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With over 150 pieces of legislation governing the rental of your property here's what you need to know.
Failure to comply with the following safety regulations may constitute a criminal offence under the consumer protection act 1987 and could lead to a fine or imprisonment. In any case, landlords have always had a duty of care under common law to ensure that rented property is kept in a safe condition and it is therefore essential to examine the property and its contents closely before letting.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s) and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES)
From October 1st 2008 landlords are required to make an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) available to prospective tenants as part of the lettings process. The EPC, which is valid for 10 years, will rate a property’s energy performance and make recommendations about how to improve the energy efficiency of the property. The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is broadly similar to the labels now provided with domestic appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines.
Its purpose is to record how energy efficient a property is as a building. The certificate will provide a rating of the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of a building from A to G, where A is very efficient and G is very inefficient.
Under Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), for a property to be rented it must have a minimum rating of 'E'.
EPCs are produced using standard methods with standard assumptions about energy usage so that the energy efficiency of one building can easily be compared with another building of the same type. This allows prospective buyers, tenants, owners, occupiers and purchasers to see information on the energy efficiency and carbon emissions from their building so they can consider energy efficiency and fuel costs as part of their investment. The tenant is required to receive a copy of the report before entering into a tenancy agreement. The energy performance rating must be included in any particulars and we upload the full EPC to websites marketing the property.
Gas Safety Regulations for Landlords & Agents
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
From 31st October 1994 it became law for gas equipment in rented properties to be serviced and safety checked before the tenancy and then annually by a registered installer-and for landlords or their agents to keep accurate records of work carried out on all appliances in their control, confirmed by an official safety certificate. It is a legal requirement that we ensure that a Gas Safety Certificate is provided to the tenant annually.
This, of course, includes all gas appliances like cookers, fires and flues as well as boilers and British gas or Gas Safe registered plumbers should carry out this work. It is desirable to leave all gas appliances with service contracts in place.
The Control of Legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems
Changes to the Health & Safety Executive Approved Code of Practice L8 (Fourth Edition)
Landlords have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to Legionella is properly assessed and controlled. The Health & Safety Executive website states:
“ ……who provide residential accommodation or who are responsible for the water system(s) in their premises, are responsible for ensuring that the risk of exposure to Legionella in those premises is properly assessed and controlled. All water systems require an assessment of the risk……”
The Approved Code of Practice makes clear that the only way to be sure you are complying with the law is to carry out a Risk Assessment and then follow any recommendations within it.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
From 1 October 2015, the regulations require private sector landlords to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of the rental property which is used as living accommodation, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used.
Prior to the commencement of the tenancy, the alarms must be in working order. Where Chilterns manage the property, commission an inventory and carry out the check in the tenants will be asked to confirm that the alarms are in working order and sign the inventory appropriately.
Where we do not manage the property and the landlord is checking the tenant you must ensure the tenant(s) either sign the inventory or sign an alternative document, provided by you as the landlord, confirming they are in working order.
During the tenancy, it is the tenant’s responsibility to ensure that all alarms are in working order, by regularly testing each alarm. Batteries should be replaced when necessary. For hard wired alarms, there is still a backup battery may have to be replaced.
Chilterns also insist that Carbon Monoxide detectors are fitted where there is a gas or oil boiler/appliance.
Fire & Furnishing Regulation
Under the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire)(Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended) a landlord who is letting a property in the course of business is responsible for seeing that the furniture carries appropriate fire resistance labels. Bedding, carpets and curtains and furniture manufactured before 1950 falls outside the regulations.
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 (ESS)
The ESS is set to come into force on 1st July 2020 and will apply to new tenancies from July 1st 2020 and to all existing tenancies from April 1st 2021.As currently drafted, the regulations will require private landlords to ensure that all electrical installations in their properties are inspected and tested by a qualified person before a new tenancy commences.
A new inspection is not required for each tenancy agreement, so long as they are still valid and no more than five years old.
Reports of each inspection should be supplied to all tenants before they move in and also to contractors performing the next inspection. During the tenancy, tenants should be given the latest report within 28 days of the inspection. Breaches of the regulations could result in financial penelties of upto £30,000. According to the draft legislation, 'electrical safety staandards' means the standards for electrical installations in the eighteenth edition of the Wiring Regulations published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Britsh Standards Institution as BS 7671:2018(3).
Although in draft at the moment it is difficult to imagine that the government would intend to change the IET Wiring Regulations (BS 7671) 2019,the legal detail is to be found in the final legislation.
Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRAS)
The Housing Health & Safety Rating System was introduced under the 2004 Housing act. It is a risk based evaluation tool, designed to identify potential hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings. Common breaches of this legislation include lack of extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens, trip hazards such as uneven patio slabs and recently fitted carpets, Legionella, or staircases without handrails.
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
This came into effect in October 2006 and it applies to the common parts of blocks of flats and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). It is a mandatory requirement that a detailed fire risk assessment be carried out to identify any risks or hazards and any such findings should be eliminated or reduced.
Repairs and Maintenance
It is the tenant’s responsibility to promptly report any repairs or maintenance that may be required to the managing agent or the landlord. If the landlord manages the property, the tenant must contact the landlord directly. In this instance landlords will need to provide their contact details to the tenants at the start of the Tenancy.
Where Chilterns manage the property during the tenancy all repairs and maintenance issues raised by the tenant can be reported to Chilterns through a 24 hour on-line Tenant Repair Reporting System - https://chilterns.fixflo.com/
This is available through Smartphone, Tablet, and computer without download.
The Tenant Fees Act 2019
Through this Act, the Governments aim was to make renting fairer and more affordable for tenants by reducing the cost at the outset of the tenancy. This Act also aims to improve transparency and competition in the Private Rental Market. The Act implements the commitment to ban letting fees paid by tenants in England and includes other measures to improve fairness, competition and affordability in the lettings sector.
This Act seeks to ‘achieve’ the above by banning landlords and their agents from requiring tenants and licencees of privately rented housing in England and persons acting on their behalf or guaranteeing their rent (together referred to as “relevant persons”), to make any payments in connection with a tenancy, known as “Prohibited Payments”. This include: -
Landlords and agents cannot charge a higher rent in any one period compared to any other period in the tenancy. Also costs cannot be covered by charging a high rent for the first month or any other month.
A landlord or agent is able to take a Holding Deposit from a tenant to reserve a property whilst reference checks and preparation for a tenancy agreement are undertaken, but this must be limited to no more than one weeks rent and assuming the application is successful must be (with the tenants written consent) repaid to the tenant either by allowing the tenant to deduct the equivalent sum from the first rent payment or from the tenancy deposit. There are circumstances where the agent can withhold the Holding Deposit, including: -
The landlord or letting agent must adhere to strict time limits in respect of repayment of Holding Fees.
Under the Tenant Fees Ban, all new tenancies signed on or after 1st June 2019, will have a capped tenancy deposit of no more than five weeks’ rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000 or six weeks where the annual rent exceeds £50,000.
For further information about the Tenant Fees Act or any other legislative questions please contact the Chilterns Property Management team on 01842 813466.
The Tenancy Agreement
The Housing act 1988 specifies different types of tenancy. Whilst there are several different types, it is almost certain that the tenancy of your property will either be on Assured Shorthold tenancy or a Contractual Tenancy.
If you have a mortgage on the property you are letting you will need to obtain consent from your mortgage lender. Most will give consent but they may charge an administration fee. In allowing consent they may require information on the type of tenancy agreement you intend to use and the length of the tenancy.
It is sometimes appropriate to remortgage with buy-to-let specialists and our mortgage advisors, who can offer a whole of market perspective, will be happy to provide completely impartial advice in this regard.
Right to Rent Immigration Checks
Private tenants are among those who now face passport and identity checks due to a new 'Right to Rent' law.
What is the Right to Rent?
From 1st February 2016 you can only become a private tenant in England if immigration law allows you the 'right to rent'. Not everyone has the 'right to rent'.
You have this right if you are a:
A tenant can have a time-limited right to rent if there's a time limit on their permission to stay. This is likely if they have a visa for work, study or as a spouse. It also applies if they have humanitarian protection, exceptional or discretionary leave to remain. See www.gov.uk/landlord-immigration-check, to check if someone has the right to rent.
Right to Rent Checks for Private Tenancies
A landlord or letting agent must carry out a right to rent check on a new tenant before the start of the tenancy in England. The checks apply to verbal or written agreements that start on or after 1 Feb 2016.
We will check the immigration status and that of anyone aged 18 or over who will be living with the tenant (such as your husband, wife or other family member). No checks are needed for children under the age of 18.
How We Check a Tenant has the Right to Rent
We must see a passport or certain other official documents that prove immigration status. If a British or Irish citizen, birth certificate plus another accepted proof of identity is usually enough. We will take copies of those documents and keep the copies safe. If the original documents cannot be provided, we can ask for a right to rent check from the Home Office. They will usually need to supply the Home Office reference number. We should get a response within two days. If a potential tenant does not have any proof of having a ‘right to rent’, they may be able to seek independent advice to help obtain the right documents.
A follow-up check will be required if permission to stay in the UK and their right to rent is time-limited. The check must be done before the latest of these dates:
Inventory & schedule of condition
It is essential that we have an Inventory/Schedule of Condition prior to each tenancy. We can arrange this for you. At the end of the tenancy the property is inspected against the inventory and any deterioration to its condition is noted. The tenant is responsible for the cost of rectifying any damage, over and above what is considered to be fair wear and tear, caused by them at the property.
Under the Tenant Fees Act 2019 deposits are capped at no more than five weeks' rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks rent where the annual rentexceeds £50,000. The security deposit is held by ourselves, as stakeholders, throughout the tenancy. Once damages, if any, have been agreed and copies of all receipted final invoices have been checked, the balance of the deposit will be returned to the tenant.
Chilterns Ltd is a member of the tenancy deposit scheme, which is administrated by:
The Dispute Service Ltd
PO Box 541 Amersham, Bucks HP6 6ZR
Our management service does not include the supervision of the property when it is vacant although, in the normal course of showing it to prospective tenants, periodic visits may be made to the property by our lettings staff.
Instruction to solicitors
You will be informed of any rent arrears or breaches of covenant brought to our attention. Should it prove necessary to employ the services of solicitors you will be responsible for instructing them and for all fees incurred.
Taxation of UK-Resident Landlords
Landlords who remain resident in the UK are required to declare rental income annually, together with all other income, as it is assessable, after allowable expenses, for income tax.
Taxation of non-resident landlord's
Where the landlord of the property is resident abroad for six months or more and has not been approved under the Non-Resident Landlord Scheme, the commissioners for Inland Revenue will, under UK income tax law, hold the managing agent (or the tenant where there is no managing agent appointed) personally liable for the payment of tax on income from rent collected on the landlord's behalf. The taxation of income from landlords (Non-residents) regulations 1995 requires the rent-receiving agent to retain the tax element on the net rent and paid to HMRC on a quarterly basis, within thirty days of the end of the quarter.
It is essential that the property and your contents are adequately insured both while the property is empty and while it is let. Your insurers must be told that the property is to be let since failure to do so will invalidate cover. As a landlord you should ensure that you have both buildings and contents insurance in place to cover your investment. Tenants are responsible for insuring their own contents and personal belongings.
Please also note that standard homeowner insurance policies will not suffice once a tenant is in residence and you are not an owner occupier. The policy will need to be specifically designed for let property.
Renewals of Tenancy Agreement, Rent Increases and Notices
Prior to the end of the Tenancy we will approach you to establish if you wish to continue the Tenancy for a further fixed term or as a periodic tenancy. Assuming that you wish to renew then we will approach the tenant to find out if they wish to remain in the property. You will be informed in writing of the terms required by the Landlord and any further fees that would be payable by you to the agent. Both parties will need to make a firm decision in good time so that any new Tenancy Agreement can be prepared and signed prior to the renewal date.
Changes in market conditions may warrant an opportunity for a rent increase. Where this is the case you will be advised and the relevant notice served if required.
If either party does not wish to extend the tenancy a Notice may be served upon the tenant at least 2 months before the end of their Tenancy advising them of the date that they will be due to leave. If the tenant does not comply with the notice for possession, landlords may wish to take proceedings through the court against them. Should it prove necessary to employ the services of a solicitor, you will be responsible for instructing them and any fees incurred.
You cannot give notice to end the tenancy during the fixed term unless there is a break clause included in the tenancy agreement. Even if the tenant leaves the property early their obligations remain until the tenancy ends or the property is re-let (if the Landlord chooses to do so) whichever is earlier.
If the Tenancy becomes periodic a tenant must give at least one months’ notice in writing to the Landlord or the agent to end the Tenancy.
When we provide a full management service, we shall carry out property visits approximately every four to six months. Where we hold a key, and if the tenant is unable to attend, our management team will gain access assuming consent has been given. The primary purpose of these visits is to keep Chilterns of the overall condition during the tenancy and identify any minor repairs and maintenance that might be necessary.
End of tenancy Procedures
Where we manage a property we will arrange to check the tenant into the property at the beginning of the tenancy. The purpose of this check-in is to note the condition of the property and any contents (the inventory) on the day that a tenancy commences, and to alert us to any further minor repairs and maintenance that may be necessary.
The landlord instructs Chilterns to prepare an Inventory & Schedule of Condition of the property at the start of the tenancy term. The inventory is a bench mark as to the condition of the property and gives both the landlord and the tenant, peace of mind that it can be referred to at the final checkout stage when the tenant vacates to ensure any dispute is dealt with fairly. Chilterns will arrange to meet the tenant at the property on the day they collect the keys and will be issue a copy of the inventory for their signature and safekeeping. The tenant will be able to check this for accuracy and agree any alterations if required. Chilterns will write to the relevant utility companies with the tenants details and meter readings where required.
Prior to the end of the tenancy, our Inspection Clerk will visit the property (pre check out) and offer the tenant advice and guidance on preparing for the final checkout. The Inspection Clerk will highlight any areas of concern likely to be will be the tenants’ responsibility to address.
When we do not provide a full management service and assuming we are not instructed to provide a check-in/check-out service the Landlord will make arrangements with the tenant to check the property at the start and end of the Tenancy.
Tenants should always attend the check in and check out as it is in their interests to do so and for their protection.
Should any issues (dilapidations) be highlighted during the final checkout they we will address them with the tenant. Chilterns will arrange a quotation for such works and the tenant advised of the costs. These costs are usually deducted from their deposit.
Should any housekeeping or general maintenance issues be identified during the final check out, the landlord will be advised. Chilterns can obtain quotations and manage any works if required.
Council tax and utility bills
In addition to the rent, tenants are responsible for paying water charges, council tax, gas and electricity bills.
You will need to provide your tenant with two sets of keys. If your property is being managed by Chilterns, a further set of keys will need to be held at our branch.
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