Landlord Responsibilities In England and Wales

You have landlord responsibilities when renting out a property to tenants.
Regardless of the type of property you are renting out to tenants, you have landlord responsibilities which you must adhere to. Photo © Alan Hunt (cc-by-sa/2.0)

What are the responsibilities of a landlord?

Your landlord responsibilities will vary depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have with your tenant.

There are over 140 laws regarding the responsibilities of a landlord, most of which are intended to ensure the safety and well-being of your tenants. Apart from your legal responsibilities as a landlord, you should also try to observe some moral responsibility, This is part of being a good landlord for your tenants.

Almost all modern tenancy agreements in England and Wales are in the form of an AST. You also have legal landlord responsibilities in relation to an AST contract. Find out about an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.

Legal responsibilities of a landlord

As a landlord in England or Wales, you have certain legal responsibilities. These include:

  • Providing a safe and secure home for your tenants
  • Making sure the property is fit for human habitation
  • Keeping in good repair and proper working order the services and facilities for which you are responsible, such as gas, electricity, water and sanitation
  • Complying with fire safety regulations
  • Ensuring that any furniture provided in the tenancy meets safety standards
  • Protecting your tenants’ deposits in a government-approved scheme
  • Giving your tenants information about their rights and responsibilities
  • Not discriminating against tenants on the grounds of gender, race, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender reassignment.

Providing a safe and secure home for your tenants

Providing a safe and secure home for your tenants is one of your landlord responsibilities. You must make sure that the property is structurally sound and free from hazards.

You should also carry out regular checks to ensure that any furniture provided in the rental property meets safety standards and that all electrical appliances are safe to use.

It is also your responsibility as a landlord to ensure that the property complies with fire safety regulations. This means having working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors installed, and making sure that escape routes are clear.

You should also give your tenants information about their rights and responsibilities, and provide them with a copy of the written tenancy agreement.

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For England & Wales

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Flats in England rented to tenants who have a good landlord.
Part of your landlord responsibilities is providing a safe and secure home for your tenants. Photo © Robert Graham (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Make sure your rental property is fit for human habitation

As a landlord, you are responsible for making sure that the property is fit for human habitation. This means carrying out repairs in a timely manner and keeping the property in a good state of repair.

You should also ensure that the property has adequate lighting, ventilation, and sanitation.

Keep in repair and proper working order the services and facilities for which you are responsible as the property owner. Make sure the property is free from mould, infestation and dampness.

As a landlord, you are responsible for keeping in repair and proper working order the services and facilities for which you are legally responsible.

Tenants’ health and safety

Safety regulations stipulate that as a buy-to-let landlord, you should ensure:

  • all gas and electrical appliances supplied with the buy-to-let property are safely installed and regularly maintained by a qualified engineer
  • smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are safely installed and tested regularly
  • all furnishings and fittings provided with the home are safe and do not represent a fire hazard
  • an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is provided for the buy-to-let property. This is valid for 10 years and must have a minimum E rating (since April 2020)
  • repairs to the structure of the home as well as to the sanitary, heating and hot water systems are carried out promptly

Tenancy agreements and tenants’ rights

You also have legal landlord responsibilities regarding the rights of your tenants.

You must draw up a legal tenancy agreement that sets out the rights and responsibilities of both you and your tenants regarding the rent, what is exactly included in the rent (such as utilities, Council Tax, etc.), the rules and restrictions of the tenancy and so on.

The tenancy agreement also states what happens in the case of a tenancy finishing early and in cases of late rent payments.

Image of some rented flats in England with a valid tenancy agreement.
Your written tenancy agreement should stipulate matters involving rent, council tax and what is included in the tenancy. Photo © Christine Johnstone (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Ensuring your tenants have the right to rent

In England, you are also liable for checking that your tenants have the ‘Right to rent’ (for non-UK citizens only) by examining documents such as visas.

In other words, if your potential tenant is not a UK citizen, it is your responsibility as a landlord to ensure they have the right to rent the property from you.

This could be in the form of checking their right to be in the UK, such as a visa or residency papers.

If a person who is not a UK citizen cannot demonstrate their legal right to be in the UK you should not rent a property to them.

Landlords and the law in the UK

When you become a landlord, you should be aware of the laws which affect you and your relationship with, and behaviour towards, your tenants.

Even if you use a letting agency, you are liable if any laws are broken. Penalties are stiff for non-compliance. 

There are about 150 Acts of Parliament and 400 regulations concerning the private rented sector and the landlord-tenant relationship and landlord responsibilities.

We will highlight some of the most important laws concerning your right to enter your own property, tenant letting fees, deposit protection, discrimination against potential tenants and changes to the tenancy agreement.

A landlord’s right to enter a rented property

Although the deeds of the house may be in your name, you surrender some of your rights as a property owner when you rent it out.

Landlords do not have the right to enter their property whenever they want.

You may want to inspect your property or carry out emergency repairs. However, you need your tenants’ permission to enter and they must be given 24 hours’ notice of your intention to come by.

Image showing the front door of a rented property in England.
As a landlord you do not have the right to enter the property without giving notice to the tenant. Photo © Roger Templeman (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Letting fees for tenants

Since the Tenant Fees Act of 2019, it has become illegal for landlords or letting agencies to charge prospective tenants any fees which solely benefit the landlord.

This means any checks carried out to vet tenants such as identity checks, checks with a credit reference agency, tenant background checks, etc. are the financial responsibility of the landlord.

Deposits and deposit protection schemes

The size of deposits varies according to the annual rent payments.

Within 30 days of receiving a deposit from tenants, landlords must pay the money into one of the UK’s deposit protection schemes.

Landlords and the DSS

Many private landlords are reluctant to rent their property to recipients of DSS state benefits such as Universal Credit because payments are made in arrears.

There is also the worry that such tenants are more likely to delay or default on their rent payments. Because of this, there had been a growing tendency for landlords to specify ‘No DSS’ when advertising their property for rent.

As the result of a court case in July 2020, it has become unlawful to discriminate against tenants on state benefits under the terms of the 2010 Equality Act. As part of your landlord responsibilities you cannot discriminate against people who receive DSS benefits.

The same piece of legislation prevents landlords from discriminating against would-be tenants on the grounds of their gender, race, religion, sexuality, and so on.

Changes to tenancy agreements and rent increases

The law forbids landlords from making changes to the tenancy agreement without the written consent of the tenant.  

Landlords are not permitted to increase the rent for as much as they want. Any increase must be reasonable and in line with similar properties in the neighbourhood.

A rent increase is only allowed if there is a rent review clause in the agreement or when the tenancy ends. A Section 13 notice can be served to inform tenants of the landlord’s intention to increase the rent, but this can only be done once a year.

Landlords must also give tenants a month’s notice before putting up the rent. It is part of your landlord responsibilities to adhere to the terms of the tenancy agreement with your tenant.

Image of a small stone cottage where the rent was increased by giving the tenant one months notice.
As a landlord you cannot increase the rent in your property without due notice to your tenant. Photo © Robert Graham (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Private landlord responsibilities and rules in England and Wales

All the above legislation and rules apply to the whole of the UK including England and Wales. The only law which is specific to England concerns the ‘Right to Rent’. 

Since 2016, private landlords must investigate their tenants’ legal right to reside in the country by requesting copies of their documentation such as visas, applications for asylum, etc.

Although this rule was challenged in March 2019 as being incompatible with human rights, it has yet to be officially revoked. This means that private landlords in England can be fined if they house illegal immigrants.

It is extremely important that you are aware of your landlord responsibilities in England and Wales and that you, as a landlord, stay within the law when renting a property to tenants.

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