This article is intended to help you ensure that your property can be let to tenants, and to guide you through your obligations as a landlord.
It is suitable for those wanting to let out whole properties privately under a residential tenancy agreement, though the material covered is also good practice for other arrangements, such as renting a room to a lodger under a licence.
This information does not cover the more stringent requirements for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
Check you are allowed to let a property
Before you let a property to tenants you should check that you are entitled to do so. Just because you own the property may not mean that you can let it.
If you are a tenant and you wish to let all or part of a property that you are renting, you should check your lease agreement for a subletting clause. Usually subletting is prohibited altogether (since the landlord has invested time and money in finding you as a good tenant), although sometimes you may just need your landlord's permission.
Check with your mortgage lender. They may make an increase on the lending rate (renting is seen as a riskier use than the owner living in the house) but they will usually give consent.
Change of use and planning permission
If you think letting the property could constitute a change of use, you might need planning permission.
A typical example of a change of use is converting a house into a house in multiple occupancy (HMO)
If you are letting the property to several tenants under a single agreement this may not constitute an HMO, but you should check with your local council as the definition varies from area to area.
Another example of change of use could be where a property was originally used to house workers on-site.
Check your insurance
Before you let the property make sure that your insurance is adequate, and that the insurer knows the property is being let out. Withholding such information could result in the insurer refusing to pay for a claim. Insurance on a let property should usually cover:
- public liability
- landlord's contents
- structure of the property
- loss of rent due to damage to the property
Putting a property into proper condition for letting
It is a landlord's duty to ensure that a let dwelling is in proper repair before and during tenancy. This section gives a brief overview of your responsibilities, which we cover in more detail in an article on responsibilities for proper condition and maintenance of accommodation see the bottom of this page. Your responsibilities are for:
- the exterior and structure of the dwelling, including associated areas and structures (e.g. access stairs, garden walls and outbuildings)
- installations for supply and use of water, gas and electricity (including removable appliances supplied by the landlord)
- installations for personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
- installations for heating and hot water
- food safety (e.g. sinks, draining boards, work-tops and food storage facilities)
- fire safety
It is advisable to make sure the property and its facilities are in proper repair before the property is let. This increases the likelihood of letting to good tenants, makes assessing any change in condition at the end of the tenancy easier, and reduces the risk of any legal action by the tenants against you due to poor repair.
There is also the practical difficulty of access to the dwelling for repairs after tenancy has commenced.
As a general guide, the above aspects of the dwelling should be to a standard which would be acceptable to you or personal guests. So, for example, the building itself and immediate surroundings should be able to withstand normal weather conditions, and normal use. It must be in a reasonable state of repair both internally and externally, and fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy. There should be no dampness either in the form of rising damp, penetration from the outside or condensation. There should be no unacceptable level of risk to the health or safety of the occupiers or their visitors (see below).
Remember that you will be liable for accident or injury to tenants or visitors resulting from the poor repair of the property.
This leads nicely on to health and safety in rented properties.
Health and safety in privately rented accommodation
As a landlord you have a duty to ensure that a rented property is free from health hazards.
Your local authority can inspect your property for hazards, indeed it is their responsibility to ensure that properties in their area are fit for habitation. Properties are assessed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Environmental Health Officers inspect for hazards in 29 health and safety areas, and rate each hazard found either category 1 or category 2 according to the risk of harm and the seriousness of that harm.
Category 1 hazards constitute a serious risk, and it is the inspector's duty to take whatever enforcement action is necessary to remove the hazard. If category 2 hazards are present, action is to be taken at the inspector's discretion.
For more information on the rating system and the enforcement powers of the local authority see our article linked at the bottom of this page.
Landlords are required to provide a copy of an Energy Performance Certificate to tenants at the start of the tenancy.
This can be obtained from an accredited energy assessor, who will give the property an energy rating from A to G. A is the most energy efficient, and G the least so.
Properties with good energy ratings are more desirable, and there may be grants and tax incentives available for landlords who wish to improve the energy efficiency of their properties.
The energy performance certificate is valid for 10 years and a copy must be given to any new tenants.
Properties rented under new tenancies from 1 April 2018 must have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). From 1 April 2020, all properties let under a residential tenancy agreement must meet this requirement.
It is unlawful to let a residential property with a rating less than an E unless there is an applicable exemption. There is a civil penalty of up to £4,000 for non-compliance.
However, some older EPC certificates understate the thermal efficiency of solid walls, particularly of properties built before 1918. The Government is likely to recalibrate EPC ratings, so as to take this into account. If you are the owner of a property constructed before this date, you may wish to wait until after the decision about the recalibration has been made.
Further useful information and documents
If you're looking for information on specific duties regarding landlord-supplied furnishings and installations (electricity and gas, for example), see our article on responsibilities for condition and maintenance.
Our article on the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and how to remove hazards in rented accommodation should also help you.
If you need to buy residential tenancy documents, you may be interested to look at our collection of assured shorthold tenancy agreement templates.