Tomorrow is the 1st anniversary (1st October 2015) of the introduction of a whole new set of rules which have turned the business of letting residential rental property into a paper chase – an evidence-based process.
Fail to collect the evidence, meaning documents to prove that you followed a strict process, and you could be liable to a fine, in some cases, or you may find yourself in serious trouble if you need to use the Section 21 eviction process.
The time is fast approaching when some landlords will need to seek possession for tenancies which started under the new rules – those commencing on or after 1st of October 2015 – so I foresee many landlords falling foul of these new rules.
The government’s strategy, a rather clever one, to try to improve letting standards, is to use the threat of withdrawing the real benefit of a no-fault eviction process – Section 21 – by imposing specific prior criteria upon the landlord or agent: serving the correct documents at the start of every tenancy; protecting the deposit, serving correct deposit notices; and responding adequately to requests for repairs. In addition, since last February, strict Right-to-Rent regulations must be complied with.
These are quite reasonable demands on a landlord, and not all that difficult to achieve for the diligent landlord or agent who has the correct administrative systems in place. The problem is many landlords have become accustomed to taking a casual approach when putting a tenant in their property.
The new landlord, the so called “accidental landlord”, those who just don’t keep themselves up-to-date with the legal requirements, and finally the rogues who rarely follow the rules; all are vulnerable if their tenants want to enforce their rights, or they house the small minority who quite simply abuse those rights.
Many landlords feel the law is stacked against them. Well generally that’s not the case in my view; the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) in England has stood the test of time, it protects the tenant as well as the landlord, but ultimately it gives the landlord the a no argument, no legal challenge right to possession if things go wrong.
Yes, some landlords have abused this privilege, but given it takes months of notice and legal process to actually achieve possession, it’s pretty rare if not impossible for a tenant to be evicted “at the drop of a hat” as many of the homelessness charities imply. Most landlords are at their wits end before they invoke this process.
We all know that the overwhelming majority of landlords want to follow the rules, provide good quality accommodation at a competitive price, and do all they can to keep their tenants as long as possible – changeovers cost money. And by far the majority of tenants are satisfied with their rental accommodation and their private landlord’s service.
The LandlordZONE® website is full of information, as well as high quality forms and letting agreements, to help those landlords and agents who take the time to read them and use them. Letting is not “rocket science”, but it does now more than ever take some preparation and organisation in terms of getting your systems in place – you need good administrative skills if you are to avoid problems with your tenancies.
Perhaps one of the most insidious pieces of legislation passed recently, and which landlords now face, is the so called “retaliatory” or “revenge” eviction regulations. These prevent landlords seeking possession when a tenant has filed a complaint, and the landlord has not responded adequately.
With winter coming, inevitably the problem of dampness and condensation raise their ugly heads in rental accommodation. If you have a property which is susceptible to condensation – we’ve all seen those ugly pictures of black mouldy walls – then it’s easily interpreted as dampness by the authorities – the environmental health officer with little experience of this may condemn the landlord, when in fact it’s the tenant’s doing. Drying clothes on radiators, failing to heat the place properly and not opening windows or using extractors to vent steam, they create category 1 or 2 hazards out of nowhere.
These repair situations are extremely difficult to deal with faced with an obstructive tenant – any tenant refusing entry for repairs creates a nightmare situation when it can hold up an eviction. Tenants in financial difficulties will often throw up a “smoke screen” for landlords by requesting repairs, just to delay payments. With the new rules on repairs reporting it rather plays into their hands.
I’m afraid age and experience makes me cynical in these matters, but I’m already seeing evidence of tenants presenting landlords with a list of repairs when they have been sent a demand for overdue rent.
There are ways and means of dealing with all these situations effectively, but it requires knowledge and good preparation. Below is a list of information links that will help you tackle these problems:
- The new Section 21 Rules
- Doing Risk Assessments
- Repair Reporting Issues
- Protecting Deposits Correctly
- Discrimination and Immigration Checks
Do yourself a favour, do some useful reading and bring yourself up-to-date with the latest changes in the lettings rules and how to deal with them. As the 12 months’ anniversary of many of these new rules approaches, tomorrow, be prepared and you won’t fall foul.
Tom Entwistle, editor, has had many years’ experience developing, letting and managing residential and commercial property. Give your feedback here: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Letting Regulations start to bite… https://t.co/87P6VEdHDM
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) September 30, 2016