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Advice for landlords and letting agents

Rights and responsibilities of landlords and letting agents who rent out houses in the private rented sector. Report an issue with a tenant.

What duties do I have as a landlord or letting agent?

As a landlord or letting agent you must at the start of a tenancy:

  • give the tenant your name and address
  • check your tenant has the right to rent your property if it’s in England
  • make sure all gas appliances and fittings are safe to use and provide the tenant with a copy of the annual gas safety record
  • provide the tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property
  • protect your tenant’s deposit in a government approved scheme
  • ensure smoke alarms and if needed carbon monoxide alarms are fitted and working at the start of the tenancy
  • give your tenant a copy of the 'How to rent' checklist when they start renting from you, a copy of which can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - How to rent (external website)

During a tenancy a landlord or letting agent must:

  • keep your rented property safe and free from health and safety hazards
  • make sure electrical equipment is safely installed and maintained
  • give 24 hours notice if you want to visit a property
  • give the proper notice if you want a tenant to leave the property.

If your property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you may need to apply for a HMO licence from the council.  

Further information on how to rent out a property can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - Rent out a property (external website)

What is the tenancy deposit protection scheme?

Since April 2007, the law has required landlords who let their property using an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) in England and Wales and who take deposits from tenants, to place or register the deposit with one of the three statutory tenancy deposit schemes (TDP). The government introduced the scheme to make sure a tenancy deposit is protected so that a tenant gets all or part of their deposit back, when they are entitled to it and that any disputes between tenant and landlord or agent will be easier to resolve.

Landlords who fail to use a tenancy deposit scheme not only lose the right to automatically regain possession of the property at the end of a tenancy but may also face a financial penalty.

At the beginning of a new tenancy agreement a landlord or agent must within 14 days give the tenant details about how the deposit is protected.

There are three authorised schemes which are available for landlords to use:

Deposit Protection Service (DPS) (external website) 

MyDeposits (external website) 

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) (external website)

If a landlord hasn't protected a tenant's deposit or refuses to give details of the scheme he or she has used, a tenant can apply to a county court for an order to either pay back the deposit or to protect it in one of the TDP schemes.

Further information on the tenancy deposit scheme can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - Tenancy deposit protection (external website)

How do I evict a tenant?

A landlord or letting agent must follow strict procedures if they want a tenant to leave a property. The exact procedure will depend on the tenancy agreement and its terms. More information on the different types of tenancy agreements can be found on the GOV.UK website.

GOV.UK - Tenancy agreements: a guide for landlords (England and Wales) (external website)

A landlord or a person acting on his or her behalf may be guilty of committing an illegal eviction if they:

  • do not give the tenant the proper notice to leave the property
  • change the locks to stop a tenant getting into the property
  • evict a tenant without a court order.

A landlord or letting agent may also be guilty of harassment if he or she does, or fails to do, anything that makes a tenant want to leave the property which includes:

  • cutting off services, like gas and electricity
  • visiting the property at unsociable hours
  • refusing to carry out repairs
  • starting but not finishing disruptive repairs or building work
  • trying to take away a tenants legal rights
  • being violent or threatening violence
  • abusive behaviour
  • opening a tenants post or removing belongings.

A section 21 notice is the most commonly used way to begin the eviction process for tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy. If a tenant signed a new contract or a renewal agreement on or after 1 October 2015, notice must be given on a 'Tenancy form 6a: Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy' and give at least two months notice. A landlord cannot use a section 21 notice to evict a tenant during the fixed term of a contract and it cannot be served within the first four months of a tenancy.

A landlord doesn't have to give a reason for wanting a tenant to leave but must have given the tenant certain documents at the start of the tenancy and also have followed certain rules for protecting a tenancy deposit.

A section 21 does not have to be on a special form if a tenancy started before 1 October 2015 and a tenant has not signed a renewal agreement after this date. The notice however must be in writing and give a minimum of two months' notice. If the tenant has a periodic tenancy, one that runs for example from month to month and it never had a fixed term, the notice must also:

  • state it is being issued under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988
  • end on the last day of a tenancy period which is usually the day before rent is due.

You can get legal advice on creating a notice and giving it to your tenants by finding a Solicitor at the Law Society website.

The Law Society - find a solicitor (external website)

More information about ending a tenancy can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - Tenancy agreements: a guide for landlords (England and Wales): Ending a tenancy (external website)

GOV.UK - Evicting tenants (England and Wales) (external website)

What is a retaliatory eviction?

Retaliatory eviction is where a tenant makes a legitimate complaint to their landlord about the condition of their property and, in response, instead of making the repair, the landlord serves them with a section 21 notice asking them to leave.

If a tenant has an assured shorthold tenancy or a renewal agreement which started on or after 1 October 2015 and is given a section 21 notice it will be invalid where all these apply:

  • before the section 21 notice was issued, the tenant made a complaint in writing either by email or letter to the landlord regarding the condition of the property. A tenant will be considered to have made a complaint if they did not know the landlords postal or email address, or had made reasonable efforts to contact the landlord to complain but could not
  • the landlord:
    • did not provide a response within 14 days of the complaint being made
    • did not describe the action they would take to fix the problem or give a reasonable timescale within which action would be taken
    • served a section 21 notice following the complaint being made by the tenant
  • the tenant then complained to the council about the same or a very similar issue
  • the council sent the landlord a housing improvement notice or emergency remedial action notice because the property was found, following a visit in response to the complaint, to have a serious health or safety hazard
  • and if the section 21 notice was not given before the tenant’s complaint to the council, it was given before the service of the relevant notice.

If the council serve a landlord with a relevant housing notice, a valid section 21 notice can not be issued within six months of the council’s notice. A section 21 will be valid if it is served after 6 months have passed.

The situation does not apply where a landlord uses the section 8 court procedure for evicting a tenant. In order for a landlord to rely on the section 8 procedure, there are certain grounds that have to be met for example; where a tenant fails to pay the rent or has been involved in anti-social behaviour.

More information about retaliatory eviction can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - Retaliatory Eviction and the Deregulation Act 2015: guidance note (external website)

What are the letting agents and property managers redress schemes?

On 1 October 2014, legislation came into force making it a requirement for all lettings agents and property managers in England to belong to one of three Government approved redress schemes. The schemes are designed to provide a free, independent service for resolving disputes between letting agents/property managers and their customers.

Letting agency work is described as things done by any person in the course of a business in response to instructions received from:

  • a private rented sector landlord who wants to find a tenant: or
  • a tenant who wants to find a property in the private rented sector

It does not include where a person only advertises the property for rent and arranges contact between tenants and prospective landlords.

Property management work means things done by a person in the course of business in response to instructions from another person who wants to arrange services, repair, maintenance, improvement, or insurance or to deal with any other aspect of the management of a residential property.

There are three redress schemes:

Property Redress Scheme (external website)

The Property Ombudsman (external website)

Ombudsman Services (external website)

The council can impose a penalty charge notice of up to £5,000 where a lettings agent or property manager who should have joined a scheme has not done so.

Further information on the requirement for lettings agents and property managers in England to belong to a government approved redress scheme can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - Lettings agents and property managers: redress schemes (external website)

What are the requirements about publicising letting fees?

The Consumer Rights 2015 makes it a requirement for all letting agents to publicise their relevant fees. 

The fees be must displayed at each of their offices and in a place which can be easily seen by their clients. Ideally, someone walking into an agent’s office should be able to see the list of fees without having to ask for it. The fees must also be published on the agent's website if they have one.

A description of each fee must be given to enable a person who is paying it to understand the service or cost that is covered by the fee or the purpose for which it is being charged. 

In the case of a fee which tenants are liable to pay, an indication of whether the fee relates to each property or each tenant under a tenancy. The amount of each fee must include any applicable tax or, where the amount of a fee cannot reasonably be determined in advance, a description of how that fee is calculated.

If the agent holds money on behalf of persons to whom the agent provides services as part of that work, includes a duty to display or publish, with the list of fees, a statement of whether the agent is a member of a client money protection scheme.

If the letting agent is required to be a member of a redress scheme for dealing with complaints, there is also a requirement for them to display or publish, with the list of fees, a statement that:

  • indicates that the agent is a member of a redress scheme, and
  • gives the name of the scheme.

Enforcement of the regulations is the responsibility of the council and a penalty charge notice of up to £5000 can be issued to letting agents who fail to comply.

Further information about the regulations can be found on the government's legislation website.

Consumer Rights Act 2015 - Duty of letting agents to publicise fees etc (external website)

What are the Smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations?

Since the 1 October 2015, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations (England) 2015 have made it compulsory for landlords to fit a smoke alarm on every floor of their rented property, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in every room containing a solid fuel burning appliance, for example, a coal fire or wood burning stove.

Landlords are required to check that alarms are working at the start of every new tenancy however it is the tenant's responsibility for the ongoing regular testing to ensure they are in working order and to notify the landlord if they identify any problems.

The government has produced a question and answer guide for tenants and landlords.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: explanatory booklet (external website)

Enforcement of the regulations is the responsibility of the council and a remedial notice can be issued requiring the landlord to fit the alarms and a civil penalty charge of up to £5000 can be issued to a landlord who fails to comply. A Statement of Principles outlining the council's civil penalty structure is available.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015 Statement of Principles (pdf 56kbs opens in new window) 

These regulations are not the only fire safety requirements that a rented property may be subject to. There are fire safety requirements under other legislation which may be applicable, such as the Housing Act 2004.  Fire is one of the hazards identified by the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS), which means landlords must assess the risk of fire in rented property and provide appropriate measures to minimise that risk.  

If the property is a Houses in Multiple Occupation the level of fire detection as described above will not be sufficient and a combination of automatic fire detection and structural fire precautions will be necessary.

Why do I need an Energy Performance Certificate?

Since 1 October 2008 landlords, or their agents, have needed to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) whenever a home in the social or private rented sector is let to a new tenant. Landlords, or their agents, must make an EPC available, free of charge, to prospective tenants at the earliest opportunity. This should be when they are first given written information about the property or view it, and before any rental contract is entered into. An EPC is not required for any property that was occupied before 1 October 2008 and which continues to be occupied after that date by the same tenant.

The council are responsible for enforcing the regulations and can ask a landlord or letting agent to provide them with a copy of an EPC for inspection. If requested, a copy of the EPC must be provided within 7 days or the person issued with the request may be issued with a civil penalty charge of £200 for failing to comply with the EPC obligations.

A number of amendments to the original regulations covering the provision of Energy Performance Certificates have been introduced over subsequent years and were consolidated in December 2012.

The government has produced a guide to energy performance certificates.

A Guide to Energy Performance Certificates (pdf 325kb opens in new window) 

Only accredited domestic energy assessors and home inspectors can produce an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). If you use an independent energy assessor make sure they are a current member of an accreditation scheme, as this ensures your energy assessor is operating to professional standards. An EPC is only authentic if issued by an accredited Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA).

Details of accredited DEA’s can be found at the Energy Performance Register.

Energy Performance Register (external website)

What is Right to Rent?

The Immigration Act 2014 has introduced the requirement that landlords letting private rented accommodation to new tenants must check their immigration status before allowing them to rent a property. From 1 February 2016, every landlord in the UK has been required to carry out these checks. Checks are required to all new tenants.

  • that are 18 years old or over
  • where it is their main or only residence.

Tenants fall into three categories:

  • unlimited right to rent in the UK
  • time limited right to rent in the UK (landlords are required to carry out reviews of the immigration status throughout the term of the tenancy)
  • no right to rent in the UK (landlords should not rent to anyone in this category).

Copies of the tenant’s identification will need to be kept securely by the landlord throughout the tenancy. If a landlord allows a disqualified person to rent a property they can be issued with a penalty notice of £3000.

Further information on how to check a tenant's right to rent can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - Check your tenant's right to rent (external website)

What are the risks and landlord responsibilities with Legionnaires Disease?

Legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by the inhalation of small droplets of contaminated water. All man-made hot and cold water systems can provide an environment where Legionella can grow. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires that every landlord has a duty to carry out a risk assessment to ensure that their tenants are not exposed to health and safety risks which include a legionella risk assessment. 

It does not always require an in-depth detailed assessment. The risks from hot and cold water systems in most residential dwellings are generally considered to be low owing to regular use. An example of a low-risk property would include a small house with domestic-type water systems where water is used daily, cold water is used directly from a mains supply (no water storage tanks) and hot water is fed from instantaneous heaters (supplying outlets at 50 degrees Celsius) and the outlets only include toilets and wash hand basins.

Implementing simple, proportionate and appropriate control measures will ensure the risk remains low. For most domestic hot and cold water systems, the temperature is the most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria is minimised i.e. keep the hot water hot, cold water cold and keep it moving. Other simple control measures to help control the risk of exposure to Legionella include:

  • flushing out the system prior to letting the property
  • avoiding debris getting into the system
  • setting control parameters (eg set the temperature of the hot water cylinder to ensure water is stored at 60 degrees Celsius)
  • make sure any redundant pipework is removed.

Tenants should be advised of any control measures put in place that should be maintained and tenants should inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or there are any other problems with the system so that appropriate action can be taken.

In most cases, the actions landlords need to take are simple and straightforward so compliance does not need to be burdensome or costly. Most landlords can assess the risk themselves and do not need to be professionally trained or accredited; but if they do not feel competent, or inclined to do so, they can arrange for someone who is to do it on their behalf.

Further information on Legionnaires' disease can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Health and Safety Executive: Legionella and Legionnaires' disease (external website)

Can the council help me find a tenant for my empty property?

If you are a landlord with an empty property, you may be able to get help to find a tenant.
 
All you have to do is complete this online tenant referral form (opens in new window) and a referral will be made to the council’s tenant mediation officer, who will see if anyone from the council housing waiting list might be suitable for your property. Once we have found a possible tenant we will contact you with their details.

Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018