Forms and procedures for LHA Landlords

Forms and procedures for LHA Landlords

15:43 PM, 16th March 2012, About 10 years ago 49

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LHA Top Tips for landlords. Article 4 in a series of 8
The most important things are that you need everything in writing; you need to keep it clear and simple for the tenant and you must understand timings.

  1. Before you offer any tenant your property let them know that you would like to use a tenant referencing agency to do a basic background search. A number of free services exist and you can find some of these tenant referencing services in the Property Services Directory at Property118.com.
  2. Not all tenants will be familiar with the claims procedure and complex forms or long interviews will put off many tenants. Simplify any forms you have, both in layout and wording, be prepared to explain when paperwork must be completed to secure the tenancy and offer to help with completing the forms.
  3. Produce a standard list for the tenant of the information you will need them to provide to complete their application. Proofs of identity, NI number, banking details etc.. to enable you to reduce delays in submitting their application. The council will advise what they are likely to require.
  4. Ensure that the tenant understands their obligations with regard to giving notice on their current home and if appropriate obtain a Housing Benefit overlap form from your local council. This can be paid for up to a maximum of four weeks where an overlap is unavoidable.
  5. It is always preferable to have rent paid direct to you rather than via the tenant. Explain to the tenant that you will seek direct payments so any information they can offer to help with this would be appreciated; for example evidence of a medical condition or debts.
  6. Once you have decided which prospective tenant you want you will need to contact the council and give them the composition of the family, ages and their income details to get confirmation of what LHA rate they qualify for. Don’t forget you will already have an idea as to what rate the tenant qualifies for, but this will confirm it. Always ask for the confirmation to be emailed so you have a copy in case of any problems. If the tenant only qualifies for the single bedroom rate but it is a two bedroom property, try applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment, which is a fund that allows the council to top up any Housing Benefit. It cannot be used to pay off arrears. For the council to allow this the tenant must be vulnerable and at risk of not getting the property, also the rent cannot be higher than the LHA rate for that property.
  7. You can submit a claim for Housing Benefit up to 13 weeks prior to a tenancy start date. The sooner this process is started the more margin you have for unexpected delays. It is worth stating on the paperwork that it is an “Advanced Claim”.
  8. Always ask your prospective tenant to sign a declaration that states you can contact the council about your tenants’ circumstances that relate to the property. The council may otherwise refuse to speak directly with you due to the Data Protection Act.
  9. If there is likely to be a rent top up required from the tenant make sure they understand how much, when it will need to be paid and that you will require this to be done via a standing order. This will hopefully prevent any problems at a later date. If you are intending to use a letting agent they can ensure that payments are set up as a direct debit.
  10. Contact the council to ensure that there are no overpayment claims pending for your tenant which may affect ongoing payments or affect the tenants ability to afford top-up rent where due. When dealing with some councils this is not an option as the length of time it takes to get an answer could be weeks, by which time you could have lost the tenant. Always try though.


Comments

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

6:22 AM, 21st March 2012, About 10 years ago

My council certainly claw back from tenants. The galling thing for many is where the overpayment was a result of council error they still take it, even thoguh the tenant was receiving the money, confident that the council's assessment was correct. This leaves a shortfall and leads to eviction and rent arrears.

Also you will see a growing trend in claw backs in relation to Rent Repayment Orders. Councils are becoming more confident and knoweledgable about these. I recently attened an afternoon seminare where a couple of councils were spreading the knoweledge and procedures that have brought them some success

by

23:14 PM, 21st March 2012, About 10 years ago

What are Rent Repayment Orders Ben;  and do I see a useful post on this subject  being  formulated by you for our relevant enlightenment!!!?

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

7:01 AM, 22nd March 2012, About 10 years ago

RROs are something that should strike fear into the heart of rogue HMO landlords. They were brought in as part of the same legislation that requires HMO Licensing but it has taken most councils several years to cotton on to the possibilities of income generation containined within it.

If an HMO should be licensed but isnt then council can slap an RRO on the property and apply to the standard residnetial property tribunal, which is a paper exercise only and if succesful they can claw back 12 month's rent from each tenant, HB or not. Given that HMOs only become licensable when ther are at least 5 tenants it becomes quite a substantial penalty.

I have just been made aware of 1 unlicensed HMO in New Cross with 20 tenants in it.. LHA rate is £125 per week. X 52 weeks = £6,500 X 20 tenants = £130,000. OUCH!

Quite an incentive to get licensed, I'm sure you'll agree.

Tenants can apply for their own RROs but only after a council is already taking action for not licesnsing so its easier and quicker for councils to do them.

Councils are like battleships, it takes a lot to get these oversized behemoths moving but once they do.......................

I recently attended a seminar at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health at London Bridge where presenters from several councils told us all about their successes with them and gave us their handouts with all procedures that they have ironed the kinks out of and streamlined through experience. Lack of clear and tested procedures is the reason not many councils have used RROs to date. Now the information of the pioneers is being circulated we will all follow like dominoes. Thats how it always works.

All councils are under the cosh, cuts being the most well known aspect of them but the other side of the coin is 'Income generation' or what you in the private sector simply call 'Profit'.

by

20:52 PM, 22nd March 2012, About 10 years ago

Not that I have an HMO, as far as I am aware, there are issues that have mentioned before on this site about what is an HMO and when does it need to be licensed.
The localism bill will add further confusion.
So you could have circumstances where LL genuinely do not appreciate that they may have a licensible HMO
You can see the certain LL will be bankrupted by such confusions.
Consequently more LL will exit the HMO market as they can't be sure what classification  for HMO's applies to them and won't wish to take a risk and end up inadvertantly with a RRO!

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

7:06 AM, 23rd March 2012, About 10 years ago

No, using RROs as a blanket thing on every unlicensed HMO isnt the aim of anyone that I have spoken to about it. Every area has certain landlords who are real criminals, we know who they are and its those we will be targetting. Persistent offenders with dangerous and horrible properties.

We have one guy I know who has an overcrowded HMO, has 3 people living in a shed in the back garden and we have just found out after neighbours complained, that he is secretely digging out a cellar to create more space to rent using the shed guys as free labour because they are illegal immigrants.

And the New Cross guy has ignored works notices to put fire safety doors and fire escapes in, ignored injunctions, punched out a planning officer and illegally evicts whenever it suits him. He also has a convenience store with an old shipping container in the back garden which up until recently had 9 chinese immigrants living in, using the garden as their toilet. If we can bankrupt these 2 and put them out of business I wont have any sleepless nights over it.

 

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

7:31 AM, 23rd March 2012, About 10 years ago

Actually, writing that just gave me a great idea. We are starting to work with our landlords, building relationships etc and I have been charged with doing a lot of it, particulalry creating a new website service. I;m not  a manager but I am quite influential.

I am going to suggest to the powers that be that any money we make from RROs from our real bad landlrords should be used to build a fund we can use to help our good landlords.

I like the poetic justice of that

by Mark Alexander

7:36 AM, 23rd March 2012, About 10 years ago

Ben

When the time comes and if you decide to outsource any of the work I would like to pitch for that contract, the strategic marketing, website build, SEO, SSO etc. Just imagine, an entrepreneurial landlord on the team - now that would raise eyebrows!!!

The key to such a project is attention - I am a professional attention seeker as you know LOL

by

20:50 PM, 23rd March 2012, About 10 years ago

Why doesn't the UKBA do anything about the situation.
I would have thought you should have ahotline to them as you you seem to face these issues before anyone else knows about them.
Getting rid of the illegal immigrants would stop him in his tracks!?

by Ben Reeve-Lewis

22:23 PM, 23rd March 2012, About 10 years ago

And in the real world? haha

Paul when you work in an area like I do property fraud and people trafficking are just everyday stuff. We dont have hotlines anywhere and they dont have hotlines to us.

Every single person that my unit places into temporary accommodation (B&B or Hostel as part of homeless applications) has to be photographed because we increasingly found that the people who the homeless crew interview and whose documents are checked and verified were so often not the people who turn up at the B&B/hostel.

And exploitation of illegal immigrants is always carried out by their own countrymen. Language and cultural barriers mean you cant get near them. Also, by sheer definition, if a person doesnt have recourse to public funds they cant even complain to us in fear of being deported.

I dont have a down on people in that position. They are very vulnerable and get exploited every which way. Its a dark, murky, impenetrable world that even the UKBA find difficult to keep on top of.

I can only deal with it as it impacts upon my work as a TRO. I often try to stop harassment and illegal evcitions but my powers only go so far and often the housing stuff is just the tip of the iceberg

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