Advice for landlords and agents

As a landlord you have certain rights and responsibilities when you rent out your property to tenants.

Property conditions

Waverley Borough Council regulates housing and public health conditions, in housing, in the borough to ensure that residents have healthy homes to live in. We can take enforcement action against people that own, live in or rent properties. We most commonly take action against landlords. This usually follows complaints by tenants if they have not been able to resolve an issue with them.

We can take action against you if you fail to carry out essential repairs or maintenance to keep properties safe. Priority is given to cases where tenants are being put at risk.

Property inspections and possible outcomes

If a tenant makes a complaint about their home or their landlord, we will usually inspect the property. When doing this, we use the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to identify what, if any, hazards exist and how serious these hazards are.

After an inspection, officers will decide on what type of action, if any, is appropriate. There are six possible outcomes:

  • No further action - where, following an initial investigation, the complaint cannot be substantiated
  • Informal action - written warnings and/or providing advice is usually the first option if there is a problem and those involved are willing to co-operate
  • Formal notices - we may issue formal notices, for example, an improvement notice to force a landlord to carry out repairs
  • Works in default - if essential works are not done by a landlord, we may do them instead to ensure safety and then recover the costs from the landlord. We may still decide to prosecute the landlord
  • Cautions/interviews under caution - if we issue a simple caution but this is ignored by the alleged offender, we will review the case and decide if other action is required
  • Prosecution - before starting any prosecution proceedings, we must be satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute

Each case is considered on its merits and against the principles set out in our Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy.

Redress schemes

Since 1 October 2014 all letting and property management agents are required to be registered with a Government approved Redress Scheme. Any tenant who is unsatisfied with the service they are receiving can request the matter be investigated by the Redress Scheme.  There are three approved schemes that an agent can choose to be a member of.  Each one has a search function for a tenant to identify which scheme they need to contact.  They are:

The Property Ombudsman (TPO)

Ombudsman Services Property

The Property Redress Scheme

Any agent not a member of one of these schemes may face a fine of £5,000 from the local authority.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Landlords are required to:

  • install a smoke alarm on every floor of their property
  • test the alarm(s) at the start of every tenancy
  • install a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with solid fuel burning appliances

Failure to complete these requirements may result in a £5,000 fine.

Read the Government's explanatory booklet for landlords about smoke and carbon monoxide alarms here.

Changes to assured shorthold tenancies

New legislation has changed the process a landlord must follow to repossess a property under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

The legislation affects assured shorthold tenancies created:

  • after 1 October 2015
  • before 1 October 2015, but renewed with a new contract after that date

After 1 October 2018, the legislation will affect all assured shorthold tenancies retrospectively.

This is an overview of the changes the Deregulation Act 2015 has introduced. If these issues affect you, you should get legal advice.

As a landlord, you can seek to repossess a property through Section 21 as long as:

  • the fixed term on a contract has ended
  • you've given the tenant two months' notice in writing that you want possession

Changes to the existing process include:

  • information you must give the tenant
  • how the notice is given
  • when the notice can be given
  • when the application to the court is made
  • refund of rent to the tenant
  • how tenants are protected if they complain about the property

Information you must give the tenant

Before a valid Section 21 notice can be served, you must have given the tenant:

  • a current gas safety certificate
  • an energy performance certificate
  • the latest version of the government leaflet How to rent

You can email the leaflet, if the tenant has given you an email address and agreed you can use the email address for that purpose.

How you must give notice

You must use the notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy at GOV.UK to serve notice on a tenant.

You must use this form for tenancies that started after 1 October 2015. You can also use it for tenancies that started before this date.

When you can give notice

You cannot serve the notice within four months of:

  • the start of the tenancy
  • the start of the original tenancy, where the original tenancy expired and a new one was issued

The expiry date on the notice no longer has to be the last day of a period of the tenancy. It can be any date at least two months from the date the notice is served.

When you must make the application to court

After the Section 21 notice expires, you must make the application to the court within six months of the date you served the notice on the tenant.

If a Section 21 notice requires a notice period longer than two months, for example if the rent is paid every sixth months or annually, you must make the application to the court within four months of the expiry of the notice.

Rent refund

You must refund rent to the tenant if you end a tenancy under Section 21 before the end of the period of tenancy and the tenant has paid rent in advance for that period.

The tenant has a right to be refunded rent they've already paid for the days they won't be living in the property. This amount will be calculated pro rata.

If you haven't refunded the rent when the court makes a possession order under Section 21, the court will order you to pay the amount of rent the tenant is due.

Notice served after the tenants complain

You can not evict tenants if they complain about poor or unsafe property conditions.

You can not serve a Section 21 notice on a tenant for six months if the local council has served you with:

  • an improvement notice under Sections 11 or 12 of the Housing Act 2004
  • a notice of emergency remedial action under Section 40(7) of the Housing Act 2004

A Section 21 notice will not be valid if the tenant made a complaint, in writing, to you about the condition of the property before the Section 21 notice was given and:

  • You did not send the tenant a written response to the complaint within 14 days of the day the complaint was made or
  • You sent the tenant an inadequate written response to their complaint and
  • The tenant then made a complaint to their local council.

The tenant does not have to make the complaint in writing if they do not know your postal or email address. If a tenant tries to contact you to complain but can not get hold of you they do not have to give you 14 days to respond. They can complain to their local council without waiting for a response from you.

When the restrictions don't apply

These restrictions on serving notice under Section 21 do not apply when:

  • you gave the tenant notice because they didn't carry out their responsibilities as a tenant, such as paying the rent or looking after the property.
  • the property is on the market for sale and you are not planning to sell it to someone you know.
  • you are a private registered provider of social housing
  • a mortgage lender, or a receiver appointed by the mortgage lender to act on behalf of you, has repossessed your property and needs it to be vacant to sell it.

For more information read the Retaliatory Eviction and the Deregulation Act 2015.

Right to rent - immigration checks

If a private tenancy starts on or after 1 February 2016 landlords must check that their tenant or lodger has the legal right to rent a property in England. The check:

  • must be carried out within 28 days before the start of a new tenancy
  • must be made for anyone aged 18 and over that is occupying the premises as their only or main home.

Please note: this check applies to the named tenants listed in the tenancy agreement and those who are residing in the property, but not listed in the agreement.

A landlord can be fined up to £3,000 for a renting a property to someone who is not allowed to rent in England.

Energy Performance Certificates

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are needed whenever a property is:

  • built
  • sold
  • rented

You must provide an EPC to potential buyers and tenants before you market the property. Since 1 April 2016, tenants have the right to request consent to carry out energy efficiency measures and these may not be unreasonably refused by their landlords.

From 1 April 2018 legislative changes mean it is unlawful to let ouy residential properties with an EPC Rating of F or G (i.e. the lowest 2 grades of energy efficiency) unless the property has been registered on the PRS Exemptions Register.

Landlords for these properties should now improve the energy efficiency of their properties if they have not already done so or register an exemption.

For more information about EPCs or how to obtain one, please visit the EPC Register website.

How we can help

As a private landlord, we can give you free advice on rental issues including:

 

Page owner: Paula Mackenzie. Last updated: 02/07/2020 09:41

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