Frequently asked questions

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Lettings FAQ

Is there a minimum length of term for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy?

Since Feb 28 1997, there is no longer any minimum term of letting for an AST. Prior to this, there was a restriction that an AST could only be granted for a minimum term of six months. But, it should be noted that even under the current rules, the landlord letting under a short letting (i.e. less than six months) cannot gain possession of the property through the courts until six months have elapsed since the original tenancy was granted.

Must we fit smoke detectors to rented property?

Regulations require smoke detectors to be fitted to residential property but these regulations only apply to new homes and caravans. Certain categories of HMO (House in Multiple Occupations) are also required to have a smoke and fire detection system fitted. There is no obligation for landlords to fit smoke detectors but where smoke detectors are fitted to a property or installed by the landlord a landlord could incur liability if a smoke detector was found not to be in working order and a tenant had suffered injury as a result.

Is it a legal requirement to perform an annual electrical safety check?

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 govern the safety requirements of electrical appliances that are provided in property which is let. The general requirement is that all such equipment is supplied in a safe condition. Unlike the gas safety regulations there is no mandatory checking period and no requirement for a safety certificate to be issued. Despite the lack of specific requirement for regular testing, it is difficult to ascertain whether or not an appliance complies with current UK electrical safety standards and it is strongly recommended that second-hand electrical appliances are checked at the time of installation and that all electrical appliances are checked on an annual basis to ensure compliance. The regulations provide for a defence of due diligence, which means that providing the landlord or agent can show that they took all reasonable measures to ensure compliance and safety, they would not be guilty of an offence.

What should I do if a tenant refuses access to allow me to perform statutory gas safety checks or necessary electrical repairs?

If you are happy to let the tenant remain in the property write to the tenant explaining that it is your statutory duty and in the best interests of his safety that the gas safety check be carried out. Inform him that a check has been arranged for a set time e.g. Saturday 1st January at 10 am – and that should he not be able to attend he should contact you to make a mutually convenient appointment or provide authority for the contractor, with the landlord, to enter with a spare key. This is providing, of course that the tenancy agreement allows you access for repairs. The Health and Safety Executive offer the following advice: “…regulation 35 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994 places a duty on landlords to maintain appliances and installation pipework in a safe condition and to ensure that gas appliances are checked for safety annually, The 1994 Regulations do not give the landlord the right to enter the property without the tenant’s permission. Regulation 37 of the 1994 Regulations includes an “exception as to liability” clause for certain regulations and regulation 35 falls into this category. This means that, in cases where a landlord is unable to gain access to a property to carry out a safety check, if it can be shown that he took all reasonable steps to obtain access (e.g. sending several letters requesting access, informing the tenant of the landlord’s duty under this regulation) then he may not be guilty of an offence. However, if there was an incident, it would be up to a court of law to decide on what were ‘reasonable steps’.”

Some of the furniture (a suite for instance) is non-compliant with the furniture and furnishings fire and safety regulations. The landlord understands that it needs to be replaced but rather than throw the suite away, would like to give it to the tenant or sell it for a nominal amount.

The view is that such arrangements as acceptable provided that any non-compliant furniture is not ‘sold in the course of business’ – therefore it is essential that the transaction is conducted directly between a private landlord and the tenant directly (the agent should not get involved). Furthermore, it is important that the arrangement is not repeated in relation to the same furniture for the next tenancy.

Do we need an Energy Performance Certificate?

Yes, you are breaking the law if you let a property without one and it must meet a minimum of an “E” rating, if it doesn`t you cannot let it. More importantly perhaps is that if you did let it then you cannot get your tenant out if you want the property back.

Do we need to have the gas boiler serviced?

You must have a Gas Safe registered engineer inspect the boiler and produce a certificate to present to the tenant before they move in and then ensure it is re-inspected each year thereafter.

What are we allowed to charge tenants after 1st June 2019 under the Tenant Fees Act?

The only things that are allowed are:

  • Rent
  • Utility bills
  • A holding deposit capped at one week’s rent
  • A security deposit capped at five weeks’ rent
  • The cost of replacing a lost key or other security devices
  • Changing a clause in the tenancy agreement, capped at £50 inc. VAT
  • A green deal payment or other energy efficiency charges

What aren't we allowed to charge for?

Administration fees, application fees, referencing fees, check-ins, check-outs, inventory fees and inventory checkout fees. In fact, literally nothing other than listed above.

Can`t we charge for professional cleaning at the end of a tenancy?

Administration fees, application fees, referencing fees, check-ins, check-outs, inventory fees and inventory checkout fees. In fact, literally nothing other than listed above.

Will we be able to charge a fee if a tenant ends a contract before the end of a fixed term?

This one you can. But it cannot be more than the total rent outstanding on the property. You should be able to charge the landlord’s costs in reletting the property, plus the amount of rent owing until the new tenant moves in.

Can we charge tenants for late rental payments?

You can charge interest on rent arrears, calculated at 3% above the Bank of England’s base rate from the date the rent falls due, until the date it is paid. But only if the tenant is at least 14 days in arrears, but you can then back-date it. 

Can we charge tenants for negligence?

Yes, that comes under the damages provisions in law, which says you can charge the tenant for returning the property to the condition it would have been in, had the tenant not breached the tenancy agreement.

Can we take an increased deposit or a seperate deposit if the tenant has a pet?

Quite simply, no.

Is there a minimum length of term for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy?

No, but it should be noted that under current rules, a landlord letting for a term less than six months cannot gain possession of the property through the courts until six months have elapsed since the original tenancy was granted.

Must we fit smoke detectors to rented property?

Regulations require smoke detectors to be fitted to each “living floor” of a residential property. You must also fit a carbon monoxide detector near any open fires or solid fuel stoves.

We want to leave some furniture but it is old, so can we give it to the tenant?

If it doesn`t meet the “furniture & furnishings fire & safety regulations” you can, or you can sell it to them for a nominal amount, provided it is done by agreement directly between the landlord and tenant and not an agent. You cannot then gift or sell it to any subsequent tenants.

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