If you’re a landlord, it’s good to know your rights. Fortunately, there are laws and regulations in place that are set out to protect you and your tenants.
Being unaware of your landlord responsibilities can cause legal disputes and even cost you money, so it pays to know them.
We’ll be taking a look at everything you need to know including, what you’re required to provide and where you can go for advice.
What are the legal requirements?
When finding tenants, you must legally abide by the following acts:
- the Disability Discrimination Order (NI) 2006
- the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976
- the Race Relations (NI) Order 1997
If you, as the landlord, are found to discriminate a potential tenant because of their disabilities, gender or race, you can be prosecuted.
Additionally, you must provide:
- A current gas safety certificate and any new certificate within 28 days of inspection
- An Energy Performance Certificate
- The installation of smoke alarms
Am I responsible for repairs?
Yes, but this does not mean that any broken item in the property must be legally repaired by you, as and when they are broken.
In the UK, landlords are responsible for repairs to the exterior and structure of the property, such as problems with the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains.
If my tenant breaks or damages my property, are they liable to pay?
During a tenancy, it is inevitable that wear and tear will occur.
That being said, this does not give your tenant the right to damage or ruin your property or any possessions that are included on the inventory.
If your tenant damages any of the contents of your property, you can deduct an amount from the deposit or even take legal action.
If your tenant does accidentally break or damage something, they must tell you straight away.
It can then be agreed between you as to whether they should replace the item or pay for repairs. Some landlords decide to deduct the cost for repairs from the tenant’s deposit.
What do I need to include in my contract?
It’s important for you and your tenant that to have a contract which sets out all of the information about the tenancy and what is expected from either parties.
This may include:
- Your name as the landlord
- Their name as the tenants
- The address of the property
- The start and end date of the tenancy
- The rental price and how and when it should be paid
- Information on any late payment fees and how they are charged and calculated
- Details about what the tenant should do if they cannot pay the rent in full or in time
- Information on how and when the rent will be reviewed
- The deposit amount and how it will be protected
- details of when the deposit can be fully or partly withheld (for example to repairs
- Details about bills (if they are included in the tenancy)
What should I include in the inventory?
Before either you or your tenant sign the tenancy agreement, go through a detailed inventory which includes:
- The date when the inventory was conducted (to help avoid disputes about the condition of items before versus after the tenancy is over)
- A thorough list of the interior and exterior, décor/fixtures and fittings
- The condition of any furniture (include descriptions of any scratches, snags of paint work)
- Details about the condition of the carpets and curtains (Any stains, cigarette burns, tears and rips, fiber deterioration, discoloration
- Details about any electrical appliances, power grid, sockets, fuses and light switches
- Information about signs of mould or mildew throughout the house – this is a common dispute between landlords and tenants.
- Photographs (To be thorough, ask the tenant to sign the photos, as well as yourself)
- Any relevant receipts (e.g. end of tenancy cleaning performed before the tenant has moved in)
Do I have to use a tenancy deposit scheme?
Since April 2007, it is now a legal requirement that any deposit must be placed in a government backed security deposit system.
This protects landlords from losing money when damages occur, but it also protects tenants who may fall victim to landlords unfairly keeping their deposit.
Which deposit schemes are government approved in England and Wales?:
What happens to the deposit at the end of the tenancy?
If the bills, rent and any damages have been settled at the end of the tenancy, you must agree to release the deposit within ten days.
Your tenant has the right to challenge deductions from their deposit.
If you and your tenant disagree about the amount they should receive back, the deposit remains in the deposit protection scheme until the issue is resolved. This can sometimes take months and can result in legal action.
Can I increase the rent?
Overtime, you may see the need to increase the rent, however, it’s important to know the rules regarding when and how much by you can increase the rent.
Inform your tenants
Firstly, if you think that you want to increase the rent you charge during the period in which your tenants still live in the property, you must include it within your tenancy agreement. This is what’s known as a rent review clause. A rent review clause lets the tenant know when the increase will happen and how much the rent will increase by.
Use a section 13 notice
If your tenancy agreement doesn’t include a rent review clause, you’ll need to serve a section 3 notice.
An important point to remember is that you can only do this once a year and you must give at least one month’s notice to your tenants. If the contract is for a fixed period, say 12 months, the increase cannot start until after that fixed period has ended.
Your tenant can challenge this increase to a tribunal, but their application must be before the rent increase date given on the notice.
Does it make financial sense to increase your rent?
Getting new tenants can cost money. If your current tenant is a good, reliable occupant, it may be worth calculating the costs of finding a new tenant and increasing the rent versus keeping your current tenant.
If you were to ask your them to leave, it may take months before you are able to find a new occupant who will agree to rent the property, especially if the rental costs are higher than neighbouring properties.
It’s important that you make a profit as a landlord but keep in mind that there may be competing landlords within close proximity, who may charge less. This can affect your ability to fill your property, meaning that you lose money.
Do I need insurance?
Yes. Insuring the building will cover the costs of any damage from flood or fire and it is your responsibility as a landlord to arrange this.
Landlords insurance is also advisable as this will cover you for any financial loss associated with the property.
This could include rent arrears or damages to the contents within your property.
Who is responsible for fixing mould?
As the landlord you are liable for mould damage if the plumbing is causing problems or when the property is not water tight.
Mould can appear and spread without these issues though and can often be caused by the tenant’s daily routine.
Things like not allowing enough ventilation through the property can quickly cause mould, especially if clothes are being dried indoors, a lot of steam is present or if heating isn’t turned on in colder, wetter months.
There are things that your tenant can do to prevent mould including:
- Using an extractor fan
- Opening windows
- Heating the property adequately
- Drying clothes outdoors when possible
For more information on how to prevent or stop the spread of mould, click here.
Can I access the property when I want?
No. You must give at least 24 hours notice before entering the property.
Can I stop my tenants from changing energy provider?
No. If your tenant pays the bills for the property directly, they have the right to switch their provider in order to pay a lower price.
The only exception to this, is if the bills are included within the rental price and are paid by you as the landlord.
It can be helpful to include information about this within your tenancy agreement so that both parties are aware of who pays the bills.
Get confidential advice
Managing a property can be stressful but there are services and groups that offer free advice that can help you understand more about what’s expected of you as a landlord as well as what rights your tenants have. These include: