Landlord Rules and Regulations in the UK
Depending on whether you are buying property in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you will find there is different legislation and rules that apply. Obviously, it makes sense to read up on what is involved if your buy-to-let property is in a different country to the one in which you reside.
Rent Caps in Scotland
Short Assured Tenancies (SATs) in Scotland were done away with three years ago and replaced by Private Residential Tenancies (PRTs).
Under this new form of Tenancy Agreement, how much landlords can charge tenants is dependent on local rents ie those in the same area. In some locations the rent is capped by the local authority if they appear to be escalating.
In England and Wales most renters sign an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement. There are no caps to rental prices but landlords can only increase the rent when renewing the Tenancy Agreement and via a Section 13 notice. Alternatively, they can increase the rent mid-tenancy if there is a clause in the Agreement which states this.
There is no rent control, although rents can only be increased at the renewal of a tenancy, by serving a Section 13 rent increase notice, or by activating a rent increase clause in the Tenancy Agreement.
Evictions and Indefinite Tenure
In Scotland it is very difficult to evict a tenant – almost impossible, in fact, unless they have done something that is contrary to their Tenancy Agreement. Another reason for getting a tenant to leave could be if the landlord wants to move into the property themselves and use it as their main residence. It could also be that they intend to sell the flat within three months of the tenant moving out. This is because the Scottish PRT system gives tenants indefinite tenure.
In England it’s possible to evict a tenant using the Section 21 notice. This is known as a ‘no fault eviction’ notice and can be used once the fixed tenancy has come to an end. Landlords wishing to evict a tenant mid-tenancy can employ a Section 8 notice. There has been talk in recent years about abolishing Section 21 and English property legislation being more in line with Scotland, but nothing has been tabled in parliament to date.
In Wales the government are currently considering restricting no-fault evictions as they reform the private rental sector.
Repairs and overall state of your rental
The Homes (Fitness) Act 2018 declares all properties in England must be ‘fit for human habitation.’ That means devoid of mould, dampness and insect infestations. The local council can carry out a health inspection at any time as part of their Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Landlords must carry out repairs and maintenance within a reasonable timescale. This is both the exterior and internal fixtures such as the bath and heating system.
Scotland’s equivalent is the Tolerable Standard, outlined in the Housing (Scotland) 1987 Act, and bans rentals which have dampness, no indoor toilet or dangerous structural issues.
In Wales there is no such ‘standards’ act, although this may change in the next couple of years with the Renting Homes (Wales) Act. Although it was passed by parliament four years ago, it is still to be introduced. The Act will bring in to force the HHSRS and make landlords ensure their homes are habitable.
Landlord Registration and Licensing
Both Scotland and Wales have a mandatory licencing scheme for landlords. In Scotland it is the Landlord Register and in Wales, Rent Smart. Landlords in England don’t have to register – although there are plans to introduce one.
HMO’s, though, are a different kettle of fish. These Houses of Multiple Occupation must be licenced in England and Wales, as well as Scotland. The latter also requires landlords who self-manage their properties under additional licencing, to attend training. In England there are both additional and selective licensing schemes.
Landlords and Statutory Info for Tenants
Landlords in England must give tenants a How to Rent booklet containing copies of gas, electrical and other safety certificates. In Scotland, new tenants must be given written tenancy terms. There is also a booklet of Easy Read Notes for tenants for landlords using the government’s Tenancy Agreement. If using their own then the PRT Statutory Terms Supporting Notes must be given.
In Wales there will be a template contract but landlords can also use their own. Any Tenancy Agreement must be issued within 14 days of the tenant moving in. Landlords must signpost to, or give, tenants the booklet Guide to Renting.
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