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Residential Landlords: Comply with Housing Law or Face Tough New Penalties!

On 6 April 2017, parts of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 came into force affecting residential landlords in England (but not in Wales). Further parts of the Act are expected to take effect in October 2017.

The recent and forthcoming changes target so-called “rogue landlords”. Landlords who do not comply with their obligations under the Housing Act 2004 and other legislation may have to repay rent to their tenant or repay universal credit to the local housing authority. In addition, local housing authorities have new powers to impose financial penalties for certain offences as an alternative to prosecution.

In October 2017, we expect to see the introduction of banning orders for landlords and agents who have been convicted of certain (yet to be specified) offences.

Responsible, well-advised landlords should have nothing to fear from these new provisions which are designed to catch landlords who deliberately and persistently fail to comply with their legal obligations. But all landlords (and agents) need to make sure they know what their duties are and ensure they comply with them. Here are 10 key areas for compliance:

1. Ensure that any tenancy deposit is protected in an approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days and that the Prescribed Information is given to the tenant.

2. An Energy performance certificate (EPC) needs to be commissioned before the property is marketed and a copy needs to be given to the tenant.

3. If there are gas appliances at the property, have them checked annually and give the tenant a copy of the gas safety record.

4. The tenant needs to receive a copy of either the Department for Communities and Local Government’s How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England or the Welsh Government’s publication A Home in the Private Rented Sector – A Guide for Tenants.

5. Carry out checks to ensure that each smoke and carbon monoxide alarm at the property is in proper working order on the day the new tenancy begins and confirm this to the tenant in writing.

6. Carry out regular health and safety inspections to identify hazards and deal with problems as soon as they arise.

7. Comply with any notices received from the local authority environmental health department.

8. If property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), ensure compliance with The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

9. Ensure the tenant is given up to date information about your address for service. Keep any data you hold about the tenant safe in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

10. Use the correct procedures to terminate the tenancy. A residential tenant cannot be evicted without a court order. Serve a valid Section 21 or Section 8 notice to seek possession.

Local authorities will now find it simpler and cheaper to impose financial penalties than to prosecute landlords. We can expect to see more enforcement action. Now is a good time for landlords and agents to review their systems and ensure that they are compliant with the law.
What do you think about the new penalty regime? Will it be an effective means of dealing with rogue landlords? Are “good” landlords coming under too much pressure from recent government reforms? Please comment below!

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