Prior to setting up any tenancy between a landlord and a sitting tenant, you will need to produce a tenancy agreement. This is the contract between you and your tenants which sets out the legal terms and conditions. While it can be written down or oral, it is a legal requirement. Most tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), and can be either fixed-term, for example for a period of 6 months or longer, or 'period', in that they will run on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis.
The tenancy agreements should include:
- the names of all parties
- the address of the property
- the rental price and how and when it's paid
- the start and end date of the tenancy
- the deposit amount, conditions, and details of the deposit protection scheme
- details of rent reviews
- the landlord obligations and obligations of the tenant
It can also include any other information that you deem relevant, such as restrictions on pets or certain activities, who's responsible for minor repairs, and whether the tenancy can be ended early.
Information you must provide
In addition to a tenancy agreement, landlords must also provide a copy of the latest gas safety check record. This should be given to the new tenants before they move in, and to existing tenants within 28 days of the completion of latest gas check record. It can be provided by electronic means if your tenant agrees, and can access it, although you must give them a paper copy if they request one. You should also provide an Energy Performance Certificate for the property and ensure that all your rented properties are safe and free from hazards.
While you are responsible for any gas equipment that is installed at the premises at the start of the tenancy, you are not responsible for the gas safety checks for any of the tenant's own appliances, for example if they bring their own gas cooker. Furthermore, you are not responsible for the flue, if the flue is only used by the tenant's own appliances. However, it is recommended that you include all flues in your gas safety checks, even if they don't service appliances provided by you.
Access to the property
You should always include details in your tenancy agreement of how and when you can access the property, whether this is to carry out routine maintenance or to allow for gas safety checks.
If you are having difficulty accessing the property to complete maintenance or checks, there are several things you can do. Remember, it is against the law to force entry, so if you are having difficulty accessing your property you should keep a record of all steps you have taken, plus any correspondence issued to your tenants. For example, leave a notice for the tenant stating that an unsuccessful attempt was made to complete a gas safety check, or write to the tenant, explaining that a gas safety check is a legal requirement and that it is for their own safety.
Can I delegate responsibility to tenants for maintenance and gas safety checks?
You cannot delegate responsibility to a tenant for maintenance (other than minor maintenance as agreed in the tenancy agreement) or gas safety checks, except for appliances which are installed in non-residential parts of a commercial premises.
If a tenant damages the property, who pays for the repairs?
This is something that should be clearly explained in the tenancy agreement. In addition, your tenancy agreement should make it clear who is responsible for repairs if damage is caused to appliances or flues by a tenant.
What happens if there is a problem with the heating
If a heating appliance is disconnected for safety reasons, you must offer some form of emergency heating while the appropriate remedial work is carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer. If the engineer switches off an appliance, due to concerns over its safety, it must not be used under any circumstances.
Do I need to provide a carbon monoxide alarm?
At present, it is not a legal requirement to provide a carbon monoxide alarm, however this is strongly advised by the Health and Safety Executive.
Dealing with non-payment of rent
If your tenant has stopped paying the rent, it might be tempting just to serve them notice. However there is a recommended procedure to be followed:
- Keep a record of payments due, the date they should be paid, and dates of payment. This will prove useful if you need to make an application to court.
- Send your tenant a letter asking for payment, followed by a further letter after 14 days if the outstanding rent hasn't been received. After 21 days you can send a final letter confirming that you intend to take legal action.
- This should be the final step before considering court action.
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