FAQ's for Landlords and Tenants

Answered by Jacqui Swann a member of our property dispute resolution team.

Q1.  What is a Right to Rent check?  

This was introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 and requires landlords to ensure that their potential tenants have the right to live in the UK and therefore a right to rent their property.  This check is only required on people aged 18 or over who will be living at the property as their main or principle home.  Tenants must produce to the landlord in person specific original documents on a list approved by the Home Office (further details are available on request) which must then be photocopied by the landlord and retained for the duration of the tenancy and for 12 months thereafter.  British, EEA and Swiss national passports will provide the tenant with an unlimited right to live in the UK; other potential tenants may have a limited right to reside in the UK and the landlord must ensure that when that right expires, they check that this has been renewed.  If the landlord is found to have allowed illegal immigrants to reside in their property, there may be a penalty of £3,000 per illegal immigrant and/or a 5 year sentence.  It is important that landlords do not discriminate in selecting tenants as this could lead to a claim for racial discrimination against them.  Some letting agents undertake to provide this service to landlords and the responsibility for the checks will then be on them.  

Q2.  Do I have to do an immigration check on a lodger?  

Yes, if they are over 18 and will be living in the property as their main or principle home.  

Q3.  Should I have an inventory?  

It is not a legal requirement but it is advisable to have a detailed and photographic check-in inventory that is agreed between the landlord and tenant.  There should also be a schedule of condition which sets out the condition of every room (e.g. newly painted walls; small stain on the carpet).  A detailed check-out inventory should be undertaken at the end of the tenancy and the two inventories can be compared to assess what damage, if any, there is and what should be deducted from the deposit.  You will have to allow for fair wear and tear for which the tenant is not financially responsible.  There are independent inventory clerks who provide this service for a charge.  

Q4.   What should I do with a tenant’s deposit?  

If you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (“AST”) agreement, you are required under the Housing Act 2004 (amended by the Localism Act 2011) to secure it in one of the Government-approved tenancy deposit schemes and provide the prescribed information to the tenant within 30 days of receipt.  If you do not, you will have difficulty evicting the tenant and could face a penalty of between 1 and 3 times the sum of the deposit.  

Q5.  Do I have to hand over the deposit money to a tenancy deposit scheme or can I hold it?  

There are two options: you can place it in a custodial scheme and they will retain it until the end of the tenancy or you can hold it in a separate account and register it with an insured scheme i.e. you tell the scheme that you have it but are retaining it.  There is a fee of approximately £22 for doing the latter.  Accounts are more easily managed online.  

Q6.   What is prescribed information when talking about deposits?  

The Housing (Tenancy Deposits) (Prescribed Information) Order 2007 clearly sets out what information must be provided to the tenant.  For ease, each of the schemes has a form for you to complete and consists of the required detailed to ensure you are compliant.  You will also need to provide further documentation as required by each scheme such as terms and conditions or a booklet.   It is important that you also provide this additional documentation to the tenant within 30 days of receipt of the deposit.  

Q7.   What shall I do if the tenant does not agree with the deductions I am proposing from the deposit?  

Each scheme offers a dispute resolution service where an arbitrator can decide on the appropriate deductions, if any.  They will do so based on evidence provided to them so the more detailed that is, the better the decision.  Ultimately, the deposit is the tenant’s money and it will be up to the landlord to prove that they are entitled to some or all of it.  This is where an effective AST document and detailed check-in and check-out inventories will play an important part.  

Q8.   Is there a minimum EPC rating for rental properties?  

At the moment, no but a landlord is obliged to provide a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate for the property to the tenant (except where the property is listed).  Under the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Properties) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015, from 1 April 2018, a landlord may not grant a new residential tenancy or renew an existing residential tenancy where the EPC band is lower than E and from 1 April 2020, this will apply to all tenancies including those that have existed since before 1 April 2018.  Some buildings may be able to obtain an exemption but that will not automatically apply to listed buildings.  

Q9.   Should I install a carbon monoxide alarm where I have oil-fired heating?  

You may if you wish but carbon monoxide alarms are only legally required in rooms where there is a solid fuel heating appliance such as a wood burner.  You are obliged to install smoke alarms on every floor of all rented properties and you need to ensure that they are checked regularly.  

Q10.   Do I need to provide an electrical safety certificate to my tenants?  

You are not legally bound to do this but you do have a duty to ensure that all electrical equipment is safe.  However, if there are gas appliances in the property, you are obliged to have gas safety checks undertaken every 12 months by a Gas Safe engineer and a copy of the certificate given to the tenant.


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