Landlords, particularly landlords managing their own properties, therefore need to be aware of the law and regulations which apply to them and comply with them.
Otherwise you may find themselves in a difficult situation, and could even face prosecution! Let’s have a look at some of the main problem areas.
This is a big problem area at the moment, partly because the interpretation of the law seems to change every time a case goes to the Court of Appeal.
If you protect your tenants deposit with a government authorised scheme within 30 days of receipt of the money AND serve the prescribed information, then you should be OK.
If you don’t – you will be vulnerable to being ordered to pay up to three times the deposit sum to your tenancy by the Courts AND will be (in most cases) unable to serve a valid section 21 notice until you have refunded the deposit money to the tenants.
We are finding that many landlords are unaware of these regulations and fail to protect the deposit. Needless to say, this is not a valid defence in the eyes of the law.
If you failed to protect YOUR tenants’ deposit, note that there is help here: http://www.landlordlaw.co.uk/the-deposit-non-protect-guide.
Right to rent checks
Under the Right to Rent scheme, landlords are now expected to check a tenant’s immigration status prior to offering them a tenancy agreement. Landlords in the West Midlands are already having to cope with these checks. It is planned to introduce the scheme nationwide later this year – although this will be after the election so will depend on what any incoming government decide.
For links to government information and a series of information articles on the Landlord Law Blog click here http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2014/11/03/right-to-rent-checks-the-law-and-the-codes.
Repair and health and safety issues
This is a very complex area of law – as there are a lot of individual laws involved. The main landlords repairing obligations are set out in s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
However, there are then the Local Authority powers following a Housing Health & Safety Rating System Inspection (which can in some cases lead to prosecution), not to mention their powers under the product safety legislation, and the powers of the Health & Safety Executive under the Gas Regulations.
On top of this there is the Environmental Health Act 1990, under which tenants can bring prosecutions for nuisance (e.g. for damp and mould) and the Defective Premises Act which can also be used in some circumstances.
Basically though if your properties are in tip top condition when they were let (and you are able to prove this) and if you respond promptly to tenants’ notifications regarding repair issues, you should be all right.
If you want some guidance on this, note that my training company Easy Law Training are running a workshop on Landlords repairing obligations to be taken by housing barrister Peter Marcus in early February, which you can read about here http://www.easylawtraining.co.uk/info/landlords-repairing-obligations.
Houses in Multiple Occupation
You may think this does not apply to you, but if you rent to three or more unrelated tenants who share living accommodation, your property is probably an HMO. Note that although not all HMOs require a Local Authority license, all of them MUST comply with the HMO Management Regulations.
Local Authorities are starting to bring more and more prosecutions under the Management Regulations and so you need to know what they are.
You will find a really helpful (and free) series of articles on my Landlord Law Blog about this here http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/hmo . If you need more guidance, you may want to consider attending one of David Smith’s workshops on HMO Law & Practice – you can read about these here http://www.easylawtraining.com/landlords-workshops/sales-hmo-law-and-practice.
As losing your home can have such serious life consequences, Judges are reluctant to make an order for possession unless landlords have fully complied with all the legal requirements. Evicting a tenant without getting a court order first is a criminal offence.
1. that landlords need to thoroughly reference check their tenants in the first place, and 2. if you want to evict you need to be very careful to get all the paperwork right.
If you are considering eviction, you will find a free guide here: http://www.landlordlaw.co.uk/whichpossessionproceedings.
The notice part of the proceedings will be dealt with in my Ending Tenancies workshop which you can read about here http://www.easylawtraining.com/landlords-workshops/sales-ending-tenancies-2.
Changes in Wales
Landlords and agents in Wales face a lot of big changes in 2015. The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 will be bringing in mandatory registration and accreditation. The planned Renting Homes Bill will bring in yet more changes.
Welsh landlords and agents may want to consider attending this special event on the new laws http://lllconf.co.uk/wales.
Keeping up to date generally
As you can see, there are a lot of tricky areas which you may need to know about, with new laws and regulations coming into force all the time.
What can you do?
One suggestion is to sign up to get posts from my Landlord Law Blog. This has new information items most days. You can sign up here http://www.landlordlawinfo.co.uk/landlord-law-blog-posts.
You may also want to consider our Landlord Law Conference in Cambridge in April (sponsored by TDS). This will have talks on section 21, right to rent, fire safety, utilities, eviction and other important issues. It is a great way to update yourself and your staff in one go – and is also a very enjoyable event.
You can find out more about the Conference here http://lllconf.co.uk/cambridge.
But whatever you do – you need to keep up with what is happening. Here is a post on the Landlord Law Blog with some more suggestions on ways to do this http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2015/01/12/five-cost-effective-ways-you-can-learn-to-be-a-landlord.