As a landlord, there are lots of different rules and responsibilities that come with your line of work. From maintaining your property(s), ensuring they’re pest-free, or making sure the property is a safe place for tenants, it can be a bit of a minefield—especially for new landlords.
Below, we’ll cover what you need to know and some common FAQs about your responsibilities as a landlord in the UK. Because maintaining a safe property can be at least as important as protecting your property with the right landlord insurance.
Table of Contents
- Are landlords responsible for repairs?
- Are landlords responsible for pest control?
- Are landlords responsible for safety?
Landlord responsibilities UK
Whether you’re a private, commercial, or registered social landlord, you will have different obligations. But, what are landlords responsible for?
The responsibilities of private landlords are comprehensive compared to the other two types. For private landlords dealing in residential properties, the golden rule is to always ensure the property is safe and fit for human habitation. This may include repairing and maintaining the property and keeping on top of safety issues.
Commercial landlord responsibilities—for those running office space, shop fronts or other types of business premises—include ensuring the property is safe for both tenants and anyone else visiting the property. This typically includes communal areas as a minimum.
However, unlike in private lettings, commercial tenants also have a responsibility to provide a safe environment. This is part of their duty as the ‘responsible person’ in ensuring the health and safety of employees, which includes access to working in a reasonable temperature, safe drinking water, adequate hygiene facilities and more.
A registered social landlord is a name for landlords part of housing corporations or housing associations. The rules for registered social landlords are similar to private landlords in regards to providing a healthy and safe space for tenants to live.
Landlord repairs responsibilities
Landlords will be responsible for maintaining certain parts of the property, ensuring your tenants can safely and comfortably carry out their tenancy.
For private landlords, section eight of the Landlord and Tenant Act states that the property must be in "a condition that...is fit for human habitation" and "will be kept by the landlord fit for human habitation during the tenancy." Generally speaking, this can also be applied to both commercial and social landlords in keeping a property in good order.
While you may be responsible for some areas, the tenant is also liable for other repair and maintenance areas. The best starting point is always to consult the current tenancy agreement, inventory and the Act. As a general rule though, if the problem relates to the property being in a safe and fit state for habitation, then it’s the landlord's responsibility.
It’s your legal obligation to maintain the structural integrity of the property, as this directly relates to the ability of tenants to safely live in the property. Additionally, you must ensure the property is kept in ‘good repair’ throughout the tenancy.
Other responsibilities you must meet are allowing enough natural light into the property, installing ventilation, insulating the property, and having sanitation, hygiene, cooking and waste disposal facilities.
While you may be legally responsible to carry out some repairs, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will be out of pocket. The tenant must also act in a ‘tenant like manner’ and maintain the good standard of the property. If damages were caused by your tenant, as set out in a tenancy agreement, then they can be charged to cover the costs of repair works.
It’s worth mentioning that these responsibilities will largely be relevant for private and registered social landlords. Commercial landlords typically have fewer responsibilities, as most actually lay with the ‘responsible person’, who is often specified as the employer or commercial tenant who rents the property.
Who is responsible for mould: landlord or tenant?
It is the landlord’s responsibility to take actions to prevent damp and mould in the property. Mainly relevant for private landlords, this could include fixing water leaks, correcting any structural defects as well as installing adequate ventilation (such as a fan in the bathroom) to ensure there isn’t a build-up of condensation.
If you or a handyperson are required to enter the property to carry out any repairs, you legally must give private residential tenants at least 24 hours' notice and visit at a reasonable time of day.
However, tenants will be responsible for the build-up of black mould on walls if it’s the result of a lack of ventilation on their part. For example, drying clothes on a radiator while not opening a window to allow for air circulation. Or not having adequate heating on in the colder, damper months of the year.
It can be difficult to find the root cause of damp. If a leaky pipe or structural issue isn’t the most likely cause, it can be the tenants’ responsibility to prove their innocence in acting properly. Therefore, black mould on walls isn’t always the landlord’s responsibility.
Is the tenant or landlord responsible for a clogged drain?
The tenant is responsible for clogged drains in almost all cases. For example, clogged drains are typically caused by a buildup of hair or disposing of items down the drain which you aren’t supposed to. Clogged sinks in this case aren’t the landlord’s responsibility.
On the flip side, blocked drains are the landlord’s responsibility when the tenancy begins. This is because you’re responsible to ensure the property is in good order when the tenancy begins. So you should ensure drains are functioning before a new tenant moves in.
Landlord garden responsibilities
Landlords are responsible for parts of the garden which fall under the health and safety of the tenants. For instance, repairing structures like fences or walls, as well as other hard landscaping features like decking or a patio.
Meanwhile, it’s common to have the tenant responsible for undertaking the basic garden maintenance. This could be mowing the lawn, de-weeding, or trimming hedges. It’s a good idea to set out exactly who’s responsible for what in the tenancy agreement.
Are landlords responsible for pest control?
Landlords are responsible for pest control and ensuring a vermin-free environment for the tenants. This is because pests like rats can easily spread bacteria and disease, which threatens the health and safety of tenants.
This includes dealing with pests once they’ve entered the property, as well as aiming to prevent their entry in the first place. However, depending on a tenancy agreement, some kinds of infestation could be the responsibility of the tenant if it was due to actions of the tenant, such as attracting rats due to an unclean environment.
Are moths the landlord’s responsibility?
Moths can be the landlord’s responsibility, depending on when they were introduced. For example, if it is clear that they were present in the property before a tenant moved in, then it would be your responsibility.
However, if it’s a long-term tenant and they appear long after the tenancy begins, it’s arguably up to the tenant to resolve the issue.
Is the landlord responsible for mice and rats?
Rat and mice infestations will typically be the responsibility of the landlord. With the threat to health and safety clear as they can easily spread infection and disease, you must deal with the problem to ensure the property is fit for human habitation.
If a tenant contacts you about an infestation, you should move quickly. Rats and mice especially can reproduce very quickly, so acting decisively and getting in an exterminator as soon as possible is your best course of action.
Exterminator landlord responsibility
As pests typically fall under the landlord’s responsibility, the landlord is usually responsible for paying for the cost of calling out an exterminator to deal with the infestation. Costs could include call-outs, traps, collecting and emptying traps, fumigation and more.
On average, pest control and exterminators will cost you around £150-£200 per day, but the cost can depend on a number of factors. For example, the location of your property, the type of pests you have, the number of visits the exterminator will need and how bad the infestation is.
Landlord safety responsibilities
Landlords are responsible for a range of areas to ensure the tenants’ health and safety, and provide a space free of dangers and hazards. This is as part of providing a property ‘fit for human habitation’, and it’s a legal responsibility for private and registered social landlords. While similar, commercial landlords have certain health and safety responsibilities, too.
Landlord responsibility fire safety
You must ensure you meet the legal fire safety standards to keep your tenants safe, as well as protect your property. A fire breaking out can cause expensive damage or bodily injury in a matter of minutes, or make your property inhabitable.
It’s essential for landlords to follow the fire safety regulations to protect your property and your tenants. Your individual responsibilities can differ based on your landlord type (e.g., private, commercial or social registered), so it’s best to contact your local authority to double-check your responsibilities. But generally, the legal fire safety responsibilities for landlord include:
- Smoke alarms: It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide fire alarms and smoke detectors on each floor, and any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a wood-burning stove).
- Fire extinguishers: Not all private landlords are required to provide fire extinguishers. Commercial landlords will typically be responsible for providing them alongside any other essential equipment, but this does depend on your lease and agreement.
- Escape routes: Ensure tenants have access to fire escape routes at all times. An escape route includes external such as an outside stairway, or internal like a fire door. Walls should be constructed using fire-resistant materials.
- Furnishings: Ensure both the furniture and any furnishings are fire-safe and meet fire safety standards. Landlords are not responsible for any furniture or furnishing owned by the tenant.
- Houses in multiple occupation (HMO): For HMOs, you should provide fire alarms and extinguishers. While it’s only required for large HMOs, it’s always a good idea to go beyond the minimum obligations. They are also legally required to have fire doors to contain fires.
For private landlords, failure to meet requirements, such as not including adequate fire alarms and smoke detectors, can face a fine of £5,000 by local authorities if there’s a failure to comply.
You should ensure smoke alarms are working. This should be at the start of each new tenancy. However, after this point, it is the tenants’ responsibility to undergo regular testing. Although, given the risk to both the tenants and your property, it may still be worthwhile testing this yourself.
Landlord responsibilities carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide alarms are the landlord’s responsibility and are required in a property and in any room that contains a solid fuel-burning appliance. For example, a coal-powered stove or a wood-fueled fireplace.
Although, gas appliances can also emit carbon monoxide. To be safe and protect your tenants, it’s best to be safe and ensure there are also alarms in these rooms which use gas, too.
Like fire alarms, you are responsible for testing the carbon monoxide alarms at the start of every new tenancy. However, after that point, it is the responsibility of the tenant to check the alarms are in working order. This includes general testing and organising the replacement of batteries or the alarm itself.
If a carbon monoxide detector needs to be installed at your property, it should be positioned at head height, such as on a wall or shelf, around 1-3 metres away from a potential carbon monoxide source.
Electrical safety landlord responsibility
You must ensure the property has a safe electrical system, which includes sockets, switches and light fittings. In England, private landlords are required to get a qualified electrician to ensure the safety of electrical installations, with checks ongoing every five years.
Things that constitute a good electrical installation can include there being enough sockets for appliances to avoid overuse and overloading sockets.
All appliances you provide as the landlord should be safe. Electrical Safety First say most deaths from electric shock and fires are caused by faulty or misused appliances. It’s, therefore, the landlord’s responsibility to undergo electrical testing, and it’s recommended you inspect appliances regularly to help prevent any issues.
You can also carry out safety inspections on appliances with qualified electricians and register them with the manufacturer in case of a product recall.
Simple things you can do regularly include a basic visual check. For instance, looking for broken accessories or damaged wiring, overloaded plug sockets or even the use of potentially dangerous appliances brought in by your tenants. You could include a clause in your agreements that restricts tenants from bringing in higher-risk appliances to the property, such as portable heaters.
You must also provide tenants with a copy of your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which rates your energy efficiency - this is a legal requirement for private landlords. It’s also worth mentioning that private residential properties need to have a minimum EPC rating of E.
Gas leak landlords responsibility
Landlords must ensure properties are safe, which includes fixing any gas leaks as soon as possible. These provide a serious threat to the health and safety to your tenants, but as well as your property.
Firstly, you’re legally required to ensure the gas supply has been installed safely by a registered Gas Safe engineer, with checks required annually. A gas safety certificate must then be supplied to tenants.
Any permanent, as well as portable gas appliances and flues in your property requires this annual safety check. This includes any appliance that your tenant brings into the property themselves, whereby you’re responsible for its installation but not for the appliance itself.
Failure to comply and resultantly provide an unsafe condition for tenants is a criminal offence, so it’s essential to make sure you carry out the checks. This is the case for private, registered social landlords as well as commercial.
Overall, there are lots of responsibilities when it comes to being a landlord. While responsibilities differ slightly whether you’re a private, commercial, or registered social landlord, the same core responsibilities are the same in ensuring the property is safe and proper.
Despite what you're legally required to do, however, it’s always a good idea to go above and beyond your responsibilities. Especially when the health and safety of your tenants are concerned, and importantly protecting your property investment.