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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: