LANDLORDS! PAY ATTENTION
Amendment to the Deregulation Bill : How does this affect me ?
Some of you may not be familiar with this legislation , but following last night’s vote in the House of Lords all landlords need to consider it!
What if, not carrying out repairs to your rental property would that you could not gain possession of that property at the end of the tenancy? Really? Yes,! Really! … however dont dispair
There is a lot of misnformation through misinterpretation going on, some commentators think all a tenant has to do is make a repairs complaint and a landlord cannot use s21 or he is indulging in what is termed “retaliatory eviction”. This is not correct – but he is only stopped from using s21 if the local authority has issued a hazard notice or an enforcement order.
The past, what happened ?
When a landlord wants to gain possession of his property under normal circumstances you would follow a prescribed process, which would include the service of a notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (s21 Notice).
The potential future?
The amendment covers four areas and will:
- protect tenants against the practice of retaliatory eviction where they have raised a legitimate complaint against the property and a Local Authority has issued a Notice confirming that the repairs needs to be carried out to acout a risk to Health and Safety
- ensure that the tenants are always given at least two months notice
- make the eviction process more straight forward
- provide that where a landlord failed to comply with certain legal obligations the tenant cannot be evicted.
The stated aim of the Coalition is to bring these changes into effect within this Parliament which ends on 30 March 2015.
How does this affect you as a landlord ?
For a tenant to be protected from “retaliatory eviction” a tenant must submit their complaint about the condition of their property in writing unless they do not have their landlord’s (or the landlord’s appointed agent’s) email address or postal address.
Being in writing this complaint benefits the tenant and whoever manages their property as it provides a clear record of the exact complaint and the trigger point for providing an adequate response. Therefore this means is it paramount that your knows how to contact you in writing. A good managing agent will have a clear complaints procedure
Then if acting on your behalf your agent must provide an adequate response to a complaint within 14 days.
So what is “adequate” : a response which illustrates the remedial action that will be taken providing a clear timescale for completion of that action
So the tenants complaint needs to provide the correct information for the agent and/or landlord to understand the issue in order be able to provide that adequate response.
The draft legislation, however does not provide any obligation on a tenant to offer this level of detail. So again it becomes crucial that your agent/yourself equip your tenants with the tools they need to provide them with this information.
Are there any limitations?
Yes, some. The S21 will not be invalid if,
- the tenant failed to use the property in a tenant like manner;
- OR the disrepair is due to a breach of a tenant’s obligation in their tenancy agreement;
- OR a mortgagee is seeking recovery of a property under a mortgage that was in place before the tenancy commenced;
- OR when the s21 notice is served the property is genuinely on the market for sale.
In addition by using the local authority as the arbiter for the materiality of the disrepair landlords should be protected from being unable to regain possession for minor issues of disrepair.
In summary :
If, as is expected, the Bill becomes law any failure to deal with repairs properly could become a lot more expensive.
.From a letting agent’s perspective, the liability and reputational consequences of missing repairs could become far more serious.
It could lead to some landlords moving agents if they do not action repairs as requested. And as agents we will need to have robust processes for handling written repair requests. Not all agents will have this capacity
With the impending election it has become clear that Property / Tenants/ Landlords are a “hot topic” and there is a high level of public awareness of retaliatory eviction with over 17,000 signatories in favour of a recent (but unsuccessful) Bill to prohibit retaliatory eviction and widespread press coverage.
This means that letting agency staff are likely to be asked about the changes by existing clients, prospective clients and tenants.
If passed, the Bill will affect block managers and estate managers too, How ? Well any issues with the communal areas one of your tenants can use may also prevent a landlord from regaining possession of their property..
What Can You Do?
Don’t worry, but make sure you know how to deal with this legislation.
Audit your processes and ensure that if you do manage your own properties you review your repair management processes and we suggest the following checklist for letting agents and block managers:
As a current member of TPOS , Safeagent and Safeagent and part of a National Franchise with cutting edge software and dedicated Property Managers , Belvoir already have in place the processes and capacity to deal with this change. And as with the any Legislative changes are able to take this in our stride, with little or no change to our working practices
We suggest you consider the following check list which may assist you in deciding whether you continue with the status quo or contact an Agent to manage your property
- As from now you should ensure all repair requests are in writing
- Get a written repair reporting structure in place . Which specifically details the problem so that your property management team can identify the problem and instruct the appropriate maintenance team .
- If using an agent ensure they are a member of a regulated body such as TPOS and ARLA as they already consider that it is best practice to have written communications with tenants
- Consider how written repair requests will affect your team if your tenant base speaks a range of languages. The Bill says that to be protected tenants will report repairs in writing but doesn’t say that they have to be in English.
- Make sure that you have processes in place to ensure that no repair is ever missed.
- An audit trail of each repair request from start to end will help to show not only that you acted correctly but to evidence that you have done so.Educate your team on the proposed changes.
- For letting agents, if you manage flats but not the common parts make sure that your tenants know what would fall within their block manager’s responsibilities.