The accidental landlord: joining the landlords' army is a minefield

Britain's two million private landlords need to bone up on their legal responsibilities to their tenants.
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Seven per cent of British adults are now part-time landlords, according to new figures from one insurance provider, and most of them have “accidentally” ended up in that position, as opposed to having deliberately invested in a buy-to-let property.

Insurance company LV= Liverpool Victoria says 55 per cent of these landlords are letting properties they once lived in, either because they have relocated for work, or after moving in with a partner.

I ended up as a landlord back in the Eighties when I relocated and couldn’t sell my flat. Even if selling is an option, if you can afford to hang on to a property and you are sure the rent will cover the mortgage and maintenance costs, plus the cost of finding tenants, keeping it seems like the sensible thing to do, given that over the long-term the place is likely to increase in value.

However, you do need to reckon on spending at least five per cent of the annual rent on repairs and general upkeep, and ideally you should have enough left over from the rent to cover the mortgage in case the property is empty between tenancies. 

Also, you need to be aware of all your legal obligations — even if you’re using a letting agent, because they won’t necessarily tell you everything you ought to know. And even if you have let a property in the past you should still check the latest rules and regulations because they are likely to have changed. LV= says many part-time landlords break the law through ignorance. For instance, more than a quarter — that’s 500,000 — haven’t had, or are not sure whether they have had, a gas safety check within the past 12 months. Not only could they be fined up to £20,000, they are also playing Russian roulette with their tenants’ lives. 

Another insurance company, Saga, found that one in 10 landlords doesn’t bother to protect tenants’ deposits, which is also illegal. If a tenant finds out and complains to the authorities, the landlord could be forced to pay them up to three times the value of the deposit as compensation.

Come on people, don’t give us accidental landlords a bad name. Make sure you know what your responsibilities are to your tenants.  If you are thinking of becoming a landlord, there are lots of websites giving free advice. I would start by visiting

You could also join one of the professional landlords associations for further guidance. Both the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) offer advice and training, and, just as importantly, will keep you up to date with all the latest legislation.

I expect that if you’ve only got one property and don’t think of yourself as a “professional landlord”, you may not think it’s worthwhile joining either association. I certainly didn’t bother when I started out. But now I think you might as well sign up as an associate member of the NLA, not least because it is free. You get access to approved tenancy agreements and sample forms and letters which you might need during the tenancy. You can find these elsewhere on the internet, but using the NLA’s will ensure you follow best practice.

You will also get regular emails about all the latest regulations. It only takes a couple of minutes to sign up — so why not do it? Then if you need further help or advice, you can always become a full member later. Really, it’s a no-brainer.

To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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