Latest Landlord News by: Madalena Penny
Do-it-Yourself landlords are falling foul of harassment code, warns ‘Legal 4 Landlords’. The private landlord legal experts with a national presence across the UK are advising landlords new to the BTL industry to review methods when contacting tenants.
Private landlords using unprofessional self-employed agents recruited socially and paid on commission to collect rents are leaving themselves and tenants vulnerable, warns senior partner Sim Sekhon. Rent collectors signed up by landlords to collect rent and recover outstanding arrears are sometimes unaware of legal requirements and are often recruited by landlords through their own social and family network, without the proper knowledge of the letting agent/landlord sector, the housing act or legal guidelines and without any formal or informal training.
Enquiries by landlords to Legal 4 Landlords uncovered some collectors:
- Visited tenants after 10pm and before 8am, without prior notice;
- Visited tenants at their place of work;
- Threatened to have their possessions removed to pay for outstanding arrears without court action;
- Used threatening and offensive language.
The landlords, who were unaware of behaviour and tactics of collectors, once recognized they addressed the problems created by the informally appointed collectors and in cases were the landlord lived at considerable distance from the tenanted property, responsible letting agents working alongside Legal 4 Landlords were employed to legally tackle problem tenants.
The growth of the private rented sector has attracted an increase of BTL investors new to the sector along with accidental landlords unable to sell their homes. Without proper counsel, new investors could very well land themselves in hot water and are advised that agents, specifically appointed on a rent-collection commission structure should receive thorough training before being sent out to tenants – although professional letting agents would be the more preferable option.
As laid out in government guidelines and under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 the law makes it an offence to:
• do acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of a tenant or anyone living with him or her; or
• persistently withdraw or withhold services for which the tenant has a reasonable need to live in the premises as a home.
It is an offence to do any of the things described above intending, knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that they would cause the tenant to leave their home, or stop using part of it, or stop doing the things a tenant should normally expect to be able to do. It is also an offence to take someone’s home away from him or her unlawfully.
The precise offences are set out in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which has been made stronger by the Housing Act 1988. A person who is convicted by magistrates of an offence under the Act may have to pay a maximum fine of £5,000, or be sent to prison for six months, or both. If the case goes to the Crown Court, the punishment can be prison for up to two years, or a fine, or both.
There are defences in the Protection from Eviction and the Housing Acts for landlords who have good reason for acting in a particular way, or for thinking that the tenant had left the property.
If in doubt-do nowt should be the motto. Oh and some correct legal advice wouldn’t go amiss.