It is really important to consider everything you need to do to keep your tenants safe and happy. Obviously, a lot of those things are required by law but some just need a bit of practical forethought and some of the requirements may not be so obvious. You might think in some cases you’re simply being a kind landlord and not realise that all you are doing is carrying out your legal responsibility.
Keeping a boiler in good working order and fixing leaks in the roof are clearly down to you, but other responsibilities are less obvious. And it doesn’t matter what you might have added into your tenancy agreement! Even if your tenant has signed to say they’ll take care of certain things, for example, cleaning up surface mould, there’s no getting around your statutory legal obligations and dealing with damp, mould and condensation is your responsibility.
There are also other things that are not required by law, but the tenant will need to know and we can’t help them without help from you. For example, making sure there are enough wheelie rubbish bins and replacing them if they go missing.
Here’s some more information on five things you might not have known you’re responsible for:
1. Making sure the property is secure
This means the whole property, including the boundary. The housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) has a list of 29 hazards¹ that it’s your duty to protect your tenants against, and one of those is ‘danger by intruders’. So, for example, if a fence panel has blown down in the wind, it’s your responsibility to fix it, even if the tenancy agreement says that the tenant is responsible for maintaining the garden. It’s also your responsibility to make sure all the locks in the property – door and window – are insurance-approved. Plus, if you have a burglar alarm, the maintenance and servicing of it is down to you. If you don’t do these things and an intruder gets in and robs the house, you could be liable for the tenant’s losses, as well as having to repair any additional damage.
2. Maintaining specialist features
In most cases, if a tenant is renting a property with a garden, they’re responsible for maintaining it. But they’re only expected to do what’s reasonable and what the average person would be able to do. So if you’ve got something at the property that’s a bit more specialist and demands that someone has particular skills or knowledge to deal with it – for example, elaborate topiary or a Koi carp pond – then you’re responsible for arranging the upkeep or care of that feature yourself.
3. Implementing the rules of leasehold properties
If you own a flat or a property which is leasehold as opposed to freehold, you will be responsible for the services charges, any ground rent and major work updates, for example, a new roof. You also need to check the lease to see if it allows you to let the property to tenants in the first place, having laminate or wooden flooring and other rules your tenant will have to abide by such as not allowing pets.
4. Supplying essential information and keys for the tenants (and us!)
When you let a property there is a lot of information we and your tenant need to live day to day. These vary from keeping us both up to date with your contact details; instruction books for appliances and central heating; rubbish removal arrangements; keys to things like meter cupboards and how to access apartment blocks and knowing if/which car park space is allocated to your property.
5. Getting rid of hazards that could cause your tenant to fall
Your tenant could trip over their own belongings or simply fall over at any time, but if they fall 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, with something like a sign on the wall or floor.
If things do go wrong during the tenancy, you’ll probably only know about them if the tenant reports the problem or it’s noticed on 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’ve got to protect yourself. That means having the right insurance and being able to prove you’ve 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? Well, firstly, if you’ve renovated or refurbished the property, ask someone from the local council housing department to confirm they’re happy with the accommodation and facilities. Then have a Domestic Energy Assessor issue an up-to-date EPC and see if a Fire Safety Officer from your local fire department will come and check the property. Ask everyone to confirm their assessment in writing, even if you have to pay for it but don’t forget if you are making changes, we’ll be happy to help you.
Then make sure you get a thorough inventory carried out before the tenant moves in, detailing the condition of the whole property – inside and out – with photographs. We’d always advise using an inventory clerk who’s a member of the Association of Independent Inventory Clarks (AIIC) so you have an independent 3rd party in case of any later disagreements with your tenant. If we just find you a tenant, but you let and manage the property, then it’s essential to get the inventory organised, or you can instruct Your Move to do this for you.
Next, keep a log of when problems were reported or noticed and when and how they were put right. Always confirm conversations with your tenant in writing so there’s a clear paper trail and make sure you keep copies of invoices for all the work carried out. If we are carrying out full management, we’ll be doing this for you.
Finally, make sure you’re 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’ll keep you updated about any changes that might affect you and ensure your properties are always legally let. If you currently manage your properties yourself and would like any help or advice on your responsibilities, please contact your local branch.
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