Regulations you must know before letting property

by Tessa Shepperson

There are numerous legislations relating to the renting out of property and you, as a landlord, need to be sure that all of them have been complied with before you get that tenancy agreement signed. There is another very good reason why you will want to ensure that your property is in good condition before it is let: it's far more likely to attract a good tenant in the first place, and it's notoriously difficult to carry out rectification works with tenants in occupation.

Here, Tessa Shepperson, a legal expert in residential landlord and tenant law, outlines the important things to bear in mind when you're preparing a property to let.

1. Get permission

You should make sure that you’re legally allowed to let the property; for example, you may need written permission from:

  • Your mortgage company
  • Your landlord, if you're letting a leasehold flat
  • Your insurance company, to check that renting is permitted.

You should also check that planning permission isn't required (this is particularly important if the property can be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)) (see 'licensing' below). If any building works have been completed, you may need building regulations approval.

2. Get a licence, if necessary

If the property has five or more unrelated tenants and is three or more storeys high, then it will almost certainly be a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and you will probably have to obtain a licence from your local authority. If you think this may apply to you, you should speak to your local authority before taking on any tenants (and preferably before doing any building works). More information on HMOs can be found in Lawpack's book, The Complete Guide to Residential Letting.

3. Get the property into a good condition

A property must be in good condition and have no 'category 1' hazards at the time that it's let. 'Category 1' hazards relate to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System set up under the Housing Act 2004, where local authorities are given powers to inspect properties and determine whether they contain any 'hazards'. These all relate to health and safety; for example, damp and mould, excess cold (i.e. insufficient heating) and the tenant being in danger of having a fall. This is a complex subject. You can read in more detail about these, and other areas in Lawpack's books The Complete Guide to Residential Letting and Renting: The Essential Guide to Tenants' Rights.

Do note that during the tenancy, you, as the landlord, will be responsible for the maintenance of the structure and exterior of the property and for the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation, and for the installations for the supply of space and water heating (Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985). You should, therefore, make sure that all of these are in good repair at the time of letting, to minimise any repair works during the tenancy.

4. Check that the gas appliances are safe

If there are any gas installations at the property, you must have an inspection carried out by a CORGI-registered gas installer, and then annually thereafter. The installer will provide a certificate and you must give a copy to the tenant. For more information, speak to your local Heath and Safety Executive which administers these regulations.

5. Check that the furniture is fire resistant

All furniture must comply with the furniture regulations, be fire retardant, and carry the proper labels. If you furnish your property with new furniture, you should be all right, particularly if you use one of the companies which specialises in providing 'packs' of furniture for landlords. Further guidance on the regulations can be obtained from your local Trading Standards Office.

If your property is an HMO, then you must comply with fire safety law by carrying out a fire risk assessment in the common areas and identifying the general fire precautions you need to have in place.

6. Maintain the electricity supply

Strangely, there is no requirement for regular inspections (as there are for gas appliances) unless the property is an HMO, where it will need to be inspected every five years. However, landlords are responsible for maintaining the condition of the installations for the supply of electricity under their general repairing covenants in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

7. Make sure that the property is safe

There are also regulations which cover general safety in the property; for example, there should not be any slippery rugs or ladders with broken rungs. Electrical appliances must also be safe and if these are not new, it's wise to have them inspected and checked before and between lettings. Plugs must be properly sleeved and sockets safe. Again, the Trading Standards Office can provide useful leaflets regarding these matters.

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Published on: June 2, 2008

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