Landlords - complying with the law

Landlords - complying with the law

Check that the agent is a member of one of the Government approved redress schemes. New legislation has been introduced which means that from 1 October 2014 it is a legal requirement for lettings agents and property managers in England to join 1 of 3 government approved redress schemes.

The three schemes are:

Look for the SAFE kitemark. All SAFE agents have client money protection and your money will be protected if the agent goes out of business.

Ask whether the agent is a member of a professional body such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the National Approved Lettings Scheme or the Property Ombudsman - agents who belong to such organisations have to sign up to certain standards of practice and you will have access to an independent complaints procedure should things go wrong.

Have a written agreement with your agent so it is clear what responsibilities the agent is carrying out on your behalf.

In majority of circumstances it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the laws relating to the letting of their property are being complied with, these are not deferred to the letting agent. It is for this reason it is important to ensure you choose your managing agent carefully.

There are different types of tenancy agreement and the type used is not determined by the landlord, but by how the property is occupied. Your tenant is likely to have an assured shorthold tenancy if:

  • you are a private landlord

  • the tenancy began on or after 28 February 1997

  • the house or flat is let as separate accommodation and is your tenant’s main home.

If you are not sure what sort of tenancy agreement you should use please refer to Tenancy agreements - GOV.UK and seek specialist advice.

The Government have produced a model tenancy agreement and accompanying guidance for use by private sector landlords where an assured shorthold tenancy is being entered into.

Energy efficiency for private landlords

If you’re looking to rent out a property you must arrange to obtain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before it is marketed.

An EPC rates how energy efficient your property is using grades from A to G (with ‘A’ the most efficient grade). Current running costs for heating, hot water and lighting and a list of recommended energy saving improvements are shown on the certificate.

The rating for the property must be clearly shown on any rental advertising and a copy of the certificate must be given free of charge to any prospective tenants. If this is not given to the tenants along with the government guide ‘How to Rent’ before a tenancy starts, it will result in delays if the landlord needs to evict a tenant.

North Kesteven Building Control team can produce EPCs, for more information please email building_control@n-kesteven.gov.uk or ring 01529 414155.

For details on the full EPC information and exemptions please see Gov.uk information on EPC requirements.

The Government’s Energy Act 2011

From April 2016: Tenants have the right to request reasonable energy improvements to improve their property which landlords will not be able to refuse. Funding for these improvements must have been sourced by the tenants.

For more details go to Gov.UK website, or download our advice sheet for more details regarding the request procedure.

From April 2018: a landlord of a private rented property with an EPC rating of F or G must not grant a new lease or renew an existing lease of that property until works have been carried out to improve the energy efficiency to a rating of E or above.

Making these improvements can be beneficial to both tenants and landlords, saving on costs and having a positive impact on the environment.

There are exemptions for certain properties, but landlords will need to register an exempt property on the national Private Rented Sector Exemptions Register managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Register is due to be opened for applications on 1 October 2017.

If you have either a F or G rated property and would like help or guidance to improve the energy efficiency rating please get in touch with the Safe as Houses team by email safeashouses@n-kesteven.gov.uk or phone 01529 414155.

For full details on the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) Regulations 2015 please go to the legislation.gov.uk website      

From April 2020: properties with existing tenancies cannot continue to be rented past April 2020 until they also achieve an E rating or above on the EPC register.

Making a property more energy efficient

Further information regarding making energy efficiency improvements and relevant trade accreditation schemes can be found in our Keeping warm and saving energy section.

Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 landlords are required to ensure that all gas installations and appliances are adequately maintained and safe to use, and that an annual check is carried out by a Gas Safe registered trades person. 

Once the inspection has been carried out the engineer will provide a gas safety record, a copy of which must be given to the tenants at the start of their tenancy and annually thereafter. Failure to do this is a criminal offence.

Read more information in our HSE gas appliances guide.

An inventory is a list of everything the landlord provides with the rented property and it should also record the condition everything is in, especially anything that was already damaged, marked or worn before the tenancy commenced.

When a tenant moves into their new home it is recommended that the inventory is checked and agreed between the tenant and landlord or agent, as this could help avoid any disputes when the tenancy ends and with the return or retention of the deposit. A tenant could make their own inventory (including photos if possible) if one is not supplied by the landlord, a copy of which should be sent to the landlord or agent at the start of the tenancy. Remember to include any meter readings on the inventory for future reference.

If you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy then you must put the deposit in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDS), even if the deposit has been paid by someone else. The landlord must provide the tenant and the person who paid the deposit (if different) with the prescribed information relating to your deposit and how it is held. In England your deposit can be registered with one of the following:

These schemes will make sure your get your deposit back if you have met the terms of your tenancy agreement, haven’t damaged the property and paid your rent and bills. Your landlord or letting agent must put your deposit in the scheme within 30 days of receipt and provide you with the correct documentation to let you know which scheme your deposit is registered with. More information regarding deposit protection and how to get your deposit back can be found on the Gov.uk website.

A landlord will not be able to gain possession of their property using section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 where a tenant’s surety deposit has not been protected with one of the Government approved deposit protection schemes.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms (England) Regulations 2015 came into force on the 1st October 2015 requiring all landlords to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their property and a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg. a wood burning stove, coal fire) and thereafter at the start of a new tenancy to ensure they are in proper working order. 

This is a minimum requirement and additional or upgraded fire detection may be required under the Housing Act 2004 regulations if for example there are more than two storeys or the escape route is not suitably fire protected. The landlord must ensure the alarms are in working order at the start of each tenancy.

You can read more in our smoke and carbon monoxide guide.

A landlord is required by law to make sure that the wiring in the property they rent is safe and that any appliances provided for the tenants use are safe.

The landlord should carry out regular basic safety checks to make sure the mains electrics and any appliances provided by them, such as cookers, washing machines, fridges and freezers, remain in good working order. If you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) the landlord must have the electrical installation inspected every five years by a suitably qualified person who will provide a certificate to the landlord.

If a tenant has any concerns about the safety of any electrical installations or appliances provided by the landlord they must report them immediately to the landlord. For further advice on reporting repairs go to the disrepair in your rented accommodation page.

For tips on electrical safety in your home read the electrical safety tips advice sheet.

Any furniture and equipment supplied by the landlord should be of reasonable quality and suitable for the purpose it’s provided for. It does not need to be new but it should work and not be dangerous. All upholstered furniture provided by the landlord (for example, sofas, armchairs, mattresses, head boards and cushions) should be fire-resistant. Any new or replacement upholstered furniture must have a symbol on the label to show that it meets fire safety standards. Landlords should replace any furniture that does not meet fire safety standards or seems in any way unsafe.

Read more in our furniture and furnishings guide.

Landlords are legally obligated to give their tenants adequate written notice of at least 24 hours unless agreed with the tenant otherwise, of any intention to visit the property. This also applies to any contractors employed by the landlord to carry out repairs. In some circumstances where the property is an HMO the landlord may be able to access the common areas without written notice although it is good practice to inform the tenants of the visit or provide a schedule of visits (eg. for carrying out regular checks of fire detectors and the shared amenities).

It is important to note that a tenant can legally refuse entry to the property therefore entry must not be made unless permission has been given by the tenant. If the tenant persistently causes delays in providing access to the property which results in an inability for the landlord to fulfil their legal obligations then legal advice must be sought to ensure that the appropriate action is taken. Failure to follow the correct procedure may result in action being brought against you for harassment or illegal eviction.

There are times where the property must be entered as a matter of urgency and statutory bodies are able to do this in appropriate circumstances:

  • Gas - contact the National Grid emergency number
  • Water - sewer or flooding. Contact the local water company
  • Police - where there are suspicious circumstances relating to criminal activity

Anti-social behaviour is any unsatisfactory behaviour caused by the occupier of the house or any visitors to the house that is deemed an annoyance, nuisance or harassment to people who are not of the same household. This includes, but is not limited to, noise, violence, abuse, threats and the use of the property for any activity relating to illegal drugs.

Landlords should adopt robust procedures for dealing with anti-social behaviour relating to their property and undertake to deal with any complaints, which have been made directly to them, via the Local Authority or Lincolnshire Police.

Adequate referencing checks of prospective tenants will help reduce the likelihood of letting the property to someone who has a history of anti-social behaviour, although it is still recommended that clauses be put into the letting agreement so that tenants are aware their responsibilities and the process which will be followed if they fail to meet those responsibilities.

The council and police will always try to work with landlords in tackling persistent anti-social behaviour caused by their tenants, we therefore recommend that you contact either our ASB team or Lincolnshire Police if you have any concerns or need advice. If the matter relates only to a noise nuisance then take a look at noise webpage.

There are different processes for ending a tenancy which depend on the type of tenancy which you wish to terminate and the circumstances around why you wish to end the tenancy. It is always advisable to seek professional advice when you wish to gain vacant possession of your property.

The Gov.uk website offers some advice to landlords on ending a tenancy correctly or if you are a member of an accreditation scheme they may be able to help ensure you follow the correct procedure.

The Housing Act 2004 brought in a new system for regulation of fire safety in existing residential premises by way of the Housing Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS). Landlords are required to assess their properties for fire risks and take the appropriate action to mitigate those risks, however they should not need detailed knowledge of the legal framework relating to fire safety in order to do this.

By using a Fire Risk Assessment Form to carry out a fire risk assessment of the property and by referring to the National fire safety guidance for support, a landlord should be able to comply with the fire safety requirements. Further advice can be obtained from the Private Housing department of the council or Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue.

Downloadable PDFs:

Residential accommodation

Landlords who provide residential accommodation, as the person in control of the premises or responsible for the water systems in their premises, have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure of tenants to legionella is properly assessed and controlled. This duty extends to residents, guests, tenants and customers. They can carry out a risk assessment themselves if they are competent, or employ somebody who is.

Where a managing (or letting) agent is used, the management contract should clearly specify who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks, including managing the risk from legionella. Where there is no contract or agreement in place or it does not specify who has responsibility, the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises and the water system in it, and in most cases, this will be the landlord themselves.

All water systems require a risk assessment but not all systems require elaborate control measures. A simple risk assessment may show that there are no real risks from legionella, but if there are, implementing appropriate measures will prevent or control these risks. The law requires simple, proportionate and practical actions to be taken, including identifying and assessing sources of risk, managing the risk, preventing or controlling the risk; and periodically checking that any control measures are effective.

For most residential settings, the risk assessment may show the risks are low, in which case no further action may be necessary (e.g. housing units with small domestic-type water systems where water turnover is high). If the assessment shows the risks are insignificant and are being properly managed to comply with the law, no further action may be required, but it is important to review the assessment periodically in case anything changes in the system. However, the frequency of inspection and maintenance will depend on the system and the risks it presents. 
Simple control measures can help manage the risk of exposure to legionella and should be maintained, such as:

  • flushing out the system before letting the property;
  • avoiding debris getting into the system (eg.. ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight-fitting lid);
  • setting control parameters (eg. setting the temperature of the calorifier to ensure water is 
    stored at 60 °C);
  • making sure any redundant pipework identified is removed;
  • advising tenants to regularly clean and disinfect showerheads.

Landlords should inform tenants of the potential risk of exposure to legionella and its consequences and advise on any actions arising from the findings of the risk assessment, where appropriate. Tenants should be advised to inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or if there are any other problems with the system, so that appropriate action can be taken.

The risk may increase where the property is unoccupied for a short period. It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and so dwellings that are vacant for extended periods should be managed carefully. As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise the chances of stagnation. To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consider implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures, such as draining the system if the dwelling is to remain vacant for long periods.

Where there are difficulties gaining access to occupied housing units, appropriate checks can be made by carrying out inspections of the water system, eg. when undertaking mandatory visits such as gas safety checks or routine maintenance visits.

Shared premises

Those who have, to any extent, control of premises for work-related activities or the water systems in the building, have a responsibility to those who are not their employees, but who use those premises. A suitable and sufficient assessment must be carried out to identify, assess and properly control the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from work activities and the water systems on the premises. 
In estate management, it is increasingly common for there to be several duty holders in one building. In such cases, duties may arise where persons or organisations have clear responsibility through an explicit agreement, such as a contract or tenancy agreement.

The extent of the duty will depend on the nature of that agreement. For example, in a building occupied by one leaseholder, the agreement may be for the owner or leaseholder to take on the full duty for the whole building or to share the duty. In a multi-occupancy building, the agreement may be that the owner takes on the full duty for the whole building. Alternatively, it might be that the duty is shared (e.g. the owner takes responsibility for the common parts while the leaseholders take responsibility for the parts they occupy). In other cases, there may be an agreement to pass the responsibilities to a managing agent. Where a managing agent is used, the management contract should clearly specify who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks, including managing the risk from legionella.

Where there is no contract or tenancy agreement in place or it does not specify who has responsibility, the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises, or part of the premises.

You can read more in our Legionnaires guidance.

Complying with the law from April 2018

The Government released guidance for on 9 October 2017, for landlords of privately rented domestic property on complying with the regulations for 2018 ‘Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency’ standard (EPC band E). Read the guidance on the Gov.uk website.

New Government regulations came into force from April 2018 that set a minimum energy efficiency rating for privately rented properties. A landlord of a private rented property with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G must not grant a new lease or renew an existing lease of that property until works have been carried out to improve the energy efficiency to a rating of E or above.

As a Council we are working to proactively identify properties that do not meet this new minimum energy efficiency standard and alert the landlords to this new law and the changes required as a result.

Any properties with existing tenancies cannot continue to be rented past April 2020 until they also achieve an E rating or above on the EPC register. We would advise you not to delay in identifying what works are required and the costs of these so you can plan ahead for these compulsory changes.

Requirements of the Regulations

The Regulations apply to domestic private rented sector properties in England and Wales. This means:

  • Properties let under an assured tenancy or a shorthold; 
  • A tenancy which is a regulated tenancy for the purposes of the Rent Acts; or
  • Properties let:
    (a) On a tenancy which is an assured agricultural occupancy;
    (b) On a protected tenancy under the Rent Act 1976; or
    (c) On a statutory tenancy under that Act.

Is my property included?

Properties included in the regulations are any domestic privately rented property which: has an EPC, and is either (i) required to have an EPC; or (ii) is within a larger unit which itself is required to have an EPC, either at point of sale, or point of let.

If your property does not require an EPC then the Regulations do not apply. No changes are made to existing regulations regarding the provision of EPCs.

The EPC must be valid and be no more than 10 years old.

Exemptions and restrictions to making improvements

There are some exemptions to the new regulations. If your property meets exemption criteria you must register it on the Government’s National Exemptions Register. This is due to open on 1st October 2017.

The Register, listing all exemptions will be open to public inspection. If a landlord fails to register any exemption this will render the exemption ineffective, and will amount to non-compliance with the regulations. The Council, as the Enforcement Authority will be entitled to require landlords to furnish them with evidence supporting a claim for an exemption. Landlords will also be in breach of the regulations if they claim an exemption to which they are not properly entitled.

Exemptions will only last for 5 years. They will then need to be reviewed to see if they are still effective. If not the work will have to be carried out.

To see the list of exemptions and restrictions please refer to Part 3, Chapter 4.

Enforcement action

The local authority (North Kesteven District Council) has responsibility to enforce the regulations. Please refer to the full regulations for more details on the enforcement process as well as the appeal process by the First Tier Tribunal service. 

If you have any questions or are unsure how the regulations affect you as a landlord we would advise you to approach your housing agent, contact our Private Sector Housing team at safeashouses@n-kesteven.gov.uk or seek independent legal advice.

List of eligible improvements

So long as the minimum E rating is obtained, it is left to the landlord to choose which works need to be carried out from the list of eligible improvements below.

  • Air source heat pumps
  • Thermostat boilers
  • Thermostat room heaters
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Solid wall insulation (internal or external)
  • Cylinder thermostats
  • Draught proofing
  • Duct insulation
  • Hot water showers/systems (efficient)
  • Hot water taps (efficient)
  • External wall insulation systems
  • Fan assisted replacement storage heaters
  • Flue gas recovery devices
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Heating controls (for wet central heating systems and warm air systems)
  • Heating ventilation and air conditioning controls
  • High performance external doors
  • Hot water controls (including timers and temperature control)
  • Hot water cylinder insulation
  • Internal wall insulation (or external walls)
  • Lighting systems fittings and controls (including roof lights, lamps and luminaires)
  • Loft or rafter insulation (including loft hatch insulation)
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery
  • Micro combined heating power
  • Micro wind generation
  • Pipework insulation
  • Photovoltaics
  • Chillers
  • Gas fired condensing boilers
  • Replacement glazing
  • Oil fired condensing boilers
  • Warm air units
  • Radian heating
  • Roof insulation
  • Warming roof insulation
  • Ceiling improvements (including duct ceiling)
  • Secondary glazing
  • Solar water heating
  • Solar blind, shutters and shading devices
  • Transpired solar collectors
  • Under floor heating
  • Under floor insulation
  • Variable speed driers for fans and pumps
  • Waste water heat recovery devices attached to showers
  • Water source heat pumps

Private Sector Housing Enforcement

The Council’s Housing Standards Enforcement Policy details the role of the Enforcement team in educating and advising landlords as well as detailing the enforcement action available to ensure minimum housing standards are maintained. The policy is available to view along with the service standards on the corporate enforcement page.

Fees and Charges

The current fees and charges for Private Sector Housing Enforcement are listed below. For full details of how and when these apply please read the Council’s Housing Standards Enforcement Policy.

1. Charge for taking enforcement action is £312 plus any additional costs incurred where works are carried out.

  • Any annual review of a notice will be £76    
  • Where suspended notices are served, the full charge will be liable on the breach of the notice.
  • Where more than one notice is served at the same time, the first notice will be charged at full rate and each subsequent notice charged at £156. 

2. Administration of licensing Houses of Multiple Occupation is £446      

3. Housing immigration inspection and accommodation certificate is £156

For further information please contact the Private Sector Housing Enforcement team by email safeashouses@n-kesteven.gov.uk or phone 01529 414155.