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What Are the Legal Responsibilities of a Landlord?

What are the legal obligations of a landlord? PropertyLoop

Starting your journey as a landlord can be intimidating, with a landslide of rules and regulations to become acquainted with, alongside managing tenants and a growing portfolio, owners must ensure their first steps into the private rental sector are lasting. To this end, we present new owners with our checklist of legal requirements for landlords.

Landlord’s Responsibility for Repairs

A landlord’s obligations to carry out repairs on their rental property has been established through section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, detailing that owners’ must attend to matters relating to the external structure of the rental. If a tenant requests that their landlord conduct necessary repairs a response must be given detailing the work that must be carried out within 14 days; however, this is only a time limit for the response as a landlord must be afforded “reasonable” time to carry out remedial work. 

With this being said it is essential to note that a landlord cannot be unreasonably expected to attend to matters of structural repairs that have not been brought to their attention. Whilst many landlords choose to carry out inspections of their rental property over the course of the tenancy they must be mindful of the occupant’s privacy and will likely not be able to catch every matter with a handful of inspections. This is why when signing the tenancy agreement renters take on the responsibility to notify the landlord of any damage that occurs to the rental property or its contents to ensure there is no risk to the tenant’s safety and matters are not exacerbated.  

Do Landlords Have a Right to Enter Property?

Understandably many landlords will see their rental property exclusively as an investment, however, it is important to remember that the rental is also the tenant’s home and therefore they must not infringe on their right to quiet enjoyment. This means that landlords are prohibited from simply entering the rental property when they see fit and must first get the permission of the occupants. This is most commonly encountered when trying to arrange for repair work, inspections or carry out property viewings, but in any case, the permission needs to be granted no later than 24 hours before the intended visit.  The occupants of the property also have the right to reject any requests for entry made by the landlord, however, this is typically done to allow for both parties to find a more mutually convenient time for the visit to take place.  

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Landlord’s Responsibility for Damp

Although it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide renters with a safe rental property that is free from damp and mould infestations, the liability can occasionally lie with the tenants providing that the risks arose due to their negligence, typically through poor ventilation throughout the property.  

With this being said if the infestation of damp was caused by structural damage to the property that had been left unattended then the tenants could contact the environmental health branch of their local authority to schedule an inspection of the rental. This could lead to the landlord being ordered to carry out the appropriate works, with the tenant’s potentially being awarded compensation.  

Landlord’s Responsibility for Fire Safety

Landlords must ensure that each floor of the property that holds living space has a functional smoke alarm installed that is periodically tested by the occupants over the course of the tenancy. Further to this if any areas of the accommodation contain solid fuel or solid fuel-burning appliances then they must have a carbon monoxide alarm installed also. If the landlord is choosing to provide a fully or party furnished rental opportunity then they will need to ensure that all of the furnishings are fire-resistant.  

Who Is Responsible for Gardening in a Rental Property?

If the rental property also contains a garden, then it is likely that the tenancy agreement will include a gardening clause. This will establish the maintenance work that is expected of the tenant, which will commonly amount to simply returning the outdoor space at the end of the fixed term in a similar condition to that of the start of the tenancy. This will typically see tenants take on small duties like cutting the grass, removing weeds, and trimming hedges, however the landlord must provide all the necessary equipment of this work to be carried out. 

This is not to say that landlords do not have any responsibilities when it comes to outdoor spaces as owners will be expected to carry out any works that a tenant is unable to conduct safely; commonly including repairing fences, maintaining patio areas, pruning trees and tall hedges.  

What Reasons Can a Landlord Keep My Deposit?

When entering into a rental agreement with an owner tenants will likely pay a five-week security deposit to the landlord. Unlike the holding deposit which is returned to the aspiring renters within a matter of weeks, the security deposit is withheld from the tenants until the end of the fixed period. This is because the landlord is able to make deductions from the amount being returned to the tenant to financially compensate them for any damage that occurs to the rental property and its contents over the course of the tenancy. However, in order to ensure these sums provided by the tenants are not misused, landlords are legally obliged to enter their tenant’s security deposit into a government backed tenancy deposit scheme. Once this is done the owner must provide the occupants of their property with details of this scheme, confirming the amount being protected, the scheme under which the amounts are protected and the conditions where deductions can be made from the sums being returned, within 30 days of the amounts being paid. 

As mentioned, the landlord is able to use this security deposit as a financial lifeline in the instance that damage has occurred to the rental property and its contents. This can occasionally result in a dispute over when the damage occurred and if the occupants are liable for the associated costs of repair; making the importance of curating a thorough property inventory all the clearer. However, landlords are also able to make deductions from the amount being returned to the tenants if there are any outstanding rental payments; but with a limit in place on the amount landlords can take for the security deposit residing at the equivalent cost of five weeks rent, this won’t see many property owners recoup significant rent arrears.

What are a landlords legal responsibilities UK? PropertyLoop

Can Landlords Increase Rent?

Providing that the tenancy is still within the fixed term the landlord is heavily restricted in how they are able to increase the amount of rent their tenants pay. in most cases the rent will not increase unless both the landlord and the tenants reach a new agreement which stipulates the revised rental figure. Alternatively, landlords are able to include a bespoke rent review clause within the terms of the tenancy agreement. This clause will detail when the rent increase will happen, alongside the amount the rent is likely to increase by.  

Right to Rent Checks

Any tenant over the age of 18 must have their right to rent evaluated by the owner of the rental property. Landlords are able to accept a series of identification documents that confirm the identity of the renter and their right to reside within the UK. If the landlord is not able to verify the tenant’s right to rent then they are prohibited from offering the applicant a tenancy. If the owner is found to be illegally letting to a tenant that does not hold a sufficient immigration status, then they could face a fine of up to £3,000. 

Landlords and Statutory Info for Tenants  

Landlords in England must give tenants a How to Rent booklet containing copies of gas, electrical and other safety certificates. In Scotland, new tenants must be given written tenancy terms. There is also a booklet of Easy Read Notes for tenants for landlords using the government’s Tenancy Agreement. If using their own then the PRT Statutory Terms Supporting Notes must be given.  

In Wales there will be a template contract but landlords can also use their own. Any Tenancy Agreement must be issued within 14 days of the tenant moving in. Landlords must signpost to, or give, tenants the booklet Guide to Renting. 

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