Landlords – Get Switched on NOW and understand your new obligations

by Paul Shamplina

14:44 PM, 27th October 2015
About 3 years ago

Landlords – Get Switched on NOW and understand your new obligations

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Landlords – Get Switched on NOW and understand your new obligations

There are so many new changes in the world of buy-to-let, making it increasingly difficult for self-managing landlords to keep up with current legislation.switched on

The Deregulation Act, which introduced new regulations on 1st October 2015, means that landlords and agents arranging new tenancies or renewals after this date now have more obligations to contend with prior to commencement of a tenancy.

A ‘How to Rent’ guide must be issued to tenants so that they understand their renting responsibilities. Landlords must also provide up to date Gas Safety, Energy Performance and Smoke Alarm certificates, and ask tenants to sign receipt of these.

My advice is to get this done at the same time as signing the tenancy agreement. If you fail to do so this and the relationship with the tenant breaks down for any reason, a tenant may make it difficult for you to gain access, which could prevent an engineer carrying out the necessary inspections and providing relevant certificates. Landlords who do not do this WILL NOT BE ABE TO SERVE A SECTION 21 NOTICE if required at a later date.

We assisted the Government with advice, along with other industry heads, in the months leading up to the introduction of the Deregulation Act. The reason the Act was pushed through was to tackle rogue landlords who make tenants’ lives miserable. However, I do have concerns that some elements of this could have a negative impact on the majority of smaller landlords. As a result, some may feel buy-to-let is too much aggravation and decide to sell up.

Landlords can now only serve a section 21 notice after the first four months of the tenancy and not at the beginning, as many had previously done. The new section 21 notice , will make landlords’ and agents’ lives a lot easier, as it combines the old section 21 fixed-term and periodic notices into one simpler form. You do not have to give a specific end date, just at least 2 months’ notice in writing. We thought this was a good idea when we participated in the drafting.

The new notice is for use with any tenancy agreements granted after 1 October 2015. For any tenancies prior to the 1st October 2015, the old rules (and old notices) still apply.

However, in October 2018 all tenancies (regardless of the date they were granted) will be subject to the new rules. It’s possible we may also see a lot of landlords leaving their agreements to go periodic rather than renewing their tenancies because they are worried about the new rules. In addition, I think letting agents will start charging landlords monthly management fees, as they may not be able to charge for the tenancy renewal if it is not being renewed.

The biggest change in my opinion is the ‘Retaliation Eviction’ rule, which is something I tried to oppose when giving evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group last November. I was worried that some tenants would abuse the system and try to get away with not paying rent to landlords.

Now tenants must now put their complaints of disrepair in writing to the landlord. The landlord then has 14 days to respond, setting out when they will arrange an inspection, how they are going to remedy the repair issues and timescales for these to be carried out.

If the landlord ignores the tenant’s request, the tenant must make a complaint to the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) at their local Council. I have raised concerns all along about the staff shortages at councils and how quickly an EHO will be able to attend following receipt of a complaint from a Tenant. Will the landlord still be receiving rent in the interim?

If the property is deemed in poor condition, the EHO can serve an Improvement Notice on the landlord. The landlord then has to attend to the works and is unable to serve a section 21 notice within 6 months from the date of the Improvement Notice. I’ve always worried about the fact that some unscrupulous tenants could damage the property on purpose, prevent the landlord from gaining access, and submit an argument regarding wear and tear. If there are not enough officers to carry out inspections, landlords will be subjected to even further delays in gaining possession. The tenant still has an obligation to pay the rent under their tenancy agreement.

My other concern is that not enough landlords will know about these recent changes. We now have something like 1.6 million landlords in the UK and 78% of them own just one property. I would encourage the Government to put some funds towards educating landlords, rather than just leaving it to the responsibility of lettings agents/landlords associations. Especially in light of the fact we now have something like 1.6 million landlords and 78% of them own just one property, 17% own 2-4 properties. Only last week I did a talk to about 70 landlords and agents in Manchester. and I’d say at least half of the room were unsure about the Deregulation Act, highlighting the need for greater publicity promoting these changes.

As an example of the need to heavily promote any legislative changes, we still receive 5-10 calls a day from landlords who want to evict their tenants, but have failed to protect their tenant’s ’ deposit. Even worse, some have still not even heard of the deposit scheme which came out in April 2007!

We must also bear in mind the Government has just announced that ‘Right to Rent’ will launch on 1st February 2016. This means landlords will be responsible for checking their prospective tenants’ documentation, including UK or European Passport status, to ensure the tenant has the right to residence in the UK or EU. If the prospective tenant turns out to be an illegal immigrant, then the landlord could be fined up to £3000 per tenant.

So Landlords – please understand your obligations and if you do not have time to stay on top of changes and management, please instruct a regulated letting agent – it may be a lot easier.

Contact Landlord Action

Specialists in tenant eviction and debt collection. Regulated by The Law Society.


Comments

Mick Roberts

14:31 PM, 28th October 2015
About 3 years ago

I've had exactly this last 2 years ago. Girl was damaging the property. I was evicting her because of this.
She called Env Health. He made me do some bits. She then damaged more. She then called Env Health again. Fortunately his boss knew I was good & did fix stuff & he wouldn't come out again.
But under these new rules, Judge won't let me evict because he will think I'm not fixing stuff she wants repaired-Even though she has ruddy broke 'em-Nuts!

And I deal with lower end scale of HB tenants-Virtually none of mine have passports or licenses-What I am to do to verify them?

KATHY MILLER

14:56 PM, 28th October 2015
About 3 years ago

Smoke Alarm certificates

Can you explain this,? I have put in the smoke alarms to all of my properties each floor as required, but am confused by this?

If after Oct 2018 it covers all tenancies regardless of date why would you see a lot of landlords leaving their agreements to go periodic ?
They would still need to comply with new rules or do you mean up until that date landlords will go periodic?

Luke P

15:02 PM, 28th October 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "KATHY MILLER" at "28/10/2015 - 14:56":

I think it means between now and 2018, agencies won't be able to charge for new agreements created during this time because landlords will choose to leave them to go periodic. It doesn't solve anything, just buys them time.

As for smoke alarms, there is no standard certificate but as with all matters legal, it's not necessarily about what you've done, but about proving what you've done, i.e. the paperwork. Putting in a smoke alarm isn't the important part, it's getting the tenant to sign something to acknowledge it's fitted, that they are responsible for testing, maintaining/cleaning and replacing batteries.

If a tenant takes down and throws away one of your newly fitted alarms and claims one was never fitted in the first place, you will be going directly to jail if you can't prove it was ever in there when the place burns down. GET A SIGNATURE!

Romain Garcin

16:10 PM, 28th October 2015
About 3 years ago

"The new section 21 notice , will make landlords’ and agents’ lives a lot easier, as it combines the old section 21 fixed-term and periodic notices into one simpler form. You do not have to give a specific end date, just at least 2 months’ notice in writing."

I must disagree with this. This new form does not simplify anything.

Previously there wasn't two different forms. For some reason most sources provided two different forms but there was no requirement to do so, a single one would have sufficed.
This is proved by this new form itself: The law hasn't changed in this aspect and there is a single prescribed notice form because the law as it is allows it.

This new form does not contain a saving clause. Now, because the requirements on expiry dates have be relaxed this is not catastrophic, but it is still something missing, IMHO.

In addition, in most cases there was no requirement to have an expiry date: 2 months notice in writing was enough.
This new form requires the landlord to fill in an expiry date, so this possibility actually no longer exists.

Lastly, and importantly, the new form is very verbose and full of misleading guidance or downright incorrect requirements.

KATHY MILLER

17:08 PM, 28th October 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Luke P" at "28/10/2015 - 15:02":

Thanks Luke

I will add it to the list I am already getting them to sign
Gas cert
EPC
Deposit cert
Condensation leaflet

Yes tenants are always breaking the wired in ones!..

Jim S

14:18 PM, 31st October 2015
About 3 years ago

This is the first time anyone has said that you need to provide the tenant with copies of a smoke detector certificate for the section 21 Notice to be valid. Are you sure this is correct?

Luke P

0:39 AM, 1st November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jim S" at "31/10/2015 - 14:18":

Not to provide the tenants, but so you have a written/signed record.

It's not linked to S.21

Monty Bodkin

8:33 AM, 1st November 2015
About 3 years ago

Exactly Mick.

Give me a couple of hours in a property and I can make enough disrepair to convince a highly trained sparky, plumber or chartered surveyor, let alone some unqualified council muppet with a clipboard.

The answer for me is to not take on tenants that might get in that position in the first place, starting with those needing benefits.

Not that easy for you Mick I know.

Michael Barnes

14:24 PM, 2nd November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Luke P" at "28/10/2015 - 15:02":

My inventory (signed by tenants) includeds the smoke alarms.

Doesn't yours?

Luke P

14:44 PM, 2nd November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Michael Barnes" at "02/11/2015 - 14:24":

Can you prove they were working at the outset of the agreement (they need to be tested in the presence of the tenant)? Do you test them regularly as per the manufacturers instructions? This can be passed onto the tenant but you'll need to ensure you document that this is the case.

If the inventory merely acknowledges their presence, then this is not enough.


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