Before a tenancy can commence, there are certain important steps a landlord must take. Some of these involve confirming the suitability of the tenant – for example, by ensuring they have the right to rent in the UK – but others involve collating all the necessary paperwork to give your tenant when they move in.
With the majority of UK landlords also working full-time jobs, it’s all too easy to let these details slip – but if you don’t get everything in place, the consequences could be costly, as Sherrelle Collman, managing director of Caridon Landlord Solutions, explains.
“Some landlords will be aware of the Caridon Property Ltd versus Monty Shooltz case,” she says. “In short, a landlord was unable to obtain a possession order because a judge ruled that the requirements of the Deregulation Act 2015 meant their failure to issue a gas safety certificate before Mr Shooltz’s tenancy began invalidated the subsequent Section 21 notice for repossession.
“What is so crucial to recognise in this situation is there is nothing landlords can do to replay a situation if they failed to provide a gas safety certificate before the tenancy commenced – even if they provided it since – meaning they will not be able to evict a tenant using a Section 21 notice. It’s imperative that landlords always have this covered.”
Rules and regulations
The gas safety certificate is just one of several pieces of paperwork you need to provide. In light of the Deregulation Act 2015, which is aimed at countering retaliatory evictions, much has changed for both landlords and tenants.
Ben Gurluk, partner at Hunters Law, says: “In order to ensure that you comply with the various rules and regulations, it’s important to treat renting out your property as a business. The government is seeking to professionalise the private rented sector, while ensuring that tenants are protected. Landlords must be prepared and thorough and should ensure everything that has been discussed with the tenants is documented and easily accessible.”
Here are the some of the key things a landlord must provide at the start of a tenancy:
1. The tenancy agreement
“Landlords will need to provide a good rental contract [an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) in England, or a private residential tenancy (PRT) in Scotland], which is up to date with all the latest regulations and clearly describes the responsibilities of both the tenant and landlord,” says Sam Hurst of online lettings agency OpenRent.
“In England and Wales there is no law to say that landlords have to provide a written tenancy agreement, but it is a good idea to do so,” adds Gurluk. “When you let out your residential property, the tenancy will now automatically be an AST under the Housing Act 1996 – unless you specifically agree another form of tenancy in writing.”
2. The gas safety certificate
All landlords are required to provide a valid gas safety certificate to prove that any gas appliances in the property have been tested and are deemed to be working properly. “This must be renewed each year on expiry by a Gas Safe registered engineer and the tenant must be given a copy before they move in,” says Collman.
3. Evidence of electrical inspections
Hurst says landlords must ensure all electrics, including appliances, within the property are tested thoroughly. “All landlords are responsible for ensuring the safety of the electrical fixtures at the beginning of, and throughout, the tenancy,” he says. “Getting an electrical installation condition report (EICR) and portable appliance test (PAT) report is the best way to do this, but it’s not a legal requirement.”
In Scotland, landlords must, by law, get the electrics inspected every five years and provide a copy of the EICR or an electrical installation certificate and PAT on portable appliances.
It’s worth being aware that landlords are also required to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties – at least one smoke alarm on every storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel-burning appliance. Landlords must also make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of the tenancy.
4. The energy performance certificate
“All landlords are required to be able to provide tenants with an energy performance certificate (EPC) on the day they move in,” says Gurluk. “An EPC must be provided every time you subsequently let your home to a new tenant.”
Collman adds: “From April 2018, minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) mean that newly rented homes and those with renewed tenancies must have an EPC rating of E or above.”
5. The How to Rent guide (for tenants in England)
“One of the documents that should be served to tenants is the government’s How To Rent guide, which gets updated regularly,” says Simon Halls, managing director of Wildheart Residential Management. This document, for tenants in England, can be downloaded from the government website. It covers the obligations of the tenant and the landlord, what happens at the end of the fixed period, required paperwork and further sources of useful information. There is similar information available online for landlords and tenants in Scotland and Wales.
6. The deposit protection scheme
“The landlord will need to register the tenant’s deposit with one of the three government-backed deposit protection schemes [depending on whether they are in England and Wales or Scotland] and choose between an insured or custodial scheme,” says Hurst. “They must then serve the prescribed information to the tenant within 30 days, explaining how their money is being protected.”
7. The inventory
This is a list of the fixtures and fittings in the property and the property itself, and the condition they are in. It’s a good idea for both landlord and tenant to take photos in case of any disputes at the end of the tenancy.
“Without an inventory, landlords will find it harder to successfully claim money from the tenancy deposit to cover any damage to the property,” says Hurst. “A properly conducted inventory is a dated, signed, and image-based piece of evidence that [if needed] can be used to successfully convince a deposit protection scheme’s dispute resolution service that the tenant has damaged the property beyond simple wear and tear.”