Tag Archives: Assured Shorthold Tenancy

Rent to Rent Discussed on Radio 4 today in the next few minutes! Landlord Action, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

This Broadcast was meant to be last Wednesday but is instead being run today  between 12pm-1pm.

Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action will be taking to the airwaves on BBC4’s You and Yours show, to highlight the shocking risk to landlords of the latest money making strategy to sweep the property industry, “Rent to Rent”.

It’s a simple concept: Rent a house, then sub-let the rooms to sub-tenants and make as much profit as possible. Rent to Rent Discussed on Radio 4 today

This is a mushrooming phenomenon which has seen hoards of “experts” writing blogs, books and seminars on how to get started and even running courses costing up to £500 on how to bring in tens of thousands of pounds with virtually no out-lay. One such “guru” includes Daniel Burton who claimed he earned £35,000 a month from the get-rich-quick scheme.  Last week, The Guardian revealed he has gone missing, leaving tenants and landlords across London hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

The idea behind how it works involves a tenant (or “renter”) offering a landlord a guaranteed amount of rent for a set period, say three years. “This amount is likely to be less than its actual market value but the landlord, in theory, is happy because the property is let and he does not need to worry about lost rent, void periods or tenant issues for the foreseeable future” says Paul Shamplina.  The tenant agrees to look after the property, take care of maintenance issues and in some cases even carry out a refurbishment on the property. Then, the tenant sub-lets as many rooms as possible to willing sub-tenants who are happy to rent a converted lounge or dining room and live in a house shared with six other strangers. The “renter” then creams a profit on the difference between the rent he is paying the owner/landlord and the rent coming in from the sub-tenants as a result of the multi-let.

Mr Shamplina has been asked to discuss the latest craze and how landlords might get unwittingly caught up in this scam and, what they should do if they are. He comments “I have several concerns over the legal practices of this process and how it affects the very landlords it claims to ‘support’. In my view, if it is not carried out diligently the landlord loses control of the property which is where the problems begin.  I suppose I speak from being at the sharp end of dealing with evictions but I would advise any landlords entering into such an agreement to tread very carefully.”

To hear Paul’s views on rent to rent, tune in to You and Yours on Radio 4 from 12pm on Wednesday 16th October 2013.

In the pre-recorded interview Paul Shamplina mentions various tips for property owners considering Rent to Rent, one of which is not to accept Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement as these are not the appropriate contracts. Recently, Landlord Action announced they are now an alternative business structure regulated by The Law Society and have joined forces with The Law Department, headed by solicitor Justin Selig whose name you will recognise if you are a party to the Class Action groups fighting the West Brom Mortgage Company and Bank of Irelands decisions to increase the margins on their tracker mortgage products.

Having recognised a need for a professionally drafted commercial lease template to be readily available to Rent to Rent companies and property owners Property118 teamed up with Justin Selig to produce one.

The lease contract templates, guidance notes and notices are now available for immediate download for just £97 exclusively via Property118.com

The reason the contract templates are so competitively priced is due to economies of scale, the real cost of drafting a contract of this nature is thousands. Sufficient pre-orders of the contract template via Property118 made it viable to produce the documents and to share costs to arrive at this incredibly low figure.

If you are a property owner and you are being offered a “Guaranteed Rent” deal which allows your tenant to sub-let then this lease template is also for you as it protects your interests. If your tenant wants permission to sublet and you’re being offered a Company Letting Agreement or an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, that’s the wrong contract and should sound warning bells.
Guaranteed Rent to Rent Lease Contract Templates now available for download

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  • Price: £ 97.00

 


Tenants Charter – Mr Pickles, have you gone completely mad? Buy to Let News, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Legal, Property Investment News, Property Market News, Property News, Tenant Eviction, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Tenants Charter

Open Letter to Mr Eric Pickles – Communities Secretary – re Tenants Charter

Dear Mr Pickles

Have you gone completely mad?

I am reading in The Times Newspaper today that you are to announce a “Tenants Charter” which will allow tenants to demand two to five year tenancy agreements.

Do you realise that most buy to let mortgage borrowers would be in default of their mortgage contracts if they were to offer tenancy agreements with fixed terms longer than 6 or 12 months?

Do you realise that most modern leases (e.g leasehold flats) contain conditions on subletting not exceeding 12 months in term?

There is a very good reason why mortgage lenders have these conditions in their mortgages. It is because it is so difficult to obtain possession when a tenant reneges on a contract. Bad payers are regularly getting away with up to 5 months of rent free living. Theoretically a landlord can apply to obtain possession by serving two weeks notice once a tenant is two or months in arrears on rent. However, after that 10 weeks has expired it can take several months to get a Court date. Even when a possession order has been granted it then takes several more weeks before bailiffs can be appointed to enforce the order. If you want landlords and mortgage lenders to provide greater security of tenure to tenants then you are going to have to sort out the possession rules for landlords first.

Section 21 of the housing act transformed the UK Private Rented Sector which was in rapid decline until the 1988 act was introduced. Forcing landlords to offer long term tenancy agreements will force the PRS back into the dark ages and reduce incentive for further investment into the sector.

Does Government not recognise the need for a healthy PRS?

Does government not realise that a huge sector of the working population rely on the housing flexibility the PRS provides in terms of job mobility?

Do you have any idea of how your speech today could destabilise the Private Rented Sector?

I totally understand that good tenants, particularly young families with children of school age, need a fair deal and it cuts both ways in that most landlords want good tenants to stay long term. It makes economic sense for landlords to have quality long term tenants,

So why have you not even considered promoting the Deed of Assurance?

Perhaps you are unaware of the effectiveness and simplicity?

A Deed of Assurance is a document in which a landlord promises to pay an agreed level of compensation to a tenant if possession is obtained within a given time period. 

A Deed of Assurance is a relatively simple legal agreement which sits alongside an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement “AST”. It is a separate agreement between landlord and tenant which does not affect the landlords rights to serve notice or to obtain possession, therefore it does not affect the rights of a mortgage lender either. However, it does offer tenants peace of mind.

From a tenants point of view, a Deed of Assurance provides far more flexibility than a long term tenancy because they are only tied in for 6 months and can then move on if they need to. What a Deed of Assurance offers in addition to an AST is peace of mind.

The compensation amount offered by the landlord is negotiable but obviously the idea is to agree something which is meaningful to both parties. For example, I offer to pay anything between £1,000 and £5,000 compensation if I obtain possession within the agreed period, providing the tenancy conditions have been observed impeccably by the tenant of course. If tenants fail to pay rent on time or breaches other contractual terms within the tenancy agreement their right to claim compensation for being evicted during the Deed of Assurance is forfeited. I have been offering a Deed of Assurance to my tenants for a few years now and I am delighted to report that my relationships with new tenants have never been better.

I do not expect a reply from you Mr Pickles but I do hope you will consider the implications of acting on the advice of the people who have been influencing you up to this point.

Yours sincerely

 

Mark Alexander


Rent to Rent Tips, Advice and Case Study Advice, Buy to Let News, Landlord News, Landlords Stories, Latest Articles, Legal, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property Investment News, Property Investment Strategies, Property News, Property Sourcing, The GOOD Landlords Campaign, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I’ve spotted yet another educational course based on the Rent to Rent concept this morning, this one is called “Let to Rent”. I have no idea whether the course is a good one or not, however, given that the topic of Rent to Rent is so popular I have produced this guide to share answers to some of the most frequently asked questions relating to this subject, specifically in relation to contracts.

When can tenants be offered a license as opposed to an AST?

The benefits of providing a license is that it is much easier to evict tenants. There is no requirement for a minimum 6 month term, no requirement to give them two months notice and no requirement to obtain a Court order and instruct bailiffs to regain possession if a tenant refuses to move out after the notice period. Furthermore, tenants deposits do not need to be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme if a property/room is let on license or a lodgers agreement, which is a form of license. No wonder Rent to Renters want to offer licenses instead of AST then! Image - Let to Rent and Rent to Rent Tips

Licenses can only be used under the following circumstances:-

1) The room/property is being rented as holiday accommodation. You may need to prove that the occupier of the room or property has another residence though, e.g. a place where they are registered on the voters roll.

2) You are a live in landlord. If you live in the property yourself you can take in lodgers

3) If you provide a service such as a hostel or a B&B. For example, if you provide cleaning services including changing the bedding once a week or breakfasts in the morning.

What if none of the above apply?

If none of the above apply then the basis of your tenancy is an AST whatever your contract says. This is because legislation in the housing and 1988 (and subsequent updates) and the landlord and tenant act 1985 over-rule whatever your contract says.

What is the right contract to have between the property owner and the Rent to Renter?

First, you need to understand what is the wrong type of contract and why.

Company Let Agreement (AKA corporate letting agreement)

Company Let Agreement (AKA corporate letting agreement)These allow a company to use the premises to provide accommodation for their employees. If you are using a company let agreement and subletting a property or a room within it to a person who is not your employee then you will be in breach of the agreement. Many Rent to Rent companies are using these agreements in ignorance of this fact. They do so because deposits do not need to be protected with a tenancy deposit scheme.

AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement)

AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement)AST’s do not generally allow subletting, therefore, any subletting without the owners permission is a breach of contract. Furthermore, the property owner could obtain possession of the property after just 6 months, even sooner if you are in breach of contract. If you have sublet the property and your tenants are still occupying the property after the owner has obtained possession you could be held liable and subjected to claims for massive financial compensation.

The correct agreement between a property owner and a Rent to Renter is a commercial lease

The correct agreement between a property owner and a Rent to Renter is a commercial lease.

Don’t use just any old off the peg commercial lease , you need one which is professionally drafted specifically for Rent to Rent which includes clear, fair and reasonable provisions for subletting a residential property. Do bear in mind that the property owner is highly likely to seek professional advice about the contract between you. The owner will generally be advised not to lease the property for more than 5 years and to ensure the lease is contracted out of the landlords and tenant act 1954 to ensure that it is his choice alone whether to offer to extend the arrangement by granting a new lease at the end of the contracted period. The owner of the property will also be advised to ensure that you become responsible for the maximum number of residents, maintenance, basis of occupancy/subletting, licensing and statutory requirements and maximum number of occupants. Therefore, it is important to be able to offer a well drafted document covering all of these points at the earliest possible opportunity. This will give the property owner and his professional advisers confidence in you being a professional operator.

Successful Rent to Rent Case Study

Let me give you a great example of a lady I spoke to a few months ago about her success story.

She came across a situation whereby an elderly guest house owner had fallen ill and moved into a granny annexe at her childrens home. The Guest House was on the Lincolnshire Coast and the children were based in the Home Counties. The Guest House had been in the family for for two generations and the family are reluctant to sell it. Based on profits, the family were advised by a professional commercial agent that the market rental value for the property was £1,000 pcm. The decision of the family was to let the property for 5 years prior to making a decision on whether to sell it OR for one of her grandchildren to run it OR to continue to rent it as a going concern. As the property was already registered as a guest house it already met all of the requirements to be a HMO. There were no selective licensing or Article 4 barriers to contend with in the area.

The rent to renter I spoke to had interesting plans for the property. She had spoken to the local authorities about the requirement for temporary accommodation for victims of domestic violence and homelessness as a result of mortgage repossessions and other forms of eviction. Her son would reside in the property as caretaker and would also serve breakfast and offer a basic cleaning service including a weekly change of bed linen. Under the circumstances, all rooms could be let on licenses. The profits on this activity amounted to more than £5,000 per month and within a week all 16 rooms were full.

Rent to Rent  Commercial Lease Contract

To have a suitable contract professionally drafted and ready to present to a property owner and his professional advisers typically costs around £3,000. In the case study presented above the lady purchased our Rent to Rent Commercial Lease template for just £97. The document template was professionally drafted by Justin Selig who is a qualified solicitor specialising in property and contract law. This arrangement is a joint venture between Property118 and Landlord Action. The Rent to Rent Commercial Lease Template has been one of the most popular premium downloads on this website.  The lady in our case study required a few amendments to the standard template due to the sub-letting arrangements in the template being drafted to assume AST’s would be used, however, that was easily sorted by her own solicitor who charged her just £300 to make the necessary amendments. In all she saved over £2,500 in legal fees and now makes over £5,000 pcm from her first Rent to Rent deal. Needless to say, she is now on the lookout for similar opportunities!

Order the "Rent to Rent" lease contract template

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Deed of Assurance Document Template Download Advice, Buy to Let News, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property Investment Strategies, Property News

If you have the right type of properties to attract long term, good quality tenants, don’t stitch yourself or your tenant up with a long term AST. Consider the benefits to all concerned of offering a Deed of Assurance instead. Give your tenants the peace of mind they want and an incentive for them to perform to your requirements impeccably. It’s then a true win/win situation. Tenants know that if they perform you will have to pay up if you take possession of your property. On the flip side you may well stand a far better chance of being able to attract the tenants you really want, a premium rent and less voids periods too.

A Deed of Assurance is a relatively simple legal agreement which sits alongside an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement “AST”. It is a separate agreement between landlord and tenant which does not affect the landlords rights to serve notice or to obtain possession, therefore it does not affect the rights of a mortgage lender either. However, it does offer tenants peace of mind.Deed of Assurance

From a tenants point of view, a Deed of Assurance provides far more flexibility than a long term tenancy because they are only tied in for 6 months and can then move on if they need to. What a Deed of Assurance offers in addition to an AST though is peace of mind.

A Deed of Assurance is a document in which a landlord promises to pay an agreed level of compensation to a tenant if possession is obtained within a given time period. I have never had to pay out compensation and because I’m in the business to provide quality tenants with quality accommodation long term I see absolutely no reason why I would ever need to.

The compensation amount offered by the landlord can be anything but obviously the idea is to agree something which is meaningful to both parties. For example, I offer to pay anything between £1,000 and £5,000 compensation if I obtain possession within the agreed period, providing the tenancy conditions have been observed impeccably by the tenant of course.

Similarly, the agreed period can be as long or short as makes sense too. Typically I offer 3 or 5 year terms but I would happily consider a longer period if the circumstances were right. What this means to the tenant is that if I obtain possession within the agreed period I will pay out compensation. This doesn’t stop me serving notice on a model tenant, it just means that if I obtain possession the tenant is compensated for their inconvenience.

But what if the tenant has not complied with the tenancy? Well that’s covered too. If the tenant does not comply the compensation isn’t payable, that’s very carefully worded into the Deed of Assurance by the solicitors who drafted it. Obviously there could be a dispute over whether the tenant had complied with all of the reasonable conditions in the AST and in that case the tenant would have to make a claim against the landlord for the compensation through the Small Claims Courts.

Deed of Assurance is not for everybody – by offering a Deed of Assurance a landlord is agreeing to pay compensation if they obtain possession of a property within a time scale they commit to with their tenant. It doesn’t always make sense for a landlord to make such a commitment but in some circumstances it can pay dividends. If in doubt, take professional advice.

What do others think?

The simplicity of the Deed of Assurance is its strength. Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith confirmed this by saying “The Deed of Assurance clearly sets out what the tenant can expect from the landlord and vice versa. In a sector where clarity might be lacking, this is a fantastic development”.

What’s the point of offering a Deed of Assurance?

Demand is very high from tenants who want/need greater assurance from their landlord that they are not going to have to move after just six months even if their tenancy has performed impeccably. Whilst a Deed of Assurance doesn’t actually provide tenants with any greater security of tenure, it’s certainly the next best thing. It’s a landlords opportunity to put his money where his mouth is, or perhaps more to the point, it’s a tenants opportunity to ask a landlord to do so when a landlords says words along the lines of “if you comply with your tenancy you can stay here for as long as you want”.

In practice, by providing properties which appeal to the types of tenants who want extra peace of mind in terms of stability they are also prepared to pay for that peace of mind. Many of my properties are typical family homes near to good schools, otherwise they are suburban bungalows which appeal to baby boomers and retired people. When I explain what a Deed of Assurance is to them they love it and often choose my properties over comparable properties for that reason alone. In many cases I’ve had several people bidding against each other to move into one of my properties despite there being plenty of comparable alternatives at lower prices. The reason they are prepared to pay more is for that peace of mind and legally documented assurance.

 

To purchase the Deed of Assurance document template please see below. The price is £97 for unlimited personal use. 100% of funds raised are donated to The GOOD Landlords Campaign.

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Legal Opinion on the Deed of Assurance

Statutory Compliance – the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989

This simply sets out a list of requirements which must be fulfilled by anybody who wishes to create a valid and enforceable contract for a disposition of an interest in land. If you fail to comply with the requirements you just end up with an attempt to create an interest in land which cannot be enforced. The interest in land that we are concerned with is, of course, the term of years granted to the tenant under an AST. Typically an AST is completed by the production of two identical copies of the tenancy agreement, one of which is signed by or on behalf of the landlord and the other of which is signed by or on behalf of the tenant; however, it is equally possible (but less common) for both copies to be signed by or on behalf of both parties.

Whilst it would be technically possible to modify (by addition) the AST so as to include words equivalent to those contained in the deed of assurance, our legal advisers chose not to recommend this for two separate reasons:

(i) the terms of the assurance are not in fact terms of the AST. The AST is one agreement (which creates an interest in land) while the assurance is a separate collateral agreement which does not create any interest in land. The assurance sets out the landlord’s intention as to the extension of the minimum term provided in the AST and in particular provides for certain consequences that will follow in the event that the intention to extend is frustrated or not performed for some reason.

(ii) the AST is complete and whole and enforceable under the statute because it does not refer (and does not need to refer) to any other document for its terms. The deed of assurance on the other hand does refer to the AST and hence (by virtue of section 2(2)) is deemed to incorporate the AST. Thus (for the avoidance of doubt) the AST is, for the purpose of the statute incorporated in the deed of assurance, although the deed of assurance is not incorporated in the AST.

For those reasons neither the deed of assurance nor the AST would be struck down as unenforceable by reason of the provisions of section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989.

(B) Why utilise two documents instead of one?

This is where the position of the mortgagee comes in. Although there are countless criticisms that one can validly raise against many of the large buy to let mortgage lenders, nevertheless they are to be regarded as a necessary evil. In very many (albeit not all) cases the ability of the landlord to own the property is entirely dependent upon the mortgagee advancing a large part of the purchase price. Typically such mortgagees are imperious and unyielding and often unreasonable in their attitude to the issue of letting so that they (under their terms and conditions, to which the landlord is forced to subscribe whether he likes it or not) will only permit the creation of ASTs with a short primary term, usually six months and almost never more than 12 months. Their justification for that stance is that they will not sanction any arrangement which might hamper or abstract their ability to obtain possession of the property and sell it with vacant possession in the event that the landlord defaults under the mortgage.

Given that the object of our exercise is to provide maximum comfort to the tenant in terms of the prospect of securing an extension in the effective term of the AST (with compensation available if the extension fails) the arrangement must avoid infringing the landlord’s mortgage covenants and the requirements of the mortgagee while still furnishing an enforceable remedy in the event that the tenant does not enjoy the full benefit of the extended term. Although there is some variation from lender to lender, it is in our experience generally the case that if the terms of the deed of assurance were directly incorporated within the AST itself, then the AST would no longer be acceptable to the mortgagee, resulting in a situation in which either consent would be refused or, alternatively, the landlord would all make breaches in mortgage covenants by entering into the (extended) AST. Obviously, we could never advise a landlord to breach mortgage covenants; apart from anything else it would render him liable to immediate adverse action if he were to do so. The reason why the mortgagees would not consent to the extended AST wording is that, if they were to do so, the tenant would or might have a sound argument against the granting of an order for possession and sale in the event that the landlord were to default under the mortgage.

By keeping the terms of the assurance in a separate deed, the possibility of valid objection by the mortgagee is eliminated. The landlord and tenant enter into a separate arrangement (outside the AST although referring to the AST) and the objectives of every party are achieved.

While we are not exactly “worried about lenders”, we cannot ignore them nor the rights and powers which they enjoy.

The problem is that if a mortgagee approves a document which contains an indication that the tenant will or may enjoy an extended term of tenancy, then, whatever protective wording you may put in, it would always be open to the tenant to argue in court (if faced with the prospect of premature eviction by reason of a landlord’s mortgage default) that he entered into the tenancy agreement specifically in reliance on the expectation of that extension, so that the mortgagee who had approved the wording would be unable to recover possession by reason of the rules of estoppel. That problem does not even arise as long as the mortgagee does not consent to nor approve the document which gives rise to the expectation. In other words, however good your wording might be, the “two separate documents” approach is inherently preferable.

(C) Why utilise a deed (as opposed to a simple agreement) for the assurance?

The decision to proceed by way of deed for the assurance was a “belt and braces” election, based on principles of precaution rather than necessity. When we were setting this up we did consider the possibility of having the assurance contained in a simple agreement, not by way of deed. However, it was perceived that in that case there would possibly be some element of risk or prejudice to the tenant. The problem is that it is arguable that a simple agreement not effected by way of deed might perhaps be unenforceable by the tenant. That is because it is not obvious that the tenant provides any “consideration” for the various promises and obligations undertaken by the landlord which form the core of the assurance. In other words, the landlord undertakes responsibilities that go well beyond his responsibilities under the AST while the tenant does not undertake any recognisable responsibilities or obligations beyond those already contained within the AST. In general under contract law a party can only enforce a promise given by another party if the enforcing party has provided some consideration in return for that promise. That rule does not apply where the promise to be enforced is contained within a deed. That is one of the distinctive features which differentiate between a deed on the one hand and a simple written agreement on the other hand.

The use of a deed might be regarded as overkill and unnecessary but it is safer and better for the tenant to have the assurance terms contained within a deed. There is no downside or disadvantage (apart from the modest requirement that signatures be witnessed) from the point of view of either party by employing a deed as the mechanism for the assurance and so that is what our legal advisers recommended.


Is the section 21 notice now a risk? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, once an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement has come to an end, a landlord has the legal right to recover possession of their property should they wish. Is the section 21 notice now a risk?

A landlord wishing to re-gain possession of a property is required to serve a Section 21 Notice to tenants. They do not have to give any reason for ending the tenancy.

There are strict rules for landlords to follow when evicting tenants. Under an AST, they must ensure that the tenancy has run for at least six months and that the initial contract term has finished. Landlords have a duty to protect deposits in a suitable holding scheme and to serve the correct notices using Section 21. There are two types of Section 21 Notice and it is important the right one is issued. If the tenancy is still within the contracted fixed term, the S.21 (1)(b) Notice should be served. Where the fixed term has ended and the tenancy has become a periodic agreement, the S.21 (4)(a) Notice is used. Landlords must give at least two months notice before evicting tenants. If the tenant does not vacate within the timescale, a court possession order can be obtained. Following this, if occupants still won’t leave, the landlord can apply again to the court for bailiffs to assist in tenant eviction.

Before going to court it is imperative that protocols have been followed properly. The appropriate notices need to have been served correctly and in a timely manner. According to the Chairman of the London Association of District Judges, a high percentage of eviction notices are being dismissed out of court due to mistakes made in their issue.

Previously, properly served Section 21 Notices have usually proved effective. Wishing to avoid the issue of going to court, tenants nearly always left within the requisite two months. However, it has recently become popular for councils to refuse a Section 21 notice as evidence of tenant eviction. They prefer to wait until the case has been brought to court and a possession order granted before re-homing individuals. As this process can take several weeks or months, it gives councils additional time to relocate tenants. However, it can be financially devastating for landlords, especially if the tenant is not paying rent.

The new Universal Credit system is also causing concern for both landlords and tenants. Previously, benefits were paid to claimants in separate instalments and rent paid directly to landlords, but tenants will now receive one payment, including housing benefit, from which they will need to pay their rent. Only a small percentage of tenants fail to pass rent on to their landlords. However, the new system could potentially see more individuals struggling to manage their finances effectively and the risk of rent arrears will increase. In addition, there is apprehension over proposals to recover arrears by reducing payments to the claimant and paying a percentage directly to the landlord. This could place tenants in an even more vulnerable position and the landlords will only recoup lost rent over very long periods of time and risk further arrears in the future.

It seems inevitable that the long-term result will be more landlords withdrawing from the social-housing sector, with the gap between supply and demand only increasing.


AST’s – what’s best a Contract or a Deed? Latest Articles

I am working as part of a legal group to solve an issue for landlords which I hope to be able to talk about later this month.  AST's  - what's best a Contract or a Deed?

I’m learning a lot and loving it!

The issue of contract vs Deed came up in a meeting I had yesterday. Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements “AST’s” can be either. I was interested to learn the difference because to the layman they look very similar.

Did you know that you have 12 years to chase a debt created as a result of a Deed but only 6 years for a contract? That could be very useful in terms of rent arrears as 12 years is a very long time and even the worst of hopeless case tenants might have had a turnaround in their finances within that period.

The only downside of an AST being a Deed instead of a contract which I could see is that each signature need to be independently witnessed by unrelated people.

The other very useful thing I learned about Deeds is that unlike contracts, which can be challenged if there is no consideration (i.e. payment), a Deed can not. Therefore, that’s why a Deed of Assurance is a Deed and not a contract as tenants don’t pay for the assurance.

Clever stuff hey?


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Rent2Rent companies are using the wrong letting contracts

Whilst I have never been a fan of the Rent2Rent strategy I have to accept that a lot of investors are using Rent2Rent including Housing Associations, Councils and FTSE 250 companies as well as privateers. As it is the mission of Property118 to share best practice, helping these private investors to get their paperwork right fits within our remit, regardless of any other misgivings I might have personally have about the scheme.

What is Rent2Rent?

The way the scheme generally works is that a contract is entered into whereby a property owner rents or signs up to a management contract for his/her property with an investor/manager which includes permission to sublet in return for promises of guaranteed rent, maintenance, management etc. A profit element is built into the deal by investor/manager in the form of a below market rent.

Rent2Rent problems

An example of how things can go horribly wrong is explained in this thread. A property owner was asked to sign an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. To cut a long story short there was a dispute over deposit protection which went to court and the property owner won, even though she had not protected the deposit. She could have claimed substantial damages against the Rent2Rent company but in this instance chose not to. Big lesson learned for the property owner and also the Rent2Renter too!

What are the correct agreements to use for Rent2Rent?

I have consulted with Tessa Shepperson at Landlord Law regarding which type of tenancy agreement should be used. The conclusion was that neither AST’s nor corporate letting agreement are appropriate agreements for the owner and the Rent2Rent company to be using. What is required is a commercial lease drawn up by a corporate property lawyer. Tessa doesn’t get involved with corporate property law so I called in the help of Justin Selig, a qualified and practising corporate property solicitor with The Law department and Landlord Action.

Justin has agreed that subject to demand he will create a legal document template which Rent2Rent companies can  download from Property118 for £97 including VAT. The document will be copyright protected so it can only be used by the person who pays for it and any company in which that person owns more than 26% of the shares. It can, however, be used as many times as that person needs to do so. Therefore there is not a requirement to pay £97 each time the document template is used.

If enough people order the agreements they will be available for download by 31st July 2013. If by 22nd July 2013 there are not enough orders it will be deemed that there is insufficient demand, the project will be scrapped and everybody who has paid will receive a FULL refund.

UPDATE – 23rd July 2013

Sufficient orders have been confirmed and paid for and Justin Selig will have the contracts prepared and ready for us to deliver by the end of this month (July 2013)

UPDATE – 29th July 2013

“Rent to Rent” Lease contract templates are now available for immediate download using the embedded order form below.

Tenancy Agreements between Rent2Rent company and tenantsRent2Rent scheme letting contracts

These will typically be standard AST’s, but there are many kinds. Licences may also be applicable if the tenant has another home. A great article to read about tenancy agreements is this one written by Tessa Shepperson.

VAT on Rent2Rent

Some Rent2Rent investors have set their arrangements up under management contracts and fallen foul of VAT. I have spoken to my accountants and had it confirmed that a commercial lease will get around this problem as the owner of a residential property can not elect to tax for VAT purposes. Therefore, the head lessee (the Rent2Rent investor) doesn’t need to charge VAT to tenants either on this basis.

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The evolution of the Private Rented Sector – Deed of Assurance Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Legal, Letting, Lettings & Management, Press, Property Investment Strategies, Property Market News, Property News, The GOOD Landlords Campaign

TMW now agree to three year AST's - Stupidly in my opinionWhy on earth would The Mortgage Works “TMW” agree to three year AST’s?

More to the point, why would landlords and tenants?

It has always been legally possible for landlords to offer AST’s for up to 3 years and indeed in theory for any fixed term though a term longer than 3 years, even by one day, means the agreement must be executed as a Deed and witnessed. However, until now, you would almost certainly be in breach of your buy to let mortgage conditions if you agreed to a tenancy of more than 12 months. TMW have broken the mould by agreeing to allow landlords to offer 3 year AST’s. However, in my opinion they are doing nobody any favours including themselves.

I have read Shelters arguments about offering stable rental contracts and to some extent I can see where they are coming from. However, I think the concept of longer term AST’s are potentially dangerous for landlords, tenants and mortgage lenders. Perhaps the most compelling evidence for this belief is that Shortholds first made their appearance courtesy of The Housing Act 1980 in the guise of Protected Shortholds. These tenancies had to be granted for a minimum 5 year term and came with other restrictions on notice being given and rent increases.

Although an improvement on the then Secure tenancy regime The Protected Shorthold was not popular with Landlords and the lesson was surely learned with the improved terms applying to Assured Shortholds as introduced in the Housing Act 1988 and amended since.

The concept behind 3 year AST’s

three year AST conceptPeople with children in schools and also retired people want more security of tenure but not at the risk of being tied to one property if their circumstances change. What these tenants don’t like is the idea of a landlord having the ability to serve notice on them after just six months regardless of whether they have been model tenants and just got settled or not.  I sympathise with that and I’ve met several people who have been in that exact position. Indeed one of my former employees was forced to move twice in less than 18 months through no fault of her own. She was a model tenant but in one case the landlords decided to move back to their former property and in the other case the landlords decided to sell. My employee had a disabled daughter and it was very important to her to keep her daughter settled in the same school. She had done nothing wrong but had to deal with a lot of stress and worry, not to mention the expense of having to move.

The problems with three year AST’s

If a landlord grants a three year AST there is no ability to gain possession on “no fault” grounds under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 unless there is a break clause that can be operated to shorten the originally stated fixed term. This of course defeats the object of a longer term tenancy, certainly from the tenant’s viewpoint. What this means is that there is absolutely no way to legally evict a tenant during the first three years unless the tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement as mandatory possession will not be available to the Landlord.

What’s wrong with that? I hear you say.

Well just consider a few “what if” examples:-

  1. What if the landlord falls ill and needs to sell to raise cash?
  2. What if the landlord dies?
  3. What if the landlord goes bankrupt?
  4. What if interest rates go up and the landlord can’t afford to pay the mortgage and needs to sell?
  5. What if the landlord desperately needs to move into the property due to an unforseen change in circumstances, e.g. a marriage breakdown?
  6. What if the landlord get’s divorced?

The list is a very long one already and I could go on. The killer blow for me from a landlords perspective is that if the tenant doesn’t comply with the tenancy agreement the only way to get possession before the end of the fixed term is by mutual agreement with the tenant, or by serving a section 8 notice for the breach. This can be and often is challenged though the serious arrears Ground 8 is a mandatory ground, whereas a section 21 notice cannot be challenged other than on its legal validity and ability to enforce it. The reality though is that possession cases under section 8 can be challenged and dragged through the Courts for several months. That could mean months of no rent or a tenant who abuses a landlords property or occupants of neighbouring properties.

My advice to all landlords is not to offer more than a 6 months AST in most cases, 12 months for some student type accommodation where re-letting part way through the academic year is more difficult.

Why would a lender agree to three year AST’s?

Why would a lender agree to three year AST's?To do so is crazy in my opinion.

I’ve read David Lawrenson’s points of view and whilst I concur that a lender “could” appoint a receiver of rents until it is possible to serve a section 21 notice I just can’t see why lenders would agree to that. Perhaps they are doing it just for a bit of positive PR from the do-gooders and hoping that landlords aren’t stupid enough to actually offer three year AST’s?

The mind boggles!

The bottom line for a mortgage lender is surely the ability to be able to recover their debt as quickly as possible if they need to isn’t it? Agreeing to a three year AST not only devalues their security but it also massively limits their recovery options for up to six times longer than they need to commit to, i.e. 3 years instead of six months.

Is a three year AST really that attractive to tenants either?

What if their circumstances change? Do they really want to be tied into paying their landlord for the full three years? Do they really want their estate to be charged rent for the entire contract period if they die? Committing to a three year tenancy cuts both ways. Most tenants would prefer the flexibility of a tenancy with a Council or a housing association because they are not tied in for a fixed period but do enjoy greater rights of tenure. However, Housing Associations only provide around 50% of the UK rental stock with the other half being provided by the Private Rented Sector.

Deed of Assurance could be a far better alternative

A Deed of Assurance is a relatively simple legal agreement which sits alongside an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement “AST”. It is a separate agreement between landlord and tenant which does not affect the landlords rights to serve notice or to obtain possession, therefore it does not affect the rights of a mortgage lender either. However, it does offer tenants peace of mind.Deed of Assurance

From a tenants point of view, a Deed of Assurance provides far more flexibility than a long term tenancy because they are only tied in for 6 months and can then move on if they need to. What a Deed of Assurance offers in addition to an AST though is peace of mind.

A Deed of Assurance is a document in which a landlord promises to pay an agreed level of compensation to a tenant if possession is obtained within a given time period. I have never had to pay out compensation and because I’m in the business to provide quality tenants with quality accommodation long term I see absolutely no reason why I would ever need to.

The compensation amount offered by the landlord can be anything but obviously the idea is to agree something which is meaningful to both parties. For example, I offer to pay anything between £1,000 and £5,000 compensation if I obtain possession within the agreed period, providing the tenancy conditions have been observed impeccably by the tenant of course.

Similarly, the agreed period can be as long or short as makes sense too. Typically I offer 3 or 5 year terms but I would happily consider a longer period if the circumstances were right. What this means to the tenant is that if I obtain possession within the agreed period I will pay out compensation. This doesn’t stop me serving notice on a model tenant, it just means that if I obtain possession the tenant is compensated for their inconvenience.

But what if the tenant has not complied with the tenancy? Well that’s covered too. If the tenant does not comply the compensation isn’t payable, that’s very carefully worded into the Deed of Assurance by the solicitors who drafted it. Obviously there could be a dispute over whether the tenant had complied with all of the reasonable conditions in the AST and in that case the tenant would have to make a claim against the landlord for the compensation through the Small Claims Courts.

Deed of Assurance is not for everybody – by offering a Deed of Assurance a landlord is agreeing to pay compensation if they obtain possession of a property within a time scale they commit to with their tenant. It doesn’t always make sense for a landlord to make such a commitment but in some circumstances it can pay dividends. If in doubt, take professional advice.

What do others think?

The simplicity of the Deed of Assurance is its strength. Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith confirmed this by saying “The Deed of Assurance clearly sets out what the tenant can expect from the landlord and vice versa. In a sector where clarity might be lacking, this is a fantastic development”.

What’s the point of offering a Deed of Assurance?

Demand is very high from tenants who want/need greater assurance from their landlord that they are not going to have to move after just six months even if their tenancy has performed impeccably. Whilst a Deed of Assurance doesn’t actually provide tenants with any greater security of tenure, it’s certainly the next best thing. It’s a landlords opportunity to put his money where his mouth is, or perhaps more to the point, it’s a tenants opportunity to ask a landlord to do so when a landlords says words along the lines of “if you comply with your tenancy you can stay here for as long as you want”.

In practice, by providing properties which appeal to the types of tenants who want extra peace of mind in terms of stability they are also prepared to pay for that peace of mind. Many of my properties are typical family homes near to good schools, otherwise they are suburban bungalows which appeal to baby boomers and retired people. When I explain what a Deed of Assurance is to them they love it and often choose my properties over comparable properties for that reason alone. In many cases I’ve had several people bidding against each other to move into one of my properties despite there being plenty of comparable alternatives at lower prices. The reason they are prepared to pay more is for that peace of mind and legally documented assurance.

Conclusion

If you have the right type of properties to attract long term, good quality tenants, don’t stitch yourself or your tenant up with a long term AST or Shelters Stable Rental Contract. Consider the benefits to all concerned of offering a Deed of Assurance instead. Give your tenants the peace of mind they want and an incentive for them to perform to your requirements impeccably. It’s then a true win/win situation. Tenants know that if they perform you will have to pay up if you take possession of your property. On the flip side you may well stand a far better chance of being able to attract the tenants you really want, a premium rent and less voids periods too.

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Deposit Protection Providers call emergency meeting following Court of Appeal Ruling Buy to Let News, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

Deposit Protection Providers call emergency meeting following Court of Appeal RulingMark Alexander, editor and founder of Property118 tweeted the Deposit Protection Providers last night highlighting his fears on the ramifications of the Superstike vs Rodrigues Tenancy Deposit Protection Court of Appeal case. They are calling emergency meetings.

See the response below and read their interim press statement.

 

Interim Press Statement from the Deposit Protection providers

Court of Appeal – Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues

A joint statement from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, MyDeposits and The Deposit Protection Service

We have read with interest the latest judgment from the Court of Appeal on deposit protection. Whilst landlords and lettings agents need to take their own legal advice, we will be considering the implications of this judgment for deposit protection and the service of Prescribed information. We will also need to consult the DCLG on this and we will be issuing a further joint statement when we have fully considered the matter.

Justin Selig from The Law Depatment and Landlord Action said:-

I, together with my colleagues at Landlord Action have looked into this in some detail today – we do agree with Mark – this is potentially very serious, but when looked at in detail – it does not make any sense at all.

Firstly, if you are a Landlord and your Tenant occupies your property under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and you have taken a deposit from your Tenant, then this applies to you. If you have not taken a deposit, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you have taken a deposit at the beginning of the fixed term of the tenancy, and the tenant remains in the property beyond the expiry of the fixed term, then according to this case the periodic tenancy is deemed to be a “new” tenancy. According to the rules relating to deposit protection, a deposit for a new tenancy needs to be protected.

The Court of Appeal ruling states that a deposit is deemed to be received at each renewal – so in the case they were dealing with, the switch from fixed term to periodic meant that a new deposit was deemed to have been received – and because the time it was received was after April 2007 it therefore required protection for that particular tenancy.

I think the arguments as to whether or not this issue applies to deposits received pre or post April 2007 are irrelevant as all deposits being held today (regardless of when they have been received) must be protected by virtue of the Localism Act 2011.

The question is, therefore – where you are holding a protected deposit – do you need to re-protect it each time there is a renewal of a tenancy? At present, I think the answer to that question is, yes – but hopefully I will be proved wrong on this.

Therefore, anyone who is holding a deposit received at the beginning of a fixed term is required to re-protect that deposit when it moves to a periodic. There is a further problem which may hopefully highlight how this does not make sense. A periodic tenancy is deemed to be renewed at the expiry of each period. Therefore, if you follow the argument – this would mean that the deposit would need to be re-protected at the beginning of each period. Most periodic tenancies are monthly – so the deposit would need to be re-protected monthly.

Obviously this does not make sense, nor I am sure is this the intention of the legislation. So how does a Landlord protect himself?

The first thing I would do is to obtain written clarification from the deposit protection company you are using as to their take on the ruling, and comply with their recommendations. Secondly, as a minimum, and you have a fixed term tenancy about to go onto a periodic, you should at least protect your deposit again when it goes periodic. (Personally, I would actually return the deposit to the tenant – but I appreciate that this is not always practical.) Thirdly, and for belt and braces protection – where you are still holding the deposit, you may want to consider not allowing the tenancy to go onto periodic, but to re-issue the tenant with a new fixed term – and re-protecting the deposit for that fixed term.

I hope that the Landlord does decide to appeal this decision and take it to the Supreme Court as some further clarification is definitely needed.


Tenancy agreements – Why you need one Landlord Law, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

Tenancy agreements - Why you need oneDid you know its not actually necessary, legally, to have a tenancy agreement

You can create a perfectly valid tenancy on a handshake, handing over the keys and collecting the rent from your tenant (s54(2) Law of Property Act 1925).

The tenant goes in and, bingo – assured shorthold tenancy created. No problem.

Or is there?

Here are three possible problem scenarios

1. Your tenant hands you a cheque for £500 for the first months rent. You say ‘hang on a minute, the rents £600’. He says “Oh yeah? Who says? We agreed £500 mate” How are you going to prove any different? Without a tenancy agreement with the rent clearly stated?

2. You take a deposit for £600 and duly protect it. At the end of the tenancy, you make a claim for the totally ruined carpet in the front room. Your tenant disputes it. It goes to arbitration. You lose. Why? There is no tenancy agreement clause setting out the circumstances under which you can make deductions from the deposit. Oh dear.

3. You decide you want your tenant to go. However, because she wants to be re-housed by the local authority you are told you have to evict her through the courts. You say ‘no problem’ and serve a section 21 notice. Your lawyer points out that you can’t use the accelerated procedure as you do not have a tenancy agreement and so you have to use the other procedure where there is a court hearing. The lawyers bill goes up. Ooops!

It will never happen to me

Now you may be saying “I ALWAYS give my tenants tenancy agreements“.

Good. I’m glad to hear it.

However, it’s something you need to be really careful about because if you let the tenants into occupation before they have signed the tenancy agreement, they can turn around and refuse. You can’t make them sign and as they are already in the property, there is not a lot you can do about it other than evict them, which will take a long time.

So to prevent problems occurring, make it a rule that you will never allow tenants to have the keys and move in until AFTER the tenancy agreement has been signed, by ALL the tenants.

The “letting tenants in on approval” myth

Sometimes people think, mistakenly, that it is possible to allow tenants to move in ‘on approval’ on the basis that if they behave themselves they can be given a ‘proper’ tenancy agreement later. However, this is a myth. As soon as the tenant moves into the property and pays his first rent he is a proper assured shorthold tenant. The only difference is that he is a proper assured shorthold tenant without a tenancy agreement. See the disadvantages listed above.

The situation if there is no signed agreement

So what is the legal situation if, by accident, a tenant does end up in your property without a signed tenancy agreement – and he then refuses to regularise the situation by signing one after he has moved in?

Here are some of the main points:

  • In most cases he will have an assured shorthold tenancy.
  • If rent is payable monthly, he will in most cases have a monthly periodic tenancy
  • You will be bound by the repairing covenants in s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985
  • You will not be able to evict him from the property other than via a court bailiff after obtaining an order for possession (Protection from Eviction Act 1977)
  • You will be bound by the various regulations such as the gas regulations, as well as the powers exercised by Local Authorities, for example under the Housing Act 2004 relating to the condition of the property

However the tenant will also be subject to various rules and regulations:

  • He will not be able to assign or sublet the property without the landlord’s consent (s15 Housing Act 1988)
  • He will not be entitled to carry out any improvements or alterations to the property without the landlord’s written consent (s81 Housing Act 1980), and
  • He will be under a duty to act in a ‘tenant like manner’ further to the Lord Denning decision in the 1954 case of Warren v. Keen.

None of this can really compensate for the lack of a properly drafted tenancy agreement.

So make sure you have one signed before the tenant goes in!


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