Monthly Archives: June 2013

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By Craig Smith


There has been yet another court case due to confusion around tenancy deposits and this one has sent the lettings industry into a spin about what does or doesn’t need to be done.

The case in question is Superstrike Vs Rodrigues where the Landlord had issued a section 21 notice for the tenants to vacate. The tenancy started before the tenant deposit protection came in on 6th April 2007. The issue with this case is that the tenancy actually started before 6th April 2007 and became periodic after that date. Once the tenancy had become periodic, it was deemed to be a new tenancy in the eyes of the law and therefore the deposit should have been registered. In turn, this meant that the Landlord could not rely on their Section 21 notice for the tenants to vacate.

The tenants challenged the notice that was issued as the deposit had not been protected in line with the Housing Act 2004 legislation. As the wording isn’t all that clear, a lot of Landlords could find themselves in a bad position if they have had long term tenants.

Right now, there will probably be a lot of Landlords checking their files to make sure they are within the law and with good reason! By not registering the deposit as it should have been a Landlord can find themselves not only unable to give notice to the tenant (they could but they would lose if it went to court!) but also having to pay back more than 3 times the deposit amount to the tenant.

Back in November 2012, there was a similar case that caused Landlords to make some important changes to their processes. The deposit may need to be protected, we already know that, but once the tenancy has gone to a periodic status it means that a new set of Prescribed Information needs to be issued to the tenants. This information should already have been provided to the tenant at day one and needs to be given again at the first periodic stage.

This is a process that we, as an agent, have already been doing for our Landlords to ensure that they are protected and not at risk from such cases. It is a very rare instance but one that could have major consequences for any Landlord involved. The deposit protection schemes are yet to release anything further on what they advise Landlords to do.

By Steve Roulstone

Perfect Tenant

I have just finished reading an article in a magazine called the Negotiator, designed for the industry, most articles are centred on some professional within the trade, being given the opportunity to sell their wares. In this article the case was being made for referencing potential Tenants and how this particular referencing agency boss was convinced that the better the level of referencing carried out, the better the Tenant that would be produced.

There is of course an easy case to be put forward to support this argument, but in reality I do not feel this is even half the case that needs to be considered. To me, referencing is an absolute must, but in the interest of the Landlord, this is so that the Tenant concerned can be insured through a rent and legal expenses insurance. It really is that simple. By referencing, past performance is assessed, affordability is confirmed and future actions can be insured. Not a difficult decision.

But is this enough to find the perfect Tenant? That was the gist of the article and where I would have to disagree.

We have a very simple policy with Tenants. Look after them well and they will look after our Landlords property. I speak from the position of being a Landlord and at present a Tenant as well, so it is with personal experience that I know our policy stands up to the actual reality of living in rented property.

That reality is that although as industry professionals we know that what the Tenant is paying for is the right to live at the property concerned, all Tenants need to feel that they are also paying for a level of service which, whether through an agency or renting direct from a Landlord, if they are left feeling that this relationship is one sided, they will be left feeling it has not been delivered and that nobody cares.

I cannot recall how many Landlords have informed me about how disappointed they were at the state of a property when a Tenant left, but too many times when I ask if they have visited that same property during the Tenancy, or been in touch with the Tenant, the answer has been no. If the Tenant does not have an outlet for their findings when living at a property, the feeling of being abandoned slowly turns to a feeling of anger. The rest is human nature. If nobody else cares, in their opinion, why should they? 

That is why we ensure Tenants have a voice. This principal does not mean that we should comply with all Tenant wishes, not at all, but that those wishes should be given time and a platform. By working with your Tenants, they will respect your role and in my experience the property as well. The objective of this principal for us is simple; happy tenants look after the property and pay the rent. That, we know, is exactly what our Landlords require. That, I believe, is much closer to a perfect Tenant.

By Craig Smith

Green Deal

Earlier this year a new initiative was introduced by the Government called the Green Deal which is designed to help households make energy saving improvements to their home and pay the cost in monthly instalments.

In case you haven’t heard much about this before, don’t panic. The basic idea is that a survey is carried out on the property, you can agree to have works done (such as having insulation installed or a new energy saving boiler) and the cost is included in your monthly electricity bills. If someone else should move in before the amount is paid off, the new occupier takes up the repayments. As a letting agent managing more than 300 properties, and around 150 where we act in finding tenants only, we can honestly say that not a single tenant or Landlord has asked us about it!

When the offer of free insulation was still around, there were households queuing up to try and get some, which is understandable. Late last year we were trying to work with a company who could offer free cavity wall & loft insulation on some properties but funding for this has now been ceased. There are only some people who are now eligible for this depending on what type of benefits they may receive and their overall household income.

The Green Deal is the new scheme now but not many people seem to have taken notice. I’m starting to wonder just how many people have actually looked into it nationwide or if it is just something that nobody is interested in. It doesn’t appear to have been advertised very much in the national press, more so around the property professionals who might be affected by it.

From 1st October 2008, most rental properties will require an Energy Performance Certificate before being able to be let by law. (There are certain exemptions such as room shares.) This was really the start of the energy saving regulations coming into the rental sector and, looking to the future, it will certainly have further implications in the industry. For example, it is almost certain that as of 2018 a property with an energy rating of E or lower will not be able to be let at all.

Whether or not you agree with the energy saving measures is another talking point, but the time to start thinking of potential improvements and planning for the future is now, before it is too late!

By Steve Roulstone

Tenants deposits

I have had cause on behalf of a member of my Family, to review an agreement on his behalf, just so he was aware of any areas that could cause problems for one of his children, due to rent a property outside of my area. Of course I am happy to do so and have over the past few years looked at several agreements on behalf of friends and Family. The agreement was clearly a standard one prepared by what appeared to be a Property owning organisation, as Landlords. The property itself was being advertised through a National Letting Agent who had been instructed to find a Tenant.

Having read the agreement I can best describe my reaction as raised eyebrows!

Firstly, notice was written as being two months. Now, my own Company once asked for the same notice, but many years ago (2005?) it was confirmed through the courts that notice only had to be one month from Tenant to Landlord and two months from Landlord to Tenant. To state that two months is required is therefore wrong and any Agent should be aware of this basic requirement.

Secondly, all deposits now have to be protected through a Government approved scheme; in this case the agreement confirms which scheme the money will be protected by. But it then goes on to state that the deposit is subject to the Landlords wishes, requirements and demands! Well this is as far away from the intent of the legislation as to be in another country.

Furthermore, it goes on to state that the deposit, at the Landlords discretion, may be used DURING the Tenancy and then the Tenant would have to replace what the Landlord saw fit to ‘appropriate’!

At the end of the day, this could just be a Landlord who has not received good advice. Advice it would seem they are in need of. But what struck me loud and clear was how a National organisation allows an agreement like this to be used, on a property they had marketed and with a Tenant that they sourced?

I find this kind of situation very depressing, even more so when you consider the call for professionalism in our industry that is currently being discussed at Government level and the manner in which organisations such as this one, which if their own publicity is to be believed are amongst the fastest growing in the Country, appear to be trading. Of course there could be a simple explanation, but it will be interesting to see what answers my relative receives to the questions they went away to ask!

I was taught right at the beginning of my training that we have a duty of care to any Tenants we deal with and in my opinion, to allow an agreement to be used which contains clauses which are just not enforceable or are just plain wrong is out of order.

There have been occasions when I have refused business because I could not accept the principles or methodology involved. At times, to remain professional, we all need to apply the same ethics. If we do not, then we can have no complaints about the weight of legislation that will fall upon our shoulders (and let’s not forget on Landlords as well) because fall it surely will if professional Agents continue to turn a blind eye to the Tenants in their hands.

By Craig Smith

5 Higher Rents 140613

Members of the London Assembly are calling on Boris Johnson to introduce tougher regulations for Landlords in the private rented sector in London.

We’ve already said ourselves that further regulation of Landlords and agents would be a good thing. If every Landlord or agent had to be registered under a specific scheme it would mean that they would have to agree to certain rules. If these were to be breached they could end up out of pocket or struck off from the register, depending on exactly how the scheme would work. This might sound like harsh punishments but it would help to reduce the amount of improperly trained agents making a mess of things!

There is currently no statutory regulation of lettings agents, only voluntary schemes. This means that anyone could set up their own letting agency but might not have the proper training & know-how to run it properly. I believe that the scheme would need to be fair & properly thought through if introduced by the government. We’ve seen so many times the government has back-tracked on certain things but this needs to be fair, clear & concise in order for it to work effectively.

The assembly also calls for tougher rules on rentals to stop rent amounts from reaching unaffordable amounts. Their figures show that the average rent amount in Londonincreased by around 9% last year which is a large amount given the already higher costs in the capital. Of course, London is generally more expensive as it attracts higher earners and is a much busier environment than smaller towns and villages but if the reforms do come in it could have a knock-on effect for the rest of the country.

Schemes such as this are often trialled in certain areas, a bit like the congestion charges, then spread to other areas later on. It would be interesting to see how this would work and the effect it would have on Landlords.

The publication also states that more should be done to help homeless households. Many Landlords offer a 6 or 12 month tenancy to begin with so that if any issues should arise then neither party is tied in for a longer period of time. It suggests that homeless households should be given 24 month tenancies if they are placed in a privately rented home. This might sound like helping the needy but lets not forget that the Landlord could end up suffering here too! There is always a reason for a family being left homeless, it could be due to the loss of their current rental property or having their home repossessed but if they don’t look after their new property in the correct manner, the Landlord could be stuck with a bad tenant for 2 years.

There are still many items up for discussion surrounding all of this but it will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds. Could this prove to be just the thing that the industry needs or will it be endless red tape for all involved?

By Craig Smith

Utility Companies

Over the past few years we have seen an increased amount of people who have some form of poor credit. It doesn’t seem unusual these days for someone to have a CCJ or a repayment plan with a debt management company but it sometimes the lesser known about forms of debt management that can have a knock-on effect for other people.

For instance, most gas & electricity suppliers will install pre-payment meters if a customer is constantly late with their payments or doesn’t pay at all. This might seem like a fair form of punishment for non-payment but it is the Landlord and even the next tenant who are left to pick up the pieces.

One property that we manage was fitted with pre-payment meters for that reason and this was only found out when the tenants moved out. (The utility companies have no dealings with the agent or Landlord once the tenant is responsible.) The Landlord ended up having to top up the meter once the tenants had left as it had still been left in debt and to ensure it was kept topped up to keep the heating etc ticking over. Then, when the new tenant moved in, the energy company stated that the new tenant should pay on time for the next 12 months before they would even consider changing the meters back again!

There is one certain company that ask for a deposit of £100 each for gas & electricity supplies otherwise they will take further action. Just a few weeks ago we had a property come empty that was supplied by Utility Warehouse and they requested such a deposit. They informed us that the deposit would only be waived under 3 circumstances. The first was to setup a monthly direct debit for the payments which is unnecessary as the property would only be empty for a few weeks. The second was to have prepayment meters installed which would cause yet more disruption to the Landlord and the property. So, we opted for the third option which was to change to another supplier.

All this is just so much hassle considering only a small amount of energy is used during an empty period, and given the fact that we always take move in & move out meter readings for each tenancy there should be no incorrect billing whatsoever!

Going back to my first point here, how does any of this help somebody who has had financial difficulty to get back on track?! Some of these utility companies seem determined to make life difficult and don’t seem to be able to make a reasonable decision for the right circumstances!

By Steve Roulstone


Government scale down legality checks.

 In another climb down the Government took a massive step backwards last weekend from asking Landlords to ensure all Tenants are legally present in the Country. It is being reported that concerns over the risks surrounding too much red tape being introduced are responsible and that it will only be introduced in areas that can be highlighted as currently causing concern, such as some boroughs of West London.

 Once again I have to point out that the debate about the requirement and what the impact of asking Landlords to be responsible misses out upon, is that professional referencing already supply confirmation through the provision of a National Insurance Number and specific right to work permits. This tells me quite clearly that Landlords that would wish to know before allowing occupation already have the ability to do so.

 It would therefore be correct in my opinion to ensure those who already carry out such checks should not be drawn in too yet another hoop to jump through, because work and income would already be confirmed. Therefore those who do not check rely upon income from other sources, such as benefit payments or the black market.

 Whilst I would agree that such Landlords are taking advantage of ‘street’ circumstances, it strikes me that the authorities need to turn their attention to the very areas (Benefit fraud and the Black economy) where methods of policing and prosecuting miscreants’ already exist. Certainly when set against piling yet more requirements upon the Rental Industry, where no policing exists for either these schemes or indeed for much of the myriad of legislation that has already been introduced over the last few years, such as HMO’s and Tenants Deposit schemes.

 So legislation is discussed, promised, withdrawn (and according to some reports been the cause of the Prime Minister turning “puce” when advised of the withdrawal) without involving the industry or the specialists who administer the professional bodies. It seems that lessons are just never learnt that the people who know best how the industry works are the very ones who administer it from within. All that has to happen is for somebody to ask!

By Steve Roulstone


I have just read an article in one of the Industry magazines as part of my Monday ‘what is happening’ hour and frankly could not believe my eyes. It is in a section called Outsourcing in Mays issue of The Negotiator, so falls half way between an advert and an article, but is based upon the words of two gentlemen from the industry, one being an Agent and one being a facility provider for the industry and it is clear that one has an invested interest in selling his services, but I just find it hard to believe that an Agent would place in writing what has been repeated in the article!

 Matter of opinion.

 Let me say from the off here, that what I am stating is my opinion or ‘take’ on the subject, so some of what I comment on I do so agreeing that it is a matter of opinion, but I would never admit in writing that as a Company we could not offer our Landlords such an important part of the service needed in Managing property on their behalf. Because the representative of the Agents involved is openly stating that they are unable to provide professional quality inventories for the Landlords they serve!

 Inventories are us!

 Firstly, the skill set needed to be able to supply top class inventories can be learnt by one man as well as the next, so I cannot agree that Letting Agents cannot carry out the task on their Landlords behalf. All they need to do is learn how! But secondly and again in my opinion more importantly, how can any agent pass on such a vastly important part of the job to somebody else?

 Legal responsibility.

  Far more importantly for me is the legal responsibility we have with our Landlords under the contract all Agents should supply their Landlords. Good inventories are such an important part of the service now that to charge for a job and only do half of it in my opinion cannot be called ‘Full Management’ services.

 Argument against.

The reasons given for encouraging outsourcing inventories, is that Agents are too close to the position and risk Tenants stating the inventory is one sided. Well if what we claim for is correct, then where is the problem? Done correctly, Tenants have as much input as we do in the document and as we are contractually bound to work for the Landlord then that is what we do. They go on to say that there is then an inherent risk that the Agents inventory could fail in any claim because it was raised by the Landlords Agent. Well in our experience, that is just wrong!

 Facts speak louder than words.

The facts are that after three years with our current system, where disputes are dealt with by independent arbitrators, as a Company after ensuring we have Landlord agreement we have won every case that has gone through arbitration. So our experience would suggest exactly the opposite than what is claimed in this article. So the facts support that Agents should know what to do and how. I would also suggest, that a third party inventory, has far more chance of having their claim challenged by a Tenant who can easily prove that they were not involved during the Tenancy and are therefore not aware of matters which could have a far greater bearing on the outcome of any claim.


 Sub contracting major parts of the role of Property Management is not and never should be the way forward and our industry is not alone in being able to challenge the principal. The inventory is such an integral part of being able to offer the services of Property Management to Landlords that I would challenge any Companies ability to call themselves’ Letting Agents if they openly state they are unable to fulfil the role themselves. What else? Rent Collection? Property Visits? The agreement?  Better to be able to say yes, we do that!