The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 governs the various rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants of residential property tenancies. Prior to this date, there were no assured shorthold tenancy agreements, only regulated tenancies. Regulated tenancies had “fair” rents, which were set by rent officers.
In this article, we provide a brief overview of the rights and obligations under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and answer some frequently asked questions.
What is the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985?
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 was introduced to improve the position of both landlords and tenants. It provides more certainty for both parties and contains useful provisions to reduce the scope for discord. It introduced tenancy agreements that ran for seven years or less. Below we look at some of the main rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants included in the Act.
1. RIGHT TO KNOW YOUR LANDLORD
Commonly, landlords do not manage the property themselves but use letting agents, property managers or property companies. When this happens, it can mask the identity of the person making the decisions. The Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 demands that:
· If a tenant makes a written request for the landlord’s name and address
· Anyone collecting the rent
· Acting as an agent for the landlord
They must give the landlord’s name and address in writing to the tenant within 21 days of receiving the request.
If the landlord is a limited company, the tenant can make another written request asking for the names and addresses of the company’s secretary and directors, again with a 21 day deadline.
2. TENANTS MUST DEAL WITH MINOR REPAIRS
The tenancy agreement must set out what is classed as minor repairs and who will be responsible for them.
Under most tenancy agreements, tenants have four primary obligations, which are:
· Keep their home reasonably clean and tidy
· Make sure any electrical appliances they own are safe
· Keep any garden or outside area in a reasonable state
· Carry out minor maintenance, like changing dud light bulbs and smoke alarm batteries
The agreement should also include a condition that explains that any damages caused by the tenant, their children, their pets, or their visitors should be paid for by the tenant.
3. RIGHT OF QUIET ENJOYMENT FOR TENANTS
Quiet enjoyment is the legal term used to describe Section 9A (8) of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, which governs when a landlord or a contractor can enter a tenant’s home. Tenants should not confuse this with the right to live in a quiet environment or in a peaceful neighbourhood.
If entry to the building is required, the tenant is entitled to 24 hours notice in writing, unless there is an emergency, like a flood or fire. The tenant has the right to request a more convenient time for the appointment. However, once the appointment has been agreed upon, the tenant must let in the landlord or contractor when they arrive.
4. MAINTAINING SAFE LIVING STANDARDS
Landlords are obligated to ensure that the rented property is free from any health and safety hazards. Tenants should be aware that if they moved into the rented property before March 20, 2018, the landlord is only required to bring the home up to standard at the start of the tenancy agreement. However, since then, the obligation now applies to the full term of the tenancy.
5. WHAT IS MEANT BY SAFE LIVING STANDARDS?
Under section 10 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, it states that a privately rented home must be fit to live in. Landlords are required to address specific factors, including:
· Damp and mould – which makes the home unfit to live in because the property is in a poor state of repair.
· Rodents (such as rats and mice) and pests – Landlords must stop pests from getting into the property.
· Gas safety – Landlords must commission annual inspections.
· Electrical safety – Wiring, plugs, light sockets, and any appliances supplied by the landlord should be checked at least every five years.
· Fire safety – Landlords must supply working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at the start of the tenancy agreement.
6. LANDLORDS MUST DEAL WITH MAJOR REPAIRS
A tenancy agreement will cover the responsibility of minor maintenance issues, but Section 11 of the Act governs the landlord’s obligations to maintain and repair a privately rented home. Major repairs include:
· The structure of the building, including the roof, windows, and doors
· Gas pipes, radiators, and boilers
· Electrical wiring
· Water pipes from the mains into the home and hot water
· Sinks, baths, toilets, showers and drains
· Common areas like halls and corridors in shared housing
· Making good repairs by reinstating and decorating once they are completed
7. REPORTING A REPAIR
Once a tenant has reported an issue, landlords are required to sort out repairs in a reasonable time. What constitutes as a reasonable time will depend on the nature of the repair. For example, a boiler may require attention within 24 hours, but a missing roof tile could take up to 30 days.
Reporting a repair can be done by phone, email or in writing to the landlord or via a smartphone app (if available).
Keeping records of when and how the repair was discussed and what action was decided
It is important that landlords and tenants keep records of when and how they discussed the repair and what action was decided.
Failure to carry out repairs is a civil offence and can lead to large fines being imposed on the landlord. However, there are some exceptions under the Act when a landlord won’t be penalised, such as:
· If the tenant has not told the landlord about the defect
· If the tenant does not allow the landlord to make the repairs
8. WHAT IS THE HOUSING HEALTH AND SAFETY RATING SYSTEM (HHSRS)?
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is the code that local councils will apply when deciding if a privately rented home is fit to live in.
All private rented homes in England and Wales must pass the HHSRS test.
The Ministry of Housing is considering updating the code by simplifying the 29 hazards the test looks at.
9. WHEN DID ELECTRICAL SAFETY RULES CHANGE?
From April 1, 2021, landlords must carry out an electrical installation safety report at least once every five years.
10. WHAT IS THE RIGHT TO RENT?
Private landlords and agents are legally required to check the immigration status of all tenants, lodgers and any other adults who will be living in the property.
The right to rent check must take place before the tenancy starts.
Tenants are therefore asked to provide documents to show they have the right to live in the UK, either permanently or temporarily.
· Right to Rent Coronavirus Rules Extended
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the right to rent guidance was amended on 30th March 2020, allowing for checks to be carried out in ways other than face to face.
The guidance has now been extended until 30 September 2022. From 1 October 2022, checks will revert to pre-pandemic rules (unless extended again, as seems to be regular and common).
The following changes apply until 30 September 2022 (inclusive):
· checks can be carried out over video calls
· tenants can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
· landlords should use the Landlord Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the accepted documents
For the full temporary Coronavirus guidance, please see here.
Expert Landlord and Tenant Advice
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 includes many provisions which will impact on both parties and this guide is not intended as legal advice. If you are a landlord or tenant dealing with any issues regarding the letting or managing of your residential rental property, you should discuss your circumstances with specialist solicitors. Seeking advice early on can help manage and resolve matters before things escalate, finding a more amicable resolution as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Our highly experienced property team, based near Trafalgar Square, provide expert advice and guidance to landlords and tenants. Our property lawyers in London deal with a wide range of property transactions and dispute resolution with a firm commitment to providing the highest quality service.