More council powers mean more chance of expensive action against you

It doesn’t take a lot to be in breach of health and safety regulations for buy-to-let properties, and if you are, you could end up with a hefty fine.

If a tenant complains to their local authority about the condition of your home, it could be given a housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) risk assessment. If the inspection finds a hazard – for example, a broken boiler, cold bedrooms, or damp or mould – the local authority could hit you with a range of sanctions. If you ignore these, the consequences are going to be bad.

Ignore a prohibition order and you’ll get a hefty fine

One of the sanctions that a local authority can use is a prohibition order. This will put restrictions on access to all or part of the property. It could limit the number of people allowed to live in the property or ban you from letting it out until stated improvements have been made.

This is what happened to landlords Sandeep Jarjapu and Nattha Gohill.

In December 2017, they had been given a prohibition order under the Housing Act 2004. A flat that they had been letting out, above a commercial property in Chester, had been found to be in breach of health and safety regulations. It contained several serious fire hazards, and it had no windows and no heating.

The prohibition order banned the landlords from letting the property. Yet, in a surprise inspection carried out in June 2018, the local authority found that the property was still occupied. They didn’t hesitate to take the landlords to court. Jarjapu and Gohill were ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £5,286. And they still cannot let out their property.

Local authorities don’t mess around with landlords

Buy-to-let landlords are seen as fair game for local authorities, which now have even more powers to act. As Maria Byrne, Director of Place Operations at Cheshire West and Chester Council said, “As a council we are very keen to ensure that tenants living in the private rented sector are housed in properties that are safe and free from hazards. We will not tolerate landlords who choose to house their tenants in a property that is not fit for human habitation.

If you let a property that doesn’t meet the standards required, it’s even more likely now that the local authority will clamp down on you. They will use all the powers at their disposal to make you toe the line or be fined.

With finances so tight, we expect more local authorities to beef up their inspection departments and chase errant landlords – it could be a valuable source of extra income.

What does this mean to you as a buy-to-let landlord?

The government seems to be on a mission to increase landlord regulations and make it as tough as possible to keep up with them.

While the story of Jarjapu and Gohill is an extreme (there aren’t too many properties with no windows), you should be aware that there are multiple ways in which your property could fail a local authority inspection. For example, under HHSRS there are 29 categories of hazard assessed. In addition, landlord laws and regulations that come into play include:

  • The Housing Act 2004
  • The Smoke Detectors Act 1991
  • The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1998
  • Gas safety checks
  • Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)

As if this isn’t enough to be concerned with, a tenant can now also take you to court directly, thanks to the introduction of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

How Ezytrac helps landlords

To sum up, local authorities have a lot of powers. You can expect them to use them. They want to be seen to be clamping down on bad landlords – which, we think, is a good thing – but good landlords who have made an honest mistake are likely to be in the firing line, too.

To avoid making a mistake and getting slapped with sanctions and fines, you must stay up to date with all the laws, rules and regulations that apply. Ignorance is no defence in the law. This is where Ezytrac’s landlord clients excel.

Our team is highly qualified and becoming more so every day. They know the landlord laws and know what your obligations are. On top of this:

  • When we inspect a property, we can tell immediately if there are deficiencies
  • We keep you updated with landlord law changes through this blog and other means
  • We help make sure that your property doesn’t fail all the health and safety regulations that apply to it

Isn’t it time you benefitted from the peace of mind you get from effortless property management? Contact us to find out more.

Live with passion

Brett Alegre-Wood