Tag Archives: Local Authority

Annual Inspection Certificates for HMOs – Am I on the right Track? HMO's & Student Lets, Latest Articles

I have a 6-bed HMO (2 storeys and unlicenced). I was inspected recently by the local authority and all was found to be pretty much in order, however I was unaware that I needed to produce annual inspection certificates for the smoke alarms, emergency lighting as well as an annual PAT cert.

1. Annual PAT Certificate – unlike the legal requirement for a 5 year certificate for the electrics (and annually for the gas), I understand that there is no legal requirement for an annual PAT cert though of course it would be good practice. I check the appliances visually on a monthly basis. I have thought about buying a PAT tester and using it myself, but the authority won’t accept my findings unless I’ve been on a course to make me ‘a competent person’ notwithstanding my degree in engineering. I’m prepared to accept this opinion and produce a cert myself annually after I’ve been on the course. Thoughts?

2. Annual Smoke Alarm Test – I test these monthly myself with the test buttons (logging it). Apparently I need a ‘competent person’ to inspect them and blow some smoke into them once a year to check that they perform. I’d prefer to have a third party do it rather than do this myself considering that the consequences of culpability in the event of failure could be quite serious (though not really wishing to imply that the PAT could give rise to anything less serious!). My electrician has agreed to do this and he’ll confirm his findings in a letter as he has no formal cert (as he has for the PAT). Thoughts?

3. Annual Emergency Lighting Test – once again I check it monthly (logging it) simply by tripping out the mains lighting circuit and checking each light fitting comes on. But apparently I need to have the mains power out for 3 hours once a year and have it certified by a competent person. Again my electrician will do it. He doesn’t have a cert as such to issue, but will confirm it in a letter. Thoughts?

I would be most grateful for feedback from readers

Regards

BruceTrack


Rise in working families claiming benefits for housing Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As early as Christmas working households claiming support for private sector rent could outnumber those in which nobody works, says a new report published tomorrow (Friday 18 October) by London Councils.

‘Tracking Welfare Reform in London’ reveals that just under 50 per cent of households receiving benefit in private rented housing in the capital have at least one person in work. Rise in working families claiming benefits for housing

If the number rises as expected London will be the only part of Britain where working households claiming benefits for private rented housing eclipse those where no-one is working. The report also found the number of people receiving help with their rent has fallen in inner London since May 2011, while in outer boroughs the number has increased.

Chair of London Councils, Mayor Jules Pipe, said: “Last year, private sector rents in inner London rose by 14 per cent, so it’s not surprising that more and more working families are turning to housing benefit to help them survive. Our latest research shows households claiming housing benefit, both working and non-working, are increasing in outer London and that is placing a greater burden on local services such as schools, transport, and social care.

“London Councils supports a fairer, more accountable system of welfare, but is concerned that the current reforms have the potential to be devastating for families and local services. We want the government to undertake a serious, full and fair assessment of the additional costs of welfare reform for London’s councils as soon as possible.”

London Councils, which represents the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London, is calling for London to be exempt from the below inflation rise in private sector housing benefit, known as Local Housing Allowance (LHA). It is concerned that the move, which will see LHA rates limited to one per cent growth for the next two years, could drive homelessness.

The report also found:

  • a 17 per cent rise in people claiming LHA since April 2011, with working households accounting for 96 per cent of that growth
  • the number of working households claiming LHA has doubled over four years, while the number of non-working households claiming LHA has increased by 10 per cent over the same period
  • the number of households on LHA fell in some inner London boroughs by as much as 30 per cent between May 2012 and May 2013, but grew by 10,000 in outer London, which equates to an overall rise of 7 per cent
  • a rise in the number of households accepted as homeless and in priority need in London since 2010. Around 41,000 households are now in temporary accommodation in London, having presented to their local authority as in urgent housing need
  • around 97 per cent of households affected by the benefit cap in the four pilot London boroughs contained children.

Subletting Scams – why landlords are afraid to report them Cautionary Tales, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property News, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Many landlords are fearful to seek help from their local authorities in terms of dealing with subletting scams.

Just imagine this, you’ve jst let your nice little three bed house to Mr & Mrs Lovely and their two perfect children, only to find out that 10 of their family have also moved in. How would you feel?

Subletting scams can also go a stage further. Mr & Mrs Lovely may never actually move into the property, they simply cram as many immigrants in as possible (sometimes illegal immigrants) and charge them all a rent and make a huge profit.

The landlord then has numerous concerns including:-

  • Mr and Mrs Lovely fail to live up to their name and stop paying rent, but they continue to collect it
  • wear and tear on the property
  • noise related issues affecting neighbours
  • will their landlords insurance still be valid
  • fire safety
  • HMO licensing
  • and so the list goes on.

You would think that a quick call to the local EHO (Environmental heath Officer) should sort the problem wouldn’t you? So far as I’m aware, EHO’s have every right to close the property down if they consider it to be a danger to human life, through overcrowding for example. In such circumstances, that’s exactly what many landlords actually want to happen. What they don’t want is to spend several months going through the Courts to obtain possession order, which under the circumstances they will inevitably obtain but at what cost to themselves and at what risk to human life in the meantime?

Whilst any legal action is ongoing the landlords property is probably getting ruined, they may not receive rent, the neighbours get very upset and the landlords ends up with a huge bill.

The fear of reporting such problems runs deep. Will the local authorities use the problem against the landlord? Will they take pictures of the property and use them in their anti-landlord propaganda to justify licensing schemes? Will the local authority press charges against the landlord for the state of the property, which may well have been perfect when they first rented it to Mr & Mrs Lovely?

In many cases, inventories prepared by landlords are not up to scratch so the fear of reporting problems is that tenants will claim the property was a death trap from day one and the landlord becomes a victim twice over!

I am hoping that any TRO’s (Tenancy Relations Officers), EHO’s (Environmental Health Officers) and others with the powers to actually do something about this will comment on the problem as well as landlords and letting agents. Subletting Scams - why landlords are afraid to report them

 


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


Mortgage Express or Mortgage Distress? Advice, Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Financial Advice, Landlords Stories, Latest Articles, Mortgage News, Property Investment News, Property Investment Strategies, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

The Mortgage Express exit strategy has been a hot potato since at least 2011 when they first met a group of 70 landlords at an event organised under the Property Tribes banner. Mortgage Express or Mortgage Distress

They have been slated by landlords for imposing terms and conditions which were buried in small print and which are no longer adopted by the mainstream buy to let lenders.

The bottom line for MX though is that their loan book is now the property of the UK tax payers and the organisation is pretty much run by Civil Servants, accountants, debt collectors/councillors and insolvency practitioners.

The Government have imposed tough targets and deadlines on the new MX team to reduce the loan book and therefore, it was inevitable that strong arm tactics, which many would describe as bullying, would be used.

Naturally they have gone for the easy targets and started by selling the concept of making over-payments to people who were too naive to work out that repaying a loan which typically costs 2.25% rarely makes sense. It’s possible to get a better return on that with a cash ISA or a deposit account in a bank or building society!  MX appear to have had scant regard to advising their clients to pay off more expensive credit first and they were never going to suggest investing any surplus into anything but reducing a debt with them were they?

The strong arm tactics have extended to imposing their “Right to Consolidate” which their contracts say allows them to use 100% of any sale proceeds to repay debts owed to them. It has even been implied on many occasions that if a borrower redeems one mortgage with Mortgage Express they can call in the rest! I’ve not seen these terms challenged in Court yet but I have come across borrowers who had stood up to Mortgage Express and there are quite a few examples on internet forums of MX having backed off. Bullies don’t like people who fight back.

Mortgage Express Reviews

General sentiment of landlords is that Mortgage Express borrowers should avoid reviews like the plague. The conspiracy theorists, of which I am one, are that MX have a very simple agenda and it’s not based on helping borrowers despite how they pitch it. It would appear the entire purpose of the meeting is for MX to persuade you to pay off or reduce your debt and/or to look for you to trip yourself up by admitting to breaching mortgage conditions which you were not necessarily aware of. Examples include:-

  • living in a property financed as a BTL
  • Letting a property which was financed as a private residence
  • letting to tenants which are now claiming benefits
  • where a property is an HMO

Would you know whether your tenants were claiming benefits though? What if they started claiming benefits after the tenancy started? What if the property became an HMO due to your local authority imposing selective or additional licencing?

Is it fair that MX could find one little problem, call in that loan and then call all the others in based on their right to consolidate conditions?

My Preferred Mortgage Express Exit Strategy

It has been mooted on several forums that MX have a target to collect a percentage of their loan book. I’m not aware whether the percentage target has ever been published but I’ve heard figures as low as 25% banded about. I suspect it’s much higher than that, otherwise, why would they carry the heavy administrative costs of their current activities as opposed to simply selling their loan book for 25% of it’s value? Perhaps they could and it’s a simple case of government ineptitude and politics preventing this from occurring? More likely, in my opinion, is that the government want to be seen to try to recover as much as possible of the tax payers bail out money.

If we knew what the desired recovery percentage was we could make suggestions. Let’s suppose the figure is 60%. Most buy to let landlords would happily refinance if their loans were discounted by far less than that. I’d certainly consider moving for a 25% to 30% write off of debt. Not every borrower would want or be in a position to go for such a deal but if only half did so, the remaining book, which I suspect would include a lot of toxic dent and low value assets due to negative equity, could still be shifted. They may only get 40 pence in the pound for these assets as a block sale but those extra 10% to 15% figures they would get from borrowers taking up their offers directly could well make up the balance.

Why don’t Mortgage Express just exit now?

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before Mortgage Express start offering golden goodbye deals to borrowers, it’s just a case of satisfying the tax payer that they’ve tried everything else first. Mortgage Express were given 7 years to exit and it is because we are into the final states of that period we are seeing them apply increasing pressure. Those of us who can survive the next few years will, I suspect, come out of this with a great deal but in the meantime we should expect the unexpected as well as underhand tactics.

What would you do if you were Mortgage Express?

What do you think Mortgage Express borrowers should and should not do to protect their interests?

Don’t be bullied by Mortgage Express

Before you agree to do anything with Mortgage Express talk to your fellow landlords. Go along to Landlords Association meetings or post comments/questions below or on Property Tribes. If Mortgage Express do bully you, fight back. If you don’t want to meet them don’t meet them. If they get aggressive with you just bear in mind that there are thousands of other Mortgage Express borrowers who are likely to have had similar experiences. Focus on the ideas that are legal and make the most sense. There are reported to be in the region of 50,000 Mortgage Express buy to let borrowers.

Via this link we have an excellent story as it unfolds of a landlord who was being forced to sell his home by Mortgage Express. It’s a very long discussion thread which was contributed to by several landlords and property professionals. To cut a long story short the landlord got his MP on side and Mortgage Express backed off.

Mortgage Express problems - You are NOT alone

 


Landmark Case Shows Scottish Landlords Must Take Deposit Protection Seriously Guest Articles, Guest Columns, Landlord News, Landlords Stories, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management, Property News

A recent case in Edinburgh Sheriff Court saw a landlord who had failed to protect his tenant’s deposit fined £3,450.  This shows that landlords, and their agents, must take seriously their new statutory obligation to lodge tenants’ deposits with one of the approved schemes, and that the courts will take a robust line with those who don’t.  Unlike England and Wales, their is no insurance-based alternative in Scotland and hard cash must be handed over. 

Not only must landlords lodge the deposit within 30 days of receiving it, they must also pass to their tenant certain prescribed information –

  1. Confirmation of the amount of the deposit paid by the tenant and the date on which it was received by the landlord;
  2. The address of the property to which the deposit relates;
  3. The date on which the deposit was paid to the scheme administrator;
  4. A statement that the landlord is registered with the local authority;
  5. The name and contact details of the administrator of the tenancy deposit scheme to which the deposit was paid; and
  6. The circumstances in which all or part of the tenancy deposit may be retained at the end of the tenancy, with reference to the terms of the tenancy agreement.

The Fraser and Pease-v-Meehan case shows that enforcement of this legislation is very likely to be driven by tenants.  Because action can be taken for up to 3 months after the end of a tenancy, tenants are able to do so free of any fear of retribution.  Too many tenancies are simply ended by a landlord because the tenant has been bold enough, for instance, to insist that badly needed repairs are carried out, and changing the tenant for a more compliant one a less costly option for a landlord.  That is a fundamental weakness in renting legislation.  Deposit protection legislation allows former tenants to exercise their rights free of constraint and because of that I think we are likely to see it much more effectively enforced.

John Gell

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A call to convert 66,000 student HMO’s back to family homes? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I have been having a catch up on my on-line reading over this weekend and I have just come across an article which, in my opinion is very ill-informed. A call to convert 66,000 student HMO's back to family homes

Housing supply in many UK cities is being restricted by the conversion of family housing to student lets and local tenants are being prices out, according to new research. International real estate adviser Savills estimates that 66,000 properties or Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) now occupied by students could be freed up for conventional family housing through the delivery of more purpose built student accommodation”

The first thing that I would say is that only students want to live near students and the last place I would want to bring up my family is in an area that is highly populated by students.  I love my students tenants but they do not keep regular hours and often return late at night in a happy and noisy mood. There are other issues too but I won’t go into those, most of us who let to students will know what I mean.

For me, the most important point that has been missed is that the cost of converting a family home into a student HMO is colossal and this, coupled with the purchase prices in popular areas, means that landlords have invested a massive amount of money in their properties – will families really want to pay the prices that would cover this investment and also convert the property back to a family home?

In my book “Will You Survive the Mayhem”, I talk about the future of the student market where student numbers are reducing in many areas and there is an oversupply. I have given my predictions of the future of the market and I have warned landlords that we may need a plan “B”.  Plan “B” must, however, take into account that many landlords have big debts on their properties and could not afford to use them for family lets because of the reduced income. There are other markets for which these properties could be used which are realistic and would help to increase supply but Savills are dreaming if they really think that building more purpose built student accommodation is the answer to the shortage of family homes.  They have also overlooked the fact that students can’t wait to get out of “institutional” accommodation and share little houses, at least for their middle year, and there are many empty rooms in purpose build student accommodation in areas where the student population has receded since the increase in University fees.

The article goes on to say

The result is a double whammy for local non student tenants and aspiring home owners. Not only do students price other tenants out of many family housing areas in major UK towns and cities, credit conditions post downturn have favoured landlord investors rather than less equity rich potential owner occupier buyers. ‘Local council coffers would also gain. We calculate that reinstating these student HMOs to homes for non student residents would boost council tax returns by around £1.5 million per town or city, since student only houses are council tax exempt,’ said Savills research analyst, Neal Hudson.”

All local authorities get increased Government funding to cover the cost of Council Tax exemptions for students, the local authority would not be better off if these properties were converted back to family homes, they would in fact be worse off because they would lose the additional “automatic” income and would have to recover it from the families who live there.

The one statement I do agree with in this article is this

“Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning Act proposes restricting new HMO supply which could push students and associated landlord demand into smaller properties, pricing out other occupier and tenant groups.”

I also talked about this in my book because Article 4 Directions are ill-conceived and, in my opinion, will soon sigh and die.

Finally the article says

“For the institutional investor in student housing the UK market offers a mature, counter cyclical investment opportunity”.

Wrong again, I have given a lot of evidence in my book that shows how the student market will continue to recede in all but the Red Brick university areas, many of those are already building campi in the most popular sending countries, and many investors will catch a cold by investing in purpose built student blocks in the next few years.

I am struggling to understand why investors are not being encouraged to put their cash into funds to build more family homes, since we all agree that this is an area of increasing demand and it is very unlikely that the demand will do anything other than grow year on year?

Am I missing something, do Savills know something that I don’t know?

Follow me on Twitter @landlordtweets

My book, where I warn about the storm clouds that are gathering for landlords is here >>> http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1484855337


Retaliatory Eviction – Unlicensed HMO Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

In a similar situation to the excellent discussion on Retaliatory Eviction, I can report that I have encountered similar practices in an unlicensed HMO. The situation is in some ways worsened by the fact that the four tenants involved were teenagers (2nd year university students) at the time that the 1 year AST was entered into, and as such, inexperienced in property rental. To say that they were exploited by the letting agent would be an understatement (in my opinion). Retaliatory Eviction - Unlicensed HMO

The property in question (in an E3 postcode area) is a double maisonette, two houses built one atop the other, the upper one having a separate entrance from a concrete walk way. It was originally built on two floors with the lower floor comprising a separate kitchen at the front with an L-shaped living/dining room at the rear. It has been “converted” so that the original kitchen is now a fourth bedroom and the original dining area of the lounge/diner is a very small kitchen. Dining is now at one end of the lounge area. Plumbing from the repositioned kitchen is still connected to the original service points by running the water and waste pipes through the new 4th bedroom around three walls in boxes. As you can imagine, the waste outlet is very slow due the the poor rate of fall in the pipe. The gas boiler has also been repositioned as a wall mounted unit in the lounge area again with water and gas supply pipes running around the walls through the living area and hallway back to the original connection points in the “new” 4th bedroom.

Since we have here 4 unrelated people living in a 2-floor house with shared bathroom and kitchen, we clearly have an unlicensed HMO. As the tenants have come to realise their homes status as an HMO, they have asked the letting agent to confirm the situation with the landlord and asked what could be done to ensure that the property could be rectified to meet the HMO standards. At first the letting agent denied that the property was an HMO, however, the tenants persisted. After a month or so, the letting agent then said that the property was not a licensed HMO. After another month or so of pressure, the letting agent said he had contacted the Housing Department of the Local Authority, who had confirmed to him that the property was not an HMO. On being asked for the name and department of the person he had spoken to, no name and a non existent department was forthcoming.

Subsequently, the tenant contacted the Local Authority who confirmed by e-mail that the property was an HMO. When this was reported to the letting agent, their response was, the local authority had contacted the landlord and if the matter was pursued by the tenants, the landlord would evict using a section 21 notice. Subsequently, the letting agent has said that he will get the landlord to fix any minor problems with the property being an HMO, but “if you ask for anything expensive he will evict, what is it that you want?”

The tenants have again contacted the Local Authority to ask for an inspection of the property to try to gain an official list of rectifications required, but have been met with a “we can’t inspect every property because our workloads are too high”.

It seems that a two tier HMO is not working too well as the threat to evict will stop any reporting of the situation by the tenant, especially where the Local Authority does not intervene . Since the HMO designation is statutory, I would have thought that it would be mandatory to at least investigate claims of this nature, otherwise why have the unlicensed HMO status when there appears to be no effective means of gaining enforcement of the statute without the risk of eviction?

Since all the guidance I have read says that the the requirements for HMO’s applies equally whether or not it is licensed or unlicensed, is there not a case to simply have all HMO’s licensed? As the statistics show, tenants are 14 times more likely to die in an HMO than in a regular tenant in a non-HMO, or is it just a fact of life that we cannot afford to protect all HMO tenants equally because of the current financial crisis, and that’s not mentioning what I believe to be the poor practice of the letting agent who is, at best, taking advantage of the naivety the tenant by knowingly letting an unfit HMO.

Eric Crossley


Retaliatory eviction – possibility of civil litigation? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

We’re a professional couple with a limited company which provides a technology solution to the NHS. It suits our circumstances to rent at this moment in time. Retaliatory eviction

We had a 4-year rental of a lovely apartment until last Summer, when the owner decided to downsize and move back into the property. It was a good relationship, we had treated the property as if it had been our own investment and we parted as friends – with our deposit paid back in full.

After much searching we found a 3-bed town house which appeared to offer us everything we needed. The letting agent was a member of NAEA/ARLA and appeared to be respectable. There were some agreed remedial works to be dealt with and we were given assurances that these would be attended to in due course. We moved into the property in late August 2012.

Sadly, by the beginning of November, it was apparent that the property had some significant problems. There was extensive water penetration upstairs and a rising damp problem to the ground floor. The letting agent was informed immediately, with photographic evidence and a request for urgent assistance. We moved our furniture from the 3rd bedroom.

A ‘trades-person’ appeared in due course, with a notepad and pencil but with no damp meter. A report was promised, but was not forthcoming. The letting agent promised to send another contractor. This one only worked weekends and couldn’t agree a time to call; that visit never took place.

I called the landlords contractor to arrange the remedial work to be completed – missing doors, exposed wires, etc. He visited early November, measured up, made notes, promised to return – but failed.

We spent the most horrendous Christmas and New Year in the house. There was serious damp penetration, black mould which was constantly being removed. Slugs were climbing the walls. The house was very cold and the more that we heated it – the worse the damp became. We telephoned, wrote, sent photographs, yet the letting agent did nothing; there were plenty of replies – unbelievably stating that they were attempting to do everything as quickly as possible. We initially resigned ourselves to getting out of the house at the end of our AST.

In early-February, I wrote the strongest letter to letting agent with photos. A survey was made by Peter Cox, a pretty damning report which agreed with our complaint – serious damp and rain penetration. I wrote again, asking for compensation and a reduction in rent. This was refused. The letting agent had said that the landlord was absent; it transpired this wasn’t the case.

We tracked the landlord down and demanded a meeting. The landlord appeared, agreed with us in full and said that it was the first he knew of the problem. He agreed that we should be compensated and that this was the letting agents responsibility. Our landlord sat in our home, apologising and promised us both that this would be resolved. He remarked how clean we kept the property. The next day he had changed his mind and said that our grievance was with the letting agent. The following day – the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) inspected. That week, the missing doors and exposed electrics were attended to. We sent 2 requests to the letting agent, for the landlords address – these were refused.

A week later we received a section 21 notice to quit. The landlords address was given as c/o a family member in the South – presumably to thwart a legal action by us.

It turned out that the landlord had known of the problems. He’d applied for a grant for roof insulation, in my name – without my knowledge – and prior to our first meeting. It transpired that the letting agents were not members of ARLA or NAEA and we contacted both organisations and Rightmove to get these false affiliations removed. The letting agent claimed an oversight.

We spoke with our MP who has written to the CEO of the local authority, in order to push the EHO. The EHO wrote to the letting agent and the landlord but there was no response. We then began to receive threats from the letting agent to enter the property to inspect and allow viewings; we made a formal complaint to the Police and this is logged with a fast-track number in the event that they continue. We threatened to change the locks and the letting agent replied that this was not necessary.

We defended the section 21 notice on the grounds of incorrect dates and continued to pay the rent. We were not going to be forced out and subjected to costs or inconvenience due to their incompetence. The weather had improved and the house was drying out for the summer and we would tough it out now – having gone through the worst. We have since redecorated all damp affected walls as it is unnecessary to be reminded every day.

Our MP has pushed for resolution; this has mustered a stronger letter from the EHO. There has been no response other than a second section 21 notice. The dates are once again incorrect. The letting agent has put our deposit into a DPS but did not provide the Deposit Protection Certificate or prescribed information until we requested it after five months of tenancy. The prescribed information appears to be incomplete. I doubt that any s21 is valid until deposit is returned and the landlord might be liable for 3x under the Localism Act? Our claim should also be for a reduction in rent back-dated to 11/2012 and should provide compensation for immense stress and upset – particularly to my wife – for the repeated inconvenience, small damage, etc.

We’ve spoken with experts in Landlord/Tenant issues, they’ve seen our file which is very complete and have passed it onto Barristers to evaluate. We have a strong case apparently, but would incur costs of circa £7k to seek compensation/enforcement of duty to repair; we’ve been told that there is little likelihood of being awarded costs – if successful. That’s an expensive ‘point of principle’ for us.

It seems a dreadful situation. We actually like the house and the worst of the problems could be so easily resolved. We must now consider vacating the property before the bad weather sets in again – to remain longer would weaken any case against the landlord and the letting agent. The landlord is inexperienced and his conduct and concern for our welfare has been quite despicable. The promises that he made to my wife and I were instantly forgotten and we would like to do whatever might be done, so that he is taught the lesson.

Please accept our apologies for the long post, is there anything that we could do, other than what the landlord and letting agent expects – that being to vacate and walk away? I feel that someone needs to make a stand here, to create some solid case law if necessary – to protect others faced with similar problems in the future.

Thanks in advance

Roy and Tania


Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

The alternatives to Landlord Licensing Schemes require joined up thinking, changes to data sharing protocols within local authorities and revised high level directives and strategies which must begin at Government level. 

Perhaps the first question to ask is what is Landlord Licensing all about? Is it really about raising standards or is it more to do with raising funds?Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes

Funding

If society as a whole desires that people should not be subjected to sub standard housing conditions then society as a whole must pay to enforce this (howsoever that might be done) whether the money is raised at a local level or centrally.

It is both unacceptable and wholly undemocratic that landlords should be singled out by Government, Councils and Local Authorities to pay stealth taxes badged as licensing fees on the pretence that the money will be used to fund enforcement related initiatives.

Costs associated with licensing schemes imposed on landlords are funded through increased rents. Neither landlords nor tenants want this, particularly as there is clear evidence (demonstrated in this article) that landlord licensing schemes have proven not to be an effective solution to problems in the Private Rented Sector.

Recycling of Court awarded penalties

The high costs associated with prosecuting criminal landlords is borne by Local Authorities, however, fines and penalties go to the treasury. If these funds were to be redirected to the prosecuting authorities this would assist funding of additional prosecutions and create incentives to bring more criminal landlords to task. Continue reading Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes


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