Landlord registration was put in place, in the regions that have it, largely to protect tenants from so-called ‘rogue landlords’ – the ones who never make repairs, keep deposits, overfill their properties, don’t keep to safety regulations and avoid checking tenants’ backgrounds.
In the regions that do have landlord registration, all of these things must be proven in order for a landlord to be accepted onto the register and, if you’re not accepted, you can’t let out your property – full stop.
Similar but wholly voluntary schemes exist, too, such as the National Landlords Association (NLA).
These offer membership – for a fee – but give you access to useful help and advice, as well as having a lot of forms that will aid you in completing other compulsory regulations, including tenancy agreements and putting money into deposit schemes.
Organisations such as the NLA in England also offer accreditation-level membership that should give tenants the same peace of mind that compulsory regulation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland affords.
The argument goes that voluntarily signing up to have your behaviour as a landlord looked over closely makes you an altogether more trustworthy person to rent from. In a really crowded rental market, this could be a real bonus – helping you to stand out from the competition.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the procedure to register as a landlord is largely the same.
It is the owner of the property who has to register. If you use a letting agent and it’s their name on the letting agreement, it is still you who has to register – but you must also tell the register that you are using an agent.
A number of exceptions exist; some are very particular, such as for residential farm buildings, but largely you will have to register unless you, as a landlord, are also living in the property yourself, or it’s a holiday let.
Each local authority – and online resources such as www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk – will tell you if you have to register or not.
The landlords register is mostly concerned that you are a ‘fit and proper person’. This basically means that you are a stand-up member of society.
You shouldn’t have been convicted for any offence from a range including fraud, violence, drugs or discrimination; the odd minor speeding ticket should be okay.
The body in question will also check specifically about properties to show that you haven’t been a bad landlord in the past, and have made sure that any previous tenants have also behaved themselves.
Talking of which, you will be asked to confirm that you are sticking to the law when you rent out the property. This doesn’t just mean that you’ve put in and tested all the smoke alarms, and set up a tenancy deposit scheme.
It also means that you have made reasonable attempts to ensure the person you are letting to has the right to rent property in the UK.
Checking that a person is legally entitled to rent a UK property usually means making sure that, if they’re from abroad, they have the right visas to stay in the country.
You can’t just refuse to rent to non-Brits. That falls under discrimination legislation and you will be struck off or refused registration if you commit a discrimination offence.
Costs and formalities around landlord registration do vary. In Wales, where the scheme was the last to be introduced, landlords are required to complete a certain amount of training on top of the checks mentioned above.
It covers the usual duties and regulations a landlord has to keep up with.
There are fees that come with all the registrations – and in Wales a training course on top of that. And, as with all legal requirements, if you don’t comply you’ll have to pay a fine, which can be quite hefty and may run into the thousands. The maximum fine in Scotland e.g. for an unregistered landlord is £50,000.
Registration isn’t a ‘one and you’re done’ deal. Landlords have to renew their registration, usually every three years, in all the areas that maintain a register.
This comes with a fee again but, if you already registered online, the most you usually have to do is make sure that all the details are up to date, then click to confirm.
Do make sure the details are correct, though – even if you register but give the wrong or, worse, actually false information then there are some pretty heavy fines for that too!
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