Legislation can be a minefield for landlords. Regulations and laws relating to the private rental sector are increasingly in a state of near constant flux, meaning changes can be easy to miss. And this can be costly for landlords who fail to comply.
The latest government survey into private letting found that many landlords are not compliant with basic legislation. For instance, 38 per cent of those questioned did not check a tenant’s right to rent, while 48 per cent did not issue tenants with the Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide. Meanwhile, over 30 per cent of landlords failed to provide carbon monoxide alarms. A potentially deadly mistake.
As a landlord, you have to stay one step ahead of changes in the law. Every year brings more stringent legislation and 2020 is no exception. Here, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know when it comes to legislation, updated for 2020.
1. Do you need a landlord licence?
At present, the only UK-wide ruling that requires a landlord to obtain a licence is if a property is let as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation). A property is classed as an HMO if at least three tenants live there – forming more than one household – and the toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared.
Courts are known to hand out huge fines to HMO landlords, and agents, who do not obtain HMO licences. In a recent case, a landlord and agent were given fines totalling £120,000 after a fatal house fire at an unlicensed HMO in Southall. LandlordZONE also reports that there are calls for tougher action surrounding the enforcement of HMO regulations, highlighting the need for landlords to ensure that they have obtained the appropriate licence for their property.
Individual councils are also able to issue selective licensing, through schemes that tackle poor housing stock or anti-social behaviour. This includes a 2018 ruling that allows them to define what constitutes an HMO in their area. An estimated 160,000 more rented homes required a licence under these decentralised powers. It is therefore a good idea to check with your local council to see if your property is classed as an HMO to license it correctly.
For more information on the exact guidelines for owning an HMO, please check the GOV UK licence details.
Landlords should also be aware that there are differences between HMO properties and bedsits which will impact licensing regulations.