Landlords beware: it could get tougher to evict tenants, and easier for them to sue you

Can you keep on top of the changes in the buy-to-let property market?

Two significant events have happened in the past couple of weeks, both of which affect buy-to-let landlords. Neglect or ignorance of both could be an expensive mistake. If you don’t know about the new ‘How to Rent Guide’ or the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, then you MUST read this article now.

The government has updated it’s How to Rent Guide

The How to Rent Guide has been updated by the government. Why is this important to landlords? Because if you don’t give new tenants a copy of the guide, then a Section 21 Notice will not be valid. If this is the case and you have a tenant from hell, eviction becomes much more difficult.

Which tenants must be provided with a copy of the How to Rent Guide?

Thankfully, the update doesn’t mean you must rush out, print a copy, and get it to your existing tenant. However, it does apply to new tenancies and renewals as well as any tenancies that become statutory periodic tenancies from the date of the update (19th January 2018).

What must you do?

If your tenant is within a fixed-term tenancy, you don’t need to provide them with an updated version of the guide. But you must give the new version to a new tenant or a renewal tenant. If you don’t and then wish to serve a Section 21 notice, you will lose the court case. No ifs, no buts. You’ve been warned!

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is a game-changer for poor landlords

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill (the ‘Homes Bill’) is making its way through Parliament, with the unanimous backing of MPs from all sides of the House. It is good news for the rented sector, but very bad news for landlords who don’t keep their properties well maintained.

What is the Homes Bill?

The Homes Bill is a piece of legislation that means private rental properties must meet a minimum standard and be fit for human habitation.

What are the minimum standards for rental properties to be fit for human habitation?

The definition of the minimum standards expected under the law will include guides on safety and living standards. You can be certain that it will include meeting the gas and electricity standards and certifications, as well as ensuring a tenant’s home is free from damp and mould.

What does it mean for buy-to-let landlords?

Up to now, it has been the responsibility of local authorities to deal with rogue landlords. When this bill is passed by Parliament, and it becomes legislation, tenants will be able to take landlords to court for substandard living conditions.

If your property suffers damp, or has poor electrical wiring, or is poorly insulated with drafts through doors and windows, then you had better take care of the problems and get your property up to scratch. We anticipate that tenants will be more aggressive than local authorities. It’s also likely that tenants will become more forceful when requesting maintenance or repair work.

In the meantime, with tenants taking their landlords to court for more minor transgressions of the new law, local authorities will have more time and resources to go after the worst landlords – such as the rogue landlord in Luton, who was recently fined £70,000 for breaching safety regulations designed to protect tenants in HMO properties.

Should you be worried about these changes?

All changes in laws and regulations must be dealt with by all landlords. However, DIY landlords are most at risk from both these changes. If you don’t have systems and processes in place to keep up to date with new laws, you are more likely to miss them. And this will put you most at risk.

If your buy-to-let properties are managed by a property manager or letting agent, they should be speaking to you about these changes. They should let you know what you need to do to remain on the right side of the law and not put yourself at risk by ignorance or neglect.

However, the change in the How to Rent Guide and the progress of the Homes Bill does highlight the need to stay on top of the change in the buy-to-let landscape. We guarantee there is more change in the way this year. Will you be ready when it happens?

Don’t get caught out by changes in the law or buy-to-let regulations. To make sure your property is managed effectively and remains on the right side of buy-to-let laws, contact one of the Ezytrac team today on +44  01522  503  717.

About the Author:

Brett has over 20 years experience in all facets of property, he owns various companies centred around property and is the driving force behind the education and training at Ezytrac. His companies have sold over £850 million in UK and London property and he manages over 1200 properties through his estate agency chain. Today he shares his time between UK, Australia and Singapore. He is married to Arlene and together they have 4 kids. Brett holds both the Level 3 Property Mark Qualifications for Property Sales and Property Lettings and Management.