Legal stuff for landlords

All landlords must abide by an ever-growing number of rules and regulations. We will keep you up-to-date with any changes necessary to ensure compliance and will arrange all legally-required safety checks.  Some of the things you will need to consider are listed below. Please note we do not currently offer property management for HMOs and as the law is slightly different, we suggest you contact an expert in this field.

Please note that what is written here only covers your legal responsibilities as a landlord and you might also wish to take advice on certain areas where best practice is advisable. There is no legal obligation to provide fire blankets in kitchens, for instance, but it would certainly be prudent to do so. Contact us if you would like more information about this or anything else here.

Carbon monoxide alarms

From October 2015, Scottish law will require carbon monoxide detectors to be fitted in all rental properties and further details about these will come out during the course of this year.

Current regulation dictates that there should be a carbon monoxide alarm installed when a new or replacement boiler or other fixed heating appliance is installed in a dwelling. This also includes properties with wood-burning stoves and applies to any fixed heating appliance powered by a carbon- based fuel such as gas (both mains and LPG), oil and solid fuel (coal, coke, wood, wood pellets, etc).

In 2013, changes were made to the Government’s Technical Handbook for Building Standards about carbon monoxide alarms. It is quite wordy, but their guidance is as follows:

“In order to alert occupants to the presence of levels of carbon monoxide which may be harmful to people, a detection system should be installed in all dwellings where:

  • A new or replacement fixed combustion appliance (excluding an appliance used solely for cooking) is installed in the dwelling; or
  • A new or replacement fixed combustion appliance is installed in an inter-connected space, for example, an integral garage.

Carbon monoxide detectors should comply with BS EN 50291-1:2010 powered by a battery designed to operate for the working life of the detector. The detector should include a warning device to alert the users when its working life is due to expire. Hard wired mains operated carbon monoxide detectors complying with BS EN 50291-1:2010 (Type A) with fixed wiring (not plug-in types) may be used as an alternative, provided they are fitted with a sensor failure warning device.

The guidance in this clause takes account of the audibility levels in adjoining rooms and the effect of carbon monoxide moving throughout the building. Carbon monoxide detectors should include an integral sounder.

A carbon monoxide detection system to alert occupants to the presence of carbon monoxide should consist of at least:

  • One carbon monoxide detector in every space containing a fixed combustion appliance (excluding an appliance used solely for cooking); and
  • One carbon monoxide detector to provide early warning to high-risk accommodation (such as a bedroom or principal habitable room) where a flue passes through these rooms.

Unless otherwise indicated by the manufacturer, carbon monoxide detectors should be either ceiling mounted and positioned at least 300mm from any wall; or wall mounted and positioned at least 150mm below the ceiling and higher than any door or window in the room.

Where carbon monoxide detectors are located within a circulation space they should be sited not more than 3m from the door to any bedroom. Carbon monoxide detectors in the space containing the combustion appliance should be sited between 1m and 3m from the appliance.

Note: where the combustion appliance is located in a small space it may not be possible to locate the detector within that space. In such circumstances the detector may be located at the appropriate distance outside the space.

A carbon monoxide detector should not be sited:

  • in an enclosed space, eg in a cupboard or behind a curtain;
  • where it can be obstructed, eg by furniture;
  • directly above a sink;
  • next to a door or window;
  • next to an extractor fan;
  • next to an air vent or similar ventilation opening;
  • in an area where the temperature may drop below -10°C or exceed 40°C, unless it is specifically designed to do so;
  • where dirt and dust may block the sensor;
  • in a damp or humid location; or
  • in the immediate vicinity of the cooking appliance.

The provision of a carbon monoxide detection system should not be regarded as a substitute for the correct installation and regular servicing of a combustion appliance.”

We will update this section as the guidance is finalised later on in 2015.

Consent from your mortgage lender to let your property

If you have a mortgage you must obtain consent from your mortgage lender before you rent out your property.

Deposits

Landlords are legally obliged to register all tenants’ deposits with one of three government approved schemes in Scotland: Letting Protection Scotland, Safedeposits Scotland, or My Deposits Scotland. These companies will hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy and release it at the end. There are some exceptions to which tenancies are eligible for these schemes and information about this can be found here.

Electrical safety

Landlords are legally obliged to ensure that their rental property and any electrical equipment they provide is safe for a tenant to use. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 states in Section 13 of the Repairing Standard that a house or flat meets the Repairing Standard if:

  • The installations in the house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water, are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order (subsection (1)(c));

and

  • Any fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order (subsection (1)(d)).

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 also impose an obligation on a landlord to ensure that all electrical appliances left as part of a let property are safe and meet safety objectives.

In addition, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 has introduced a new requirement in connection with Section 19 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, Section 19A – Duty to ensure regular electrical safety inspections. A landlord must ensure that regular inspections are carried out for the purpose of identifying any work which relates to installations for the supply of electricity and electrical fixtures, fittings and appliances (subsection (1)(a)) necessary to ensure that the house meets the repairing standard (subsection (1)(b)).

The Electrical Safety Council states that a landlord will have complied with their duty if electrical inspections are carried out at least every five years (subsection (2)(a) and (b).

Any tenant under a new tenancy commencing on or after 1 December 2015 must be provided with a copy of an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) before the tenancy commences.

Any tenant under an existing tenancy at 30 November 2015 must be provided with a copy of an EICR by 1 December 2016 unless their tenancy ends before that date.

An EICR completed on or after 1 January 2012 completed by a competent person is acceptable, whether or not it in includes a description and location for appliances inspected. However, to be acceptable all EICRs completed on or after 1 December 2015 must have a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) record attached to it that shows their description and location and a certificate for any remedial work that has been done.Click here for more information about this.

Energy performance certificate

Landlords in Scotland have a legal duty to provide all new tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before they move into a property, so that tenants can understand how much energy they are likely to use and the financial and environmental costs associated with it. Landlords will be fined for failing to do this. It is also a criminal offence to grant a lease without an EPC on any building that requires one.

If you purchased your property after December 1st 2008, the seller will have been legally required to provide you with a Home Report for marketing purposes, which would have contained an EPC. If you as a landlord have not implemented any energy-related improvements since then, it will be fine to use this EPC as it has a lifespan of 10 years. If you have performed any upgrades relating to energy efficiency, then you will need to get it refreshed at a cost of approximately £75 + VAT.

Furniture must meet fire safety regulations

Fire safety regulations vary according to the type of property you rent out and all landlords must abide by The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2010. You can read the legislation in full here.

It is now an offence to supply furniture in a residential property to be let which does not comply with the regulations. These apply to beds, bed-heads, sofas, children’s furniture, garden furniture suitable for use in a dwelling, cushions, pillows, stretch or loose covers for furniture and other similar items. The regulations do not apply to carpets, curtains and bedding (including duvets and mattress covers).

All relevant labels must be left on furniture too so that a tenant is able to see at a glance that the item is compliant. If you need any more advice on aspects of this, you can contact Trading Standards or the fire service.

Gas safety

Landlords are legally bound to ensure that gas appliances and gas installation pipe work are checked for safety at least once a year by a Gas Safe registered installer. In addition, accurate records of safety inspections and any work carried out must also be kept and the current safety certificate must be issued to the occupier within 28 days of the annual check. New tenants must receive a copy prior to them taking occupation of a property.

Under the regulations any appliance that does not conform can be immediately disconnected and any faulty equipment which results in the death or injury of an occupant will lead to the fining and prosecution of a landlord for failure to protect their tenant. For more detailed information on gas safety see the Heath and Safety Executive’s (HSE) leaflet on Landlords: A Guide to Landlords’ Duties here and consult the HSE Gas Safety webpage here.

HMRC

You will need to inform HMRC if you are landlord and collecting rents from a property that you own. If you live abroad the regulations are different and may be accessed here.

Landlord insurance

Insurance is not a legal requirement, but if you have a mortgage on your buy-to-let property, the lender will usually insist that appropriate buildings insurance is in place. Many insurers offer specific landlord insurance so it is always worth shopping around to see what is on offer. Consider a policy that covers you for accidental and malicious damage, subsidence, loss of rent and one that adequately protects your contents too if you have a furnished let. While the tenant is responsible for insuring their own possessions, it would be prudent to make sure yours are protected too.

Landlord registration

Since 2006, all private landlords letting properties in Scotland must apply for and gain registration in the register of landlords held with the Local Authority. This is to ensure that all private landlords in Scotland are fit and proper to be letting residential property. You can apply online to register as a landlord. The current charges for this area are £55 per landlord and £11 per property.

Legionella risk assessment

Landlords are responsible for the water systems in their properties and have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of their tenants being exposed to legionella is properly assessed and controlled. All water systems require a risk assessment, but not all systems require elaborate control measures. A simple risk assessment may show that there are no real risks from legionella, but if there are, implementing appropriate measures will prevent or control these risks. The Risk Assessment and Certificate currently costs around £75 + VAT.

The Health and Safety Executive have produced technical guidance on Legionnaire’s disease, and the control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems (HSG274/PART 2), which may be read in full here.

Repairs

Landlords are responsible for the maintenance of and major repairs to a property. This includes repairs to the exterior and structure of the property, as well as internal heating and hot water installations, basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations. Private landlords have a duty to ensure that the property they rent to tenants meets the Repairing Standard as laid out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 Section 13, part (1):

  • The house is wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation;
  • The structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external pipes) are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
  • Installations in the house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
  • Any fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy are in a reasonable state of repair and are in proper working order;
  • Any furnishings provided by the landlord under the tenancy are capable of being used safely for the purpose for which they are designed; and
  • The house has satisfactory provision for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of a fire or suspected fire.

Landlords are also responsible for any additional damage they may cause inadvertently while attempting repairs. If you want to read more, you can find the document in full here.

Smoke alarms

The Scottish Government has produced revised statutory guidance on the requirements for smoke alarms in line with the amended and revised technical guidance that has been issued by Building Standards Division (Technical Handbooks 2013 Domestic – Fire). It states there should be at least:

  • One mains-wired smoke alarm in the room which is frequently used by the occupants for general daytime living purposes; and
  • One mains-wired smoke alarm in every circulation space, such as hallways and landings; and
  • One heat alarm in every kitchen.

All alarms should be mains-wired, interlinked and installed by a qualified electrician.