Landlord Responsibilities

March 31, 2016

Renting out property is an occupation in itself and as a landlord you have certain responsibilities to your tenant. This article provides a brief discussion of the issues worth considering.

 

Legal documentation

The Landlord must supply all tenants with a Rent Book and a Statement of Tenancy Terms. Failure to supply either of these documents, in the correct format, within a specified period of time can result in a conviction and fine. Should an agent be contracted to manage the property, the landlord must ensure that they have complied with these legal requirements. In addition tenants must also be given:

a gas safety certificate, for any gas appliances in the property
an Energy Performance Certificate
information on the tenancy deposit protection scheme you’ve chosen to protect the tenant’s deposit and some prescribed information relating to the deposit
an inventory
Failure to provide a rent book, tenancy statement or Energy Performance Certificate or to protect a tenant’s deposit can be reported to the Local District Council and ultimately result in a hefty fine.

 

Repairs & Maintenance

Landlords are expected to maintain property to a certain standard and are usually obliged to carry out certain repairs. The Tenancy Agreement should specify what a landlord is responsible for and which repairs are for the tenant to take care of.  If it doesn’t, the default repairing obligations laid out in the Private Tenancies Order will apply. Once notified of the need for repair a landlord must keep the tenant  informed of their progress in dealing with the issue, a letter should be sent or call made to the tenant detailing how and when repairs are to be effected.  It is important that a landlord is aware of the availability of grants for certain types of repairs. Further information in respect of what’s available and eligibility can be viewed at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/getting-help-with-home-improvement-costs

All rented properties must, at the very least, meet the basic fitness standard and this will be assessed by the Local District Council. . Landlords should try to maintain the property to a standard that they would be happy to live in. Further information in respect of the fitness standard is available within this series; please see our piece entitled Standard of Fitness Required for Private Tenancies.

 

Peaceful Enjoyment

Tenants have a right to peaceful enjoyment of the property they rent. The landlord has a responsibility to ensure that right is observed and cannot enter the property nor authorise another to enter without the tenant’s permission. The Tenancy Agreement should contain a clause dealing with rights of access. If it doesn’t it is generally accepted that a landlord should contact their tenant at least 24 hours before they intend entering the property to obtain permission to do so. The tenant is entitled to refuse.

Should a landlord habitually enter a tenant’s home without first gaining consent, the tenant may interpret this as harassment and report this to the local council. Harassment of a tenant by a landlord is an offence. If convicted of this offence, a landlord may face a significant fine.

Therefore, a prudent landlord will only visit the property when necessary and remember to give the required legal notice. Should a dispute arise in respect of access, a landlord should negotiate with the tenant, perhaps in writing, outlining the reasons that access is required,  suggesting a range of dates and times that suit and giving the tenant a date by which they should respond. It is important to retain a copy of all correspondence.

 

Keep tenants informed

The landlord must keep a tenant informed of any developments that may affect their ability to stay in that property in a timely manner and these may include:

Repairs and improvements
Selling the property
Repossession
Pay your mortgage and rates

Should the property let be subject to a mortgage or secured loan, the landlord is responsible for ensuring those payments are up to date. It should be explained clearly to the tenant who is liable for rates payments.

 

Be accessible

Tenants have a legal right to know their landlord’s name, address and telephone number. Should an agent be operative but the tenant contacts their landlord directly, that landlord should talk to them regardless to ensure that the agent is carrying out their legal obligations.

 

Possession action & due process

The landlord must follow due process of law when evicting a tenant and should they fail to do so they may face prosecution for effecting an illegal eviction. For further information on possession action see http://www.housingadviceni.org/advice-landlords/possession-action#sthash.DxUydHyN.dpuf .

 

Taking deposits

Any deposits taken on or after 1 April 2013 must be registered with an authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme administrator. Deposits taken before that date don’t need to be registered with one of these schemes.

 

Mandatory landlord registration

All landlords of private tenancies in Northern Ireland need to register. This can be done online, by telephone or in writing with the payment of a fee. This must be done every 3 years.

 

This serves as a brief overview of what’s a stake should you elect to let your property. Should you require a more detailed discussion of the issues please do not hesitate to contact a member of our property team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin.