laws have been changed to allow tenants to keep a pet, but this isn’t yet the case. Provided your tenancy agreement has a valid clause, you can still currently prohibit pets in your property.

But in January 2021, the Government amended its own model tenancy agreement so that the default position is that responsible tenants should be allowed well-behaved pets.

Clause 1.5 in the model tenancy agreement states that the tenant must seek consent from the landlord to keep a pet and that: “The Landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the Tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept.”

If you use the model tenancy agreement and object to a written request from your tenant, you must respond in writing within 28 days giving your reason(s).

This model tenancy agreement is a freely available document, which can be downloaded from the government website. There is no obligation to use it and most landlords and agents prefer to use their own AST forms. If you are a landlord and would like guidance on tenancy agreements, contact housing law specialists, Landlord Action, who can assist with writing and reviewing tenancy agreements. If you are an agent, contact HF Assist for specialist advice from legal experts.

However, landlords should be aware that this right for tenants to request permission to keep a pet is likely to be extended to all privately rented properties in the future, as proposed in the Renters (Reform) Bill. So, if you don’t currently allow pets, it might be worth considering whether you might be prepared to in the future and/or why your property would not be suitable for certain types of pet.

You can read more about pets in lets in the mydeposits article, ‘Pet rent and pet deposits: A landlord’s guide to lets for pets’.  

18. Are you aware of how to legally increase your tenant’s rent?

If you want to increase your tenant’s rent, there are certain processes you have to adhere to.

For a fixed-term tenancy, you can only raise the rent if the tenancy agreement permits it, otherwise you will have to wait until the fixed term expires. You can then either issue a new tenancy or renewal form with an increased rent or allow the tenancy to become periodic – then you can only increase the rent once a year.

There are two ways to legally increase the rent during a periodic tenancy. You can simply agree the new amount with your tenant and produce a written record that’s signed by both parties.

But the more formal and more common way is to issue a Section 13 notice under Housing Act 1988 (using the government’s Form 4), giving your tenant at least one month’s notice of the increase. Importantly, the notice must expire on the next day the rent is due, e.g. if your tenant pays on the first of each month and you want to increase the rent as of 1 September, the notice must be issued on or before 1 August.

If your tenant thinks the increase is excessive, they can take the matter to the First Tier Tribunal, but if they don’t do that before the notice expires, the increase comes into effect automatically.

In Scotland, under a private residential tenancy, the landlord can only increase the rent once a year and must give at least three months’ notice.

Note: There is a temporary three per cent cap on rent increases in Scotland, in place until the end of      March 2024, after which it will expire. In certain circumstances, landlords can apply for an additional rent increase based on specific prescribed property costs going up, but the maximum overall increase will be six per cent.

Our article on how much rent to charge contains more useful information.

19. Do you know how to legally evict a tenant?

If you’re having trouble with a tenant, we’d suggest that mediation should be your first port of call and going down the legal eviction route should always be a last resort.

However, if your tenant’s behaviour has become unacceptable - for example it’s causing a nuisance to neighbours, they have fallen into serious rent arrears, or you want or need to get your property back for another reason - you may have no option but to evict them.

It’s important to know that if any part of the eviction is handled incorrectly – for instance, if the wrong notice was given or a judge decides the reason for the eviction isn’t valid - the case can be dismissed, and you’ll have to start the whole process again from scratch. Meanwhile, your tenants can stay in the property, and you may find that you are ordered to pay your tenants ‘wasted costs’ of your failed possession claim.

Evictions can be stressful and costly so, if you do need to take your property back, we’d recommend that you seek professional help, such as from our own specialists, Landlord Action.  

Meanwhile, here’s an overview of what you need to do to evict your tenant legally:

Section 21 notice

If the tenant hasn’t breached their tenancy agreement, you can still take your property back by issuing a Section 21 notice, but you can’t evict them within the first six months or during an initial fixed term. You must give them at least two months’ notice.

It’s important to be aware that in order to serve a valid section 21 notice, you must have complied with various regulations – including those regarding deposits, tenant fees, energy performance certificates and HMO licensing. If you’re not sure whether you are compliant, you should seek legal advice before serving the notice.

To issue a Section 21 notice, use Form 6A from the government website.

Note: Under proposals in the Renters (Reform) Bill, Section 21 is to be scrapped. Although the Bill is still making its way through Parliament (as at February 2024) and may not be passed before this year’s General Election, all the main parties have stated that they are committed to abolishing so-called ‘no-fault evictions’. You can read more in our article, ‘Renters (Reform) Bill: should landlords be concerned’.

Section 8 notice

If your tenant has breached any of the terms in their rental contract, you have the right to evict them – even if it’s within the first six months of the tenancy or a fixed-term agreement. You can do this by serving a      Section 8 notice, stating the ground(s) on which you’re evicting them.

The amount of notice you have to give depends on the ground, but in the most common cases – serious rent arrears, breach of the tenancy agreement and damage to the property – it’s two weeks. If they’ve caused serious nuisance or committed a criminal act, you may be able to evict them immediately, without notice.

Be aware that some possession grounds are mandatory and some are discretionary. Where possible, you should use a mandatory ground because evictions on discretionary grounds can result in tenants filing defences, meaning the case takes longer and costs more.

To issue a Section 8 notice, use Form 3 from the government website.

   

Court action: applying for a possession order

If the tenant refuses to leave by the date stated on the notice, you’ll then have to move to the court process.

If you’ve used a Section 21 and you’re not claiming rent arrears, you can apply for an ‘accelerated possession order’. This usually doesn’t involve a court hearing, so it can be quicker than applying for a standard possession order. However, because the case is decided based on paperwork, you will need to have all the necessary documentation available – such as a signed tenancy agreement.

If the tenant still doesn’t leave even after a possession order has been issued – and that’s very rare – you’ll have to ask the court for a ‘warrant for possession’, which gives the tenant a final date to leave the property. If they don’t, that’s when a bailiff will be instructed to forcibly evict them.

For more information, visit Landlord Action’s website – or you can request a callback from the advice team, who will be happy to have an initial chat free of charge.  

The eviction process is different in Northern Ireland.                 .    

Watch this video with Paul Shamplina, to find out more about the eviction process and what to do if you are affected by rent arrears:

You can also read our article on what to do if your tenant can’t pay the rent and falls into arrears.

20. Does your letting agent belong to a redress scheme?

Since 1 October 2014 it has been a legal requirement for all letting agents and property managers in England and Wales to join a government-approved redress scheme.

Our own Property Redress Scheme allows agents to comply with their legal requirement to be a member of a government authorised consumer redress scheme and to settle or resolve complaints made by consumers against our members. The only other currently approved scheme is The Property Ombudsman.

Agents who are found to be operating without membership of a redress scheme can be fined up to £5,000 and have their licence revoked.

Landlords should also be aware that as part of the upcoming rental reforms the Government intends to introduce a new Ombudsman to settle disputes between landlords and tenants, with the aim of reducing the number that end up in court.

They also plan to have a new information portal to help landlords understand their legal responsibilities, which will also serve as a database of private landlords and their properties, with registration mandatory.

In advance of this becoming law, you can choose to join the Property Redress Scheme, which offers a transparent resolution service to all property professionals. Membership can enhance your reputation and give your tenants and any other customers confidence in their dealings with you. For more information, visit the PRS website.

In Scotland, letting agents must sign up to a register and abide by a statutory Code of Practice, which gives landlords and tenants means of redress for breaches of the Code via the First-tier Tribunal.

In Northern Ireland, while The Property Ombudsman (TPOS) deals with complaints, letting agents aren’t currently required by law to belong to the scheme.

21. Does your agent have client money protection?

Since April 2021, it has been mandatory for all letting agents and property managers in England who handle landlord and tenant funds to belong to a client money protection scheme such as Client Money Protect, part of the HFIS group. Client money protection is an additional layer of protection that gives landlords and tenants a route to reimbursement if their agent goes out of business or misappropriates funds, so it’s vital you make sure any agent you use is a member of an approved scheme. Find out more with our free guide to client money protection.  

In Scotland, the CMP rules are slightly different. In Wales, landlords are required to join a client money protection scheme before they apply for an agent licence. In Northern Ireland, agents don’t currently need to join a CMP scheme.

22. If you’re letting in Wales, are you aware of the huge changes that came into force on 1 December 2022?

2022 marked a major overhaul of lettings legislation in Wales, with changes under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act in force from 1 December 2022.

Five of the key changes:
  • The AST has been replaced by an ‘occupation contract’ and ‘tenants’ have become ‘contract-holders’. It is also a legal requirement to have a written agreement, much of which consists of prescribed clauses
  • Landlords now have to give contract holders six months’ notice and can’t give notice within the first six months of the contract – effectively meaning an initial minimum 12-month commitment for landlords. Meanwhile, the contract holder can give four weeks’ notice after any fixed term has expired
  • Section 21 has been replaced with a ‘Landlord’s Notice’ and Section 8 has been replaced with a possession notice, with different forms to be used, depending on the ground(s) for eviction
  • Tenants are protected against ‘retaliatory evictions’, under provisions similar to those in England
  • New ‘fitness for habitation’ rules include mandatory five-yearly electrical tests, bringing Wales into line with England and Scotland, and ensuring working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted    

Further information about the changes – along with published guidance for both landlords and tenants – is available on the Welsh Government website.

Landlord registration and licensing in Wales

Since 23 November 2015, it has been a legal requirement in Wales for all landlords to register themselves and their properties with Rent Smart Wales and for anyone letting and managing properties to be licensed.

In order to obtain a letting licence, self-managing landlords and agents have to complete a training course and pass a ‘fit and proper person’ assessment.

23. If you’re letting in Northern Ireland, are you aware of the changes from 1 April 2023?

The following new laws governing private tenancies will be in force from 1 April 2023, under the Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022:

Landlords must provide all tenants with:

  • A notice containing tenancy information
  • A notice of variation when any changes are made to their tenancies
  • Receipts for any cash payment in relation to a tenancy

Regarding tenancy deposits:

  • They can be no more than one month’s rent
  • There will be increased time periods for protecting and providing information on tenancy deposits
  • The previous six-month time barrier to prosecution of tenancy deposit offence has been removed, so failure to protect a deposit will become a continuing offence

The Northern Ireland Department for Communities has produced a guide for landlords and tenants covering these changes in more detail.

The Act also contains a number of other changes and the Department is continuing to work on Regulations and Commencement Orders for these.

24. Are you aware of Making Tax Digital legal requirements for landlords?

You should already be aware that the Government intends to move everyone over to a new online-only tax filing system through its Making Tax Digital (MTD) plan. This was most recently amended in December 2022.

It requires individuals and businesses to submit quarterly returns to HMRC via MTD compatible software and it will apply to self-employed individuals and landlords with annual business or property income of:

  • more than £50,000 from 6 April 2026
  • between £30,000 and £50,000 from April 2027

If your income is under £30,000, you will not be mandated to use the scheme until a review into how it can be shaped to meet the needs of smaller businesses has been completed.

If you own property jointly – for example as a married couple – then you can each earn up to the minimum threshold (including any other income) before you need to use MTD.

The pilot scheme is up and running, so it’s worth looking into exactly what’s required now and discussing it with a property tax expert so you can make sure you have the most appropriate software ahead of the requirement coming into force.  

You may also find it useful to read our guide, Advice on UK landlord tax: the complete guide for 2023/24.

25. Is your insurance up to date?

Things can go wrong at any point when letting a property, and the best preparation is to make sure you have full insurance coverage.

Although there is no legal obligation for a landlord to take out a dedicated residential landlord insurance policy, it’s important to know that a standard homeowner’s policy is highly unlikely to cover damage to a rental property. In addition, lenders will often require landlord insurance as a condition of the mortgage.

Landlord insurance protects you against the risks involved with letting a property. Our guide to finding the best landlord insurance coverage for you is available here. As a general rule, you’ll want a policy that covers loss of rent, theft by tenants and property owner’s liability for things like an injury at the property or damage to your possessions.

With a higher level of cover, as provided by our own Total Landlord Insurance Premier policy, you can also expect cover for malicious damage by tenants and their guests, as well as support for extensive property disputes.

To stay up to date with property market changes, make sure you are compliant with landlord obligations and read expert commentary, subscribe to LandlordZONE and get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox.

You can also listen to this episode of The Property Cast, where we unpack the year’s top property stories with award-winning property journalist and Head of Content at LandlordZONE, Nigel Lewis. Nigel is joined by Eddie Hooker, Founder and CEO of Total Landlord, and Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action. Tune in to listen to their lively and insightful discussion and hear their top tips for 2024 and beyond.

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