Landlords – stick to the rules to keep your income

In April, the system for fining landlords in breach of housing regulations changed. There’s now a maximum penalty of £30,000 which can be imposed without court proceedings. What’s more, local authorities have the right to recover up to 12 months’ rent from those landlords who have harassed their tenants or let properties which are in a poor condition.

It’s worth having, therefore, a quick recap on landlords’ responsibilities because ignoring them can have serious repercussions. Private individuals with small scale portfolios need to ensure they’re up to date. Adhering to all the regulations will mean that cash-strapped local authorities can’t treat them as an easy target when they need to top up their funding.

To be fair that’s not likely to happen. Local authorities will still have the safe letting of property as their priority. The problem, though, is that the different authorities may interpret the rules differently. For landlords with properties in more than one locality, that could be very confusing. Some local authorities may require licences before a property can be let – others won’t. There could be differences between the procedures for HMOs and in the interpretation of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

It’s a good idea to be proactive – ask the local authority for help, rather than avoiding them. You’ll show you are keen to do the right thing.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System

We mentioned earlier that letting a property in poor condition can lead to a rent repayment order. As a landlord, you’re responsible for the exterior and structural elements of the dwelling and for the inside facilities including, water, gas and electricity, hygiene facilities, sanitation and drainage, food safety, ventilation and heating and hot water systems. A total of 29 hazards are identified under HHSRS and failure to prevent problems can cost you a year’s worth of rental income. You can find more information here.

Other requirements

As well as health and safety requirements, breaching other landlord responsibilities can also see you facing fines.

You’ll be responsible for:

  • Right to rent checks
  • Providing start of tenancy information including:

o   Energy performance certificates

o   Gas safety certificates

o   A copy of the Government’s How to Rent booklet.

In addition, you’ll have to ensure that:

  • The deposit is protected in a UK approved scheme
  • The tenant’s privacy is respected
  • You keep to the agreements made on rent and rent increases
  • Any eviction proceedings follow the letter of the law.

And watch this space …

… because the rules and regulations are constantly changing. It’s quite possible that you could miss a change and find yourself out of pocket.

If you’re not certain that you’re doing the right thing, remember that there is safety in numbers. If you don’t use an agency, join a landlords’ association. If you do use an agency, make sure they’re reputable and a member of a trade body. They should know all the rules and regs inside out. If they don’t seem certain, move. It won’t be them that pays the fine. It will be you.

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