Legislation for landlords: Everything you need to know

Legislation can be a minefield for landlords. It is estimated that there are more than 168 individual rules and regulations that apply to the private rented sector, and these are often amended and updated – sometimes at relatively short notice.

So not only is there a lot for landlords to know and understand, but if you don’t have a reliable way of staying up to date with changes, you could easily find yourself unknowingly falling foul of the law, which could be very costly, both financially and personally. 

To find out about penalties for landlords who break the law and the potential consequences of being fined – or worse – read our article: Landlord fines: How much are the charges and how do you avoid them? And you might be surprised by how many landlords are not compliant with even basic legislation.

The Government’s last English Private Landlord Survey, carried out in 2018, revealed that 38 per cent of those questioned didn’t check a tenant’s right to rent, 48 per cent did not issue tenants with the Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide and over 30 per cent failed to provide carbon monoxide alarms – a potentially deadly mistake.

Additional and selective licensing in England

Landlords in England should be aware that each local authority has the power to introduce its own licensing schemes for any privately rented property. 

That means your own local council could require your rental property to comply with additional rules – particularly those relating to health and safety – on top of the national laws, as a condition of a licence. 

As such, it’s advisable to speak to your local authority directly before beginning to let any property, to make sure you know about any specific licensing regulations that might apply and understand exactly what you need to do to comply with them.

To help you understand your legal obligations, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to all you need to know when it comes to legislation, updated for 2022. However, it’s important to always seek your own legal advice when letting a property to make sure all rules and regulations are met.  

Our article, a round up of what 2021 has meant for landlords, highlights the key changes that affected landlords last year, and here is a handy index so you can jump to any section that’s of particular interest:

  1. Have you obtained any necessary ‘consent to let’ your property?
  2. Do you need a landlord licence?
  3. Are you compliant with MEES requirements?
  4. Is your property safe?
  5. Have you carried out an annual gas safety inspection?
  6. Are you compliant with electrical safety regulations?
  7. Are you compliant with smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations?
  8. Have you carried out a fire safety risk assessment?
  9. Have you carried out a legionella risk assessment?
  10. Are you familiar with the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018?
  11. Are you aware of your repairs obligations?
  12. Have you carried out right to rent checks on all tenants?
  13. Are you compliant with the tenant fee ban?
  14. Do you know about the cap on tenant deposits?
  15. Have you protected your tenant’s deposit in a government-approved scheme?
  16. Have you provided tenants with the guide ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’?
  17. Do you allow pets?
  18. Are you staying up to date with the COVID-19 measures impacting landlords?
  19. Does your letting agent belong to a redress scheme?
  20. Does your agent have client money protection?
  21. If you’re letting in Wales, are you aware of the huge changes under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016?
  22. Are you aware of Making Tax Digital?
  23. Is your insurance up to date?

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1. Have you obtained any necessary ‘consent to let’ your property?

Before letting a property, you may be required to inform and gain consent from other people or organisations, such as a mortgage lender, insurance company or the main landlord of a leasehold property.

You must make sure that letting the property does not contravene any pre-existing signed agreements, such as covenants or housing loans.

It’s particularly worth checking consent if you’ve become an accidental landlord – especially if there is a standard residential mortgage on the property.

The lender may grant you consent to let on the existing mortgage for a limited period of time – in which case they’ll usually raise the interest rate to account for the increased risks associated with letting – or they may require you to apply for a buy to let mortgage.

Note also that if you rent out property in breach of your insurance policy, your insurer can refuse to pay out if you make a claim.  If your property is leasehold and you are subletting in breach of the terms of your lease, you could be at risk ultimately, of losing your lease altogether.

For more information, read our article ‘Accidental landlords – do you have consent to let your property?’ 

2. Do you need a landlord licence?

At present in the UK, only a property let as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) where there are five or more occupiers from two or more ‘households’ (there are additional requirements in Wales) falls under mandatory licensing requirements. The exact definition of a licensable HMO and the terms of the licence varies between the nations: in England & Wales the blanket rule only applies to large HMOs, while in Scotland and Northern Ireland, every HMO requires a licence.

Then in England and Wales, individual councils have the power to introduce additional and selective licensing schemes. Additional licensing allows them to expand the definition of a licensable HMO, and selective licensing can require any rented property to be licensed. 

This helps local authorities to maintain a balance of housing stock, keep track of the rented properties in their area and ensure rented accommodation meets certain standards

It also makes it easier for them to tackle anti-social behaviour and identify and prosecute landlords who break the law.  

Courts are known to hand out huge fines to landlords who do not comply with licensing requirements – particularly HMO landlords.

So it’s essential to check with your local council to find out whether your rented property is classed as a licensable HMO and whether there are any additional or selective licensing schemes in place.

For more information on licensing, check out our comprehensive guide: What is licensing – and do I need a landlord licence to let my property?