Radio host Ian Collins spoke to Michael Cook, Group Managing Director and Mark Giacomin, Policy & Guidance Manager at Leaders Romans Group, and independent property expert, Kate Faulkner, about the tough job landlords have of staying up to date with lettings legislation.

The podcast started with a discussion on why it’s so tough for landlords to keep up with lettings legislation. Michael explained that with around 168 laws covering over 400 individual rules and regulations – with many new ones added each year and existing ones changed – it’s a tough ask for landlords to keep track, especially if they have a full-time job that’s not in the property market.

Michael shared that he’d done a test of his own, first self-managing a property to let, then outsourcing it to an agent. Although he had to pay for the agent’s service, the costs were tax deductible and it wasn’t just the fact that the legislation was taken care of, he was also surprised how much time it saved him. In addition, he’d struggled to increase the rent while he was self-managing, as he’d got on so well with the tenant and didn’t want to cause any problems!

Kate explained that while keeping up with ever complicated legislation across different countries and local authorities in England is tough for landlords, there’s also the threat of increasingly severe penalties if they fall foul of the law.

Local Authorities can fine landlords up to £30,000 without having to go to court and they can dish out these penalties for even accidental admin errors, such as not licensing a House in Multiple Occupation, not giving tenants the correct ‘prescribed information’ at the start of their tenancy or, as Michael pointed out, not protecting deposits properly, which can result in landlords having to return more than three times the deposit amount to the tenant. For the most serious legal breaches, landlords can be issued with a banning order preventing them from letting property and even sent to jail.

The panel agreed that to be successful at buy-to-let, landlords had to find a reliable way to stay on top of the legislation – or outsource the responsibility to a qualified letting agent that’s a member of ARLA Propertymark or RICS. They added that continuing to invest in maintaining and upgrading your buy-to-let is essential if you want it to keep delivering the best returns.

Both Michael and Mark highlighted that one of the key mistakes landlords make is not keeping rents in line with the market. Over time, the rental income is eroded by inflation, reducing its real value and making it hard to keep affording property repairs and renovations. Consistently raising rents a little every year helps ensure your buy-to-let continues to deliver enough income to cover all ongoing costs, plus extra to keep the property in top-notch condition so it appeals to the highest paying tenants.

And this is where they feel the job of a good letting agent comes in. Not only can agents help you find the best buy-to-let for the local area that will achieve your investment objectives, but they know how to keep it legally and safely let and understand the importance of having the means to upgrade the property to retain or improve its value over time.

Listen to episode 1 of The Property Crowd here.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Some dreadful advice here. You cannot outsource your legal responsibilities to an agent.

    Not long ago I read of a case where an agent had failed to register a deposit in a timely manner. The landlord was unaware but still held liable and given a massive fine.

    The government don’t want small private landlords. The behave like a nasty schoolboy that sits there with his foot out waiting to trip someone up. In my experience as a landlord formerly of several properties including HMO’s which I have reduced down to just one and as a former I.T. contractor affected by the IR35 legislation intended to criminalise those trying to work for themselves I suggest that when the government wants you to stop doing something, you should stop and do something else instead. They have the resources to crush you; you cannot fight back.
    Don’t be a mug and think “I’m an entrepreneur not a criminal, this can’t apply to me”.

  2. Agree 100%. I find it somewhat disturbing that LandlordZone can seemingly promote the idea that landlord can ‘outsource’ their legal responsibilties. Quite disgraceful.

    Yes – some landlords may prefer to use the services of a reputable lettings agent but all landlords must be aware that the buck stops with them and not a lettings agent and if their agent messes up, the landlord is legally responsible. In the event of a major fine, the landlord will probably not be able to effectively recover the cost from the agent even if they sue them. By the time it gets to court the agent conpany will have been liquidated and the agent probably started up a new company.

    This is just a thinly disguised promotion of Leaders Letting agent business. Don’t trust any agent to protect a landlord from fines – they simply cannot – the law won’t allow it.

  3. I agree, the ultimate responsibility lies with the landlord and not the estate agent. Most agents don’t even know the law comprehensively and I’m sure hardly any know all 168 laws. I’ve given my properties to some of the largest high street agents and some have no clue. Agents charge a management fee and most think it’s ok to charge commission on work they’ve contracted out to do. The only thing I would agree with, with my self managed properties, I have a good relationship with my tenants and I do struggle to increase rents, since the relationship becomes a personal one alongside a business one. However, I would say in these instances, there is a benefit, in that the tenants are more understanding and many put their own money into improving the property.

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