Obligations of Accidental Landlords Explained

05 July 2019

If the owner of a rental property passes away, then the person dealing with their Estate will automatically become the landlord of that property. This is referred to as an 'accidental landlord' as they will have fallen into this position without necessarily intending to.

An accidental landlord has exactly the same obligations as any other landlord. In this article, we explain what those obligations are.

What is an Accidental Landlord?

An accidental landlord is anybody who has become a landlord without having set out to do so. Executors and Administrators can find themselves in this position if the Estate contains a rental property, or if the deceased's property is rented out after their death. Other people may become accidental landlords as a result of struggling to sell their home, being left with no other choice than to rent it out.

Being an accidental landlord can bring significant challenges. For example, it's likely that an accidental landlord won't have any prior experience or knowledge of renting out a property. Also, they may not live near to the property in question, which can make maintaining and managing the property significantly more challenging.

What Obligations Does an Accidental Landlord Have?

The obligations of an accidental landlord are exactly the same as the obligations of any other landlord, and failure to fulfil these can carry significant consequences. For this reason, it's important for all landlords to be fully aware of their obligations, regardless of whether they having taken on this role by accident.

These are as follows...

1. Protecting the Tenant's Deposit

All landlords, accidental or otherwise, must place their tenant's security deposit in one of three government-backed deposit protection schemes. This is to prevent landlords from withholding deposits from tenants at the end of their tenancy without fair reason.

The three government-backed schemes are Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and Tenancy Protection Scheme. Provided the tenant meets the terms of their tenancy agreement, doesn't damage the property and pays their rent and bills then the scheme will ensure that they receive their deposit back.

2. Ensuring Tenants Have a Right to Rent in the UK

Since 2014, it has been a legal requirement for all landlords to check that their tenants have a legal right to rent property in the UK.

In order to comply with this obligation, the landlord needs to obtain the relevant documents from the tenant to prove that they are eligible to live and rent a property in the UK. A list of which documents can be accepted can be found on the Gov.uk website.

3. Ensuring the property is safe

Landlords are responsible for making sure that their rental property is in a good state of repair and in a safe condition for their tenants to live in. This includes keeping the property in a good state of repair, both internally and externally

There are a number of requirements that landlords need to fulfil to meet this obligation, some of which will need to be carried out by qualified professionals. This includes carrying out regular safety checks on the gas and electricity supply, as well as PAT testing any appliances.

There are also fire safety standards that must be adhered to. A smoke alarm must be provided on each storey of the property and access to fire escapes and other exits must not be obstructed. If the property is furnished, then this furniture will need to meet the relevant fire safety standards.

In addition, if any rooms have a solid fuel burning appliance (such as a log burner) then a carbon monoxide alarm must be fitted in this room. Houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) must also have fire doors and fire extinguishers installed.

4. Provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

All landlords of residential rental properties must obtain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property and make a copy of this available to their tenants. The Energy Performance Certificate gives the property an energy performance rating between A – G, with A being the most energy efficient and G the least. The EPC takes into account factors such as insulation and double glazing, as well as the quality of doors and windows.

Any properties that are rated F or G cannot be rented out until measures have been taken to improve the rating to E or above. This is in an effort to combat energy consumption and carbon emissions, as well as preventing tenants from having to pay high energy bills.

5. Obtain a Licence for the Property

Landlords in England and Wales may need to be apply for a licence in order to rent their property out. This applies to all rental properties in Wales, which need to be registered with a government scheme called Rent Smart.

In England whether or not a landlord needs to obtain a licence will depend on where the property is located. Some local authorities operate a licencing scheme which to certain areas within that district. If a property falls within this area, a licence will be required in order to rent the property out.

The purpose of these schemes is to ensure that rental properties meet the required standard in order to be rented out.

6. Landlord's Liability

A final consideration for landlords, whether accidental or otherwise, is that they have a general duty of care towards their tenants, as well as visitors to the property. If this duty of care is breached and a tenant or visitor is harmed as a result, then the landlord could be liable to pay compensation.

For this reason, it's wise to take out landlord's insurance that includes landlord liability cover.

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