A guide to landlord and tenant responsibilities

When it comes to private renting, there are measures in place to protect both landlord and tenant. Regardless of the type of tenancy, it’s important to know where the lines of rights and responsibility are drawn. Here’s the lowdown.

When it comes to private renting, there are measures in place to protect both landlord and tenant. Regardless of the type of tenancy, it’s important to know where the lines of rights and responsibility are drawn. Here’s the lowdown.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
29 MARCH 2022
5 min read
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Landlord responsibilities

When you become a landlord there are several steps you need to take to stay within the law and make sure your tenants have a safe place to live. It’s important to know what these responsibilities are before you start advertising your rental property.

Registration and licensing

The rules for landlords differ between the different nations in the UK.

In England, landlords need to get a licence from their local authority to rent their property if they let out a house in multiple occupation (HMO). If the property you rent is occupied by five or more people, from two or more separate households, then you’ll need a licence. 

Local authorities can also introduce licensing for all privately rented homes in a particular area or additional HMO licensing if it’s of benefit to the local area. So check with your local authority before you start to rent.

In Scotland, you must register with the local authority for where the property is situated.

In Wales, landlords and agents who undertake letting and management work at rental properties are legally required to have a Rent Smart Wales licence.

In Northern Ireland, there aren’t any specific registration or licensing regulations.

‘Right to rent’ check

If you’re a landlord and you’re leasing your property in England or Wales, you’ll need to confirm that your tenant (and any adult over 18 living with them) has the ‘right to rent’. As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to check your tenants’ immigration status and take copies of passports or other accepted official documents.

It’s a criminal offence to rent your property out without making sure your tenant legally has the right to live there.

This right to rent rule doesn’t apply in Scotland. However, like in England and Wales, you’re able to carry out background checks on new tenants. For example, you could ask for: photo ID to confirm they are who they say they are; proof that they can afford the rent, such as payslips and bank statements; and references to see if they are reliable and trustworthy.

Information landlords must provide to tenants

What’s required of landlords is broadly similar throughout the UK, but you should fully understand any regulations set by your devolved authority as well as UK-wide regulations.

At the beginning of a tenancy, you need to provide your tenant/s with the following information – either directly or through your letting agent, if you’re using one:

  • Your full name, address and contact details
  • The property’s Energy Performance Certificate
  • If your property has gas, a gas safety certificate
  • If you have an assured shorthold tenancy, a copy of the government’s How to Rent guide or any other documents required by the appropriate government for new tenants. For example, landlords in Scotland using the Scottish Government Model Private Residential Tenancy Agreement must provide tenants with Easy Read Notes.  

Deposit protection

If you’re letting your property under an assured shorthold tenancy or equivalent, you must make sure the deposit is held under a government-approved deposit protection scheme within 30 days. If you don’t, you could face hefty penalties – such as having to pay the tenant between one and three times the deposit as a financial penalty. It could also affect your ability to end a tenancy too.

Health and safety

Your tenant has the right to live in a property that’s safe, free from hazards and in a good state of repair. From 20 March 2019, landlords must make sure their properties are ‘fit to live in’. That means you need to ensure:

  • Gas equipment, such as a boiler, is installed by a Gas Safe-registered engineer and inspected annually.
  • Electrical items supplied by you must be in good working order and safe to use, and that checks are carried out regularly – every five years is recommended.
  • A working smoke alarm must be installed on each floor of the property.
  • • If the property has a wood-burning stove, a carbon monoxide detector must be installed in the relevant room.
  • If the property is leased furnished, furnishings must comply with fire and furnishing regulations. Soft furnishings like pillows, mattresses and sofas must have  a ‘Carelessness Causes Fire’ label.
  • Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), if there’s rising damp and mould, caused by structural damage such as a leaking pipe or rotten window frame, it’s your responsibility to fix the problem.  
  • Kitchens, bathrooms and toilets must be in a sanitary condition.  
  • The landlord is responsible for dealing with pest infestations and carrying out any repairs needed to prevent pests getting into the property.    

On the first day of a new tenancy, check that the smoke alarm and any carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.

Repairs and maintenance

Tenants have a duty to report any maintenance issues as soon as they find them. But, as a landlord, you’re responsible for paying for and arranging any structural repairs, including:

  • Walls and foundations
  • Roof and chimney
  • Guttering and external pipes 
  • Windows and external doors
  • Sanitary fittings and pipework
  • Heating and hot water
  • Electrical wiring
  • Boiler and gas pipes
  • Repair or replacement of faulty appliances, if supplied by the landlord.

It’s up to you to keep your property in good condition and make sure electrical and gas equipment meet safety standards. If you refuse to make repairs, tenants could take you to the small claims court or, if the property could be hazardous to the tenants, report you to the local authority.

See more on your responsibility for making repairs in:

If you want to enter the property to check the condition or to carry out repairs, you must give your tenant the correct notice – unless it’s an emergency.

Ending a tenancy and eviction

When you want to end a tenancy, you must do it legally. The process for doing so, and the reasons you’re allowed to bring a tenancy to an end, can be different depending on what type of tenancy it is, when the rental agreement started and the location of the property. 

You could end a tenancy, for example, if you want to live in the property or you want a family member to live there. You can also end it if you want to sell the home or carry out repairs that’ll make it unsuitable to live in. You’ll have to follow all necessary legal procedures giving your tenants the correct notice and so on.

You may also want to end the tenancy if your tenants haven’t been paying rent, have broken the tenancy agreement or damaged the property. And if they won’t go, you might have to evict them.

Landlords must follow a strict legal procedure if they want to evict their tenants. If they don’t, it’s considered an illegal eviction, which is a criminal offence. In most cases in England or Wales, a landlord will need to get a court order and give written notice (a Section 21) before an eviction can proceed. The exact process depends on the terms laid out in the tenancy agreement. The rules for eviction are different in Scotland and in Northern Ireland

More information for landlords on their rights and responsibilities

See the relevant government guidance for letting your property in:

Tenants’ rights and responsibilities

Tenants have the right to be able to enjoy their home without any unnecessary disturbance. As such, a landlord needs to get permission (usually 24 hours’ notice) before entering a property during the tenancy.

Tenants also have the right to live in a property that’s safe and in good condition. They should be able to see an Energy Performance Certificate for the property – as this will give an indication of how well insulated it is.

Any deposit should be returned when the tenancy ends, and you should be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent. The tenancy agreement should comply with the law and be fair. There are certain legal documents that your landlord should give you at the start of your tenancy, although these may vary depending on where you live. Tenants should be given:

  • A copy of the How to Rent guide if you live in England
  • A tenant information pack if you live in Scotland

But as well as your rights, tenants also have certain responsibilities, including the following.

‘Right to Rent’ documents

Tenants have to provide any necessary legal documents, such as a passport, so their landlord can confirm they have a right to rent. Landlords can refuse a tenancy to anyone who doesn’t meet the legal criteria.

Rent and other charges

If you’re renting your home, you’re responsible for paying rent on time, as outlined in your tenancy agreement. You’re also responsible for any other charges agreed with the landlord, such as utility bills and Council Tax. All fees should be explicitly laid out in your tenancy agreement. You have the right to challenge any excessively high charges.

Repairs 

If a tenant, their friends or family members cause any damage to the property, it’s up to the tenant to arrange and cover the cost of repairs. You should also report anything that needs repairing to your landlord promptly.

Care of the property

Tenants need to make sure the property is kept in a ‘reasonable condition’ throughout the tenancy period. If you’ve just signed a rental agreement, you should be given a full inventory of all furnishings, appliances and any damage when you move in. At the end of the tenancy, it’s your duty to leave the property exactly as you found it. It could be a good idea to take photos when you move in to remind you of the condition you need to return the place to when you leave – this will also help avoid any disagreements.

Responsible behaviour

It goes without saying that tenants should avoid aggressive and antisocial behaviour toward neighbours. But they’re also responsible for the behaviour of any visitors to their home.

Keep to the rules of the tenancy

Most tenancy agreements will have a set of rules that a tenant needs to stick to, such as:

  • No smoking
  • No pets
  • No subletting.

If the tenant doesn’t meet their obligations, the landlord has the right to take legal action and evict them. 

Where can I compare insurance for landlords?

If you’re a landlord, you’ll want to be sure you have the right cover to protect you and your property. Compare the Market can help you find a range of specialised landlord insurance quotes, including rent protection insurance. And if you’re a tenant, we can help you too.

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