A summary of the key regulations and minimum standards which landlords in England must comply with when letting out property. NOT legal advice we must add, just our personal learning so far.

Photo by Jaye Haych on Unsplash

Regulations and Obligations for Landlords in England

As we mentioned briefly in our research on Ethical Landlords, there are some basic standards set out by law. One of our key learnings for this month was to find out more.

Local council landlord licensing

The Housing Act 2004 introduced a “landlord licensing” scheme. To begin with, the areas which require a licence were selected based on a number of factors. These included where there is low housing demand, or where significant anti-social behaviour problems have been identified.

When you have a property in a selective licensing area, you must get a “landlord licence” from the local council which gives you permission to let the property. What’s more, if you fail to get a licence you could get a fine of up to £30,000.

To qualify for a licence in this situation, you have to show that you are acting within the law. You also have to show that you are taking appropriate steps to manage your properties. For example gas, electricity, insurance and EPC certificates. Local councils have set out specific guidelines these area.

Right to Rent

In England, the Immigration Act 2016 says that landlords must undertake checks to ensure that their prospective tenants have the right to live in the UK, before they let a property to them. This means you have to view and take records of identity information, such as passports and visas. Now that this is in place, if a landlord has knowingly let property to tenants who do not have the right to rent, the penalty is an unlimited fine or up to five years’ imprisonment.


In light of the right to rent checks, Global Data Protection Regulations which give EU citizens more control over their personal data applies. Of course this came into force from 25 May 2018. The UK law is the Data Protection Act 2018 and it will still apply post-Brexit.

It must be remembered that these rules classify landlords as data controllers. This is because they need to process and control tenant information in a transparent fashion. To summarise, that means that you need to have a privacy policy in place. This policy is for the documents you use to capture personal information from your tenants. A policy needs to explain:

  • What personal information is being collected
  • Why this information is needed
  • Where and how it will be stored
  • How it will be used
  • How long it will be retained for

Deposits for Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

As a landlord you must legally protect the deposit for an AST in one of three government-backed schemes. You have to do this within 30 days of receiving the deposit. You must also serve the tenants with Prescribed Information related to the deposit within 30 days.

Failure to comply results to financial penalties. These can be up to three times the total deposit. It can also possibly prevent you serving a Section 21 notice.

Starting a tenancy

A landlord must give a tenant a copy of each of these documents when the tenancy starts.

  • an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property
  • a gas safety certificate (if your property has gas appliances)
  • in England only, a copy of the latest How to rent guide
  • Prescribed Information relating to the deposit (for ASTs only)

Landlords should think about Electricy Saftey Certificates too. The Government will soon add them to this list.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

All new tenancies must be in a property with a minimum EPC rating of E. All existing tenancies will have to comply by 1st April 2020.

This prevents any landlord from letting a property with a rating of F or G until energy efficiency improvements have been done. Local authorities are able to fine landlords who are in breach of these regulations.

A estate agent will ask for a valid EPC before marketing your property. EPCs are only valid for 10 years.

Gas Safety Certificates

If there is a gas supply in the property, landlords must have a gas safety inspection by a Gas Safe-registered engineer. Furthermore, you must give a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate to tenants every time. This includes checking that all appliances, installations, pipework, and air vents are safe to use.

Engineers must perform inspections and issue Gas Safety Certificates annually.

Electrical Safety Certificates

Landlords letting property in the UK have a legal obligation to ensure that the property being let is safe to occupy. This includes ensuring the electrics, including portable appliances supplied with the property, are in a safe condition.

The Government has recently announced they will require landlords to have an electrician perform tests. These tests must be done every five years. The landlord should keep a record of electrical inspections. This will require further legislation and is not yet mandatory.

In the meantime, best practice is that you should get a qualified electrician to do regular routine checks. For Example ‘PAT testing’ and ‘Electrical Installation Condition Reports’.

In addition, the Plugs and Sockets (Safety) Regulations 1994 for landlords requires that  any plug, socket or adapter supplied for intended domestic use complies with the appropriate current standard. Consequently, you need to check that plugs are pre-wired. They must also have part insulated live and neutral pins.

Landlord fire safety obligations

By law, rental properties must have fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Additionally, you could include a fire extinguisher in the property.

The owners of rental properties must install a smoke alarm on each floor of your rental property. You must also install a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a solid fuel burning device.

You must also check that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy.

Another consideration is that all furniture provided by the landlord must meet the fire resistance requirements. These are set out in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. It is a criminal offence if the furniture you provide doesn’t comply with those regulations. The consequence is a penalty which can be a £5,000 fine or six month’s imprisonment, or both.

Landlord responsibility for repairs & maintenance

Because of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (S11), a Landlord must keep certain things in good repair and proper working order. This is different for different tenancies.

Example 1. The tenant has a fixed tenancy contract for under 7 years. This means that the landlord is responsible for:

  • the structure and exterior of the property
  • baths, sinks and other sanitary items
  • heating and hot water installations

Example 2. The tenant has a fixed tenancy contract for over 7 years. This means that the tenant is responsible for:

  • the structure and exterior of the property
  • baths, sinks and other sanitary items
  • heating and hot water installations

When a tenant causes damages, the landlord is basically not responsible.

Landlord repairing obligations

To sum up, landlords are responsible for repairs to the exterior. Landlords must also repair the structure of a property. This includes problems with the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains.

You must also make sure that equipment is kept in safe working order. This applies to equipment for supplying water, gas and electricity.

If you need access to your property to inspect it or to do repairs you should

  • give reasonable notice
  • arrange a suitable time to visit

This doesn’t apply if there is an emergency. You can put how much notice you will give tenants in your tenancy agreement.

Regulations and Obligations for Landlords
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