How aware are you of the current landlord legislation and the regulations that landlords are expected to comply with? Whether you are a first-time renter or have been renting privately for years, it is important to familiarise yourself with the private rented sector rules and regulations.
Recent updated legislation which landlords and letting agents need to comply with includes the Tenant Fees Act of 2019, increased electrical safety regulations and the Fitness for Human Habitation Act.
In this article we outline the legal responsibilities you should be aware of as a tenant and delve deeper into how the legislation changes in relation to student tenancies.
There are three key areas where landlords must carry out checks at least annually: gas safety, fire safety and electrical safety.
Legally, landlords must keep gas appliances, pipework and flues in safe condition and organise annual gas safety inspections by a registered Gas Safe engineer. Landlords should keep a copy of the gas safety certificate and give a copy to you, the tenant. Ask your landlord for this if they do not provide it automatically.
For more information visit the gas safety register.
Check out Hamilton Fraser’s guide to gas safety here for everything you need to know.
Since 2015, landlords have been required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of the property, plus a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms with a solid fuel source (for example the kitchen).
Landlords are also responsible for checking that each alarm works at the start of the tenancy, but tenants should check that they are operating correctly, monthly, throughout the duration of the tenancy and change the batteries where necessary.
Download Hamilton Fraser’s checklist to establish whether a property is compliant with smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations.
As of July 2020, it is a legal requirement for landlords to carry out mandatory electrical safety checks on all new tenancies every five years and provide safety certificates to tenants and local authorities.
As of April 2021, this has been extended to all existing tenancies – properties must achieve a grade of at least an E in order to be fit to rent, so ask for evidence of an Electrical Performance Certificate before signing your tenancy agreement.
Read more on the importance of landlord electrical safety certificates here.
Check out our tenant guide on landlord legislation for everything you need to know, including more information on gas, fire and electrical safety as well as regulations surrounding HMOs.
There are a range of options for landlords and tenants when it comes to deposit protection. The most popular option for tenants is traditional deposit protection, where tenants pay a one-off lump sum upfront at the start of the tenancy. With traditional cash deposits the landlord must protect that deposit within 30 days, using a government authorised protection scheme, like mydeposits.
With a traditional deposit protection scheme, the tenants’ money is protected by a third party and the landlord must provide evidence of this.
The deposit will be protected until the end of the tenancy when it will then be returned to the tenant following any settlement agreements, with deductions made for any damage incurred or unpaid rent.
Another option for tenants, which is becoming increasingly more popular, is a deposit replacement. This is where tenants pay a small non-refundable fee for the duration of the tenancy, in place of an upfront cash deposit at the start.
Our Deposit Replacement Membership is the only deposit replacement option run by deposit experts. We offer choice and transparency to tenants by considerably decreasing the cost of moving to a new property whilst providing landlords with the same five-week protection as a traditional deposit.
Landlords are legally obliged to provide their tenants with the Government’s ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England guide’ at the beginning of a new tenancy or on renewal. The guide is frequently updated so it’s important to ensure you have been given the most recent version.
The guide includes key information on what to look out for before renting, living in a rented home, the end of tenancy process and what to do if something goes wrong.
According to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, landlords are responsible for keeping the structure of the property, the water, gas, electric and sanitation installations and heating in good repair. The law states that landlords are also responsible for carrying out works and repairs as well as fixing damage from fires, floods and accidents.
Garden maintenance is a common cause of dispute between landlords and tenants. To avoid these disputes your tenancy agreement should outline who is responsible for which areas of the garden.
Tenants are expected to abide by the terms in the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement that were agreed prior to moving into the property.
The minimum that is generally expected is that tenants should keep the garden litter-free, reasonably tidy, and not overgrown. This will usually be a standard clause in an AST agreement.
Check out Hamilton Fraser’s guide to landlords’ and tenants’ property repair responsibilities for more information.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which came into effect in March 2019 was extended to cover all private and social tenancies by March 2020. The Act was put into place to ensure that all rented accommodation is fit for human habitation and safe for tenants at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.
The following may cause a property to be deemed as unfit to live in:
Learn more about compliance with this legislation in the Hamilton Fraser guide ‘Are you compliant with the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation Act) 2018?’
Are you a student renting for the first time? It is important that you are aware of the differences between private rented sector legislation and the student rental market. Most student accommodation would be in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and therefore landlords need to be compliant with regulations specific to this property type or risk facing a large fine.
An HMO is a property rented out by at least three people that are not from one ‘household’ but share communal facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen.
As of 2018, all bedrooms in HMOs must be a minimum of 6.51 metres square for a single room and 10.22 for a double room.
Landlords of large HMOs (defined as having five or more tenants or a property three storeys and above) and some regular HMOs require licences from the local council to be able to legally rent out their property. The licensing rules vary depending on the local area. Landlords found operating without the correct licence could face an ‘unlimited’ fine. Read more on HMO licensing here.
As a student tenant it is beneficial to be aware of the rules and regulations set out for landlords to comply with, to ensure your property is being managed properly.
If you are a tenant in full-time education you do not need to pay council tax on rental properties.
You will be classed as a full-time student and therefore exempt from paying council tax if your course lasts a minimum of 24 weeks throughout the year and involves at least 21 hours of study or work experience per week during term time.
For more information on students’ council tax exemption, visit the citizen’s advice page entitled council tax for students.
It is your landlord’s responsibility to prove that all tenants are in full time education. To prove this, your landlord will ask you to obtain a Council Tax Exemption Certificate from your university that says you are a full-time student and not liable for council tax.
Check out our student guide to moving into your rented accommodation for everything you need to know in preparation for your move.
In summary, there are a lot of rules and regulations that your landlord must comply with, and it is important for you as the tenant to be aware of this legislation.
These regulations should be discussed, and compliance demonstrated, in the tenancy agreement which is signed before moving in.