The popularity of the buy-to-let sector in the UK shows no sign of abating. Unfortunately, there are a number of costly mistakes waiting to be made. So if you are a new or accidental landlord, or you are unsure or confused about some of your legal obligations when it comes to letting property, then follow these helpful tips.
Protect the deposit
The first, and probably the most potentially expensive problem, is not ensuring that the tenant’s deposit is secured in a legally recognised scheme. It is a legal requirement to do so and failing to protect a tenant’s deposit within 30 days of receiving it will lead to serious consequences. Failure to protect a deposit or protecting it late will invalidate a Section 21 notice should you wish to end an assured shorthold tenancy. If you still wish to use this notice, you will have to refund the entire deposit beforehand.
Energy Performance Certificate
Landlords are required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when a property is let to a new tenant. The purpose of the EPC is to show prospective tenants the energy performance of the dwelling they are considering renting.
The certificate is valid for 10 years and it also helps a landlord find good tenants because they know the property will be cheap to heat and keep warm. Breaking the EPC rules can result in a £200 fixed penalty notice from Trading Standards.
Failure to safely maintain a tenant’s gas appliances may result in a serious accident and possible loss of life. What’s more, you could face a large fine, imprisonment, or both.
Landlords are legally responsible for the safety of their tenants. Landlords should make sure maintenance and annual safety checks on gas appliances are carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Homes in multiple occupation (HMOs) – avoid the fines
Some Landlords new to the lettings industry believe that they can make more money by installing more people into their property in order to boost the rental income.
There are a number of issues to appreciate if this is the plan, and the legal requirements mentioned above will also be applied here. It’s important to realise that if a landlord is converting what used to be a family home into a shared property then planning permission may be needed from the local authority.
A landlord may also need permission for its change of use even if they are not carrying out any conversion work. New landlords need to beware that there are strict regulations over properties that are three storeys or more high and contain five or more tenants. These properties will be considered as a HMO and a licence from the local council will be necessary.
In addition, there is a growing trend for local authorities to run a selective licensing scheme for the landlords in their area and it will be compulsory to sign up – failure to do so could lead to a hefty fine.