RPI: A simple guide to renting!

residential property investor rpi
Written by RLA

Taken from the Residential Property Investor (RPI), the RLA’s member magazine, this is the first of a series of articles from the Landlord Advice Team (LAT) designed to help landlords understand their rights and obligations. This first article looks at the essentials in setting up a tenancy…

Taken from the Residential Property Investor (RPI), the RLA’s member magazine, this is the first of a series of articles from the Landlord Advice Team (LAT) designed to help landlords understand their rights and obligations. This first article provides landlords with a simple guide to renting. 

Many landlords are novices or people who never intended to own a rental property – and they are regular callers to the RLA’s advice team.

On the RLA’s advice team, we have noticed a trend for landlords to be confused and unsure about some of the most fundamental matters of letting properties.

Many of these people are what can loosely be described as accidental landlords.

Typically, they never set out with the intention of being buy-to-let investors or landlords. They have often inherited a property or they are people who have relocated and been unable to sell their old address.

It is our intention therefore to put together a series of articles on a variety of topics to clarify these issues. This first article focuses on “Being a landlord”. Future articles will focus on: recruiting an agent; landlords’ obligations; collecting rent; serving Notices seeking possession; applying to the county court for possession.

Let’s return now to the first topic of “Being a landlord”.


At the risk of stating the obvious, landlords need to know what they are doing, have a clear understanding of which legislation they need to comply with, and just as importantly, how to get professional help when needed.

At the last count, there are over 100 different pieces of legislation which relate to letting properties. Landlords need to be aware of such legislation. Failure to comply with legislation relating to letting accommodation may lead to heavy financial penalties or, in very rare cases, even a prison sentence.

For example, the next piece of legislation to affect landlords is the Immigration Act, which will make landlords legally responsible for checking the immigrant status of tenants and their right to be in the UK .

Letting a property is by no means an easy matter and landlords should appreciate and understand that the legislation around letting

in England and Wales heavily favours tenants rather than landlords.

So, what are the basics that private landlords need to be aware of both before and during the letting of a property?

Here are some key points:

  • Gas Safety Certificate: If there are gas appliances in a property, a landlord by law must have a current Gas Safety Certificate and have it renewed each year. This should be done by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): Every property must have an EPC which provides a rating of the property’s energy efficiency rating. Furthermore, it should be available on request by the tenant. An EPC is valid for ten years. It must be provided to prospective tenants “at the earliest opportunity”.
  • Deposit: If you are asking a prospective tenant for a deposit, be aware of the legal requirements to protect the tenant’s deposit in one or other of the Government approved deposit schemes. Failing to protect the deposit within 30 days has serious financial and other consequences for a landlord.
  • Licensing: If you intend letting a property to sharers, check on the local council’s website in case you need a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence. Some HMOs will always need a licence, where they are of three or more storeys and are occupied by five or more unrelated tenants. This is a national requirement. However, there are other types of HMO that will need a licence if a particular local authority has this as a policy. In addition, some councils are now introducing selective licensing schemes for landlords. In those areas, a landlord of any type of property will need a licence from the council for each property before it can be rented out.
  • Planning: If you propose converting a property which was last used as a family dwelling into a shared home, then you may need to apply to the local council for planning permission. You may also need to apply for planning permission for change of use, even if you are not planning any conversion work. This requirement varies from council to council, so do check first.
Selecting tenants

Don’t be afraid to ask your prospective tenant for photographic proof of identity such as a passport or driving licence. Ask them to complete an application form, and be sure to ask for their National Insurance number and next of kin details as these may be useful in the future. Always do a credit check to see if they have a good credit history. If your prospective tenant lives in the locality, make time to visit them at their present address and check out how they are looking after that accommodation. Needless to say, if they look as if they are trashing that address, don’t let them anywhere near your accommodation.

Satisfying yourself on these last two points should help to alleviate your chief concerns:

  • Does this tenant have the financial ability to pay my rent?
  • Are they likely to take care of my property?

RLA members should not hesitate to contact the RLA’s advice team for further clarification on any of these points or sign up for one of the RLA’s training courses.

About the author



The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) represents the interests of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) across England and Wales. With over 23,000 subscribing members, and an additional 16,000 registered guests who engage regularly with the association, we are the leading voice of private landlords. Combined, they manage almost half a million properties.


  • These are not really requirements but considerations that landlords definitely need to have in mind when they go down the landlording path.

    1. It’s possible to do everything on your own, however, it’s highly unlikely to succeed in all of it. Sometimes it’s more cost efficient to entrust a task or amount of work to a professional who you know can handle it. Trying to save from purchasing services is a good idea when you know you’re up for the task, however in many cases you can cause more bad than good.

    2. Be prepared that the property you’re going to rent will require sudden and sometimes significant investments. Always have some funds on the side to meet emergency repairs costs, accidents or (God forbid) filed cases against you.

    3. If you don’t 100% trust your tenants to take care of the property, purchase an insurance policy and save yourself potential thousands of pounds lost for refurbishing and renovating after bad tenants.

    4. If you’re in it for the money, don’t allow pets and smokers in the house, or expect more of point 2.

    5. Remember it’s business… You can’t let too much personal feelings when dealing with the tenants, or someday somebody will extort you so horribly, you’ll want to never deal with this niche again.

    6. It’s your property, but it’s somebody else’s home. Giving a lease to somebody is “effectively selling them the property for a period of time“.
    That said, your tenants will have far more rights over the property than you will and it’s you who have to compromise with their good will on many occasions not the other way around.

    7. Letting is not shoot and forget until the end of the tenancy. You need to closely monitor your property, without of course bothering the peaceful life of it’s occupants..

    Oh well, it’s a huge topic with many more points to add after, but let’s just say if you’re embarking on this path for the first time, you have a lot lot lot reading to do if you want to be successful.

    Otherwise, just hire people to do everything for you and satisfy with the much smaller, but much easier returns…

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