The horrifying events of the Grenfell Tower disaster reinforce the importance and obvious necessity of strict compliance with all statutory requirements when letting property to ensure first and foremost the safety of tenants. Landlords have to appreciate that they can and sometimes are held liable for the consequences of fire or other catastrophe befalling any property that they let.
Current legislation imposes legal obligations on landlords to seek to protect tenants.
Housing Act 1988
This gives tenants a measure of protection and affords them a minimum of six months' security of tenure when entering into an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (“AST”). Any tenancy is now assumed to be an AST unless the contrary is stated. It is important for a landlord to ensure that a properly prepared agreement is signed before a tenant moves into a property.
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
This sets out rights of tenants and the standards expected of landlords. The following are requirements that must be satisfied before a property can be let:
- Appropriate Buildings (and sometimes contents) Insurance
- Energy Performance Certificate
- Gas Safety Certificate (renewable annually)
- Electrical Installation Certificate.
Failure to comply with such other requirements will put the landlord at risk of civil liability and a criminal prosecution.
It is obviously appropriate to ensure that suitable safety measures are in place including smoke alarms and where appropriate, fire escapes. The landlord should make sure that the property is suitable for human habitation and treat any infestations of damp or mould.
A landlord is obliged to protect the tenant’s deposit and typically to place it into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Failure to do so again renders a landlord liable to a claim for compensation by the tenant.
There is a mediation process when at the end of a tenancy there is a dispute about the return of the deposit.
Recovery of Possession
A landlord can only recover possession in accordance with the law when a tenant fails to leave by obtaining an appropriate Court Order having previously served a valid Notice to Quit. Any attempt to evict a tenant who occupies premises as their residential address without following the proper legal process can result in criminal penalties under the provisions of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and will expose the landlord to claim for exemplary damages and potentially compensation for harassment.
Recovery of possession is sometimes not possible where, for instance, a landlord cannot provide evidence of appropriate protection of the tenant’s deposit.
This is inevitably a very brief summary of the rules and regulations applying to residential property and does not deal with houses in multiple occupation.
If you are thinking about becoming a landlord we would strongly recommend that you take appropriate advice first. For further advice on Landlord and Tenant issues contact David Mallinson.
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