Guide for Landlords
Before a property can be let, there are several matters which the owner will need to deal with to ensure that the tenancy runs smoothly, and also that he/she complies with the law. We provide summarised information below. If you require further advice or assistance with any matter, please do not hesitate to contact us:
Preparing the Property
We have found that a good relationship with Tenants is the key to a smooth-running tenancy. As Property Managers this relationship is our job, but it is important that the Tenants should feel comfortable in their temporary home, and that they are receiving value for their money. It follows therefore that a well presented and maintained property in a good decorative order will go towards this, whilst also achieving a higher rental figure. Tenants are also more inclined to treat such a property with greater respect.
Electrical, gas plumbing, waste, central heating and hot water systems must be safe, sound and in good working order. Repairs and maintenance are at the Landlords expense unless misuse can be established. Interior decorations should be in good condition and preferably plain, light and neutral.
Your property can be let fully furnished, part furnished or unfurnished. Which of these is appropriate will depend on the type of property and local market conditions. We will be pleased to give you advice on whether to furnish or not and to what level. As a minimum you will need to provide decent quality carpets, curtains and light fittings. Remember that there will be wear and tear on the property and any items provided.
Personal possessions, ornaments, pictures, books etc. should be removed from the premises, especially those of real or sentimental value. Some items may be boxed, sealed and stored in the loft at the owner’s risk. All cupboards and shelf space should be left clear for the Tenant’s own use.
Gardens should be left neat, tidy and rubbish free, with any lawns cut. Tenants are required to maintain the gardens to a reasonable standard, provided they are left the necessary tools. However, few Tenants are experienced gardeners, and if you value your garden, or if it is particularly large, you may wish us to arrange visits by our regular gardener.
At the commencement of the tenancy the property must be in a thoroughly clean condition, and at the end of each tenancy it is the Tenants’ responsibility to leave the property in a similar condition. Where they fail to do so, cleaning will be arranged at their expense.
It is helpful if you leave information for the Tenant, e.g. on operating the central heating and hot water system, washing machine and alarm system, and the day refuse is collected etc.
You should provide one set of keys for each Tenant. Where we will be managing we will arrange to have duplicates cut as required.
If your property is mortgaged, you should obtain your mortgagee’s written consent to the letting. They may require additional clauses in the tenancy agreement of which you must inform us.
If you are a leaseholder, you should check the terms of your lease, and obtain any necessary written consent before letting.
You should ensure that you are suitably covered for letting under both your buildings and contents insurance. Failure to inform your insurers may invalidate your policies. We can provide information on Landlords Legal Protection, Rent Guarantee Cover and Landlords Contents and Buildings Insurance if required.
We recommend that you arrange for regular outgoings e.g. service charges, maintenance contracts etc. to be paid by standing order or direct debit. However where we are managing the property, by prior written agreement we may make payment of certain bills on your behalf, provided such bills are received in your name at our office, and that sufficient funds are held to your credit.
We will arrange for the transfer of Council Tax and utility accounts to the Tenant. Meter readings will be taken, allowing your closing gas and electricity accounts to be drawn up. All these matters we will handle for you, however British Telecom will require instructions directly from both the Landlord and the Tenant.
When resident in the UK, it is entirely the Landlords responsibility to inform the Revenue & Customs of rental income received, and to pay any tax due. Where the Landlord is resident outside the UK during a tenancy, he will require an exemption certificate from the Revenue & Customs before he can receive rental balances without deduction of tax. Where we are managing the property we will provide advice and assistance on applying for such exemption.
It is most important that an inventory of contents and schedule of condition be prepared, in order to avoid misunderstanding or dispute at the end of a tenancy. Without such safeguards, it will be impossible for the Landlord to prove any loss, damage, or significant deterioration of the property or contents. In order to provide a complete Service, we will if required arrange for a member of staff to prepare an inventory and schedule of condition, at the cost quoted in our Landlord Fees.
Most residential lettings in Scotland made after 2 January 1989 are short assured tenancies. Those that aren’t short assured are normally assured tenancies.
Short Assured Tenancies
This is the most common type of tenancy. A short assured tenancy makes it easier to get your property back than an assured tenancy.
Before any agreement is signed, you must use form AT5 to tell new tenants that the tenancy will be a short assured tenancy.
If you don’t, the tenancy will automatically be an assured tenancy. Initially, a short assured tenancy must be for 6 months or more. After the first 6 months, the tenancy can be renewed for a shorter period.
At the beginning of an assured tenancy, it will be classed as a ‘contractual assured tenancy’ for a fixed period of time.
The tenancy automatically becomes a ‘statutory assured tenancy’ if: you end the tenancy by issuing a notice to quit (e.g. because you want to change the agreement) and your tenant stays in the property
the fixed period covered by the tenancy expires and your tenant stays in the property There are different rights and responsibilities on both landlord and tenant depending on the type of assured tenancy.
Health and Safety, and other Legal Requirements
The following requirements are the responsibility of the owner (Landlord).
From the 1 May 2013 landlord have a legal duty to provide new tenants with a Tenant Information Pack. The pack provides accessible information on private renting, setting out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. The pack, which can be provided in hard copy or electronically, must be provided by the tenancy start date.
N.B. Failure to adhere to the above regulations carry hefty fines and possible imprisonment to non-complying landlords.
By law you must get a Gas-Safe registered engineer to inspect gas pipework, appliances and chimneys/flues every 12 months. You must give your tenant a copy of the gas safety certificate within 28 days of the check being carried out, or before the tenant moves in. You must also keep a copy of the safety check for two years.
Gas Safety AlertThe Health and Safety Executive has issued an important safety alert. Where boilers are located away from external walls, flues are more likely to run through ceiling (or wall) voids. In such cases when the gas appliance is serviced or maintained it can be difficult, or impossible, to determine whether the flue has been installed correctly or whether it is still in good condition. Where a flue fault exists in combination with a boiler which is not operating correctly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) could be released into the living accommodation. CO is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. It stops the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs and can kill quickly, without warning.From 1st January 2013, if you do not have inspection hatches installed, Gas Safe registered engineers will advise you that the appliance is ‘at risk’ and will, with your permission, turn off the appliance and tell you not to use it.
Since 1st December 2015, private landlords in Scotland are required by law to ensure that a rented house meets the repairing standard at the start of a tenancy and throughout a tenancy.
One part of the repairing standard is that
- The installations in the house for the supply of electricity,
- Electrical fixtures and fittings, and
- Any appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy
Are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order.Landlords are required to
- Ensure that regular electrical safety inspections are carried out by a competent person, and
- Have regard to this guidance issued by Scottish Ministers on electrical safety standards and competent persons.
Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)A PAT test requires a label for each appliance tested. The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) have forms for providing a record of appliances that have been tested Appliances include –
- Electrical white goods (such as refrigerators and washing machines),
- Electrical brown goods (such as televisions and DVD players),
- Electric fires that are not fixed in place,
- Kitchen appliances, such as toasters and kettles,
- Hand held electrical equipment, such as hairdryers, and
- Any other appliances provided by the landlord that are not permanently connected to the electrical installation.
Any appliance which fails to pass a Portable Appliance Test must be replaced or repaired immediately to comply with the repairing standard. The duty to carry out electrical safety inspections does not apply to appliances that belong to tenants, only to appliances provided by the landlord. These must be carried out annually.Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)An electrical safety inspection must be carried out
- Before a tenancy starts, and
- During the tenancy, at intervals of no more than 5 years from the date of the previous inspection.
The electrical safety inspection does not have to be completed immediately before a new tenancy begins or every time a new tenancy starts, as long as an inspection has been carried out in the period of 5 years before the tenancy starts. The electrical safety inspection must be recorded in an EICR and a PAT report.When the Duty Applies and Transitional RulesAny tenant under a new tenancy commencing on or after 1 December 2015 must be provided with a copy of an EICR before the tenancy commences.
Any tenant under an existing tenancy at 30 November 2015 must be provided with a copy of an EICR by 1 December 2016 unless their tenancy ends before that date.
An EICR completed on or after completed by a competent person is acceptable, whether or not it in includes a description and location for appliances inspected. However, to be acceptable all EICRs completed on or after 1 December 2015 must have a PAT record attached to it that shows their description and location and a certificate for any remedial work that has been done.
More information on the above can be found at electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk and Landlords Guide to Electrical Safety (Scotland).
Also at Scottish Government Statutory Guidance on Electrical Installations and Appliances in Private rented Property.
From October 2013 a change in building regulations require landlords to fit carbon monoxide alarms. Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘Silent killer’ because it is a poisonous gas that cannot be seen, smelt or tasted. Appliances fueled by solid fuel (coal or wood), oil or gas all have the potential to cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they are poorly installed, badly maintained or incorrectly used.
Smoke/Heat Alarms in Private Lets
Statutory guidance on requirements for smoke alarms was revised October 2013.
The main points are:
One functioning smoke alarm in every room which is frequently used by the occupants for general daytime living purposes
One functioning smoke alarm in every circulation space, such as hallways and landings
One heat alarm in every kitchen – Multi alarms for open-plan kitchens/living room
All alarms should be mains powered and interlinked
Legionnaires Disease -The control of legionella bacteria in water systems.Legionnaires Disease can be life threatening and is caused by bacteria linked with man-made water systems such as tanks, pipes and showers with conditions of temperature and irregular use. Landlords have a duty to carry out a risk assessment of their water systems to identify any risk and course of action to manage the risk.
A copy of the Energy Performance Certificate must include the EPC rating in any advertisement including newspaper, property schedules and internet advertising. A copy of the EPC must also be given to an incoming tenant of a property.
By law, you must make sure that all furniture and furnishings supplied with the rental property meet fire resistance requirements as set out in the Furniture and Furnishing (Fire Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 1988. Furniture incorporating glass such as mirrors, tables or cabinets must comply with BS7449: 1991 or BS7376:1990 as set out in the General Product Safety Regulations 1994.
If a home is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) it must meet physical standards set by the licensing local authority.
Living accommodation is an HMO if it is:
- Occupied by three or more persons from three or more families; and
- Occupied by them as their only or main residence or in some other manner specified by the Scottish Ministers by order; and
- Occupied either a house, premises or a group of premises owned by the same person with shared basic amenities, or some other type of accommodation specified occupied either a house,
The legislation covers not only ordinary houses, flats and bedsits, but also other types of residential accommodation such as hostels and student halls of residence. Accommodation within a building which is separate but shares use of a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities is taken to form part of a single HMO.The owner of an HMO must have a licence from the local authority where the property is situated. The accommodation must be licensed regardless of the type of owner e.g. private individual or registered social landlord.>Licensing helps ensure that accommodation is safe, well managed and of good quality.Before granting a licence the local authority must be satisfied that the owner and any manager of the property is fit and proper to hold a licence; that the property meets required physical standards and that it is suitable for use as an HMO; or could be made so by including conditions in the licence.The local authority sets the standards required and also sets the fees charged for a licence application. Scottish Ministers have issued guidance to local authorities on the licensing of HMOs.It is a criminal offence to operate an HMO without a licence. The maximum fine is £50,000. Local authorities have a range of other enforcement options, including power to vary the terms of a licence or revoke it. An HMO licence can also be revoked if the owner or agent, or the living accommodation, is no longer suitable.Licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) operates under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, part 5. Guidance is also available on the transitional arrangements between the previous regime under The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and the regime under the 2006 Act.
What is Tenancy Deposit Protection?
It’s normal practice for a landlord to take a deposit from their tenant as security should the terms of the agreed contract be broken. The new legislation is designed to safeguard the tenant’s deposit by requiring landlords to submit the deposit to a Government-approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme to hold for the duration of the tenancy and provide the Tenant with certain key information called Regulation 42 explaining deposit protection. Letting Agents acting on behalf of landlords must also abide by the new legislation.
What is a Tenancy Deposit Scheme?An independent third party authorised to hold and protect the tenant’s deposit for the duration of the tenancy. Once the landlord has submitted the deposit, it is kept in a safe, designated account until the end of the tenancy and both parties have agreed to its return.All schemes in Scotland must be approved by the Scottish Government.All deposits taken on assured and short assured tenancies, university accommodation and other types of occupancy agreements must be submitted to a Government-approved scheme.How to comply:
All landlords and letting agents who take a deposit in Scotland must:
- protect and lodge the deposit with a government approved scheme and;
- provide the tenant with key details about the protection (Regulation 42 Information).
Both of the above tasks must be completed within 30 working days of the tenancy start date.
What are the penalties for non-protection?If satisfied that the landlord did not comply with the deposit protection requirements, the sheriff: must order the landlord to pay the tenant an amount not exceeding three times the amount of the tenancy deposit; and may, as the sheriff considers appropriate in the circumstances of the application, order the landlord to – (i) pay the tenancy deposit to an approved scheme; or (ii) provide the tenant with the information required under regulation 42.
The above is a brief summary of landlords’ responsibilities and of the laws surrounding tenanted property. We hope that you find it useful. If there are any aspects of which you are unsure, please ask us. We look forward to being of assistance to you in the letting and management of your property