There have been numerous changes in lettings legislation over the past few years and it is important that you are up to speed with all of these changes in order to be compliant. Last year saw changes in legislation regarding minimum energy ratings for new rental properties and retaliatory evictions. There is also further legislation coming into place in 2020 regarding energy ratings for all rental properties and further legislation being considered regarding electrical certificates and changes to section 21 notices. This year the main legislation changes have been….
Tenant Fee Ban
As of the 1st June 2019 landlords and agents are unable to charge tenants any lettings fees for any new tenancies signed on or after this date. The aim of the act is to reduce the costs that tenants can face at the outset, and throughout a tenancy. It is part of a wider package of measures aimed at rebalancing the relationship between tenants and landlords to deliver a fairer, good quality and more affordable private rented sector. The only allowable fees for tenants are: the rent, a refundable tenancy deposit (capped at no more than five weeks for an annual rent of less than £50k or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is over £50k), utilities, payments associated with early termination of the tenancy when requested by the tenant, late payment of rent, replacement of lost keys and payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant (capped at £50 and evidence of costs is required).
All other fees are prohibited and should not be charged. Landlords and agents have 28 days to return any prohibited payments to tenants. An initial breach of the legislation can be considered as a civil offence with a financial penalty of up to £5000 per illegal fee charges, however further offences can be considered as a criminal offence. Any tenancies signed before the 1st June 2019 have one year’s grace enabling landlords to charge fees which are listed on the tenancy agreement (e.g. checkout or renewal fees) until 31st May 2020. If these fees are not listed on the tenancy agreement then they cannot be charged. More information can be found at www.gov.uk/government/collections/tenant-fees-act
Fitness for Human Habitation (Homes Act 2018)
As of the 20th March 2019 the Homes Act became law to ensure that all rented properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ to ensure that they are safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm. Some of the problems listed include: neglected buildings, serious damp and mould problems, unsafe layouts, asbestos, lead, carbon monoxide, fire safety concerns, unsafe levels (risk of falling from one level to another) crowding and space issues, domestic hygiene pests and refuse issues, not enough natural lighting, not enough ventilation, water supply problems, drainage or lavatories issues and lack of space to prepare and cook food or wash up.
If rented properties do not meet the requirements, tenants can now take their landlords to court. The courts can then make landlords carry out repairs or put right health and safety problems alongside making them pay compensation to the tenant. If the council enforce works are completed it is suggested that reasonable time frames will be given to carry out works. The correct notice will need to be given to tenants, any failure to allow access should be noted down as evidence in case it is required. Exemptions can include problems caused by a tenant’s behaviour or neglect, fires or floods beyond the landlord’s control and lack of permission from necessary parties such as other freeholders or council planning permission.
More information can be found here.
It is important that you meet the requirements and comply with all legislation. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines and the inability to serve a section 21 notice to evict your tenant.
As a landlord it is your responsibility to ensure that you keep up to date with all legislation and there are lots of landlords that manage their own properties that miss these changes. There are also lots of letting agents that are not up to speed. Were you already aware of these changes? Do you know where to find out this information? If the answer to this is no then perhaps you need a managing agent to manage your portfolio. Here at Rush Witt & Wilson we endeavour to keep all of our landlords up to date with any changes as soon as possible making sure that the necessary checks are put in place to ensure that everyone is compliant.
Look out for further blogs from Buzz with information on legislation and our services. Please contact the team on 01424 430011 if you have any questions or for more information on our property management packages. We look forward to speaking to you soon.