The most common type of tenancy agreement is an Assured Shorthand Tenancy which is protected by The Housing Act 1988 (as amended). In order to have an AST the following criteria must be reached:
Other tenancies are available if you do not meet all criteria, such as a non-housing act tenancy. If an AST is granted, it is allowed to continue at the end of the tenancy, e.g. on a month to month basis, when it becomes a periodic tenancy. Legislation requires the tenant to allow the landlord or the landlord’s agent to have access to make repairs to the property throughout the tenancy term. For the landlord, common law expects the landlord to give the tenant what is known as ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property, which means that the landlord cannot interfere with the tenant’s occupation by frequently visiting and certainly not letting themselves in, without the tenant’s permission. Legislation also requires the landlord to maintain and repair the structure of the property, the utilities and heating systems in a timely manner, when notified of issues.
Letting agents have a responsibility to ensure that the property they are letting out is safe. The safety issues relate to:
Since 1st October 2015 all rented properties are covered by regulations which require smoke alarms to be fitted, at least one on each floor, and they must be tested to ensure they are in working order on the first day of the tenancy (when the tenant must sign to confirm the checks have been carried out) and, thereafter, the tenant is responsible for the upkeep of the alarm and the landlord must check them annually. By checking, you should not rely on just pressing the red button, which just checks the battery, but use a smoke spray to ensure that the actual detection system is working.
If not kept in good order, gas appliances can give off carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas that is clear and odourless and can kill. Regulations make it mandatory for tests to be undertaken to gas systems and appliances before a property is let, and then annually thereafter. Whilst this legal duty falls on the landlord, it is up to the tenant to allow access for this important test to be carried out. A gas safety record must be given to the tenant at the start of the tenancy and a new check and record obtained within 12 months if the tenant remains in the property and this must be carried out by a competent contractor.
Since 1st October 2015 it has been a legal requirement to ensure that a CO alarm is fitted in close proximity to any solid fuel appliance, and that this alarm is tested annually and the test is confirmed by the tenant. At Northfields, it is our policy to ask all Landlords to provide CO detectors in all rooms containing a gas appliance.
Where electrical appliances are provided as part of the letting, the landlord and agent will be deemed to be supplying them in a safe condition. For this reason it is Northfields’ policy to ensure that all electrical systems and appliances are given a ‘periodic inspection’ at the start of our first tenancy in the property, and every 5 years thereafter, with portable appliances being tested between tenancies or annually (whichever is sooner). Breach of your requirements in respect of electrical safety is a criminal offence that could lead to a fine, a prison sentence or worse.
In the past deaths have occurred in rental properties when fire has broken out due to toxic fumes and this prompted the regulations to be brought in to cover these items in the late 1980s. Now all furniture and furnishings of particular types* need to meet minimum standards of fire resistance. They must have fire resistant fillings and have passed a match resistance and cigarette resistance test. They will, therefore, have labels attached indicating that they are resistant.
As a landlord you must understand the health risks associated with legionella because you are responsible for the health and safety of your tenant and need to take the right precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to legionella. In the first instance you should understand the water system in your rented property, the equipment associated with the system such as pumps, heat exchangers, showers etc and it’s constituent parts. You must then identify (in the form of a risk assessment) whether they are likely to create a risk from exposure to legionella, and whether any of the following apply to you:
The landlord of a tenanted property has a legal responsibility to manage the risk associated with any asbestos present in the property. Depending on the condition of the asbestos, one or more of the following actions should be taken:
Great care should be taken when doing any work around asbestos. The HSE or your local authority can give detailed advice about safe procedures. Please note that any work done on the asbestos, that takes longer than 2 hours, must be done by someone who is licensed by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).
If you are a worried tenant you can learn about repairing obligations for landlords here.
It is Northfields procedure to insist that our landlords employ the services of a qualified APIP OR AIIC inventory clerk to arrange the make of an inventory and schedule of condition at the outset of the tenancy, which will be checked at a ‘check-in’ appointment on the first day of the tenancy. This document will then form part of the tenancy agreement and will be used to conduct the ‘check-out’ appointment at the end of the tenancy. The clerk will then prepare a report detailing any dilapidations or repairs to be paid for by the tenant from the security deposit held. It is usual practice for the landlord to settle the cost of the inventory make, schedule of condition and check-in report and for the tenant to pay for the check-out report.
The security deposit is usually equivalent to 6 week’s rent and, since 6th April 2007, amendments to the Housing Act state that all deposits held against Assured Shorthold Tenancies must be forwarded to an approved scheme to be held for the term of the tenancy. Within 30 days of the deposit being paid, a document named ‘the tenancy prescribed information’ must be given to the tenant to explain where the money is being held, and the process for it’s return at the end of the tenancy, or what happens if there is a dispute over amounts to be retained.
Rent is negotiated at the offer stage and will be due in advance for every period of the tenancy, payable (usually monthly) into the landlord or the agent’s bank account by transfer or standing order mandate. If rent is late a procedure will be followed and there are specific timings before court action for arrears can commence. For more information please speak to our property management team on 020 8799 4365 or email [email protected]
PROPERTY MAINTENANCE: It is normal for details of repairing responsibilities of both parties to be included in the tenancy agreement. Most of the repair responsibilities fall on the landlord, nevertheless the tenant needs to notify of any repairs required and must take care of the property in a ‘tenant-like manner’ (which means that they must do jobs like changing light bulbs, unblocking a sink, clearing the leaves from the gutters etc). The landlord has the responsibility to repair the main structure of the property, the supply of services to the property (eg water, gas, electricity) and to keep the heating in working order. The landlord CAN NEVER pass this responsibility onto the tenant.Legal obligations of landlord and tenants