Landlords are reminded that around five million tumble dryers are a potential fire safety hazard, with a large number still waiting to be modified by the manufacturers.

One device has been blamed for a tower block blaze in Shepherd’s Bush, London, that took 120 firefighters to bring under control.  The fire was in a 18-storey building in August.

Afterwards, London Fire Brigade renewed its campaign to make white goods safer, and warned people not to use faulty tumble dryers which are awaiting modification.

The brigade said it believed a faulty Indesit tumble dryer was the cause.

There are believed to be 5.3m dryers made by Whirlpool brands Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda between April 2004 and September 2015 which are subject to a safety notice about fire risk, caused by excess fluff coming into contact with the heating element.

Dave Brown, London Fire Brigade’s director of operations, said:  “This fire has highlighted just how dangerous faulty white goods can be.  Thankfully, there were no serious injuries in the Shepherd’s Bush fire, but we may not be so lucky if it happens again”.

London Fire Brigade has advised people to unplug and stop using tumble dryers altogether that are subject to a safety notice.

Landlords should check tumble dryers in their properties.

Which? has advice about how to check whether a dryer is safe or not, and also lists 113 models that it knows to be affected by the safety alert.



In 2014, the British Standards Institution introduced a new set of requirements to address the child safety risks posed by blinds and curtains.

The rules mean that any blind installed with cords and chains must have breakaway connectors and cord and chain safety retainers.  The cords and chain must be kept at a minimum of 1.5 metres from floor level.

All new blinds and curtain tracks fitted by a professional must pass the new standard, meeting the necessary safety requirements and test methods.

These requirements apply to new blinds.  Existing blinds may not incorporate these safety features, but you can buy inexpensive cleats to tie up cords, chain-break connectors and cord tidies from blinds suppliers and some DIY stores.




With the lettings market showing no sign of slowing down as we move into the second half of 2016, how do you ensure that your property is let quickly and at the best price?

Follow the following simple guidelines to maximize your income.

The Kerbside Test

As prospective tenants pull up outside the property, what do they see?  Make sure that front gardens are neat and tidy, exterior paintwork is flake free, windows sparkle and drives and paths are weed free.

First Impressions

The first part of the property that a potential tenant will get close to is the front door. Make sure it is clean and well maintained.

Whole House

You can never plan for if your prospect tenants want traditional or modern, but if you keep it clean, tidy and clutter free you will stand a much better chance of letting it.


Smoking in the property is a real no no today, but also don’t forget pets.  People who don’t own pets may not appreciate others pet smells, air the house well.


For the majority of prospect tenants, this is the most important room in the house, make sure it is clean and tidy and in good decorative order.


Try to make everything clean and neutral with floor covering “fit for purpose” light fawn and off white carpets may look great in the showroom, but they are not recommended for rented accommodation.

Choose carpets that won’t show even the slightest of marks.


Attention should be given to all ceramics to make it sparkle, especially the loo.

Garages, Sheds and Cellars

These are often forgotten by landlords but they are important useful rooms. If the new tenant is unable to get any of their items in due to the landlords or previous tenants leaving a load of unwanted items, it will put the prospective tenant off, make sure these rooms are clear.


No matter what time of year a neat and tidy garden is attractive and an asset to the property.

Well maintained gardens are also a lot easier to keep on top of.


The lettings market is a competitive market place and you need to make sure that your property stands out from the local competition.

Follow these simple steps to ensure your property lets quickly at the price you want.








Legal Update on Right to Rent as Immigration Act Passed

On May 12, the Immigration Bill became the Immigration Act 2016.


This is intended to build on the Immigration Act 2014 increasing pressure on those unlawfully in the country.


For the private rented sector it creates a series of criminal offences which sit on top of the already existing civil fines connected to failures to carry out Right to Rent checks.


New powers to evict persons who do not have a Right to Rent have also been created.


The new Act works by adding further sections into the existing Immigration Act 2014 which build on top of the current provisions. These are inserted as sections 33A to 33E in the 2014 Act.


The new landlord offences


The main new offence is one committed by landlords who knowingly let to illegal immigrants. The offence is committed where a landlord:


  1. Has let to one or more persons who do not have a Right to Rent;
  2. Knows or should have known that those persons did not have a Right to Rent; and
  3. Where there was a time-limited Right to Rent the time limit has now expired.


So the offence is only committed in relation to time-limited occupiers if the landlord has not carried out checks or follow-up checks or made reports.


Where a landlord has justifiably maintained a statutory excuse there is no offence committed.


Where a landlord has been presented with forged documents then, provided that those forgeries were not obvious, then a landlord will be protected because condition 2 above will not have been made out as the landlord would have no reason to know that the occupiers has no Right to Rent.


There is a wrinkle in all this, however. The changes now permit the Secretary of State to serve a landlord with one or more notices telling him or her that some or all of the occupiers in their property do not in fact have a Right to Rent.


Once such a notice has been served the condition set out in 3 above is removed and the landlord will also no longer be able to rely on condition 2 either as he will be fully aware that the people involved have no Right to Rent as a result of the notice.


As originally drafted this would have left landlords in the unattractive position of being immediately guilty of this offence as soon as a notice was served on them, even while they were trying to evict the tenants.


After a great deal of lobbying, a defence has been inserted which states that a landlord is not committing the offence provided that he has taken reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy reasonably promptly on becoming aware of the problem.


The message is clear that once a notice is served a landlord must push forward to evict any illegal occupiers as quickly as he reasonably can. There is a power for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on what might be seen as reasonable steps to terminate the tenancy but it is not yet clear if this will be done.


There is a second offence that landlords can fall foul of. This is where they have satisfied themselves that there is a time-limited Right to Rent but have not carried out the necessary follow-up checks or made a report to the Home Office and they are reasonably aware or should have been aware that the person in the property does not have a Right to Rent.


Agent offences


There are new offences for letting agents too. They largely mirror the landlord offences but without the benefit of the defence open to landlords.


Therefore, where an agent is responsible for carrying out the Right to Rent checks and is or should have been aware that the occupiers do not have or have lost the Right to Rent, and has not notified the landlord or made a report to the Home Office of this then the agent will be guilty of an offence.


The penalties


The new penalties exist alongside the existing fine structure in the 2014 Act.


It seems that fines will be used for minor matters with the more serious penalties in the new legislation reserved for repeat offenders. The new penalties are an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years.


Therefore there has been a massive jump in level of penalty from the maximum £3,000 under the 2014 Act.



Landlord’s Must Prepare for Universal Credit Roll Out

The roll out of Universal Credit continues apace, with tax expert Bill Irvine warning landlord’s they must be prepared if they have tenants who rely on benefits to pay their rent.

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that the digital system will be rolled out from May this year in Bath, Newcastle, Rugby, Bridgewater and Lowestoft.

A further 25 Job Centre plus (JCP) areas will be added between July to December, with the expectation that all JCP areas will be completed by June 2018.

The move is significant, in that in most areas claims have been restricted to single “working age” adults, whereas the digital system deals with all claimant types including couples, couples with children, single parents, people with disabilities and those working full and part time.

So far in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced a significant number of landlord’s – 50-60% have been able to negotiate direct payments. However full implementation of the system could see problems arise around a range of issues, from Alternative Payment Arrangements, backdating of claims and over payments to situations arising from couples splitting up and household combining.

Bill, who delivers training courses on Universal Credit on behalf of the RLA said: “Clearly, this represents a major step forward for DWP and Universal Credit’s future.

“Social and private landlord’s, in the areas identified, can expect a significant increase in Universal Credit claims from all tenant types, as the “gateway” conditions that currently apply to restrict claims to mainly single men are effectively removed.

Bill said that many social and private landlord’s in Manchester, Liverpool and Wirral areas, where Universal Credit is already in operation, received only one months notice before implementing and has advised landlord not to get caught napping.

He said: “Being prepared should now be a priority if you’re a landlord heavily engaged in Local Housing Allowance type tenancies. You need to be fully conversant with these new and sometimes very complex issues.

“Don’t anticipate assistance DWP, as to date, it has operated at arms-length, is quite ambivalent to tenant/landlord enquiries/complaints and recently banned landlords from utilising its “Complaints Process” when trying to secure compensation for wholly avoidable rental loss


New Energy Efficiency Regulations in Force from 1st April 2016

From the 1st April 2016, new regulations allow private tenants to request their landlord’s consent to carry out certain energy efficiency improvements, such as installing insulation and improved heating controls.

The new rules, introduced under the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Sector) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015, are part of a series of measures aimed at improving energy efficiency in the private rental sector. It is important all NALS members are aware of these changes.

A tenant can request energy efficiency improvements by writing to the landlord, explaining the proposed measures and how they will be funded – whether directly by the tenant or through an energy efficiency scheme. The landlord is not required to pay.

The landlord cannot unreasonably refuse consent and must provide a response in writing within one month. The regulations provide scope to issue counter-proposals and also specify situations where permission can be refused, such as if the proposed improvements would reduce the market value of the property by more than 5%.

The tenant can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal if they are not satisfied with the landlord’s response.

In a series of further planned reforms, a new minimum energy efficiency standard for private rented homes will be set an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of ‘E’:

From 1st April 2018 landlord will be unable to issue a new tenancy for rented property with an EPC rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’, subject to certain exemptions.

From 1st April 2020 the restriction on renting out properties with an EPC rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’ will apply to all existing tenancies in a domestic private rented property, subject to certain exemptions.

From 1st April 2023 the restriction on renting out properties with an EPC rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’ will apply to all existing tenancies in a non-domestic private rented property, subject to certain exemptions.

NALS licensed firms are being encouraged to help landlord identify their ‘F’ and ‘G’ rated properties so they can explore options for upgrading energy efficiency before the new tenancy restrictions come into force.

Tax Changes on Wear and Tear Allowance



As from April 2016 the government will replace the 10% wear and tear allowance with a new relief that allows all residential landlords to deduct the actual costs of replacing furnishings, (the only exception to this will be for landlords of furnished holiday lets)


This new relief will apply to all rental properties, fully furnished, furnished, part furnished and unfurnished.


At the moment there is no allowance at all available for unfurnished and part furnished lets since this allowance was removed in April 2013.


An informative list of what will or won’t be deductable has not yet been published. It therefore remains imperative that receipts are kept for all works on a landlord’s property.


Castle Estates will show all repairs, maintenance and replacements on the monthly statement with an attached receipt.


These should be kept for your accountant or any tax questionnaire or annual return.

Preparing for the Right to Rent – A Landlord’s Guide to the Immigration Act 2014


The Immigration Act 2015 introduced the concept of ‘right to rent’ to the private rented sector. Originally introduced in the West Midlands, right to rent requires landlord and agents check the immigration status of their prospective tenants at the outset of the tenancy. Under the previous coalition government, this introduction to the West Midlands was intended as a pilot scheme. National roll out was only expected to take place after consultation and impact studies had been completed. Sadly, this is no longer the case however and the requirements will come into force on February 1st 2016 for all landlords in England.

This guide will help prepare landlords for the current requirements of this scheme. Please be aware that there are a number of amendments to the Immigration Act currently under consideration and significant changes are expected before the national roll out.

Is this for assured shorthold tenancies only?

No, this applies to all residential tenancies with some limited exemptions for social housing, halls of residence, etc. Almost all private sector landlord will be caught when they anything from AST’s to lodger agreements.

What types of occupancy are exempt?

Holiday lets, lettings where it not the tenants main home, tenancies of more than 7 years where there is no break clause for the landlord, letting to students where the education institution has placed the tenant in the property, people whose accommodation is provided by their employer and finally, mobile homes.

Licences and lodger agreements are included.

What are the requirements?

Landlord must not authorise an adult to occupy a property as their only or main home unless they can establish the adult has a right to reside in the UK. This means landlords are now required to check the identification of everyone who is over 18 and expected to occupy the property.

Is it for new occupation agreements only?

Currently, yes but this is subject to changed based on proposed legislation.

Who is responsible for these checks?

The landlord would normally be responsible for these checks but they can pass on the obligation to their agent as part of a written agreement. This means that the agreement between the landlord and the agent must specifically refer to who is responsible for performing right to rent checks. If the agreement is silent on this then the landlord will be responsible, landlords and agents may wish to reconsider their current agreements as a result

Where the tenant sublets the property they will usually be responsible for checking the right to rent status of their subtenants. However, the landlord can perform the right to rent checks expressly agreed with the tenant who is subletting that they will do so. Landlords will not be liable for unauthorised sub-letting.

What is ‘right to rent?’

Right to rent means simply that the occupier has a right to rent a property in the UK. Anyone without it is disqualified from renting. This can be broken down into two different groups, permanent and time limited rights to rent. Each has different requirements.

Who has a permanent right to rent?

  • British citizens, European Economic Area nationals (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.) and Swiss nationals.


  • People who have a right of abode in the UK; who have been granted indefinite leave to remain; or have no time limit on their stay in the UK.

Who has a time limited right to rent?

Those who are not British Citizens, EEA, or Swiss nationals who have

  • Valid leave to enter or remain in the UK for a limited period of time
  • Are entitled to enter or remain in the UK as a result of Act of Parliament, European Union Treaties and Immigration Regulations (e.g. family members of EEA nationals). However, some family members of EEA nationals may be able to demonstrate an unlimited right to rent.

My tenant has 3 months left on their right to rent, how long should my tenancy be?

Right to rent checks last for a minimum of 12 months, regardless of how long the tenant’s actual right to reside has left, landlords can therefore safely give 12 month tenancies without issue provided the checks have been made at outset.

Landlord should be wary of discrimination. For example, if a landlord normally offers 6 or 12 month tenancies, it would be discriminating against a prospective tenant if they only offered a 3 month tenancy to someone with only 3 months left on their right to reside.

How often should I check their right to rent?

People with a permanent right to rent need only be checked once before the tenancy commences.

For those with a time limited right to rent, landlord need to keep a note of when the time limit expires and check within 29 days of the tenant’s right to rent expiring. Alternatively, if it falls on a later date, they should check within 29 days of the 12 month anniversary of the previous right to rent check. This follow up check should then hopefully show the tenant has a right to remain in the property.

Based on the proposals in the Immigration Bill 2015, this is very likely to change.

 The requirements are for adults. What about children?

Children do not need to be checked but landlords will need to prove they are under 18 unless it is obvious. It would be wise for landlords to keep their birth dates on record so they know when they become adults if they have a time limited right to rent. Particularly where an adult occupier’s right to rent is dependent on this child.

If an occupier turns 18 during the same tenancy they should also be checked.

How do I check the occupiers?

The process for carrying out initial right to rent checks is as follows:

  1. Establish the adults who will live in the property as their only or main home.
  2. Obtain original versions of one or more of the acceptable documents for all adult occupiers.
  3. Check the documents in the presence of the document holder.
  4. Make and retain copies with the date on which the checks were made.
  5. Keep copies of the documents for 12 moths after the end of the tenancy.

How many identification documents should I get?

There are over 400 different forms of ID for the EU alone and not all of them are equally useful. Many landlords will take the view that the easiest option is to simply require a passport of any prospective occupier. There is nothing inherently wrong or illegal about this provided the landlord is not making the passport requirement country specific. So far example, a requirement for British passports only would not be suitable but a requirement for any type of valid passport would be fine.

Landlord should be aware however, that there are some 12 million people in the UK with no passport. To have the broadest possible options, landlords can accept a wide range of different documents from tenants.

For further information please look at the Home Office right to rent code of practice.

Damp & Mould – My Deposits


New Legislation – Section 21 Notice

The new Section 21 Notice is for use with new tenancies after 1st October 2015 and all tenancies after 1st October 2018.

A new Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) Section 21 notice has been released which aims to simplify the possession claim process and reduce errors. Statistics show that a very high proportion of possessions claims submitted to the courts by landlord and agents are rejected on technical ground, most commonly because the notice dates are wrong in relation to the tenancy end date.

Now, the two previous Section 21 notices are to be combined into one single notice to be used for both fixed-term and periodic tenancies, without the need for complicated end-dates previously required with periodic tenancies.

Under the new regulations, landlords submitting claims for possession (Section 210 will need to provide evidence that they have provided:

  • Their tenants with EPC’S (Energy Performance Certificate), and where appropriate Gas Safety Certificates.
  • Their tenants with the current version of the DCLG Booklet on “How to Rent”.
  • A current Tenancy Agreement.
  • A correctly served Section 21 Notice with proof of service.
  • Where applicable, details of the deposit protection and proof of service of the prescribed information (s213) notice.
  • Where applicable, details of the tenancy licensing arrangements.

These new regulations apply to new tenancies from 1st October 2015, and then to all tenancies from 1st October 2018.

The new regulations will require landlords to have served the key items of information above to their tenants BEFORE they can serve a valid combined new Section 21(1) and Section 21(4) notice. Note, the new notice is a prescribed form notice which must include certain prescribed information.

Whereas until now it was possible to serve a Section 21 notice at any time during the tenancy term, including from the 1st day, and effectively there was no expiry date, now the notice cannot be served until 4 months after the tenancy starts and expires after 6 months from serving.

In addition, a valid Section 21 notice cannot be served for 6 months after a tenant has complained about repairs and a local authority has issued an improvement notice.

Where a landlord fails to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), and when appropriate a Gas Safety Certificate (GSC), tenants are no longer required to conform to the one-month or 28 period of notice to quit, for a periodic tenancy. (No tenant’s notice to quit is required in a fixed-term AST)

Landlords are also required to provide their tenants (via email – if they agree) with the most up to date version of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) document titled “How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England”.

Should you have any further questions on the new Section 21 Notice legislation or any aspects of property management and letting please contact Terry Rogers at Castle Estates.