Legalities for tenants: Landlord and agent obligations

Long gone are the days when a landlord or letting agent simply handed a new tenant the keys, recommended a good local pub, shook hands and left.

The landlords and letting agents of the 21st century are expected – and required by law – to provide tenants with documentation running to many pages.

In addition to the essential tenancy agreement and inventory, what documents must landlords or letting agents supply to their tenants at the start of a tenancy?

1. A copy of the Government’s rental guide

This step-by-step guide for landlords and tenants in the private rental sector is designed to help both parties understand their rights and responsibilities. It is downloadable on the Government’s website and it is updated from time to time.

2. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

EPCs have become a familiar part of the property scene in recent years and, just as people selling their homes need to produce an accurate and up-to-date EPC, landlords must produce one for new tenants. An EPC basically rates the energy-efficiency of a property, using a grading system, from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). Landlords should be aware, in particular, that since 1 April 2018, rental properties that are being let for the first time, or where tenancies are coming up for renewal, must have a minimum E rating.

3. A Gas Safety Certificate

The importance of this document is evident from its name. If a rental property has any gas installations, such as an oven, it is incumbent on the landlord to get a Gas Safety Certificate from a qualified Gas Safe Registered engineer and give it to the tenant at the start of the tenancy. The landlord is also responsible for ensuring that an annual gas safety check is carried out on all gas installations and that the tenant is provided with a copy of the up-to-date certificate. (The landlord’s responsibilities in this area extend to gas installations such as flues in the common parts of a rented property.)

4. Documentation relating to the Government-backed Tenancy Deposit Scheme

This relatively new scheme has been designed to provide a fairer, clearer structure for protecting the deposits which tenants pay at the start of their tenancy. Landlords now have to supply tenants, within 30 days of receiving their deposit, comprehensive documentation relating to the deposit itself, and also to the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme in which the money has been placed. The documentation must also include the tenant’s full contact details, or those of the letting agent, and spell out the circumstances in which the tenant would invoke their right to retain some or all of the deposit. Full details of the documentation you must supply can be found on the Government’s website.

Tenants who are having difficulty raising the normal full month’s full deposit required can now take advantage of the Zero Deposit Scheme, under which they can move into their new property, having paid the equivalent of a week’s rent to secure a Zero Deposit Guarantee.

5. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms

In the case of rented rooms with a solid fuel burning source, such as a coal fire, landlords are required to provide carbon monoxide alarms, along with certification that they have been checked at the start of a tenancy. Similarly, landlords must install properly checked and certified smoke alarms on every floor of multi-storey properties.

Tenants, for their part, would be well advised to acquaint themselves with their rights, too. The best way to do this is to read the Government’s How to Rent guide cover to cover, make a note of any points which require clarification and raise them with the landlord or agent at an early opportunity. They may need to discuss matters with their landlords if they are in breach of their duties.

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