Rogue Landlords: Now is the Time to Rent Right
Of course, it’s rare that someone sets out to be a rogue landlord, but did you know that there are now believed to be something like 160 laws you have to abide by when letting a property – and this translates into over 400 rules and regulations?
There is an increased determination by the government to encourage local authorities to enforce these laws, so making sure you don’t ‘accidentally’ fall into this situation is an essential part of a landlord’s job in today’s tougher letting climate.
The new Housing and Planning Act allows councils to apply fines or civil notices up to £30,000 and keep the money to carry out more enforcement plus they can ban landlords from letting and even add them to a ‘register’ of rogue landlords. And knowing which properties are being let has just got a whole lot easier as local authorities can access property details from deposit protection schemes. Therefore, if you haven’t checked over the last few years if your property meets latest legal requirements, it is essential to do so.
Most people know about checks such as ‘right to rent’ that you have to carry out on tenants before they move in and also things like gas safety regulations, but there are other rules, some of which have only come in recently – and ignorance is no form of defence.
What are the key rules you need to abide by*?
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
Many landlords are not aware of the requirements of the HHSRS, but they are extremely important to be aware of and abide by, especially with the new fines available to local authorities.
They include making sure a property is relatively easy and safe to keep warm. More rented properties than any other tenure have damp issues but this isn’t acceptable and, in the main, is very much the responsibility of the landlord to sort out. But it’s not just things like this that need to be addressed; even having a frayed carpet or not having a staircase which is deemed safe can catch you out with the HHSRS rules as they can cause slips, trips and falls.
These are not onerous requirements, so there is no reason why you wouldn’t abide by them but, if you have lived in the property you are now renting and put up with a few draughts, the odd broken window or the heating not working perfectly, this is not a property that is acceptable when letting to paying clients.
And remember, if the tenant does have an accident in your home caused by poor maintenance or not abiding by the law, they can claim against you which can easily eat into your property investment returns and, if serious, you can even be sent to jail.
Repairs must be dealt with quickly and legally
Since 1st October 2015, under new assured shorthold tenancy agreements, you have had to make sure you deal with repairs within a set timeframe. You don’t necessarily have to have completed the repair, but you do have to respond to the tenant’s request with what you intend to do (if anything) within 14 days, in writing.
And if you don’t, and think you can get away with evicting the tenant without doing the repairs, be careful. If the tenant complains to the local council about repairs they have asked for not being done, and which they believe you are legally obliged to carry out, you are unlikely to be able to evict them. This is expected to apply to all tenancy agreements from October 2018, whenever the agreement was entered into.
Bearing in mind a property in poor repair is likely to be valued at less money, it’s always worth making sure it’s in good condition, especially if you are looking at refinancing as maximising your property’s value can ensure you get the best mortgage deal to if it improves your loan to value ratio.
Your tenant as a customer
It’s easy to forget, especially if you are just renting your own home out for a short period of time, that tenants aren’t just renting your property, they need to be treated as your customers. That means you need to consider what applies to you as a landlord with regards to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
This covers things such as ‘unfair contract terms’ which means your tenancy agreement cannot include any clauses just because you want them applied, they have to abide by the laws laid out in statute and this means you need to keep up with the latest legislation, knowing when you have to issue a new tenancy agreement for example.
Ideally, if you are letting a property, it’s wise at least to join a landlord association or accreditation scheme that keeps you up to date with the latest rules and regulations or make sure you let through a qualified agent who is a member of ARLA, NALS or RICs.
*Please note this applies mostly to England and Wales, other countries can have different rules and regulations, so check out https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/buying-selling-and-renting-home/private-renting and https://rentingscotland.org/