Welcome to the May edition of the Fish Need Water newsletter!

Here's what we've got coming up:

  • Landlords: don't get fined!
  • All the latest need-to-know news.
  • Top tool: How To Be A Landlord.

Did you know that, as of 6 April, landlords in England could be fined up to £30,000 for malpractice? They could also be ordered to repay tenants or local authorities up to 12 months' rent.

So what exactly could you be fined for?

While "harassment" and "illegal eviction" are on the list, we're going to focus on the health and safety requirements: we've come across many landlords who aren't clear about their obligations, and could be in trouble as a result.

Here's what you need to know:

1: Check if you need a license from your local council

Individual councils can decide whether a license needs to be granted for buy-to-let landlords. We're not just talking about HMOs here: this is about any type of rental property.

You can find out if this applies to your property by Googling "[council name] landlord licensing" and seeing if anything comes up. Or you can give your local housing department a call.

Licenses tend to cost in the range of £250 to £600, and their (dubious) purpose is to raise standards across the board.

2: Put your smoke alarms in place

You need to have at least one smoke alarm on every storey of a property that has any kind of living accommodation – which includes bathrooms and toilets as well as landings. In HMOs, they need to be wired to the mains.

You also need to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms that are considered "living accommodation" and also contain an appliance that burns (or is capable of burning) solid fuel, such as wood or coal.

3: Get your gas safety certificate and EPC

All gas appliances must be checked by a Gas Safe-registered engineer every 12 months.

Every ten years, you'll also need to get a surveyor to issue you an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which gives you a rating of how energy-efficient the property is.

You'll need to give a copy of both the gas safety certificate and the EPC to your tenants when they first move in.

4: While you're doing all that, you may as well…

  • Conduct a Legionella Risk Assessment. While you don't need any specific certificate, you can be fined or even imprisoned if a tenant falls ill or dies, and you can't prove that you've taken reasonable steps to control the risk.
  • Get a professional to conduct a PAT (Portable Appliance Test) test every two years for smaller items, and every four years for larger ones. It isn't currently a legal requirement in England and Wales, but it's recommended by the Electrical Safety Council.

If all this seems a bit daunting, don't worry: it's not half as bad as it looks! And feel free to call us any time for some guidance and reassurance: 020 3199 3492

Property news

Here's what you need to know:

Article 50 triggered: how starting the Brexit process could impact the property market. The big question on everyone's lips.

The 10 cheapest places to buy in London. Where to find the best-value homes in the capital, from Barking and Dagenham to Hounslow.

Canals offer alternative to London property ladder. Wake up to the sound of water lapping outside your window.

Red and white "candy-stripe" house in Kensington will NOT be repainted, judge rules. Do you love or loathe it?

Our useful tool of the month

Not so much a tool as a book. Our friend Rob D (from The Property Hub) has just written a new book… and it's conveniently appropriate for this month's newsletter. It's called How To Be A Landlord, and it's packed full of need-to-know information.

Get the book on Amazon here.

The end! (Until next month.)

Speak to you in June!