Partners and Suppliers Steve Barnes 12/10/2023

The complete guide to a landlord’s essential responsibilities

Being a landlord can be extremely rewarding, but it also brings challenges and can be time-consuming, especially if things don’t go according to plan. And with increasingly complex legislation to comply with, if you don’t understand your responsibilities you risk significant penalties and fines for breaking the rules, even if you didn’t intend to. To avoid this and make sure you are providing a safe home for your tenants, it’s important to be well informed about your legal obligations.  

In this guide, Total Landlord have collated their expert knowledge to explain what you need to do to meet your obligations at each stage of the ‘landlord lifecycle’ - from getting the right insurance and preparing your property to protecting the deposit and vacating the property at the end of the tenancy. Whether you’re an ‘accidental’ landlord or it’s your main occupation, read this guide to make sure you’ve covered all the essentials when it comes to renting out your property. 

1. Get the right insurance

There are risks involved in letting out a property that regular home insurance policies won’t cover you for. If you let to tenants without dedicated landlord insurance, you could find yourself out of pocket if your property is left damaged or uninhabitable. While some landlord insurance policies may look similar to your home insurance policy, they won’t cover you for potential risks that are beyond your control, such as loss of rent or accommodation costs if your tenants have to move out following an insured event such as a fire, or for landlord liability if your tenant suffers an injury or loss because of a fault with the property or as a result of rental activity.  

Landlord insurance is designed to protect you, your property and your tenants; and your mortgage lender will usually require that you take out a specialist landlord insurance policy. So if you have a mortgage on your rental property, it’s important to check the terms of the agreement before you let out your property.  

While it’s the landlord’s responsibility to insure the buildings, it is up to the tenants to arrange their own contents insurance. Whatever type of landlord you are, whether that be a portfolio landlord, a commercial landlord, a private landlord, an expat landlord or a commercial landlord, Total Landlord can arrange bespoke cover to meet your needs.  

Total Landlord Insurance checklist

We’ve put together a checklist of what we offer, to help you make sure you get the best landlord insurance cover for your needs when comparing buy to let insurance with other providers: 

  • Accommodates all types of tenants (subject to the landlord having full control and an assured shorthold tenancy agreement in place) including benefit recipients, students, retired people and working tenants – with no difference in cover or price 

  • Provides full cover between tenancies for up to 90 days subject to policy terms and conditions 

  • Provides theft cover including by tenants and their guests 

  • Offers loss of rental income or alternative accommodation up to 30 per cent of the rebuild value  

  • Includes public liability with a minimum of £5,000,000 limit of indemnity 

  • Includes a Tenants Subrogation Waiver 

  • Has an in-house claims team with authority to make payments on behalf of insurers 

  • Has a team that is trained to provide an advised sale, and can offer tailored guidance on what cover a landlord needs based on their own requirements 

2. Prepare your property

Landlords have a number of legal responsibilities when it comes to preparing a property to let. While getting your property in order before the tenancy begins can be time-consuming, it’s well worth making sure you’ve met all your legal obligations from the outset to avoid any issues after your tenant moves in. Many landlords have ended up receiving thousands of pounds worth of fines for failing to comply with landlord laws, and some have committed such serious breaches that they’ve been sent to prison. 

As a landlord, you are responsible for providing a safe and habitable living space and making sure the rental property meets all health and safety requirements.  

The key legal obligations that you need to consider when preparing your property to let are: 

The UK Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide is designed to help tenants and landlords in the private rented sector understand their rights and responsibilities. It provides a checklist and more detailed information on each stage of the process including advice on what to do if things go wrong.  

It is mandatory for landlords to provide the latest version of the ‘How to Rent’ guide to their tenants as part of the prescribed information that landlords in England must issue at the start of any new tenancy, and on renewal if there have been any updates to the guide. If you don’t do this, you lose the right to repossess using Section 21. The guide is regularly updated to reflect legal changes, for example most recently the requirement for carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in every room with a fixed fuel burning appliance, and that an electrical installation condition report must be provided to tenants.  

Being a member of the NRLA is a great way to make sure you keep up to date with the ever-changing private rented sector legislation. Subscribing to landlord news websites such as LandlordZONE for free breaking news and updates will also help make sure you are up to speed with any changes.  

For more information on the lettings laws for landlords, read our guide, Legislation for landlords, updated for 2023. 

3. Market your property

Whether you’re letting out one or two properties or managing an extensive buy to let portfolio, it’s important to recognise that you are running a business. You need to plan how to market your rental property and how to find and keep good tenants.  

Identifying your ‘ideal renter’ target market will help you to understand their needs so that you can tailor your property and your marketing effectively. 

Photographs of the property will be the first thing to attract tenants, so make sure high resolution images are taken on a bright day with lots of natural light and take time to tidy and rearrange furniture to photograph the best angles. It’s also a good idea to create a video tour or a 360 degree picture – this will make your rental property stand out and will also help you target a wider range of prospective tenants from out of the area. It may also help reduce time on viewings as prospective tenants will be able to assess more accurately whether the property is right for them. 

In the description, highlight any key selling points that are unique to your property or will appeal to your target audience. For example, if you’re looking to rent to families with children, point out that the property is in the catchment for an outstanding school and in a friendly neighbourhood with lots of children. Detailed and precise descriptions that are targeted at your specific audience should minimise appointments with viewers who arrive only to discover the property is not what they are looking for. 

In addition to highlighting the top selling points for your target tenant profile, it’s important to be aware of current trends - preferences for outdoor space and areas for home working have become more important since the pandemic. There has also been a boom in pet ownership in recent times and the Government has tried to make it easier for tenants with pets to find properties to rent, with an update to the Model Tenancy Agreement which means that landlords have to provide ‘good reason’ to reject a tenant’s request to accommodate pets. This approach may not be suitable for your property and of course there are other considerations in terms of higher wear and tear, but it’s worth thinking about.  

One of the most important considerations for tenants will be rent affordability. Look at the rent of similar properties in the area to make sure that you remain competitive. 

Finding a good, reliable tenant and letting a property successfully can be time-consuming so you might prefer to choose an agent to help you. With the ever increasing complexity of lettings legislation and the risk of fines for non-compliance, this is arguably the safest option. However, it’s important if you do opt for an agent not just to go with the cheapest one, but to make sure they are compliant with their legal requirements.  

Choosing a letting agent 

Make sure that the agent is a member of a property redress scheme such as The Property Redress Scheme, part of the HFIS group, and a client money protection scheme such as Client Money Protect, also part of the HFIS group, and ask to see proof.  

Most letting agents are compliant, but unfortunately there are numerous cases of agents not passing rent onto landlords and illegal subletting to multiple tenants living in overcrowded properties. Property redress scheme membership has been mandatory for letting agents since 2014 and landlords should make sure their agent is a member of one of the two government schemes. 

Client money protection has been mandatory for letting agents since April 2019 and landlords should make sure their agent is a member of a scheme – letting agents must display their membership certificate both in their offices and on their website. So long as an agent is a member of scheme, landlords and tenants can be certain that their money is safe.  

4. Carry out tenant referencing

Carrying out a comprehensive tenant reference check will reduce risks and help protect you from troublesome tenants. Most insurance policies, including ours, require a ‘four point referencing check’.‍ 

Four point referencing check 

  1. Proof of identity from the tenant: Two forms of identification from the tenant, one of which must be a driving licence or passport, containing a clear photograph. This is to make sure that the tenant is who they say they are and that they live at the address they have provided. 

  2. Either a utility bill or a bank statement: A recent utility bill, council tax bill or bank statement is required as proof of residency as this information includes a current address. 

  3. Credit check: A thorough credit check carried out through an organisation like Experian will confirm whether the tenant is in debt or has a a poor credit history, as well as whether they are clear of County Court Judgements (CCJs) and whether any bankruptcy orders have been lodged against them. The check will confirm residency and asking tenants for their last three months’ bank statements will also tell you whether they have received their salary and paid their rent.  

  4. Confirmation of employment: Obtaining a written employer’s reference will verify the tenant’s employment status and confirm whether their salary is at least a multiple of 2.5 of the tenant's rent. Ideally the rent should be no more than 30 per cent of their salary. A check of the applicant’s national insurance number will also tell you whether they are legitimately working in the UK. Make sure the employer exists by looking up the company number to check that they are active, trading and have filed company accounts.  

Right to rent check 

Landlords and letting agents are also legally required to ask to see the tenant’s immigration documents or passport before starting a new tenancy or renewing an existing tenancy, to check that the prospective tenant has legal status to work and reside in the UK. This is known as a ‘right to rent’ check and you must check all tenants aged 18 and over, even if they’re not named on the tenancy agreement. It’s important to check all new tenants and is against the law to only check people you think are not British citizens. You must not discriminate against anyone because of where they’re from. 


If your tenant is using a guarantor, you must reference them in the same way as you would a prospective tenant. This may seem like added hassle but could make the difference between having the rent paid or not since you need to know that the guarantor will be able to pay the rent if your tenant can’t. 

5. Carry out an inventory

It’s important to have a robust inventory in place when the tenancy starts, to protect the landlord’s property and the tenant’s deposit. A comprehensive, signed inventory supported by the tenancy agreement are the foundations for a smooth tenancy and help to manage the expectations of both the landlord and the tenant.  

The inventory should be prepared immediately before the tenant moves in and should be supported by date-stamped photographs and ideally video footage. The inventory is a detailed and comprehensive document that lists the contents and fixtures in a property, their condition and the standard of cleanliness throughout.  

For more detailed information on the inventory, read this mydeposits NRLA guide.  

Our top tips: 

  • Always date your paperwork and reports 

  • Include as much detail as possible for items and areas on the inventory check-in report 

  • Keep to the facts and avoid emotive language like ‘lovely’  

  • Make sure the tenant has time to see and sign the report 

  • Include a list of definitions if you choose to use abbreviations 

6. Protect the deposit

Since 2007, landlords have been legally obliged to protect tenancy deposits in a government-approved deposit protection scheme. The most popular option for tenants is traditional deposit protection, where tenants pay a one-off lump sum upfront at the start of the tenancy. The amount will usually be equivalent to four or five weeks' rent. It’s illegal for a landlord to force the tenant to pay a deposit of more than five weeks’ rent (or six weeks’ rent if the annual rent is more than £50,000). 

The landlord must by law protect the deposit within 30 days, using one of the three government authorised protection schemes, such as mydeposits – part of the HFIS group - who also handle the adjudication process if there is a dispute over the deposit at the end of the tenancy.  

Also within 30 days of taking the deposit, as part of the ‘prescribed information’ that you must give your tenant at the start of the tenancy you should give details about which scheme you are using to protect the tenant’s deposit. You can't evict your tenant with a Section 21 notice if you haven't given them this information or your tenant didn't sign it to say it was accurate. See GOV.UK for more details on the prescribed information you must give to your tenants within 30 days of getting their deposit.  

The deposit is protected until the end of the tenancy, when it will then be returned to the tenant following any settlement agreements, with deductions for any damage incurred or unpaid rent.  

7. Manage your property

A combination of regular inspections, maintenance and forging clear channels of communication with your tenants will all be conducive to having a good relationship with your tenants and enable you to manage the property. Dealing with things as soon as possible will help nip them in the bud and stop them escalating into much larger problems.  

Regular inspections 

We recommend inspecting the property within a month of your tenants moving in, and then around every six months after that. Make sure you give your tenants advance notice rather than turning up unannounced – the 1988 Housing Act gives a tenant the right to live, undisturbed, in a property for an agreed amount of time and for an agreed amount of rent. The tenant has the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’, which means that they have the right to make use of their home without disturbance either from the landlord or anyone acting on their behalf.  

There are three statutory annual checks that landlords need to carry out to remain compliant. 

Gas safety

  • Give the tenant a copy of the gas safety certificate before they move in 

  • Arrange for gas appliances, the boiler and flue to be checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer once a year 

  • Provide tenants with a copy of the gas safety certificate within 28 days of the annual check 

Fire safety

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on each floor of the property, test and replace batteries regularly 

  • Make sure all alarms are working at the start of a tenancy 

  • Supply and test a carbon monoxide alarm in each room with any fuel burning appliance (except for gas cookers) in England.

  • If the property is an HMO, install fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire blankets 

  • Make sure that escape routes are accessible and that the tenant knows where to locate them 

  • If there are fire doors make sure access to them is clear at all times  

  • Check that all furniture provided and furnishings are ‘fire safe’ products  

Electrical safety

  • Arrange for a registered electrician to carry out a professional check every five years to get an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)  

  • Make the EICR available to tenants before they move in  

  • Protect against potential electric shocks by checking the property has an adequate residual current device (RCD)  

In their NRLA guide to periodic inspections, mydeposits provide more details on a landlord’s statutory and non-statutory legal responsibilities, which parts of the property need inspecting and how to document the inspection.  

Regular maintenance 

Before a tenant moves in, it’s your job to make sure the property is habitable, safe and well maintained. This includes removing health risks and hazards, such as damp or damage caused by previous tenants. 

Under Repairs and Maintenance Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, landlords are responsible for repairs to the exterior and structure of a property, including problems with the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains.  

Landlords are also legally required to make sure that the water, gas and electricity supply and equipment is in safe working order, as well as sanitary fittings such as baths, basins and sinks. As a landlord you must always give the tenant reasonable notice in writing and obtain their consent to carry out repairs. For more information on landlords’ repair responsibilities check GOV.UK.  

It’s a good idea to clarify in the tenancy agreement who is responsible for garden maintenance as this is a common source of dispute.  

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to repairs, so make sure your tenants know to contact you if they become aware of any repairs that are needed. It’s a good idea to create a maintenance checklist so that you are carrying out the key maintenance checks all year round, reducing the need for costly repairs.   

Under the Deregulation Act 2015, it is illegal to evict a tenant who has complained about the condition of the property if adequate repairs have not been made and if the local authority have then served notice.  Any Section 21 notice served after your tenant has complained and (in most cases) within six months of the local authority notice, will be invalid. 

Regular communication 

If your tenants have a query or issue, responding quickly and effectively is the equivalent of great customer service. A good way to maintain this level of professional communication is to set parameters from the outset. Let them know how and when they can contact you, and how quickly you’ll be able to respond. Providing this information in a welcome pack is a good way to get the tenancy off on the right foot. 

8. Vacate the property

The check out inspection is usually done on the last day of the tenancy when the tenant is moving out at the end of a tenancy. If possible, the tenant should be present at the check out inspection. The check out report is important evidence of the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy and the deposit protection schemes look at this evidence if either the tenant or the landlord asks them to resolve any dispute about the return of the deposit. They compare the property’s condition to how it was at the beginning of the tenancy and how it is at the end, allowing for ‘fair’ wear and tear.  

So long as the property has been left clean and in the same state as it was at the start of the tenancy, the landlord and the tenant can sign and date the form, happy that the tenancy has ended amicably.  

Sometimes when a tenancy ends, a discussion may be needed about the way the property has been left. Most disputes are resolved simply by talking, listening and negotiating to reach an amicable solution, so we would encourage you first to: 

  • Check the tenancy agreement to see who is responsible for what 

  • Be aware of the condition and standard of cleanliness at the start so expectations can be managed by both sides 

  • Be fully prepared and open to discussion and compromise at each stage 

Negotiation is nearly always successful, if everyone is reasonable. However, if you are unable to reach an amicable resolution, you have the option of using the tenancy deposit scheme’s free alternative dispute resolution service for an independent and impartial decision. In their guide, mydeposits explain how this works.  

Ending the tenancy early 

Tenants falling into arrears is the most common reason for landlord’s needing to regain possession of their property during the course of a tenancy. Tenants have to fall behind with a minimum of two months’ rent before action can be taken. Although eviction is usually a last resort, it’s important to make sure that you’ve complied with certain legal obligations otherwise any Section 21 notice is likely to be invalid. This includes providing the tenant with a copy of the current gas safety certificate and prescribed information relating to the protection of their deposit.  

Evicting a tenant is a legal process that requires steps to be followed in a specific order. Some landlords do try to serve a notice themselves, but there is a risk that if they get it wrong, the court can throw the case out. If you do find yourself in the position where you need to evict a tenant, it is safer to seek professional help from a legal eviction specialist such as Landlord Action.  

The Government wants landlords and tenants to negotiate with each other to reach an amicable and mutual agreement rather than engage with the courts to resolve issues regarding any non-payment of rent or repossession of the property.  

The Property Redress Scheme tenancy mediation service helps landlords or their agents agree a solution to a dispute with their tenants about tenancy related issues, saving the time, trouble and cost of going to court. Mediation is where an impartial person helps to agree a solution that works for all parties. If there’s any conflict, the professional mediator can help diffuse it and make sure the problem doesn’t escalate. For more advice on what to do if tenants fall into arrears, including information on mediation and eviction, read our guide on what to do if your tenant can’t pay the rent.  

As part of the HFIS group, Total Landlord covers the entire life cycle of a tenancy - from landlord insurance to deposit protection, housing law and tenancy mediation. We understand that keeping up with your essential responsibilities as a landlord can be a minefield, but if you follow the advice offered here, you can rest assured that you’ve got the essentials covered. For more information on landlord legislation read our updated guide, Legislation for landlords, updated for 2023.  

Having tenants living in a property is considered higher risk than an owner-occupied property, so most buy to let mortgage lenders will require landlords to have appropriate insurance in place. And since normal home insurance won’t cover you for the risks associated with renting out your property, it’s a good idea to take out specialist landlord insurance that will provide comprehensive cover for rental-specific events, such as malicious damage by tenants or their guests. NRLA property insurance provider, Total Landlord, has a dedicated in-house claims team of expert advisers who are on hand to help you should the worst happen. 

Log in to the NRLA member area to get a quote online, alternatively to discuss your insurance needs in more detail please call 0203 907 1779. 

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes Head of Broking, Total Landlord

Steve Barnes has worked with landlords and leading landlord associations for over 25 years and oversees the HFIS group as Head of Broking for Total Landlord. Our award winning landlord insurance offering has been providing comprehensive cover for landlords since 1996. Whether you have a single property or a portfolio, Total Landlord has a property insurance policy that will give you value for money and the required protection to support your business requirements. Our dedicated claims team of expert advisers deal with more than 82% of claims in-house and provide customers with a sole point of contact should the worst happen. Named 'Best Landlord Insurance Provider' five times at the Insurance Choice Awards and with a rating of 4.8 out of five on Smart Money People, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands.

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