Be Proactive rather than Reactive: Checklist for Landlords granting Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs)

The harsh regulatory requirements imposed on landlords granting ASTs means that landlords need to fully aware of their obligations before the commencement of the tenancy.

The consequences of non-compliance can be severe. For example, landlords may be prohibited from removing a tenant under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, leaving the section 8 procedure as the only means of eviction. Section 8 stipulates that a landlord provides grounds for terminating the tenancy in the notice to the tenant, which needs to show that the tenant has breached the conditions of the tenancy agreement. This heavy burden on the landlord invites dispute with the tenant and can lead to significant costs.

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 (‘TFA’), which came into force on 1 June, requires landlords to limit their fees to those prescribed by Schedule 1. The TFA imposes heavy fines for each breach and even criminal sanctions if another breach is committed within five years of the previous contravention.

The following checklist, although not exhaustive, serves as an overview for landlords to ensure compliance with their significant regulatory burden:

  • Have you checked your tenant’s immigration or citizenship status? If the prospective tenant is not a British citizen, European Economic Area (EEA) citizen or Swiss national, then you may have to carry out further checks on their right to occupy the property under the Immigration Act.
  • Is your property to be occupied by more than one unrelated person who share facilities? Consider whether you require a ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation’ (HMO) licence.
  • If the property has an HMO licence, is it still in place and have the conditions attached to it been met?
  • You must install smoke alarms and possibly carbon monoxide alarms.
  • You must have a valid annual gas safety certificate.
  • You must have an EPC for your property (rated E or above from April 2018).
  • You must ensure than furniture supplied has the required labels and fireproofing.
  • You must ensure all electrical appliances and systems are safe.
  • If the building is multi-occupied with common parts, you must ensure that a fire risk assessment has been carried out.
  • You must carry out a risk assessment to assess the risk from exposure to Legionella.
  • Does your tenancy agreement comply with the TFA? Check your provisions relating to rent, deposits, rent arrears etc.