If you are a buy to let landlord of a residential property, you may be surprised by the number of obligations owed not only to your tenants, but to government and even members of the public. If you are the landlord of commercial property, your obligations may differ in some important areas.
Fire, gas and electricity
The health and safety of your tenants is one of your prime obligations.
Your local authority may inspect your let property under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) – which looks at 29 areas of health and safety relevant to your property.
Your local authority is also responsible for determining specific fire regulations, including clearly signposted and accessible fire escape routes. Depending on the size of the property, you may also be required to install fire alarms and extinguishers. Any furniture and furnishings you have provided must also be fire safety tested.
If you are the landlord of commercial property, your premises may also be subject to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which sets out the more rigorous fire safety precautions required of a landlord of non-residential property. In the manner of legislation in general, these regulations are detailed and very lengthy – even the general statement on the purpose of the rules made by the Prime Minister at the time of their introduction ran to 72 pages.
The landlord of residential property is also required to ensure the safety of any gas installation by having it fitted and inspected by a registered Gas Safe engineer each year. You are required to give a copy of the results of the most recent inspection to your tenants.
With respect to electrical safety, you need to ensure that the circuitry itself, including light fittings and sockets, as are all of the appliances supplied by the electrical system.
However carefully you adhere to legislation relating to the health and safety of your tenants with respect to the risks from fire, gas and electrical supplies, your obligations as a landlord do not end there.
In your role as a landlord or property owner you also have a more general duty of care and may be held negligent in that duty if your tenants, visitors or even members of the public suffer an injury or their property suffers loss or damage through some event involving your property.
This general obligation is so potentially damaging in terms of the claims that may arise that landlord insurance, for instance, invariably includes an element of public liability indemnity. By way of illustrating the size of claims that may arise – especially if someone is injured or even dies – this element of insurance may be offered for claims of up to £1 million or even £2 million.
Insurance for landlords may also include employer’s liability indemnity to reflect your obligations towards any employees who may be helping you run the letting of your property. Indeed, if you do have such employees, the law requires – in almost every instance – that you have such insurance cover against the possibility of employees being injured, suffering illness or having their property damaged during the course of their employment with you. The law requires a minimum level of cover of £5 million.
Other local authority regulations
If you are the landlord of a house in multiple occupation (HMO) – where at least 3 tenants live there as more than 1 household, with shared kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities – your local authority requires the premises to be licensed.
As may have become clear, there is a whole raft of obligations which landlords owe their tenants and it might not always be clear just which of these apply to your particular circumstances.
A helpfully detailed – yet still eminently readable – account of these obligations is offered on the website maintained by the housing charity, Shelter.