english & welsh law

Your responsibilities

- Keeping in repair the structure and exterior of the property, including drains, gutters, and external pipes.

- Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas, and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, and for heating rooms and heating water)

- Providing a rent book if the rent is paid weekly

- Providing the students with your full name and an address in England and Wales.

- Providing them with a copy of the valid current Gas Safety Certificate - www.gassaferegister.co.uk. Please note that electrical certificates are not required by law at this time (other than every five years for HMO properties), but are often required to be part of a University or council accreditation scheme and are recommended. NICEIC site (Electrical safety standard organisation) www.niceic.org.uk

- Allowing the students to "peacefully enjoy" their accommodation. Although you can gain access without giving notice first in case of emergency (for example if it is on fire).

- You should give prior written warning of at least 24 hours (or in accordance with your tenancy agreement) to the tenant when you wish to enter the property to carry out legitimate maintenance checks and repairs.

- If the tenant has paid a damage deposit, you are responsible for arranging for this to be protected with one of the government approved tenancy deposit protection schemes, and serving a notice giving prescribed information on the tenant within 30 days of the payment of the deposit.

- The current schemes are The Deposit Protection Service - www.depositprotection.com (the custodial scheme), and My Deposits (formerly Tenancy Deposit Solutions) - www.mydeposits.co.uk, and The Tenancy Deposit Scheme – www.tds.gb.com ( ‘insurance based’ schemes). Note that if you fail to do this, any section 21 notices served on your tenants will be invalid until the deposit has been properly protected (when you will need to serve a fresh one) and tenants can go to court and claim either the return of the deposit or an order that it be protected with the custodial scheme, and also that you pay the tenant a ‘fine’ of three times the amount of the deposit within 14 days. You can find out more about the schemes and how they operate from their web-sites.

Your students' responsibilities

- Acting in a "Tenant-like manner". This means they should perform the smaller tasks around the house such as replacing light bulbs replacing light bulbs, unblocking the sink when blocked with waste, clean the windows when necessary.

- Not damaging the house, if they do then they and their guests are responsible for the repairs.

- Refuse collection! They are responsible for putting out the wheelie bin out (in areas where schemes exist)- and to bring it back in again - it's illegal to leave it on the street.

- Securing the property when they go away - i.e. they must lock all doors and windows!

- Being reasonable about noise and parties

- Reporting all repairs needed to you (preferably in writing). The landlord's responsibility to repair begins only when you are aware of the disrepair. You, as landlord, are responsible to take remedial action within a reasonable period of time (dependent upon the nature of the disrepair)

If you don't fulfil your obligations...

If you don't carry out repairs that are your responsibility the student will probably contact their student's union, accommodation department at the University or the Citizens Advice Bureau. They will have a number of legal options open to them.

Further information can be found on the www.landlordlaw.co.uk web-site.

If they don't fulfil their obligations...

If the students don't fulfil their obligations e.g. paying rent, maintaining standings Citizens advice Bureau or legal advice should be sought.

Further information can be found on the www.landlordlaw.co.uk web-site.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

The Housing Act 2004, which was introduced in April 2006 in England and Wales, was created with the intention of providing a fairer and better housing market for those renting properties. The main elements of it include;

a) Licensing of houses in multiple occupation

A house with three of more stories, occupied by 5 or more people who form 2 or more households (a household being defined as persons belonging to the same family) is classified as an HMO in England and Wales and subject to licensing. The licensing is intended to improve standards in properties where it was felt tenants where at highest risk. Any building, which is occupied by students but managed or controlled by a Higher Education Institution, is deemed not to be an HMO for licensing purposes. Local authorities have at their discretion, but subject to approval from national government, the power to designate other sizes of properties as HMOs, which are subject to licensing. In Scotland the Licensing Order makes it mandatory from October 2000 for all HMOs to be licensed. To be classified as a licensable HMO the accommodation must be the only or principle residence of a specified number of people who are not members either of the same family or one or other of two families.

More information can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/rentingandletting/privaterenting/housesmultiple

b) Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

This system replaces the "fitness standard for houses", and decides whether a house is healthy and safe. Local council staff will randomly inspect properties (and also if they receive complaints from residents) and assess the likelihood of injury or ill health calculated via 29 hazards.

More information can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/rentingandletting/housinghealth/

In Scotland the Licensing Order makes it mandatory from October 2000 for all HMOs to be licensed. To be classified as a licensable HMO the accommodation must be the only or principle residence of a specified number of people who are not members either of the same family or one or other of two families. The specified number started on 1st October 2000 at six or more and is reducing annually until it reaches its minimum level , ie three or more. Students in accommodation that is an HMO in term time are treated as being solely or principally resident there in order to calculate the number of occupiers of an HMO..


You will normally want to take a deposit from your tenant. Most landlords will ask for a sum equivalent to four weeks' or a calendar month's rent but the maximum a landlord can charge by law is a sixth of the annual rent payable in England and Wales and two months' rent in Scotland.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

From April 2007*, deposits paid by tenants who have assured shorthold tenancy agreements must be safeguarded by a government sponsored scheme, who will facilitate the resolution of any disputes that arise in connection with such deposits.

This applies to all deposits taken for assured shorthold tenancies before 7 April 2007, and also to deposits taken before that date, where the tenancy is renewed, for example by a new tenancy agreement being given to the tenant.

There are two types of scheme.

Custodial Scheme - a tenant pays the deposit to the landlord/agent who in turn places it into a designated scheme account. When the scheme administrator returns the deposit to either the tenant or the landlord it is done so with interest at a rate specified by the Government.

Insurance based schemes - a tenant pays the deposit to the landlord who only transfers it into a designated scheme if there is a dispute at the end of the agreement.

If a landlord fails to pay the deposit to the scheme then a scheme will have adequate insurance cover to compensate the tenant in the event they are owed monies.

Within 30 days of receiving the deposit the landlord must arrange for it to be protected by one of the schemes and give the tenant a notice containing prescribed information.

If at the end of the tenancy, there is a dispute with the tenant regarding money to be deducted from the deposit, all schemes have a free arbitration scheme which can be used. However you need to be sure that you apply for this promptly and comply with all the requirements of the scheme (including all time limits) – their rules can all be found on their web-sites. Note that if you do not want to use the free arbitration, you can elect to go to the County Court, however this will be more expensive and take longer.

The three schemes and their contact details are as follows:

The Deposit Protection Service (DPS) - www.depositprotection.com – tel: 0844 4727 000

My Deposits (formerly known as Tenancy Deposit Solutions) - www.mydeposits.co.uk – tel 0844 980 0290

Tenancy Deposit Scheme - www.thedisputeservice.co.uk – tel 0845 226 7837

All sites have comprehensive web-sites, so you should read all the information given on the web-site for the scheme you are using.

More information can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/rentingandletting/privaterenting/tenancydepositprotection/
The Landlord Law Blog also covers issues with the tenancy deposit scheme, a full list of all tenancy deposit related items can be seen here: http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/tag/tenancy-deposits/


These are paid to the landlord by prospective tenants. The retainer period forms part of the contract (typically July to August) when the student is unlikely to want to occupy and the landlord may wish to carry out certain maintenance works to the property. The normal retainer payment is 50% of the per calendar month rent.

Note that not all landlords will deal with the summer vacation in this way. Many landlords will require full payment for the whole year. It is up to the landlord whether he is willing to accept a lower rent on a retainer basis for the summer months.
Note that www.landlordlaw.co.uk has special tenancy agreements which can be used in this situation, which you can read about here: http://www.landlordlaw.co.uk/page.ihtml?id=324&catparid=5&step=2&page=
Landlord Associations

England www.rla.org.uk

Scotland www.scottishlandlords.com

Letting Agents - each town and city will have a selection of letting agents who will let and manage your property normally in exchange for a fixed fee and a percentage of the rent
The four main letting agency association web sites: - www.arla.co.uk, www.rics.org, www.nalscheme.co.uk, www.naea.co.uk


If you are viewing this section then you no doubt have serious problems and the best advice would be to seek professional assistance. The law varies on the type of tenancy you have. If you are a student landlord you will no doubt have an Assured short hold tenancy (England) or Short Assured Tenancy (Scotland) agreement with your tenant. At the end of the period, the landlord has absolute right to repossession.

If the tenant refuses to leave or is refusing to pay rent, he or she can only be removed with a court order but certain procedures have to be followed. Please note that force or harassment is not an option and may lead to prosecution.

Tackling illegal immigration

The Government is making it harder for illegal immigrants to rent accommodation. The Immigration Act 2014 introduced a requirement for landlords of private rental accommodation to conduct checks to establish that new tenants have the right to rent in the UK. Landlords who rent to illegal migrants without conducting these checks will be liable for a civil penalty.

The government wants to ensure tenants in private rented housing are not living in the UK illegally and is already working with councils to tackle rogue landlords who exploit migrant by housing them in "beds in sheds" and illegally overcrowded accommodation.

These checks will start in one location in the UK in autumn 2014, the area will be announced by the Government. The requirements will then apply more widely from 2015.

The government is focussing on making this work for the housing market and minimising regulation. The checks will be very simple, and in most cases landlords will be able to conduct them without contacting the Home Office.

Private landlords will be required to make simple checks on new tenants to ensure that they are entitled to be in this country. The checks will be straightforward and quick for law-abiding landlords and tenants to comply with.

Once you have done all your checks you need to arrange for the balance of the deposit to be paid, the tenancy signed and the first month’s rent to be collected. It is not compulsory to collect a deposit but it is advisable as it can be used to cover rent arrears or damage/cleaning at the end of the tenancy. However, it does need to be registered or lodged with a government authorised scheme, such as the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS), the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) or MyDeposits.

Key Facts

- The requirements will not apply to pre-existing tenancies. Landlords will only have to conduct checks on new tenancy agreements from the implementation date.

- The checks will apply to all adults over the age of 18 living at the property.

- When the checks are mandatory in 2015 there will be resources provided such as draft Codes of Practice, guidance and online resources, including an aid to help landlords and tenants identify whether they are affected and, if so, how to conduct a check.

- The government will also provide a set off services to help landlords to conduct checks such as online guidance and a telephone helpline (local rate) providing general information, and a case-checking service for more complex cases.

- The government are focused on caring for the vulnerable:

1) They are making it easy for homeless and vulnerable people to prove their entitlement through simple documentary requirements for the right to rent check

2) They are exempting those parts of the housing market where further regulation is least appropriate from this obligation, including homelessness hostels, refuges and student accommodation including all halls of residence, any accommodation provided for students directly by a higher educational institution (HEI), and residency agreements in private residential properties where the student has been nominated to occupy the property by a HEI

3) They are excluding all tenants housed by local authorities under a statutory duty from the scheme.

- The focus is on making it work for the housing market and minimising regulation. If a landlord has not had an answer from the Home Office within two working days, they can go ahead and rent without risk of incurring a penalty (Check latest timing on website).

- Failure to comply could result in a civil penalty up to a maximum £3000.

- It is important to check the latest timescales and requirements directly.

Redress schemes

Letting agents have until 1 October 2014 to register with 1 of 3 redress schemes, to ensure tenants and leaseholders have a straightforward option to hold their agents to account.

Anyone who feels they get a poor deal from their letting agent will then be able to take their complaint to the redress scheme, and could receive compensation.

The schemes are run by The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and the Property Redress Scheme.

The vast majority of letting agents are already signed up to one of these 3 redress schemes - but Mr Lewis today (5 September 2014) urged the remaining minority to sign up, before it becomes a legal requirement on 1 October.

More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/letting-agents-need-to-move-quickly-to-sign-up-to-redress-schemes.

Any letting agent not signed up to one of the 3 approved redress schemes could face a fine of up to £5,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I look for when buying a property with sitting tenants?

Ideally you will want any sitting tenants to be assured shorthold tenants, because then you will be able to evict them easily if you want to. You will need to check therefore the status of all tenants in occupation. To do this, find out when the tenant first went in (i.e. not just the date of the last time the tenants were given a new written agreement).

If they went in before 15th January 1989 then the tenants will be a 'protected' tenants and not only will it be almost impossible for you to evict them (unless you provide them with 'suitable alternative accommodation'), but you will also be unable to charge them a market rent, only the 'fair rent' set by the Rent Officer.

Note that if the rent is more than £25,000 per annum, or if the tenant is a limited company, then the tenancies will be a 'common law' tenancies and slightly different rules will apply to them. If the current landlord lives in separate self contained accommodation in the same building, it will currently also be a 'common law' tenancy but its status will change once it has been sold.

If the property has lots of tenants, you will need to find out whether it is classed as an HMO, because if so you will have extra management responsibilities, and you may need to obtain a license from your Local Authority. Also if you want to get rid of the HMO tenants and use the property as a family home you may need to get planning permission.

These are perhaps the main legal problems you might encounter, however every property is different and can have different problems. Find out all you can about the tenants, particularly their payment record and whether their behaviour is good. Check also whether they have paid a damage deposit and ensure that this is passed over to you on completion.

What documents do I need to get from the seller of a property with sitting tenants?

You will need to get all the documentation held by the owner in connection with all the tenancies in the property. In particular you will need:

- A copy of the first tenancy agreement and the current tenancy agreement (if there is more than one)

- A copy of the rent register for any protected tenants (this will tell you the current rent and when you can apply to have it increased)

- Copy of the section 20 notice served on tenants whose tenancy started between 15th January 1989 and 28th February 1987, with proof of service.

- Copies of any possession notices that have been served on tenants, again with proof of service.

Ideally you should get a statutory declaration from the owner in respect of each and every tenancy confirming these matters. This is particularly important if there is no tenancy agreement documentation available. A statutory declaration is also a good idea when you need to have evidence of service of notices. Remember you may need to prove these matters in court, and once the property is sold to you, the owner may be unavailable or unwilling to assist you.

Can I evict sitting tenants once I have bought the property?

First of all, be aware that you can only ever evict a residential tenant through the courts. If you evict them without a court order you will be committing a criminal offence.

If the tenants are protected tenants, i.e. if their tenancy started before 15th January 1989, then unless there are serious rent arrears, you will normally only be able to evict them if you are able to provide suitable alternative accommodation. However if the tenants do not want to move (particularly if the property has sentimental meaning for them) note that a court may be unwilling to find that the property you have selected is in fact 'suitable'. You should therefore only ever purchase a property with protected tenants if you are willing for them to remain indefinitely. Bear in mind also that family members may be entitled to ‘inherit’ the tenancy after the death of the current tenant.

- If the tenancy started between 15th January and 28th February 1987 then you will need to be able to prove that a section 20 notice was served on the tenants before the tenancy was entered into (i.e. at least one day before the start of the tenancy). If this cannot be provided the tenants will be assured tenants. In which case, unless the tenants are in arrears of rent of more than two months, or unless you have suitable alternative accommodation available, you will almost certainly not be able to evict them. Again, think carefully before taking on a property with assured tenants.

- If the tenancy started after 28th February 1987 then they will be assured shorthold tenants, and you will be able to evict them after their fixed term has expired, provided a possession notice in the proper form has been served on them at least two months in advance. If a notice has already been served by the current landlord, your solicitor should check to see that it complies with the legal requirements and that you have proof of service.

- If the tenants are 'common law' tenants then they will not be protected under the various statutory codes and you should be able to evict them at the end of any fixed term provided a notice to quit in the proper form has been served on them.

What can the landlord do if the tenant is not looking after the property properly?

A landlord has little control over the conduct of his tenants once they are in occupation of the property. This is why it is so important to be careful when choosing your tenants. If the tenant is causing major damage to the property, you may be able to apply for a possession order after serving a two week notice. However as you will be claiming possession under one of the discretionary 'grounds' your tenant may be able to obtain legal aid to defend the proceedings. You should seek legal advice from a specialist housing solicitor before taking any action. Otherwise the best course of action is to threaten to evict the tenant at the end of the fixed term, if he does not improve his behaviour (note, this is assuming that the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy). You should also serve the proper form of notice on the tenant, which cannot end before the end of the fixed term and must give the tenants a notice period of at least two months. On expiry of this notice, you will, if the tenants behaviour has not improved, be able to evict the them under the 'accelerated possession procedure'.

Further information about possession notices and the possession procedure can be found on the www.landlordlaw.co.uk web-site.

How can the landlord increase the rent?

If the tenancy is an assured or an assured shorthold tenancy, rent can only be increased by one of the following methods:

- By agreement with the tenant, e.g. by the tenant signing a new tenancy agreement with the new rent or providing written confirmation that the new rent is agreed. This is the best way to increase the rent.

- By serving the proper form of notice of rent increase on the tenant. This can only be done after the fixed term has expired, and the tenant has the right to refer the rent to the Rent Assessment Committee, if he feels that the rent is too high. For this reason increasing rent by this method is best avoided. Note that the form of notice changed with effect from June 2001.

- Pursuant to a valid rent review clause in the tenancy agreement

Note the if the tenancy is a protected tenancy under the Rent Act, and a fair rent is registered, this can only be increased every two years by application to the Rent Officer.

What should the landlord do if the tenant refuses to grant access for inspections?

If this happens landlord should try to talk to the tenant to find out what the problem is. He should explain that the inspections are for the tenant's benefit to check the condition of the property so any necessary repairs can be done, or to carry out the annual gas check. If the tenant still refuses to allow the landlord access, the landlord will have to abide by this. It is important that the landlord does not just use his keys to gain access when the tenant is out. This will be deemed harassment and is a criminal offence.

So far as the gas regulations are concerned, non compliance with these is normally a criminal offence, however the landlord will not be prosecuted if he has made reasonable attempts to get the annual check done. To protect his position though, it is a good idea for the landlord to contact the local Health and Safety Executive (who police the regulations) and inform them of the situation.

So far as the landlord's general repairing covenants are concerned, the landlord cannot be held liable for breach of these if he has not been allowed access by the tenant to carry out an inspection and do repairs. However the landlord will want to carry out regular inspections as he will not want his property, which is a substantial financial investment, to deteriorate. In these circumstances he should therefore consider taking steps to evict the tenant, and should take legal advice regarding this if necessary.

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