Sarah Coyne – property litigation solicitor mfg solicitors
Over the last 4 months the changes to the obligations on residential landlords has changed the landscape in the private rented sector.
Changes from 01 October 2015 require landlords to have regard to the following – or face stiff financial sanctions: –
- Providing the tenant at the start of the tenancy with a copy of the “How to rent–the checklist for renting in England” (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent).
- Ensure the terms of the tenancy comply with the concepts of fairness as laid down in the Consumer Rights Act 2015
- Provide the tenant with the energy performance certificate and up to date gas safety certificate.
- Make sure that smoke alarms are fitted in all areas
- Provide carbon monoxide alarms in rooms where solid fuels are being burned
- If a deposit is taken, serve the required prescribed information in accordance with the chosen Tenancy Deposit Scheme, and ensure that the deposit is protected.
- A s21 notice (notice seeking possession) in respect of a new tenancy (after 01 October 2016) is now required to be in a prescribed format. It can no longer be served during the first 4 months of the tenancy and any possession proceedings based on that notice must be brought within 6 months of service of the notice.
Changes from 01 February 2016 mean that residential landlords in England will have to carry out checks on the immigration status of their prospective tenants if they are renting for a term of less than 7 years.
As part of the Immigration Act 2014, the Government is requiring landlords to ensure that only those people who are validly in the country can rent property.
The regulations require those renting out residential premises to check the immigration status of their potential tenants, aged 18 and over, 28 days before the commencement of the tenancy.
Failure to do so could result in financial penalties up to £3,000 per tenant.
Existing tenants and tenancies, prior to 01 February 2016 are exempt.
Agents will also be bound by the terms, but can discharge their obligations by reporting to the landlord, who should act on the agent’s advice on the immigration status of the prospective tenant.
Documentation must be produced to support the tenant’s status. There are two lists of documents. The landlord must obtain from the occupier one document from list A or two documents from list B. If no documents are available the Landlord can request that the Home Office carry out checks, visit www.gov.uk/landlord-immigration-check.
Best practice for landlords –
- Keep any papers showing agent has assumed responsibility for undertaking the checks.
- Make your own enquiries as to who may be living at the property.
- Carry out checks on all adults – keeping names and date of birth
- Obtain and check the documents listed. Keep copies, and verify of the presence of the occupier? I think there is a word missing here
- Diarise any time limit moving forward – expiry dates etc.
- If something doesn’t look right – walk away!
The implications of failing to adhere to the new regime
The implications moving forward are far reaching and can impact on landlords’ pockets and their ability to obtain possession of the rented properties.
A s21 notice cannot be served in respect of that new tenancy if:
- The landlord has failed to provide energy and gas certificates.
- The tenant has not been given a copy of the “How to Rent Booklet”
- The tenant has made a written complaint to the landlord about the condition of the property and the landlord has failed to respond adequately, or at all –so called retaliatory evictions.
- The local authority has served a remedial notice within 6 months of the s21 notice.
- The landlord has failed to protect the deposit and served the prescribed information, within 30 days of taking the deposit. Landlords could also find themselves having to pay back to the tenant the deposit plus between one and three times the deposit by way of financial penalties.
Landlords need to be far more proactive in their approach to renting out their residential properties. Ignorance will be no defence.