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Legal obligations of a landlord

This information only applies in England and Wales.

Landlords have various obligations to their tenants. All Landlords should be aware of these obligations and those for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Read our guide to learn about landlords’ obligations relating to gas, electrical, and fire safety, fitness for human habitation, and tenants’ information.

Last updated 14 November 2022.

For the avoidance of doubt, references to ‘tenants’ also apply to ‘contract holders’ unless otherwise specified.

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Landlords should provide all tenants with information about their tenancy. The minimum requirements are:

  • for an assured shorthold tenancy (or ‘AST’, the most common tenancy type) in England - that a written statement of terms is provided to the tenant within 28 days of their requesting one

  • for an occupation contract in Wales - that a written statement of the occupation contract is given to contract holders within 14 days of the date they were entitled to move into the property (or ‘dwelling’)

This information is usually provided in the form of a Tenancy agreement in England, and always as a written statement of an occupation contract in Wales. 

Having a full written contract is a good way of ensuring both parties are aware of their rights and obligations, and it provides evidence of this that can be used if a dispute arises down the line.

Tenancy deposit information

Landlords must provide tenants with certain prescribed information about their tenancy deposit within 30 days of receiving their deposit. This ensures tenants are made aware of their rights during and at the end of the tenancy. It includes:

  • details of the tenancy deposit scheme

  • information on how the deposit is protected

  • how to apply to get their deposit back

  • what to do if there's a dispute

Other information

Landlords must also give the tenant:

If you don't give the tenant this information, you will not be able to serve a No fault eviction notice (ie a Section 21 (Form 6A) notice for England or a Section 173 notice for Wales) to them in future.

For tenancies and properties located in Wales, landlords and their rental properties must be registered with Rent Smart Wales. Failure to comply with this requirement is an offence. In addition, landlords need to apply for a licence if they self-manage the property or, if they don’t, instruct a licensed letting agent.

There are legal requirements relating to the registration of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). A property is an HMO in England and Wales if it is let as a main or only home to at least three tenants who form more than one household and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

An HMO must have a licence from the relevant local authority if it is occupied by five or more persons (ie it is classified as a ‘large HMO’). Be aware that a section 21 notice or section 173 notice won't be valid if the tenant lives in an HMO that should be licensed by the council but isn't.

When deciding whether to issue a licence, the council will check that the property meets an acceptable standard (eg whether the property is large enough for the occupants and is well managed). It may also consider whether the landlord is a 'fit and proper person’. For more information, read HMOs.

Check with your local authority for their policies on HMOs, as there are large fines for non-compliance.

As a landlord, you owe a duty of care to your tenants and you must meet various health and safety obligations under the law. In particular, make sure you consider gas safety, electrical safety, fire safety, and requirements to install certain alarms.

Gas safety

All gas equipment supplied at the property must be installed and maintained by a competent engineer who is Gas Safe registered.

You must also:

  • carry out a gas safety check every 12 months

  • keep a copy of the gas safety record of each appliance for at least 2 years

  • list any defects found and/or any remedial action taken in the certificates

  • install a carbon monoxide detector near gas appliances

Electrical safety

All electrical appliances (eg cookers, washing machines, and heaters) and equipment (eg plugs, leads, sockets, and light fittings) must be safe, undamaged, and carry the British Safety Standard sign. Any faulty items must be removed or replaced. 

Landlords must also comply with the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 or The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022. Under both sets of Regulations, private landlords are required to ensure that all electrical installations are inspected and tested by a registered electrician usually at least once every 5 years. The electrician will give a report to the landlord which will explain the outcomes of the inspection and will list any investigative or remedial work required. For more information, read Electrical safety in rented property.

Fire safety

Furnishings supplied in the property must meet fire resistance standards. Such items include upholstered furniture, beds, headboards and mattresses, futons, sofa beds, garden furniture, scatter cushions, pillows, and covers.

Non-compliant items must be removed before the tenant moves into the property.

Note that special fire safety rules apply to HMOs. For more information, read Fire safety in HMOs.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

All dwellings in Wales must have at least one smoke alarm on each floor and this must be connected to the main electrical supply and linked to the other main smoke alarms in the property. Additional alarms on a given floor (ie above and beyond the one required on each floor) need not be linked to the electricity and the other alarms.

All properties in England must have at least one smoke alarm on each floor in which there is at least one room that is wholly or partially used as living accommodation. A room is used wholly or partially as living accommodation if: 

  • the main use of the room is for living purposes, or

  • a person spends a significant amount of time in the room

Landlords must check smoke alarms are in working order at the start of a new tenancy. They should also make sure they’re located where the tenants can hear them and should consider whether more than one alarm on a given floor is appropriate to ensure the safety of a particular property. 

Since 1 October 2022, under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 and The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022, a carbon monoxide alarm (or CO alarm) must be installed in every room that is partially or fully used as living accommodation and which contains any appliance which burns (or is capable of burning) fuel (eg a gas boiler, wooden stove or open fire). A CO alarm needs not be installed in a room: 

  • that contains a gas cooker

  • where the appliance burning fuel is only decorative (eg a non-functioning, purely decorative fireplace)

Landlords must check that CO alarms are working on the first day of any new tenancy.

For more information, see the Government’s guidance for England and the Welsh Government’s guidance on fitness for human habitation.

Local councils have the ability to impose specific requirements in individual areas with the potential for high penalties in the event of non-compliance.

Check with your local authority for any local requirements, or Ask a lawyer if you would like specific advice on this topic. For more information, read Selective licensing.

It is an implied term of a residential tenancy agreement starting after 20 March 2019 in England that the landlord will ensure that the dwelling is fit for human habitation:

  • when the tenancy is granted, and

  • will stay fit for human habitation for the duration of the tenancy

Since 1 December 2022, fitness for human habitation in Wales has been governed by the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022. They also require that all rented properties are fit for human habitation when the occupation contract begins and throughout.

For more information, read Fitness for human habitation.

If you handle and process personal data belonging to tenants, you'll need to understand your new responsibilities under the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This includes safeguarding tenants’ data, making sure you only pass it on if you are legally entitled to do so, and not retaining it for longer than necessary.

It may be necessary to give your tenants a data protection privacy notice telling them what will be done with the data you hold about them. For more information, read Data protection for private landlords.

On 1 December 2022, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and associated laws, including The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022, overhauled rented residential property regulation in Wales. Some of the requirements introduced by this legislation require a significant amount of work by landlords to ensure compliance. Therefore, for converted occupation contracts (ie tenancies that existed before 1 December 2022), landlords have 12 months (ie until 1 December 2023) to ensure their rental properties comply with some of their new landlords’ obligations, including: 

  • the requirement to provide an electrical condition report

  • the new laws on smoke alarms (until 1 December 2023, they only need to be compliant with the previously applicable standards, ie those stated for England above)

For more information on precise transitional provisions, read the Welsh Government’s guidance or Ask a lawyer for advice.   

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