Monthly Archives: April 2015

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By Judith Loeffler

Update

 

The Deregulation Act was passed by Parliament early March 2015 clarifying requirements to comply with tenancy deposit protection rules and preventing retaliatory evictions. The key points to note are on tenancy deposit protection:

  1. Deposits received before 6 April 2007 for a fixed term shorthold tenancy and tenancy went statutory periodic on or after this date must be protected within 90 days of the Deregulation Act 2015 being passed.
  2. Deposits received on or after 6 April 2007 for a fixed term shorthold tenancy and deposit protection requirements have been complied with (ie deposit protected & prescribed information given) will be treated as complied with when it goes statutory periodic with no need for new protection and serving of prescribed information.
  3. Deposits received on or after 6 April 2007 and deposit protection requirements have been complied with (ie deposit protected & prescribed information given). If a renewal tenancy or a replacement tenancy (contractual periodic tenancy) comes into place the prescribed information is treated as having being given; this requires landlord and tenants to be the same as in the original tenancy. Whether a new deposit protection is needed, depends on the respective scheme rules.

On preventing retaliatory evictions the Deregulation Act states that a Section 21 notice will be invalid if, before the section 21 notice was given, the tenant made a complaint in writing to the landlord regarding the condition of the property which the landlord did not adequately respond to within 14 days and the local housing authority served a relevant notice in relation to the property as a result of the complaint.

And finally as of 6th April 2015 changes to Section 8 Possession Notice and Section 13 Rent Increase Notice have come into effect so as of this date the new  forms will need to be used.

By Judith Loeffler

Smoke alarm

 

To date having smoke alarms in rental properties has not been a legal requirements – this will change as of October this year. In a recent press release the Department for Communities and Local Government announced: ‘New regulations requiring landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties have been laid in Parliament and are expected to come into force, subject to Parliamentary approval, on 10 October 2015.’

Landlords would be required to have working smoke alarms installed on every floor of their property and test them at the start of every tenancy; landlords not having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms will face a civil penalty up to £5000.

According to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis the number of smoke alarms installed in homes has already dramatically increased from just 8% in 1988 to over 90% today. Landlords would also be required to install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms eg rooms where a solid fuel heating system is installed.

By Judith Loeffler

Budget 2015

 

The Budget Red Book released after the Chancellor makes his Budget speech includes the government’s commitment to ‘make it easier for individuals to sub-let a room through its intention to legislate to prevent the use of clauses in private fixed-term residential tenancy agreements that expressly rule out sub-letting or otherwise sharing space on a short-term basis, and consider extending this prohibition to statutory periodic tenancies’.

There is widespread confusion about the implications this would have – many of the relevant points summarised in a letter the RLA Chairman, Alan Ward sent to the Director General of the Department for Communities and Local Government following the publication. Alan Ward commented: ‘The measures on sub-letting are a nightmare in the making and smack of ‘back of the fag packet’ policy making.’

Amongst others, the key questions to be considered are

  • who will be responsible if a sub-tenant is in breach of general landlord tenant legislation
  • would the tenant who sublets a property have landlord like responsibilities towards the sub-tenant eg Gas Safety notices, immigration checks etc
  • what if an additional sub-tenant turns the property into a House of Multiple Occupation when more than 3 unrelated (sub-)tenants reside there
  • how would a landlord regain possession with no tenancy agreement in place

By Judith Loeffler

Milliband

 

With the general election campaign now in full swing, Ed Miliband has reiterated Labour’s plans for the private rental sector should Labour get to power, all under the heading of tackling the root causes of the cost-of-living crisis. The key elements of Labour’s policy are:

1. Introducing long term three-year tenancies:

Tenancies would start with a 6 month probation period at the end of which the landlord would be able to terminate the contract if tenant failed the probation (e.g. if there are rent arrears or anti-social behaviour). After the 6 months, the tenancy would automatically run for a further 2.5 years. Tenants would be able to terminate contracts after the first 6 months with one month notice as they can now. Landlords would only be able to terminate contracts with 2 months’ notice if one of the following elements apply:
a) The tenant falls into rent arrears, is guilty of anti-social behaviour or breaches their tenancy agreement;
b) The landlord wants to sell the property, needs the property for their own or family use;
c) The landlord plans to refurbish or change the use of the property.
Landlords would not be able to terminate tenancies simply to put rents up.

2. Ensuring predictable rents:

Landlords and tenants will set initial rents based on market value and conduct a rent review no more often than once a year. Rents could still be reviewed upwards, downwards or stay the same, subject to market conditions. The legislation would place an upper ceiling on any rent increases to prevent excessive rises. This would be based on a benchmark such as average market rents.

3. Banning letting agents’ fees for tenants:

Landlords would continue to pay charges just as people selling houses pay fees to estate agents. But letting agents would be banned from charging fees to tenants.

This clarification on Labour’s plans comes at the same time as the Scottish government launching a second consultation into the reform of the private rental sector which includes the proposal to abolishing the option to terminate a tenancy when no grounds are given. This means a tenancy would not be permitted to end automatically on its expiry date to encourage longer term tenancies.