Advice for Accidental Landlords – by Landlords Defence

by Mark Alexander

0:01 AM, 14th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Advice for Accidental Landlords – by Landlords Defence

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Advice for Accidental Landlords – by Landlords Defence

Landlords… If your property is being managed by your brother’s sister’s cousin’s sister-in-law, or your best-est friends’ brother-in-law then you face a 90% probability of massive problems in the form of:

Unpaid rent
Repairs not done
Council inspections
Council enforcement action
Prosecution
Massive Civil Financial penalties
Rent Repayment orders
Fitness for Human Habitation – no win no fee claims

This is not just to scare you, these are exactly the cases that come across my desk day in, day out.

Landlording is no longer safe for amateurs.

“But I’m an accidental landlord!”

No, you are not.  There’s no such thing!

In the same way as there’s no such thing as an accidental driver with no driving licence, MOT or insurance. That is a deliberate act.

So maybe you inherited some property from your parents?

Not accidental.

You knew it was coming and you had the opportunity to become a properly educated and qualified landlord, or get yourself a properly trained and qualified managing agent.

But you didn’t!

That’s not accidental; it’s something you consciously decided not to do.

Or maybe you met another wonderful human and decided to move in with them and rent out your former home.

So, where’s the accident?

Again, there was a good opportunity to become a professional landlord, but you chose to ‘Drive with no driving skills’.

A deliberate, if foolish choice.

So, let’s be quite clear, so called accidental landlords are NOT accidental.

For the most part, they are, the property equivalent of illegal drivers.

Landlords who have decided they don’t need to understand their responsibilities under the laws and regulations of the country.

Landlords who therefore fail to comply with their legal obligation to operate and maintain properties  to the legally required standards to make them safe and healthy for their tenants.

Landlords who wilfully ignore the need to provide properties which are:

  • Free from damp and mould that causes respiratory problems an lung disease. (And nine times out of ten; no it’s not the tenant’s lifestyle – it’s your run-down property that’s not been properly maintained for years and years!)
  • Fully protected against the risk of fires igniting
  • Fully protected with the correct smoke and heat detectors, fire alarm systems, fire doors and fire-protected escape routes so your tenants don’t die if there is a fire
  • Fully safe and sufficient electrics
  • Protected from trip hazards, falls hazards through windows and over balustrades or from balconies
  • Proper protection from forced entry break-ins
  • Proper and fully tenant controllable central heating
  • Decent insulation
  • The list goes on and on…

Many of the properties we inspect, owned by Accidental I mean Amateur Landlords, are a travesty.  You would not live in them yourself. Most of them are not honestly fit to live in.

And where do Accidental Amateur Landlords turn for advice?

Do they pay for professional advice?  No!

Do they get themselves trained or accredited?  No!

Here’s what they do: They go on Facebook and ask a load of other unqualified Amateur Landlords.  All giving each other incorrect and often illegal advice.

Quite frankly, you will soon learn the hard way what you will get under the following:

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

This is now fully in force. Do you know what it means?  (No, of course you may not, you may never have attempted to find out).

This new Act gives tenants the passport to sue you, the Landlord, for all the things you should have been doing properly since 2004, under the Housing Act 2004. You have not done so because you have not understood your responsibilities properly.

So don’t feel hard done to by, when your tenants start to sue you – because there were 15 years to get this right.

Remember the PPI companies advertising on the TV? And the “Have you had an accident” no-win, no-fee phone calls?

PPI has gone, these companies look for new people to sue and make big money.  And no-win, no-fee Fitness for Human Habitation claims have already started.  And, it won’t be the qualified, professional, compliant Landlords they’ll make money from.

It’s the Accidental Amateur Landlord like you

Council Enforcement

We deal daily with Council enforcement officers.  They’re under-resourced and stretched to the limits. So now they are focussing on Landlords they enforce against and get money by way of fines.

One such case came into us at Landlord Licensing and Defence just yesterday: A Landlord with four properties he’s had for 20-odd years.

The Council sought him out and did an unannounced inspection. Of course, because he was an amateur Landlord they found lots of errors.

He has now been hit with eight different Civil Penalty fines totalling £60,000 in Civil Financial Penalty fines. – but here’s the really stupid thing: If he had engaged professionals like ourselves we could probably negotiated that down significantly but he’s not prepared to pay fees for professional help. Because that’s how most amateur Landlords rock.

And now the Council has found out that one of his houses is poor there is no question that they’ll be inspecting his other three houses shortly. And they’ll be just as bad because he’s living in denial as an amateur landlord.

In all probability he is looking at 4 houses x £60,000 each in civil financial penalties = £240,000; then the Council will advise the tenants to make Rent Repayment Orders to reclaim 12 months’ rent (or they could sue under the fitness for human habitation act) that could be another say 4 x £30,000.

Another Accidental Amateur Landlord facing £360,000 of potential fines as well as being declared a ‘not fit and proper person’ – so never able to rent out a property again. Of course he doesn’t believe he’s guilty as many Accidental Amateur Landlords don’t.

So here’s the Wake-Up call.  The majority of Accidental Amateur Landlords are:

  • Guilty of Criminal Offences under the Housing Acts and regulations.
  • In denial of their guilt and responsibilities under the law
  • Not prepared to pay for professional help
  • Reliant on asking the amateurs for advice
  • Incriminating themselves deeper and deeper by trying to negotiate with the Council because they don’t ‘get’ that the Council are the Prosecutors and, just like the Police, their only interest is to collect enough evidence to prosecute or fine the Landlord.

So, dear Accidental Amateur Landlord it really is time to wake-up and smell the fines.

  • Either get qualified as an Accredited Landlord or get your properties with a fully ARLA qualified managing agent
  • Get your properties assessed for tenant health and safety under HHSRS (If you don’t understand HHSRS, find out now at co.uk/hhsrs )
  • Get a fire risk assessment done
  • Then do all the works recommended by theses professional reports to make your properties safe and complaint BEFORE the Council swoops in on an unannounced inspection.
  • Or you could do nothing and just wait for £60,000 or more in Civil Financial Penalty fines.

Des Taylor is Casework Director with Landlord Licensing and Defence –he regularly writes a Landlord Compliance blog at landlordsdefence.co.uk/blog

About Landlords Defence

Landlords Defence is a company set up to assist Landlords to avoid prosecution and fines by being fully compliant with the Law and the Regulations.

Part of that role is educating Property Investors and Landlords who think they have done the right thing in handing their property over to Letting Agents to manage on their behalf. Unfortunately, in the increasingly complex arena of property legislation and regulation (little of which could be described as ‘joined-up’) many letting agents are unaware of the requirements, and the investors/owners hiring their services have no understanding that they too need to understand the legislation and ‘control’ their Letting Agents.

Landlords Defence regularly assists owners and Landlords who have just discovered the hard way (when a massive Civil Penalty Fine notice lands on their desk) that they have not been complying with the law and regulations.  Landlords defence takes charge of the situation, negotiates with the appropriate Council on the basis that the owner/landlord has now taken professional advice and help and then manages an immediate operation to make the property fully compliant with legislation and installs systems to ensure it can stay that way.

Landlords Defence also provides a range of “done for you” services to Landlords and owners (and to Agents) to ensure that the necessary inspections and maintenance are done on a very regular basis.


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Comments

Mick Roberts

11:39 AM, 14th April 2020
About 5 months ago

I've become part of the things in here Mark.

I've got that many tenants been with me too long, I can't just give rent increases when they need it to pay the latest outgoings, as they think Hang on Mick, I've been with u 20 years, we better than that.
If I'm not careful, I'm gonna' have that many houses I don't want when I'm 70 as I can't just ask people/friends to leave after it's been their home for 40 years.
I've created myself a trap & to some extent become an accidental landlord friend.

I'm becoming this illegal driver u say & potentially could go prison for a Licensing infringement that wasn't illegal 5 years ago.

And yes, family in houses has sometimes been the worst, expect it all, want to pay the least. And then insist I get their sons a house too with the cheapest rent HB pays which didn't cover the outgoings Govt & Council has ensued upon us.

And I also can't keep up with Legislation & new rules, some below which anyone can feel free to copy paste if they need to explain to tenants why rent is so high.

We now have to do Fitness tests on new rentals £150 each house.
Electrical Installation Condition reports organisation & implementation £300+ each house.
Selective Licensing £890 just for one house.
Legionnaires checks £70 each house.
EPC’s £80 each house.
Data protection checks £40.
Carbon Monoxide detectors & smoke detectors, when wired, £300 each house.
Getting registered with Information Commission officer £40.
Floorplans, Inventories £90 each house.
Landlord has to criminal check himself & has to prove he has Right to live in UK
Increased staffing admin behind the scenes.
As you’ve seen, checks/inspections on your houses now with smoke alarms-Should be much more detailed checks.
Consultant & Legal fees to keep pace with legislation & staff training.
Letting Agent costs for new tenancies & house swaps £70pm each house.
All the above is extra costs we din’t have when many of u moved in.

Paul Essex

15:04 PM, 14th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Although I agree with most of the points - damp and mould do seem to be the tenants fault. As an example one tenant constantly complained of damp even after we had fitted one of those attic fans. I turned out that he was desperate to save money so he dried all his clothes in the sunny dining room direct from the washing machine, oh and only heated the living room and one bedroom, all other radiators had been turned off! My daughter now lives in this house - guess what no damp problems.

Comments like yours, blaming the landlords continue to harm the whole sector.

MoodyMolls

16:35 PM, 14th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Agree its mainly how tenants live.
This is evident with some tenants n same property don't get any black mould put a different tenant in and it can be everywhere. They leave next tenant no mould.
Tenants will all swear they keep trickle vent open shut bathroom door and put fan on etc.

I have had 3 properties back with plastic taped across the fan grills.
They don't put the fans on as they believe it runs up the electric bill.
They don't heat for same reason

Rod

16:56 PM, 14th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Would a property that was once rented out but now sitting empty still be liable?

Rod

17:39 PM, 14th April 2020
About 5 months ago

The days of £60 fines are well gone, now it's £00000s. I've said it before, council and gov' are after money as they messed up years ago. Being a LL now is hardly worth it after all the out goings but all is not lost, there are still a few 'shop doorways' left but be quick! One of my tenants left after a couple of months and left 30 bin bags of dog ----- in the lounge! Another, and this is no lie, left a foot of rubbish in every room, the bath was full of it. Anyway, I'm now renting out to a couple of pigs, far better!

Colin Brammeld

19:38 PM, 14th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Fantastic long list of tasks to do, still not as much as Scottish Landlords/Letting Agents.
Why is there no comprehensive landlord training offered by councils in England? Possibly paid for by funds diverted from Shelter. Surely that would make more sense for organisations like Nationwide BS. I can never understand why Nationwide BS would give money to Shelter to hit their own clients with.

JB

10:43 AM, 15th April 2020
About 5 months ago

I am sure there are many landlords who think that employing an agent takes care of everything when actually they don't and the landlord is still liable for all infringements.

When I retire I'd love to become a real armchair investor and sleep easy at night knowing I have someone who is managing my properties and not just giving advice on how to stay legal but also actually DOING IT to my properties and taking on the legal responsibility. At the moment I don't think anyone like this exists.

Ingrid Bacsa

11:03 AM, 15th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Paul Essex at 14/04/2020 - 15:04
Who is blaming Landlords in this stream? They are merely stating what the rules are and that landlords are the target for every council complaint and will be treated as rogues by councils everywhere, who always protect tenants to keep homeless figures lower

Ingrid Bacsa

11:05 AM, 15th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Rod at 14/04/2020 - 17:39
Id prefer pigs any day. Their smell is legal.

Badger

11:37 AM, 18th April 2020
About 5 months ago

I find this comment deeply offensive.

"And nine times out of ten; no it’s not the tenant’s lifestyle – it’s your run-down property that’s not been properly maintained for years and years!"

Nothing could be further from the truth and it outrages me to see this nonsense constantly repeated.

The issue with mould is almost always a refusal to comply with tenancy conditions not to dry clothes inside the property combined with another one of failing to operate the heating to a sufficient level or provide sufficient ventilation by opening windows. Blocking up the window trickle vents and other vents (including, at times, vents provided for gas safety reasons!) are other reasons.


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