5 Essential Rules Every Buy-to-Let Landlord Must Follow

In this article
Not able to pay mortgage
Talk to an Expert

Investing in the buy-to-let market can be a lucrative and rewarding endeavour, but it also entails various responsibilities and legal requirements. As a landlord, it is necessary to understand the legal framework surrounding rental properties and ensure compliance with all relevant regulations. One of the key obligations for landlords is to provide safe and habitable accommodation for their tenants.

Landlords must also comply with certain legal requirements regarding tenancy agreements and rent payments. This includes providing tenants with a written agreement outlining the terms and conditions of the tenancy and protecting their deposit under a government-approved scheme.

In this article, we will outline five rules that every BTL Landlord should know and adhere to  in order to improve their chances of success and avoid unnecessary pitfalls that may arise from not observing these rules. 

1. Comply with Legal Requirements

Ensuring that your buy-to-let property meets all legal safety standards is not just a recommendation, it is a legal obligation. Landlords who have failed to comply with essential regulations, such as annual gas safety checks, have faced substantial fines and penalties. The consequences of non-compliance can be severe, both financially and legally.

Some of the essential legal requirements for buy-to-let landlords include, but are not limited to:

- Gas Safety Certificates: Annual gas safety checks by a registered engineer are mandatory and failure to obtain a valid gas safety certificate can result in fines of up to £6,000 per offense.

- Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs): All rental properties must have a valid EPC, which provides information on the property's energy efficiency rating. From April 2020, it became illegal to let properties with an EPC rating below E unless specific exemptions apply.

- Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs): All rental properties must have a valid and “satisfactory” EICR based on an inspection carried out by a suitably skilled registered electrician. The purpose of the report is to confirm that the electrical installation is in a satisfactory condition for continued service.

- Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Landlords are legally required to install working smoke alarms on every floor of their rental properties and carbon monoxide alarms in any room with a solid fuel-burning appliance, such as a wood-burning stove. Local authorities can impose fines of up to £5,000 if landlords do not install or maintain these safety alarms according to the required standards set by the government.

2. Secure a Valid Buy-to-Let Mortgage (if using debt financing)

Choosing the right type of mortgage is crucial for buy-to-let investors if they are deploying debt financing for their investment. Traditional residential mortgages do not permit rental activity, and using one for such purposes can lead to severe financial repercussions and even potential legal action by the lender.

Buy-to-let mortgages are specifically designed for landlords and come with different eligibility criteria, interest rates and terms compared to residential mortgages. Failure to secure the appropriate buy-to-let mortgage can result in significant penalties and potentially void the mortgage entirely.

3. Create a Watertight Tenancy Agreement

A comprehensive and well-drafted tenancy agreement is a landlord's best defence against potential legal disputes with tenants.

A robust tenancy agreement should clearly outline the responsibilities of both parties, including rent payments, maintenance obligations, termination clauses and any specific rules or restrictions regarding the property. It should also comply with the latest landlord-tenant laws and regulations to ensure enforceability. If you need to become aware of your rights as a landlord or those of your tenants, refer to a guides posted on government websites.

When it comes to eviction processes, costs can vary depending on the complexity of the case and whether or not it is contested. For a possession order under Section 21, landlords should budget at least around £1,000 to £1,200 plus VAT, assuming the case is not contested. A Section 8 application, which can be used for issues such as unpaid rent, tends to be more costly, with estimates between £1,250 to £1,400 plus VAT for a non-contested possession order. If the eviction case is contested, the costs could escalate significantly, especially if multiple court hearings are required. In addition, the lost rent might never be recovered and this could cost a further thousands of pounds. 

4. Screen Tenants Thoroughly and Maintain Clear Communication

Finding reliable and responsible tenants is pivotal to the success of any buy-to-let investment. A thorough tenant screening process, including credit checks, employment verification and reference checks, can help landlords identify potential risks and prevent future issues. In all cases, it is better to remain safe first rather than be sorry later. 

Maintaining clear and open communication with tenants is equally important, even with the most comprehensive screening. Addressing concerns promptly, responding to maintenance requests promptly and fostering a positive landlord-tenant relationship can go a long way in avoiding misunderstandings and potential disputes. 

5. Meet Maintenance and Repair Responsibilities

As a landlord, you are legally responsible for ensuring safety and maintaining the property properly. Standard maintenance and repair issues can range from boiler breakdowns and plumbing problems to structural repairs and appliance replacements.

While the costs associated with these maintenance tasks can be substantial, neglecting them can lead to further deterioration, higher expenses down the line and potential legal action initiated by tenants or even the local council. Engaging reliable property maintenance services and setting aside a dedicated maintenance budget can help landlords manage these costs effectively and ensure that their investment remains in sound condition. Tools like property management software can help landlords manage these tasks more efficiently, ensuring long term financial success for their rental properties.

Conclusion

Becoming a buy-to-let landlord requires a thorough understanding of the legal and financial responsibilities involved. By adhering to these five essential rules – complying with legal requirements, securing a valid buy-to-let mortgage (if using debt financing), creating a comprehensive tenancy agreement, thoroughly screening tenants and maintaining open communication, and meeting maintenance and repair obligations – landlords can minimize risks, avoid costly disputes and potentially maximize the profitability of their investment.

Seeking advice from experienced property letting and management agents, legal experts and professional financial advisors can provide invaluable guidance, and ensure compliance with the latest regulations and industry best practices. By taking a proactive and responsible approach, buy-to-let landlords can successfully navigate the complexities of the rental market and achieve long term success in their investment endeavours.

FAQs:

Q. Where can I find the latest information on legal requirements for buy-to-let properties? 

A: Latest legal requirements for buy-to-let properties can be found on UK government websites, resources provided by landlord associations and through legal advice services.

Q. What type of tenancy agreement should I use for my buy-to-let property? 

A: Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements (ASTs) are the most common type of tenancy agreement used for buy-to-let properties.

Q. What are the different types of tenant screening methods available to landlords? 

A: Tenant screening methods available to landlords include credit checks, reference checks from previous landlords or employers or guarantors, online tenant screening platforms and through letting agents.

References:

1. What Is The Fine For Not Having A Gas Safety Certificate | Gas Safety | Released on: August 7, 2023
2. Domestic private rented property: minimum energy efficiency standard - landlord guidance | Gov.uk | Last updated: April 13, 2023
3. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022: guidance for landlords and tenants | Gov.uk | Last updated: July 29, 2022
4. Buy-to-let Mortgages | money.co.uk | Last updated: Dec 1, 2023

Reduce interest costs

Make your BTL work again! Pauzible pays the increase in your mortgage costs for up to 5 years, in return for a share in the value of your buy to let property.

Get Started
By clicking “Got it”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
Get Started