Tag Archives: Landlord Regulation

Councils lose Court cases over HMO licence fees HMO's & Student Lets, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Three cases have recently been tested in the Courts whereby Councils have charged more for HMO licensing then was reasonable.

There are rules to prevent Councils using HMO licensing to raise funds for other activities.

Hemming v Westminster City Council: The case outlines the type of costs that councils can recover through locally set licence fees and the processes councils have in place to ensure fee setting is transparent and open to scrutiny. The key issue addressed was whether the fees set by Westminster City Council complied with the requirements of the European Services Directive 2009 and the interpretation of Article 13(2) of the Directive. The Services Directive also makes it clear that licence fees covered by the Directive can only be used to recover costs and should not be used to make a profit or deter service providers from entering a market. Councils lose Court cases over HMO licence fees

Crompton v Oxford City Council: The power to charge fees in respect of HMO licensing is found in s63 of the Housing Act 2004. Importantly, this power is granted in respect of licence applications only. Oxford City Council has sought to charge a fee for the variation of an HMO licence. The Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) ruled that the fee was unlawful and that it could not be charged.

Bristol City Council v Digs (Bristol) Ltd: The defendant was the private landlord of a maisonette in multiple occupation. The council brought a prosecution for failure to obtain an HMO licence and for breaches of the HMO regulations. A District Judge at Bristol Magistrates Court tried the preliminary issue of whether the maisonette was a licensable HMO. It extended over two storeys of a building with a further entrance corridor and hallway on a lower storey. The council included the lower storey in deciding that the HMO extended to three storeys. The Judge held that having regard to Article 3 of the HMO (Prescribed Description) (England) (Order) the maisonette was not an HMO. The council had been wrong to include the lower storey. In the light of that ruling, the council offered no evidence and the defendant was acquitted.

In the wake of these rulings the NLA is asking all local authorities in England to contact any affected landlords, informing them of their right to appropriate refunds and providing details of how they may make a claim.

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said:

we have asked local authorities to come clean about the level of fees they have charged private-landlords, if they were entitled to make these charges, and when they will refund any money unjustly demanded.

Mr Lambert went on to add:

“In writing to all local authorities in England we’re acknowledging the good working partnership many private landlords have with town halls, but making clear they should not be absorbing the costs of overcharging to support other council functions”.

SEAL – South East Alliance of Landlords Landlord News, Latest Articles

SEAL - South East Alliance of Landlords

Members of the South East Alliance of Landlords (SEAL) are putting together a bedsit task force to go Street to Street in Southend in a war on neighbours from hell.

Judith Codarin, secretary of SEAL said: “We will choose sections of streets that are troublesome. We will find anyone who lives there and listen to issues. We will try to find landlords who aren’t members, talk to them and try to get them to join.”

SEAL was formed to coordinate a response to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s plans to introduce Selective Licensing. It represents owners of almost 6,200 properties with hopes to represent 95 per cent of the local rental sector within three years.

SEAL – South East Alliance of Landlords

SEAL members can be easily identified by a sticker in a front window of their properties.

All but one of the 65 complaints received to date, varying from maintenance issues to more complex Freehold problems, have been resolved by SEAL, the last received to be dealt with within the next few days.

Self-regulation in this way is hoped to free up Southend Council to concentrate on non-members, but with only four Council officers to police over 6,000 other rental properties tenants home-owners are still suffering from a few bad landlords and nightmare neighbours.

Chairman Martin Ransom hopes to set up a new arm capable of helping landlords bring low-quality housing up to standard and said: “We have brought in a new member of the board with experience in this area. He has worked with a specific landlord, with whom the council has had historical issues. He has worked with him to get him up to standard.”

As quoted on their own website “By becoming a member of SEAL, you are demonstrating that you are willing to agree to a higher standard of management. It is vital that SEAL membership is widespread throughout the Borough of Southend as the larger our membership base, the more we can demonstrate to the Council our effectiveness. It is important also that membership continues to grow, as if SEAL fails, the Council retains the power to reconsider Selective Licensing.”

Mark Alexander, founder of Property118 and The GOOD Landlords Campaign commented “it is refreshing to see this kind of initiative and especially one so well supported. We have a long held opinion that Selective Licensing is not the answer to anti-social behavioural problems or criminal elements operating in the Private Rented Sector. We hope the group will take a look at the enforcement model being adopted by Lewisham Council and learn from that. The SEAL initiative could prove to be a superb method of routing out and reporting the worst offenders. Sadly a handful of criminals can spoil the reputation of an entire sector. Enforcement is required, NOT a stealth tax on good landlords which is ignored by the true villains.”

Council of Letting Agents call for Scotland’s dangerous electrics to be outlawed Landlord News, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management

The Council of Letting Agents has today called for better electrical safety standards in Scotland’s privately rented properties.

Speaking at their inaugural conference, Council of Letting Agents (CLA) Convenor Kathleen Gell said: “Scotland depends upon the properties that our letting agents manage. People rely on these properties for their homes and they need to be safe. We have national standards and regulation for gas safety, but the same is not in place for electrics and that needs to change.”

“The only way we can guarantee to keep properties and tenants safe is to regulate electrical safety to a national standard and publicise this as well as gas safety.

Research reveals that there are on average 70 deaths a year in the UK from electrical fires and that Scottish homes are at a disproportionately high risk from these. It has also been shown that tenants of private landlords are more likely to be at risk of electric shock than home owners.

The private rented sector is growing – the number of dwellings provided by private landlords has risen from 115,000 in (5% of all homes) in 1999, to 267,000 (11% of all homes) in 2011 and all indications point to that trend continuing.”

Kathleen Gell continued: “There have been great improvements in this sector with compulsory registration for landlords and the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme, but we will fall behind on basic safety if we do not act in this area too.”

“We want there to be compulsory checks on wiring and appliances in rental properties. There are standards we could use (Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) ), but we need some teeth to enforce them – we cannot afford any grey areas.”

“Many letting agents already require this level of safety check, but it cannot be enforced: there is no national standard to adhere to and landlords wishing to avoid the cost of a safety check, simply go elsewhere to lease their property.”

“The private rented sector is a major part of the housing landscape in Scotland. We have a duty of care to the people who depend on it for their homes and we need to make sure it is safe.”

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council of letting agents

Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

There is already more than enough funding and legislation to police the Private Rented Sector.

The last thing we need is more legislation, what everybody wants is enforcement and word on the street is that we could begin to see it before the end of 2013. Ben-Reeve-Lewis

PRS Hit Squads

The authorities all know who the real criminals are and the only reason the criminals are still in business is because those holding power don’t combine resources, in fact they rarely talk to each other. Until now they have all run scared of “data sharing protocols” but when that’s put to one side expect to see some very big cases of criminal landlords being taken to task.

I have heard that PRS Hit Squads will target known criminal landlords between now and Christmas and are supported “in principle” by the likes of Mark Prisk, Boris Johnson and others who openly admit to not being fans of the licensing model being operated in Newham. I’ve also heard that six figure funding for a trial has been agreed at ministerial level.

These “PRS Hit Squads” as I’ve labelled them will comprise of:-

  • Environmental heath
  • HMO licensing
  • Planning
  • Anti social behaviour teams
  • EDF revenue
  • Building contol
  • UKBA
  • Police

The plan is that they will share intelligence and converge on criminal landlords in a military style operation, focussing on the worst operators first of course. With their combined resources the criminals will not stand a chance. It will be like a man with a pea shooter trying to fend off the SAS 🙂

Beware the Spin Doctors!

My hope is that the PR outcome of the PRS Hit Squad successes will be positive and support the need for the model to be extended nationally. It is a very low cost model and the results should save the tax payer money as well as improving peoples lives (unless you are one of the targeted criminals of course!). The last thing the PRS needs is for the successes to be used as justification for more regulation. The spin doctors will see this as an opportunity to justify schemes such as Newham but this must not be allowed to happen.

Landlords can be victims too

Landlords are also the victims of criminals and I have seen some very sad examples of that. A recent case in the Fens involved a landlord who let his former home to a Gang-master. Unbeknown to him the unregulated Gang-master then allowed 20 immigrant farm workers to live in the property, all sleeping on mattresses on the floor. When the landlord found out he obviously wanted them out ASAP, as did the neighbours of pretty culdesac in which the landlords 4 bad detached property was located but the law stood in the way. Had the landlord been able to go to the authorities, secure in the knowledge they would fight for him, it would have been a Godsend to him. Instead, the authorities are threatening the landlord and not the Gangmaster! Clearly common sense isn’t that common.

Let’s hope the PRS Hit Squads are successful in taking down criminals and then lend a much needed helping hand to landlords who are also targeted by criminals. If common sense prevails we might just see more action and less talk. When all is said and done, more is said than done, but fingers crossed let’s hope that not the case here.

The Highland Fling

Earlier this year the Scottish Association of Landlords reported that landlord registration in Scotland has cost landlords £11.2 million in fees while the start-up Scottish Government grant for the scheme was £5.2 million. According to the results, since 2006 there have only been 40 rogue landlords identified as operating in Scotland, that’s the number of rejected applications. The cost equates to £400,000 per rogue identified!


The schemes in Newham and its copycats also show signs of being similar “White Elephants”, therefore I’m pinning my hopes on the PRS Hit Squads taking down as many criminals as possible, proving once and for all that it’s more enforcement not legislation we need. Enforcement not legislation - PRS Hit Squads

Landlords Revolutionary Becomes Regulated Landlord Action, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management, Tenant Eviction, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Landlord Action is the original UK eviction service for landlord and letting agents. Set up as the alternative to solicitors, it has just acquired status as an ABS. So it’s now approved and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – so it can conduct all the legal work on behalf of landlords and agents itself.

After more than a decade in an anti-establishment position, Landlord Action has now become part of the establishment. The founder Paul Shamplina says: The internet is now full of Landlord Action copycats that appear to offer the same service – but are not the same dedicated eviction specialists. We realise that our original idea has spawned an entire internet industry that now endangers the very landlords and agents we set out to protect.

Back in 1999, a group of landlords decided to set up an eviction service as alternative to using a solicitor. Under written advice from a QC, they set up the UK’s first specialist service.

Landlord Action was revolutionary. It redefined the legal eviction process by naming it as The Three Steps. And it charged fixed fees. Its position was as clear as its leaflet: We’re not like lawyers. Our fees are fixed. And we talk plain English. Landlords and agents across the country were clearly pleased with the offering. Landlord Action has acted in over 25,000 eviction cases.

As the buy-to-let industry grew, an eviction industry sprang up – all following the Landlord Action model. The internet created fertile ground for a whole raft of copycat services. These have tried to use the same language and offer the same fixed-fee structure. The difference is not all these services actually use legally qualified personnel to do the work. Some are just a lone operator with a mobile phone. By getting the landlord to issue at court, they don’t carry any responsibility and can leave the agent and landlord exposed when things goes wrong.

From the start, Landlord Action always used external solicitors to review every case, issue at court and brief advocates. And they have always used advocates at court. Over the years, they used a panel of solicitors firms that, for the most part, have served their landlords and letting agents well but ultimately Landlord Action did not have overall control over what was going on.

In 2012, in order to improve standards and provide a better service, Landlord Action decided to bring solicitors in-house and a new Legal Director was appointed. Justin Selig, a solicitor of 20 years, is also a very experienced landlord with a mixed residential and commercial portfolio. He recruited a whole new legal team of experts in this specific area of law and Landlord Action became even sharper. A team of legal minds with landlord thinking.

Now Landlord Action has acquired the status of a law firm. It still only specialises in Housing Law. And it still only represents landlords and agents – never tenants. Its new position is a recognition of its expertise and will clearly differentiate it from those internet services that have tried to copy it.

Landlord Action founder, Paul Shamplina, summed up the latest position very clearly: “We set out to protect landlords and agents. But we ended up creating a whole sector that doesn’t care enough. We’re part of the letting community and we’re dedicated to providing landlord and agents a high quality specialist service dedicated to their specific needs. Whatever we can do to improve that, we will.” Landlords Revolutionary Becomes Regulated

Fit and Proper Landlords and Tenants – Consequences? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I have heard the words “Fit and Proper” mentioned a lot of late in terms of regulation of landlords and letting agents.

It would appear that society would like fit and proper landlords only to rent their properties to fit and proper tenants.

* When deciding whether or not a landlord is a fit and proper person to let out property the authorities in Scotland perform the following checks to ensure there is no ……

  • Information showing that the landlord has committed fraud, or violent or drug related offences.
  • Evidence of discrimination in any business activity.
  • Information showing that they have broken any other laws in relation to housing.
  • Information showing that they are a bad landlord, or that they have been a bad landlord in the past.
  • Antisocial behaviour problems in any properties the landlord rents out or is responsible for.
  • If the landlord has an agreement with a letting agent (or anyone else who’s acting on their behalf in letting the property), that the terms of that agreement are adequate.
  • Anything else which is relevant.

Now as any NIMBY will tell you, nobody wants a landlord to let a property to a bad tenant in their area. Therefore, the government also want landlords to be responsible for ensuring their tenants are entitled to live and work in the UK and also to be accountable for any anti social behaviour of their tenants. In fact, it was anti social behaviour which spurned the Scottish Government to make landlord registration compulsory. In other words, a landlord could actually be prosecuted for the behaviour of his tenants. Therefore, landlords also need to ensure their tenants are fit and proper law abiding citizens and will not be a nuisance to their neighbours or society in general.

Wonderful you might think!

Fit and Proper Landlords and Tenants

But let me ask you a question; what about the people who are not “fit and proper”?

Where will tenants who are not fit and proper live?

The days of shipping undesirables off to the Colonies or taking them to the nearest place of execution where they shall be hung by the neck until they are dead, dead dead are long gone!

So what’s the answer?

* Source:-


Rant About Scottish Letting Regulation Commercial Finance, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As the Scottish Government gets set to embark on the regulation of letting agents – regulation which is badly needed in my view – I fear that my worst nightmare may be about to become true.

Why? Well, let’s look at what’s happened already with Scottish renting legislation.

Landlord Registration has for the most part been startlingly ineffective in raising standards. In fairness, that perhaps was not its prime purpose (having been introduced under anti-social behaviour legislation) but the fact that we now have a national database of private landlords should allow national and/or local government to target those landlords with awareness-raising advice, invite them to seminars and so on. Those unfortunate tenants who suffer at the hands of malicious or, more likely unaware, landlords need that to happen. I’m fairly sure there must still be many landlords who are not yet registered. The fact that Scottish Government hiked the penalty for non-registration up from £2,000 to £50,000 must surely indicate that registration is seen as important. The requirement to quote registration numbers in property advertisements seemed a pretty good way of bringing all landlords into the system. Yet, how many adverts still appear with no registration numbers? How many unregistered landlords have been fined?

No. I see poor practice flourish aplenty and registration requirement ignored. I see responsible landlords pay their dues while the irresponsible carry on regardless. I see local authority Landlord Registration teams funded by those responsible landlords and, it seems, doing not a great deal to bring all within the net.

Why not simply legislate to make it a requirement that for any individual to rent out a property he or she must either use a regulated agent (when that’s in place) or achieve accredited landlord status (or commit to a time-limited accreditation path)? Overnight, poorly performing landlords would be outlawed.

Look at Tenant Information Packs. Of course it’s good practice to pass incoming tenants information and advice relative to their tenancy and their new property. Responsible agents and landlords have been doing so for years as a matter of course. So surely it’s good that all now have to do so?

In theory, yes, but from our perspective as a letting agency we now find ourselves managing a parallel process issuing the mandatory Tenant Information Pack (TIP) alongside our own one, as the mandatory one is so stodgy as to be a turn-off to most tenants, contains errors, and imparts nothing of substance about the property. The effect of this has been to sap resources, particularly time – our scarcest resource – and so impact negatively on our finances. So a highly responsible agency, regulated by RICS and licenced by ARLA is being forced to go through an ineffective process which hampers business efficiency while less regulated or less responsible agents who decline to do so, or are even unaware perhaps that they need to, sail on in the same old way. How many letting agents have been taken to task for failing to issue a TIP? How many who fail to do so, use a low-fee basis as a means of attracting clients? The answers to those questions are unknown, but I’m pretty certain the first is zero or we’d have heard about it.

Simply Let pays about £2000 per year in professional membership subscriptions and regulation levies. We do that because we believe in high standards, and in demonstrating that we hold that belief. We undertake continuing professional development. We do so because we need to be fully informed in order to serve our clients well. We cannot give our landlord clients and their tenants the service they deserve on a low fee basis.

If a landlord’s agent fails to fulfil one of his client’s statutory obligations, it will be the landlord who is held responsible. Are all landlords aware of this? How many agents are playing fast and loose with their obligations to their clients? Again I don’t have an answer to that. If an agent lands a landlord in trouble as a result of negligence or incompetence does that landlord have recourse to a complaints redress mechanism? If that agent goes bust or even runs off with the cash is the landlord’s money safe? Does the agent have client money protection? Unlike estate agents selling houses, a fairly straightforward one-off task, letting agents have on-going management responsibilities which require detailed knowledge of complex housing law. Currently anyone can set up as a letting agent without any qualifications or training whatsoever and without any insurance or external monitoring and take on responsibility for managing clients’ major financial assets and ensuring tenants’ safety in the home.

You can see then why we favour regulation of letting agents. With a level playing field, landlords and tenants could go about selecting an agent knowing that all agents had the basics in place. Why then do I fear, as I said at the beginning of this blog, that my nightmare is about to be realised?

In my nightmare, responsible and already regulated agents found themselves obliged to register and of course to pay a recurring fee for doing so. In my nightmare less responsible agents continued to operate without appearing on the register. The third strand of my nightmare is that nothing much else happened.

It’s turned out like that with Landlord Registration so it’s perfectly possible that Letting Agent Regulation will go the same way.

Why not simply make it a requirement that in order for any letting agent to practice he or she must have in place:

  • A minimum level of relevant knowledge
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Client money protection
  • A complaints redress mechanism
  • Evidence of continuing professional development?

All are currently available to any responsible agent.

The private rented sector involves the very basics of life: a tenant’s home and a landlord’s financial investment (and possibly pension plan). It is critical therefore that all who manage any part of that process, landlord or agent, have the knowledge and capability to undertake their role to a high standard and fulfil it in a professional manner. It is critical too that those who entrust their lot to an agent have the benefit of certain basic protections. So my plea to the Scottish Government, when it develops letting agent regulation, is to make it impossible for any agent who can’t deliver those five elements above to continue in practice. The country and its tenants deserve nothing less. Rant About Scottish Letting Regulation

John Gell MRICS

Letting agent regulation for Scotland – Scottish Government plans announced Landlord News, Latest Articles, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property Investment News, Property Market News, Property News

Scotland’s newly formed Council of Letting Agents (CLA) steering group met for the first time yesterday. Letting agent regulation for Scotland

The members of the group have been selected to represent Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) letting agent members’ views. These members are tasked with working up the plans for this new letting agent division of the Scottish Association of Landlords.

A senior Scottish Government representative accepted our invitation to attend and he warmly welcomed the CLA as the new letting agent body for the Scottish Private Rented Sector (PRS). It was confirmed that it is the intention of the Scottish Government to regulate the letting agent industry in Scotland going forward. Letting agent regulation has been called for by SAL for some time.

The steering group heard first hand about the likely shape of plans for this regulation which follows approximately two years of consultation on various levels.

The intention is to propose via a new Housing Bill to be put before the Scottish Parliament that letting agents are regulated using a system which will emulate the way the Property Factors Act works. The likelihood is that this will include:

•    Registration of all letting agents in Scotland
•    Code of practice which will ensure consistency of good standards across the industry
•    Opportunity for redress where these standards are not being met – this would be through a Housing tribunal.

As with the procedure for all new Scots legislation, the process involves several stages in the Scottish Parliament. Therefore at this point in time, nobody can predict for certain the details of the future Bill and likely resultant Housing Act.

We’ll continue to keep all SAL members posted. The CLA will represent our members agents as the details of the planned regulations are drafted.

SAL will also continue as ever to represent landlords via our place on the regulations working group. Please keep us posted with your views.

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Popular questions from tenants to landlords GOOD Landlords Campaign Sponsors, Latest Articles, The GOOD Landlords Campaign, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

It’s not just landlords and letting agents using our property forum these days. Recently we have had several Readers Questions posed by tenants who have been badly treated by their landlords. Popular questions from tenants to landlords

If there’s one thing good landlords despise almost as much as bad tenants it is bad landlords who ruin the reputation of our industry. Naivety, criminal acts and rogue behaviour tends to result in increased calls for regulation and gives authorities excuses to create more stealth taxes on good landlords in the form of licensing and other legislation, which of course criminals and other bad landlords simply continue to ignore! As you might suspect therefore, good landlords have been very keen to help tenants experiencing difficulties with rogues by telling them how they can protect their interests and claim compensation.

As it is the mission of The GOOD Landlords Campaign to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst landlords and letting agents we feel it is important for all landlords to learn from these discussions. Forewarned is forearmed and an opportunity for you to know what you should be doing and to get it right.  The consequences of getting things wrong are very clearly laid out by some incredibly experienced landlords and property professionals in these discussions.

Some of the most popular discussions recently are as follows:-

Retaliatory eviction

Retaliatory eviction – possibility of civil litigation?

Read this discussion

 My landlord thinks I’m a lodger – please help me

My landlord thinks I’m a lodger – please help me

Read this discussion


Ex-girlfriend refusing to move out

Read this discussion

 I have been asked for a 12 months rent in advance

I have been asked for a 12 months rent in advance

Read this discussion



Renting to ‘Council Tenants’ Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Not strictly an accurate title but I have heard novice landlords refer to people on Housing Benefit (provided by the council) as such so many times.Renting to ‘Council Tenants’

So, should you accept tenants who claim benefits?

No one can make that decision for you – but there are some risks to consider, and precautions you can take.

Financial Security

Although it is a generalisation, many benefit claiming tenants do not have much in the way of assets or financial reserves. This can result in delayed rent, or even non payment of rent if some other financial problem arises. In the longer term, it means that if you need to pursue a claim for damages or missing rent at the end of the tenancy, there is a high chance that you will not be able to enforce the resultant court order. Linked to this, for many tenants, is an irregularity of rent payments. Most tenancy agreements reserve rent monthly in advance. Housing Benefit (LHA) is paid 4 weekly in arrears (fortnightly in some areas). This means that the dates rarely match up (monthly rent, 4 weekly LHA) and the amounts for a single payment never match up (annual rent/12, annual LHA/13). For tenants who rely solely on LHA for their rent payment this will also mean that rent is always paid late.


Rent: £500pm (£6k pa)
1st July £500 rent due £500 owed
29th July £461.54 housing benefit received £38.46 owed
1st August £500 rent due £538.46 owed
26th August £461.54 housing benefit received £76.92 owed
1st September £500 rent due £576.92 owed
23rd September £461.54 housing benefit received £115.38 owed
1st October £500 rent due £615.38 owed

Providing your tenant is entitled to sufficient housing allowance to cover their entire rent (as above) the 13 LHA payments over a 12 month period will equal the 12 rent payments.

You may be asked by your tenant to change your tenancy agreement to 13 x 4 weekly rent periods a year in an attempt to match up rent due and benefits paid. Do not do this – If you needed to evict due to unpaid rent a 4 weekly rent period would prevent you using the mandatory ground 8 in section 8 of the 1988 Housing Act.

Many providers of landlord insurance will charge an additional amount if you let to benefits claimants. If you let to benefits claimants whilst paying for non-claimants then your insurance is likely to be invalid.

Your lender may have limitations on what type of tenants you can let to.

Your tenants benefit may be stopped.

If the council decide to stop paying housing benefit to your tenant, or their situation changes and they are entitled to less, they may not be able to pay their rent. Receipt of Housing Benefit is NOT guaranteed.

What can I do to protect myself?

The first thing to do is to NOT forget to carry out full referencing and credit checks on your tenants. This is likely to show if your tenant has previously defaulted on rent, or any other recorded debt. If you do these checks yourself, it is worth questioning the ‘last but one’ landlord. The current landlord may have a vested interest in giving a good reference to get rid of non-paying tenants.

A deposit is essential in all cases. As your tenant is on benefits, they are unlikely to have a large amount available for a deposit – and yet their lack of assets is the very reason you need as large a deposit as possible. It is probably cheaper to wait for a tenant with a suitable deposit than run the risk of a tenant running up a large rent debt, and not being able to obtain a penny through the courts.

A guarantor is also highly advisable. The guarantor will be expected to cover any bills that the tenant cannot pay. In view of this, your tenants’ guarantor should be a creditworthy homeowner, preferably working full time. The guarantor should be credit checked. If the guarantor is a homeowner, they are less likely to move – making them easier to find – and they have an asset that you can place a charge on if a court order is made against them.

Guarantees are very difficult to enforce and it is important to ensure that the document is legally binding. As a rule of thumb, a guarantee that is not witnessed and executed as a deed will not be enforceable in court. This is one area where DIY or unsubstantiated internet forms are best avoided – the cost of purchasing a professionally worded deed of guarantee is minimal compared with the potential consequences of having a guarantee that cannot be enforced.

Obtain written permission from the tenant to discuss their Housing Benefit claim with the council and make sure your tenancy agreement specifically states that you can use grounds 8, 10 & 11 from schedule 2 of the 1988 Housing Act. If it doesn’t, you will not be able to gain possession before the end of the fixed term even if your tenant owes many months’ worth of rent. I would also suggest that the initial tenancy agreement is only 6 months (not 12) to give you access to section 21 earlier, and (although I dislike the idea) it may be wise to serve a section 21(1)(b) notice as soon as the deposit regulations have been complied with. Doing this means that once the tenant is in a statutory periodic tenancy you can get guaranteed possession date within around 6-8 weeks of the first hiccough in payments whereas with section 8 you ideally need to wait until the tenant owes 2 months rent and you have to give a further 14 days notice, so that means you can commence possession proceedings at least 6 weeks earlier and probably get eviction 2 months earlier.

If it is too early to apply to the Courts for possession under section 21, as soon as the tenant is even a few pounds behind on their rent, serve a section 8 notice under ground 10. You don’t have to follow it through to the court process but this simple action will demonstrate to the tenant that their omission could have serious consequences and, if they have been good tenants, hopefully jolt them back on track.

And finally, as soon as the tenant misses a rent payment, notify the council of the fact and request that their payments are made directly to you in future. Some councils will do this, however all councils are obliged to do this once the tenant has a minimum of 8 weeks rent unpaid.

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