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Legal obligations of a landlord

This only applies in England and Wales.

You need to be aware of the rules governing houses in multiple occupation and your obligations relating to gas, electrical and fire safety.

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You must provide tenants with certain prescribed information 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

You must also give the tenant:

If you don't give the tenant this information, you will not be able to serve a Section 21 (Form 6A) notice for England or a Section 21 notice for Wales upon them (if need be).

For tenancies and properties located in Wales, there are additional legal requirements for landlords. All landlords and their rental properties must be registered with Rent Smart Wales. Failure not to comply with this requirement is an offence. In addition, landlords need to apply for a licence if they self-manage the property, or instruct a licensed letting agent on their behalf.

There are legal requirements relating to the registration of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). A property is an HMO 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 if they are occupied by five or more persons who form more than one household and share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants. Be aware that a section 21 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 the tenant and you must meet safety obligations under the law. In particular make sure you consider: gas safety, electrical safety, fire safety.

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 carry out a gas safety check every twelve months; keep a copy of the gas safety record of each appliance for at least two 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 (cookers, washing machines, heaters) and equipment (plugs, leads, sockets, light fittings) must be safe, undamaged and carry the British Safety Standard sign. Any faulty items must be removed or replaced. 

Landlords in England must also comply with the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020. Under the Regulations, private landlords are required to ensure that all electrical installations are inspected and tested by a registered electrician 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, covers.

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

All properties must have at least one smoke alarm on each floor.

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 the tenant's 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 what will be done with the data you hold about them and how you'll use it. For more information, read Data protection for private landlords.

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.

For more information, read Fitness for human habitation.

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