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Landlord legal obligations: 5 big fines and penalties received by landlords

4-minute read

Sam Bromley

3 January 2018

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There are many landlord obligations. A landlord’s legal requirements are designed to ensure that rental properties are kept to a high standard and that the rights of both tenants and landlords are protected.

What is expected of you as a landlord? Some of your landlord obligations involve health and safety (PAT testing, electrical safety, and fire safety), making sure you have the correct licenses for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), and ensuring that you solve landlord-tenant disputes effectively.

But some have failed to ensure they meet their landlord obligations. We conducted some research and have put together five of the biggest fines and penalties ever received by landlords. We explain where they went wrong and what you should do to to make sure you’re meeting all of your obligations as a landlord.

1. Landlord electrical safety and fire safety standards

A landlord was fined £214,000 for putting his tenants’ lives at risk across various properties in London.

One of his properties was found to have an exposed live electrical cable on the electric cooker hob, posing a risk of electrocution.

Another property had inadequate safety measures. In terms of fire safety, there was no safe exit route in the event of a fire and the landlord was unable to supply gas and electrical certificates.

What are the landlord obligations?

Your landlord health and safety requirements essentially mean that you keep your properties safe and free from health hazards. This includes making sure that gas equipment is safely installed, maintained, and checked by a registered engineer. If someone is injured or dies as a result of a property being unsafe, the fines are unlimited and you could receive a jail term.

When it comes to electrical safety, you must ensure that the electrical system and appliances (for example fridges and cookers) are safe. PAT (portable appliance testing) testing for landlords isn’t a legal requirement, however the Electrical Safety Council recommends PAT testing to ensure you meet the requirement that any appliances you provide tenants are safe. PAT testing needs to be carried out by someone qualified to do so.

Landlord fire safety checks involve making sure your tenants have access to escape routes at all times, supplying a smoke alarm on each storey (and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance), making sure furniture and furnishings are fire safe, and providing fire alarms and fire extinguishers if the property is a large house in multiple occupation (HMO). Read more about carbon monoxide and smoke alarm regulations for landlords and landlord fire safety regulations.

2. Landlord illegally converting houses into flats

A landlord was fined £310,000 for converting houses into flats and studios without permission. At a property in London Road, Wembley, he converted two bedrooms into four flats.

What are the landlord obligations?

There are different types of residence for planning purposes, including houses, flats, and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Planning permission is automatically required when there is a material change in use of the property.

Subdivisions (where a property is converted from one big flat into two smaller ones for instance) are generally treated as a material change in use. HMOs also need to meet specific obligations and safety checks (more on those in point three).

3. Landlord breaching houses in multiple occupation (HMO) rules

A husband and wife landlord team were handed £60,000 in fines and other costs at Uxbridge Magistrates Court for multiple occupation and other management offences. They broke a prohibition order on letting a room in a shared house and the property was deemed to be unsafe.

What are the landlord obligations?

A property is a house in multiple occupation if at least three tenants live there, forming more than one household (for instance, these tenants are unrelated). Bathrooms, toilets, and other amenities will be shared by these tenants.

A property is a large house in multiple occupation if it’s three storeys high, at least five tenants live there (forming more than one household), and amenities are shared between tenants.

You must meet HMO obligations and safety checks, including making sure the property is not overcrowded and that there are enough facilities for people living there. You are responsible for repairs to communal areas. If a property is a large HMO then you need a license from the council. Some councils need other HMOs to be licensed.

4. Landlord illegal tenant eviction

A landlord was convicted and ordered to pay a total of £3,700 in fines, after being prosecuted by Sheffield City Council. He served a tenant notice to move out, then removed and changed the locks only days later.

What are the landlord obligations?

Landlord harassment is a criminal offence. Landlord harassment (such as changing locks) can lead to illegal eviction which is also a criminal offence. Landlords can face a jail term and a tenant can claim damages and receive compensation.

In order to legally evict someone, you must follow three steps. You need to give your tenant at least two months' written notice of eviction (known as a Section 21). You need to get a court order for them to leave the property and only a bailiff can evict your tenant, providing they have a warrant from the court.

Read more about how to legally evict a tenant.

5. Landlord HMO and safety offences

A Brighton landlord was fined £43,680 for breaching safety obligations. At the time, it was Brighton Magistrates Court’s biggest fine on record.

The property had an obstructed fire escape, unsatisfactory fire equipment and alarms, tiny bedrooms, and 12 tenants (the property was licensed for just nine).

What are the landlord obligations?

As above, landlords need to meet specific houses in multiple occupation obligations and these can vary from council to council. HMOs need to adhere to safety standards and basic living conditions (for instance, not being overcrowded).

Landlord legal obligations – considerations to avoid fines

  • There is still no start date for the tenancy fees ban, but we do know that those who don’t comply with the tenancy fees ban face fines. The initial fine is £5,000 and if you commit a further breach within five years, you face a £30,000 fine (or being taken to court).
  • We predicted that energy efficiency will be high on the agenda in 2018, as new energy efficiency regulations begin in April 2018. Landlords who don’t meet the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard of an E after April could be fined up to £5,000 for non-compliance.
  • Following the appropriate steps to evict someone legally is vital. Research by StudentTenant showed that it costs up to £2,000 to legally evict a tenant.

Have you heard of any hefty fines received by landlords? Let us know what they were for below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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