Legal guidance for landlords

So, what do landlords have to do to ensure they are doing everything the law requires?  

Checks on tenants 

At the very start of the process, when deciding whether to rent a property, landlords need to carry out checks on the prospective tenant to see if they have the right to rent. This will include checking to see if the tenant has the right to stay in the UK.  In August 2023, the government announced that from the start of 2024, fines for renting property to illegal migrants will increase significantly. 

For landlords the fines will increase from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier for a first breach to up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier. Repeat breaches will be up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier, up from £500 and £3,000 respectively.  

Health and safety responsibilities 

Generally, tenants moving into a rented property will assume that their new home is safe for them to live in. In order to comply with health and safety law, the landlord must:   

  • keep their properties safe and free from hazards 
  • ensure gas and electrical equipment is safely installed and maintained 
  • provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property 
  • fit and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms 
  • follow fire safety regulations 
  • comply with a House Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) inspection. This may be requested by the tenant or initiated by the local authority  

How to rent guide 

Private Landlords must give their tenants a “How to rent” guide/checklist at the start of the tenancy.  

This guide is especially useful for those renting for the first time as it should explain everything they need to know about the building and the tenancy. 

Financial responsibilities 

The financial side of letting property is important and there are legal requirements surrounding it. Landlords must: 

  • use a deposit protection scheme, which ensures tenants get their deposit back at the end of the tenancy if they: 
  • meet the terms of their tenancy agreement; 
  • do not damage the property; 
  • pay the rent and bills 
  • pay income tax on rental income after day-to-day running expenses 
  • pay National Insurance if renting out property is their business 
  • get permission from the mortgage lender (if there is a mortgage on the property) before it’s rented out 

Rent increases 

There may be times when landlords need to look again at their rental income and consider how best to manage it. That may well include rent increases. In such cases, there are legal considerations to take into account.  

The rental agreement should set out when the rent can be reviewed and potentially raised.   

For a rolling tenancy (a week-by-week or month-by-month tenancy), landlords can usually only increase the rent once a year. For a fixed-term tenancy, the rent can only be increased when the fixed-term ends. 

If a landlord wants to raise the rent in line with the rules above, they can: 

  • get a written agreement with their tenants stating the new rent; or  
  • use a landlord’s notice proposing new rent form. 

Tenants need at least one month’s notice when the latter approach is used. 


In years gone by, poorly maintained property posed a health risk to tenants, and they had few protections against neglect by landlords. Now, the law sets out what the landlord must do regarding the state of their property.  

Landlords must keep their property in a good state of repair. The rental agreement should set out what the landlord is responsible for repairing and what is the responsibility of the tenant.  

As a guideline, landlords are usually responsible for repairing: 

  • the property structure, such as walls, windows, ceilings, floors, etc. 
  • basins, sinks, baths, etc. 
  • heating and hot water systems 
  • anything they damage while attempting repairs 

The tenant has recourse to action if repairs are not done properly or if a landlord refuses to make repairs. They can: 

  • make a claim through the Small Claims Court; 
  • in some circumstances carry out or arrange for repairs themselves.  

If it turns out that the repairs are so extensive that the property (or parts of it) can’t be used for a while, tenants can expect a reduction in their rent for the period it is unavailable. This is known as ‘rent abatement’.   

If the property sustains serious damage, such as fire or flood, the landlord does not have to rebuild it or renovate it. However, if they choose to do so, they can’t pass the costs onto the tenants. 

Entering the property 

There are specific conditions on when a landlord can enter the property. They can do this to: 

  • inspect it, or 
  • carry out repairs 

If this is the case, then the landlord must give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice.  

However, if it’s an emergency, such as a gas leak, the landlord can enter without notice.   

Disputes with tenants 

If there is a dispute, then there are several ways that it can be resolved, and the matter can be escalated if the previous stage didn’t resolve the issue. Those stages are:  

  • informally by talking to each other 
  • formally exchanging letters about the problem 
  • using a mediation service 
  • taking the issue to court  

Since the final option is often expensive and time-consuming, it should only be used as a last resort. The courts also expect parties to a claim to try and resolve issues before issuing court proceedings. 

Evicting tenants 

If a landlord may wish to carry out an eviction. There are two main ways that this can be done.  

1. Section 21 notice 

This is a non-fault eviction where the landlord wants possession of the property without giving the tenant a reason.   

With a Section 21 notice, the tenant must be given at least 2 months’ notice to leave the premises and it can’t be given in the first 4 month of a fixed-term tenancy.   

A Section 21 notice will be valid only if the landlord has complied with the rules by: 

  • protecting the tenant’s deposit 
  • providing an EPC certificate before the tenancy 
  • having gas safety certificates updated annually 
  • providing a ‘How to rent’ guide at the start of the tenancy 

2. Section 8 notice 

This is when a landlord alleges fault against the tenant and uses this as the reason for eviction. Those reasons could include:  

  • non-payment of rent 
  • engaging in anti-social behaviour 
  • breaching the terms of the tenancy agreement in some way; e.g. having a pet when the tenancy agreement says no pets are allowed 

A section 8 notice must: 

  • set out the landlord’s reasons for the eviction 
  • give the tenant between 2 weeks and 2 months to leave 

If the tenant refuses to leave 

Many tenants will vacate the premises after being served with either of these two notices, but if the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord can apply to the court for an Order of Possession.   

It should be noted that this article covers the responsibilities of landlords who own and let commercial and domestic premises in England and Wales only. There are different rules for landlords in Scotland and Northern Ireland.