Five things you might not know a Buy to Let landlord is responsible for
As a Landlord you have a duty of care to keep your tenants safe and happy. There are many things that are regularly talked about which you have to do by law, but there are lots of other things you need to do which aren’t always obvious, but are still required for your tenants to live in the property. If you haven’t let many properties before or are letting your own home, it might not always be easy to think through all the practical day to day things you use to live in a property.
Most people know that the boiler needs to be in good working order and that leaks in the roof must be fixed promptly, but other responsibilities can be less obvious. Not all of the things you need to do will be in your tenancy agreement and some agreements may say that the tenant is responsible for things like cleaning up surface mould, but if they don’t do it, as a landlord, any cause of damp, mould and condensation is your responsibility.
As an agent we will do what we can to help make sure the tenant has everything they need, but there are some things we can’t do without your help. For example, making sure there are enough wheelie rubbish bins and replacing them if they go missing.
Here are the five things we come across regularly that landlords don’t realise they are responsible for:
1. Keeping the property secure
This extends to the whole property, including the boundary. The housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS), gives 29 hazards¹ that it is a landlord’s duty to protect tenants against, one of which is ‘danger by intruders’. So, for example, regardless of who is contractually responsible for the gardening during the tenancy, if a perimeter fence is damaged it is your responsibility to have it fixed. You are also responsible for having insurance-approved locks fitted and also for maintaining the burglar alarm, if one is installed. If you don’t keep the property secure and an intruder gains entry and robs the house, you are could be held liable for the tenant’s losses.
2. Looking after specialist features
In most cases, if a tenant is renting a property with a garden, they are responsible for maintaining it. However, they are only expected to do what is reasonable and within the scope of the average person. So if there is a feature in the garden that requires specialist skill or knowledge to maintain – for example, topiary or a Koi pond – you, as the owner, are responsible for arranging the upkeep or care of that feature.
3. Being aware of the leasehold property rules
If you own a flat or a property which is leasehold instead of freehold, the costs you will have to pay while the property is tenanted include service charges, ground rent and major work updates, for example, a new roof. The lease may have other clauses which restrict anyone living in it. This could be letting to tenants in the first place, or making sure you know whether laminate or wooden flooring can be laid, especially in flats. Some leases won’t allow pets either.
4. Contact details, keys and access
Letting a property to someone else means they need access to everything they are renting from you. A problem we regularly come across is not having up to date contact details for landlords should we need to talk to you if things go wrong or the tenant needs more information. Other things they will need are instruction books for appliances you supply and central heating systems. Knowing which council looks after the rubbish collection and when the bins are collected as well as having easy access to meter cupboard keys is also required. If you are letting a flat, we and the tenants need to know how to access apartment blocks and if/which car park space is allocated to your property.
5. Removing hazards that could cause slips or falls
Your tenant could trip over their own belongings or simply lose their footing and fall at any time, but if they sustain an injury because of a hazard in or on the property, they could sue you. So make sure stair carpets are fitted properly, boards or tiles on the floor are level and securely fastened down and any awkward steps or areas with restricted headroom are clearly pointed out.
If things do go wrong during the tenancy, you will only know about it if the tenant reports the problem or it is picked up during a periodical inspection. If the tenant suffers loss or injury, not only could they sue you, but you could also face prosecution by the local council, so you must do all you can to protect yourself. That means being able to prove you have done everything that could reasonably be expected of you to ensure your tenant’s safety and keep the property in good condition.
So how do you do that? Firstly, if you have carried out any renovation or refurbishment, ask someone from the local council housing department to look around the property to confirm they are satisfied with the accommodation and facilities. Then have a Domestic Energy Assessor issue an up-to-date EPC and also ask for a Fire Safety Officer from your local fire department to come and check the property and ask whether they can confirm their assessment in writing. You may have to pay for this, but we will be happy to help.
Then make sure you have a thorough inventory carried out by an independent clerk who is a member of the Association of Independent Inventory Clarks (AIIC), detailing the condition of every aspect of the property – inside and out – at the start of the tenancy, including photographs.
Next, keep a log of when problems were reported or noticed and when and how they were remedied. Always confirm conversations with your tenant in writing so there is a clear paper trail and make sure you keep copies of invoices for all the work carried out.
Finally, make sure you are always up to date with any new legislation and take the necessary steps to comply, particularly with regard to health & safety. If you already take advantage of our management service, we will keep you updated about any changes that might affect you and ensure your properties remain compliant. If you are currently managing your properties yourself and would like any help or advice about ensuring you are carrying out all your responsibilities, then please get in touch with your local branch.