Our advice to anyone looking to let a property is to use a firm which is either RICS or ARLA accredited.
Given the amount of legislation which has and will be coming into law around renting properties you will find that we are worth our weigh in gold.
The recent changes in legislation that have come into force are perhaps the most significant in the history of the private rental sector. The government has moved to swing things more in favour of the tenant and in this landscape it is even more important for landlords to have an expert in the sector looking after their interests.
From 1st June 2019 the Tenant Fees Act came into force which profits landlords and agents from charging any fees to tenants other than those permitted by the Act, such as capped levels of refundable tenancy deposit and holding deposits. The costs, which were previously borne by tenants, such as referencing, credit checking, administration, check-out fees and deposit registration, have in the main been passed on to landlords.
At Hazells, we have taken the decision to bear some of these costs by “smarter working” and streamlining our procedures thus saving costs. We believe that all of these moves have been to the benefit of our landlord clients.
Another significant change which is out to consultation is the proposed changes to section 21 and section 8 Notices. A section 21 Notice currently allows a landlord to gain possession of his/her property by asking the tenant to leave without reason either once a fixed term tenancy has ended or while a periodic (usually monthly tenancy) exists. For instance, if there was a change in circumstances which necessitated a landlord having to sell or move back into the property, they can at present use a section 21 to give the tenant a Notice of eviction. If the new legislation is passed, landlords would instead have to use a section 8 which will mean they have to provide a concrete reason for evicting a tenant that is specified in law.
Even then it can be challenged in the courts and be drawn out before a decision is reached. Having clear advice from experts is therefore imperative so that landlords go into tenancy agreements with their eyes fully open. Agents are also able to inform landlords of upcoming changes in legislation.
In April 2020, for example, landlords will not be able to let a property if its energy performance certificate has an F or G rating (properties are rated on a scale from A to G, with A being the most efficient). This applies even if the property already has a tenant.
There is an urgency to act swiftly to get EPCs in line with these regulations in advance of April, as the local authority can impose a penalty of up to £2,000 for failing to comply and up to £4,000 if it for longer than three months.
Further penalties can also be imposed if the local authority takes action to to publish details of the breach on a public register.
The penalties for landlords under the Right to Rent Scheme are even more severe which causes much anxiety, with an unlisted fine or custodial sentence. A High Court ruling in March 2019 (currently being challenged by the government) found the scheme had “little or no effect” on its main aim of controlling immigration and, even if it had, this was “significantly outweighed by the discriminatory effect”.
A well-established agent can take this stress away from landlords and, post Brexit, there could be further changes beyond January 2021, the date until which the current regulations are set to run.
Another area in which letting agents can help landlords with recently with recently updated legislation is with the Homes Fitness for Human Habitation Act which came into force in March 2019.
The new Act gives tenants strengthened means of redress against landlords who do not fulfil their legal obligations to keep properties safe and, as agents, we can make sure these are quickly resolved and the house compliant with regulations.
All in all, letting out properties is becoming increasingly complicated by legislation and an RICS or ARLA qualified agent can cut through all of this to make life simpler and easier for landlords.
The day of the dinner party landlord is over!
Based on an article written and published by Cheffins of Cambridge August 2019