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How to be a responsible landlord

Mon 21 Oct 2019

It’s vitally important, when letting your property out to tenants, that you comply with the law, take your legal obligations seriously and provide a home that is warm, safe, habitable and in good condition.

While these are just the basic standards that landlords should abide by, this isn’t always the case and it can be easy to get complacent.

It’s hugely pleasing, therefore, to see that Scottish landlords have been praised for taking their legal responsibilities seriously, with deposit protection service SafeDeposits Scotland recently applauding those letting homes north of the border for renting responsibly.

What did SafeDeposits Scotland find?

SafeDeposits Scotland, which protects approximately 60% of all tenant deposits in the country, researched the rates of landlords failing to protect tenants’ deposits and found that landlords of rented properties in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire have been most responsible. There were just 17 cases of landlords with AB postcodes being taken to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) by their tenants for failing to protect their deposits.

While privately rented properties in Scotland’s two main cities – Glasgow and Edinburgh - accounted for the greatest number of cases heard by the Tribunal, with 38 and 37 cases respectively, this is still pleasingly low given the size of these cities and their rental markets.

Ian Potter, chair of SafeDeposits Scotland, said of the findings: “While there were 17 instances of North East landlords being taken to the Tribunal by their tenants, to put that into context; SafeDeposits Scotland protects the deposits of almost 15,000 tenants in the area.

“It’s great to see the overwhelming majority of landlords taking their legal responsibilities seriously and looking after their tenants’ deposits.”

Potter said deposit protection legislation is designed to protect all parties involved in the private rented sector and costs landlords nothing to comply with. What’s more, the schemes offer free and impartial adjudication services to ensure that any deductions from deposits are fair and can be scrutinised if a dispute takes place.

Although SafeDeposts Scotland believe most landlords operate within the rules, the findings from its research into the first 18 months of the First-tier Tribunal does highlight that there are still some out there who aren’t playing by the rules. “In most of the cases we’ve looked at, the landlord has not acted out of malice, but was either simply unaware of the legislation or forgot. However, that does not reassure tenants or save landlords from fines,” Potter added.

We’ve looked previously at the importance of protecting tenants’ deposits in the right way, and how landlords can be affected financially if they don’t. It’s been a legal requirement since 2012 for landlords to protect tenants’ deposits in one of three government-approved schemes – SafeDeposits Scotland, Letting Protection Service Scotland and my|deposits Scotland – within 30 working days of the tenancy starting.

If you don’t comply, you could be ordered by the Tribunal to pay up to three times the deposit to your tenant. While the average award is actually 1.31 times the deposit value, and varies by region, this can still add up to a sizeable outlay – with some non-compliant landlords paying out as much as £4,000 in certain cases.

What else do landlords need to be aware of?

Deposit protection is only a small, albeit important, part of your role as a landlord – there is plenty else you need to bear in mind to ensure you are letting your home safely, legally and securely.

In a previous blog, we outlined what landlords need to do before tenants move in – from preparing an inventory and checking smoke alarms to sorting the correct landlord insurance and making the home clean, tidy and presentable – while during the tenancy itself landlords need to be aware of maintenance and repairs, gas checks, energy efficiency and health and safety regulations.

New regulations and legislation concerning Scotland’s private rented sector is ever-evolving, and often fast-changing, which means landlords need to be up to speed at all times with their obligations.

There are, for example, a range of safety measures you must abide by. This includes ensuring that all electrical equipment, white goods and plug sockets are safe and functioning properly, while you should ensure boilers in your rental properties are serviced regularly to give and your tenants peace of mind that it’s working safely and efficiently.  

Additionally, you must make sure that all furnishings and furniture are fire-safe or fire retardant, while a Gas Safety Certificate or CP12 must be obtained for your property. This certificate, a legal requirement for all landlords, confirms that all gas appliances are safe.

An annual gas safety check should be carried out, to help ensure there is no risk to tenants from the gas supply, as well as ensuring that all pipework, flues and appliances are installed and maintained correctly.

Furthermore, to prove your home’s energy efficiency, you must provide new tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), providing them with information on how energy efficient a building is and how it could be improved.

If you rent out your home and don’t provide an EPC, you could face a minimum fine of £500, while the same is true if you don’t include your home’s energy rating when advertising it.

This year, there were several changes in legislation relating to fire and smoke alarms – action taken after the tragic and devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017. Under the new standard, every property must include one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes, one smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings, one heat alarm installed in every kitchen

All alarms must be ceiling mounted and interlinked, while there is also a requirement for carbon monoxide detectors to be fitted where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as boilers, open fires, heaters and stoves) or a flue. You can find out more here.

The above is not an exhaustive list of the ways in which you can ensure you are a responsible landlord. To guarantee it is the case, it’s advised that you work closely with a reliable, experience letting agent, who can help to ensure you let your homes safely and compliant.

At Letting Solutions, West Lothian’s first dedicated lettings agency, we have the knowledge to help you get the most from your rental properties. Please call us on 01506 496 006.

We also provide a free and instant online valuation to give you an idea of how much you could be charging in rent each month.

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