Guidance for Homeowners:
your legal obligations

This document does not contain an exhaustive explanation of all of the statutes and other forms of legislation which may apply to you in circumstances where you have let your property, or you have allowed others to occupy it. It does not constitute legal advice. In addition to obligations under statute and other legislation, you will also be placed under obligations in any tenancy or licence agreement that is entered into with an occupier of your property. Accordingly, you should ensure that you have read such documents carefully so that you know what is expected and required of you.

The laws which apply to tenancies (such as assured shorthold tenancies) can differ from those which apply to licences. Generally, the rules relating to the former impose a greater burden on a property owner. It is however good practice to ensure compliance with the obligations detailed in this document (where possible), even if you are only granting a licence of your property. For this reason, this document does not distinguish between rules that apply to tenancies and those which apply to licences, unless expressly stated otherwise.

Under the terms that we have agreed with you, we will assist you with complying with some of the legal obligations detailed in this document, but it is still important that you are aware of the obligations the law imposes upon you. You should carefully consult our terms in order to identify those matters we have agreed to help you with and those that you must attend to yourself. If you are uncertain as to your legal rights and responsibilities, you must take independent legal advice.

You are responsible for ensuring that the property is safe and fit for human habitation. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 may apply when you allow someone to occupy your property. If it does, then it will be implied into any tenancy that is granted that the property:

  • Is fit for human habitation at the time the tenancy was granted or, if later, the date that the term of the tenancy commences; and

  • It will remain fit for human habitation during the term.

You will be responsible for ensuring that all necessary statutory certificates have been obtained for the property and that they are kept up to date.

We draw your attention to current safety regulations that may apply when you let someone stay in your property:

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire)(Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended 1989, 1993 and 2010). You must ensure that any furniture and furnishings supplied meets the fire resistance requirements in the regulations. The regulations apply where the Property is regarded primarily as a source of income rather than your home. The regulations set levels of fire resistance for domestic upholstered furniture. All furniture provided in accommodation that is let must meet the fire resistance requirements unless it was made before 1950. Furniture must have a manufacturer’s label confirming that the furniture meets the requirements.

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 obliges you to keep installations in the property (such as the supply of electricity) in good repair and working order. In addition, the Housing Act 2004 gives local authorities the power to inspect and take action against you in the event that they discover electrical hazards in the property under the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 & The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020. All new or recently re-wired properties must be protected by a Residual Current Device in order to comply with Building Regulations. You should ensure that the electrical system, installations and any electrical appliances that you supply such as cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines and immersion heaters are safe to use and you should consider employing a qualified electrician to conduct safety tests.

The Occupier’s Liability Acts 1957 and 1984 impose a duty of care on you which covers anyone who visits your property. In summary, if there is a hazard in your property of which you are, or ought to be aware, you could have liability in the event the hazard causes injury to someone in your property.

You are required to ensure that the gas supply and all gas appliances in the property (unless they belong to the tenant), and sometimes those located outside of the property but which serve the property, are safe and in good order and that a gas safety check is carried out annually by an engineer who is registered with the Gas Safe Register. The current regulations that apply are the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. The regulations require you to give a copy of the gas safety certificate to any tenant of your property. A failure to do this before you allow the person into occupation may restrict your ability to recover possession of the property.

The Energy Performance of Buildings (England and Wales) Regulations 2012 require you to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to any prospective guest of your property. A person becomes a prospective tenant if they ask for information about the property for the purposes of deciding whether to rent it, or they ask to view it for that purpose, or they make an offer to rent it (regulation 3 of the EPC Regulations). A new EPC does not need to be commissioned each time there is a new letting. As long as there is an existing, valid EPC for the property, then that EPC can be used. The EPC or a copy of it may be made available in colour or in black and white, and by paper copy, URL link, or making a copy available for physical inspection. If the EPC is to be made available electronically, the recipient must consent to this. A failure to give the occupier a copy of the EPC may restrict your right to recover possession of the property. Additionally a minimum energy performance rating of E will be required to rent or let a residential Property as from 01 April 2018..

In order to comply with the Health and Safety Executive’s Code of Practice you are strongly advised to carry out a risk assessment for legionnaire’s disease at their property prior to letting it out, especially if there are open water tanks, cooling systems or a swimming pool or if the property has been vacant for a period of time prior to the letting.

The British Blind and Shutter Association Regulations, apply tough guidelines relating to the installations for raising and lowering blinds; and the movement of curtains across windows. This means that new blinds and curtains being installed will have fixed cords or ball bearing pulls to prevent any danger of asphyxiation to a young child; and a warning notice with the purchasing material. Existing blinds and windows may need to be fitted with safety features to ensure compliance, without which, a Stay or Tenancy cannot proceed.

If we are managing the Property we will check all blinds and curtains on a Property Management visit and if necessary arrange for the relevant safety feature to be fitted at the Client ’s expense. If we are not managing the Property it is the Client ’s responsibility to make such checks and arrange the fitting of any necessary safety feature. We have no liability if such precautions are not carried out.

You have legal responsibilities and repairing obligations under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the Property (including drains, gutters and external pipes); to keep 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); to keep in repair and proper working order the installations for space heating and heating water.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 provide:

  • That a smoke alarm must be installed on each storey of the property that is to be used wholly or partly as living accommodation; and

  • That a carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in any room that is wholly or partly used as living accommodation and which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

  • That you are obliged to test and ensure that all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order at the start of any new tenancy.

Aside from safety of the occupier of the property, there are other obligations imposed upon you by the law or by the contracts you have entered into relating to your property. We draw your attention to some of these obligations below:

If an individual is going to be staying in your property and using it as their only or main residence, then you will be required to carry out a “Right to Rent” check due to rules contained within the Immigration Act 2016. The Home Office’s Code of Practice makes it clear that holiday lettings for a short, time-limited period, where it is clear the person intends to use the property for leisure-related purposes and will not remain in the property after this period, are not caught by the Right to Rent check requirements. However, where the property is booked for a period of three months or more, this may indicate the person could be intending to use it as their only or main home, which would, in turn, mean that a Right to Rent check would need to be conducted before the tenancy is granted. Failure to conduct a Right to Rent check when required to do one is a criminal offence.

You must follow due process when it comes to recovering possession of your property. This means that it may not be lawful to simply change the locks of your property when you want possession. This could amount to a criminal offence and could give rise to liability for unlawful eviction. The rules surrounding recovering possession of residential property are complicated. In the event an occupier refuses to leave voluntarily, then you should seek expert legal advice.

If you grant a tenancy, you will need to ensure that the government guide entitled “How to Rent – the checklist for renting in England” has been given to the tenant. Failure to do this could restrict your right to recover possession of the property.

Your property may be subject to restrictions on how it is used arising out of the planning permission or other permitted use regulations that the property, or the area in which the property is situated, is subject to. Granting holiday lettings can amount to a change of use for planning law purposes and it is up to you to ensure that your intended use for the property is compliant with the relevant regulations.

The Housing Act 2014 introduced a regime for licensing houses in multiple occupation. Some HMOs fall within licensing requirements and some local authorities even impose such licensing requirements on all residential property that is let. A failure to comply with the legal requirements can amount to a criminal offence, can restrict your right to recover possession of a property and can result in you being ordered to repay rent received from tenants. The rules are very complicated and you should get legal advice in the event you are uncertain as to your obligations.

If your property is subject to a mortgage, then you will be required to comply with the terms of your mortgage deed. This document may restrict who you are allowed to let stay at your property and the terms upon which you are entitled to allow people to occupy. Check with the lender to make sure that there aren’t restrictions on subletting or hosting.

If your interest in the property is a leasehold interest (most commonly this will be the case if you own a flat in a larger building), then what you are entitled to do with the property will be the subject of a lease that has been granted to you by the freeholder or a superior landlord. You must ensure that you comply with the provisions of your lease as they often limit how the property can be sub-let and with how possession of the property can be shared with others. You may need to obtain the consent of your landlord before proceeding with letting or licensing your property out.

You must ensure that the property is adequately insured. If you have a long leasehold interest, your landlord may hold the insurance policy that covers the property. In either case, you will need to ensure that allowing someone else to occupy your property will not void the insurance policy.

90 Day Rule - London

The Greater London Council Act 1973 implemented a London specific rule that meant it was not possible to conduct any short let (any single stay less than 90 days in duration) in the Greater London area. Prior to the Deregulation Act 2015, Greater London had a planning restriction that affected short-term rentals. In most cases, it was considered a “change of use” to use your residential premises as temporary sleeping accommodation.

The Deregulation Act of 2015 introduced an exception that allows you to use residential premises for temporary sleeping accommodation without being considered a “change of use” if you use the property as a short-term rental for 90 or fewer nights in a calendar year, which is known as the “90 night rule”.

If you use your property for short-term rentals for more than 90 days in a calendar year, the exception doesn't apply.