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Minimum standards for rental properties

Buy-to-let can be a great investment, but there are a few things you need to consider before you take in your first paying tenant. While you don’t have to provide all mod cons, there are some minimum standards all landlords need to meet to keep tenants happy and stay within the letter of the law.

1. Your property needs to be in a good state of structural repair.

That means every part of the property, from the roof to the fixtures and fittings, should be well maintained and regularly checked, with necessary repairs completed as soon as possible.

2. Your property should be free from hazards.

Your tenant has a right to be safe and comfortable in their home, so there are some basics you need to cover. That includes making sure there are no broken windows, damp or mould growth and that the hot water and drainage is working.

3. Fire safety equipment must be provided.

Smoke alarms are the minimum requirement, but you may feel you need – or want – to provide more if there are additional risks in your property. For example, if you have an open fire or wood burner, a regular chimney sweep and inspection, plus a carbon monoxide detector, is a must.

4. Gas and electricity supplies must be safe.

As a landlord, it’s up to you to arrange an annual check of all gas appliances by a registered Gas Safe engineer. You’ll need to show these to your tenant when they sign an agreement and within 28 days of every annual check.

5. All furniture and appliances must meet the relevant safety standards.

All soft furnishings must meet fire safety standards and appliances need to be checked regularly to make sure there are no faults, and professionally repaired or replaced if there are.

6. You must meet new energy efficiency standards.

Just as you have to show how energy efficient your home is when you’re selling it, you now need to get an energy rating for your rental property. In 2015, the Government introduced the Energy Efficiency Regulations, which set the minimum standard for rented properties at a band E, with effect from April 2018.

While it might seem like another hoop for landlords to jump through, there are benefits for you as well as your tenants. If bills are included in the rent, you’ll pay less if your property is well insulated. Plus, you’ll be doing your bit for the environment.

What happens if you don’t stick to the rules?

Your property can be inspected by the local authority even if you’re a private landlord. And if they do find a breach of any of the rules, they will issue an Improvement Notices, which sets out what needs to be done to resolve it. You’ll be given a deadline to put the issue right and if you don’t, or if the problems are very bad, the local authority will issue a Prohibition Notice, which stops you re-letting the property until you can prove the work has been done.

If you have a sitting tenant who is being affected by the issue, you could face a fine of up to £30,000, with additional charges accruing each day the issue continues. So, it’s worth getting your house in order before you take in your first tenant.