Buy-To-Let Landlords Are Suffering under Hefty Fines

A short while ago, we published an article that discussed how property landlords could avoid a £5,000 fine from their local authority. In that article, we concluded that the new and extended powers handed down to local authorities would lead to local authorities using them. Cash-strapped authorities could use these new powers to increase their revenues.

We’ve certainly witnessed an increase in fines handed down to rogue landlords. Local authorities are acting quickly to clamp down. This isn’t a bad thing. Indeed, ridding the private rented sector of poor landlords has been high on our agenda since we first founded. But we also know that good property landlord make mistakes. In this article, you learn a few of the ‘mistakes’ or bad property management practices that could cost you a fortune – perhaps even your buy-to-let business.

If the Local Authority Calls, You Had Better Answer

Your tenants can complain to their local authority if they believe their home doesn’t meet the necessary housing standards. The local authority can then investigate, and they will be likely to ask for information from the property landlord to help their investigation.

This happened to a property landlord in Colchester, Philip Hogg. The local authority received a complaint from Mr Hogg’s tenants and asked him to supply details about the property. It served a notice on him instructing him to do so. The local authority wanted information about the ownership and management of the property.

Mr Hogg failed to provide this information, and he also failed to attend a court hearing. The court found him guilty of failing to comply with the notice from the local authority. Mr Hogg was landed with a fine of £1,760, court costs of £150, and a victim surcharge of £170.

There are two lessons to be learned from this. First, make sure that your property complies with all the housing regulations. Ensure that it is managed effectively and that your tenants live in a habitable and safe home. Second, don’t think you can ignore a local authority. They will take swift action against landlords who don’t toe the line.

Don’t Put Off Repairs and Maintenance

Some maintenance isn’t time-critical. Some are. It can be hard for DIY landlords to pin down maintenance professionals to carry out repair work. This can cause a disastrous situation. If you don’t keep your property in a habitable condition, you could face some hefty fines.

A landlord company in Leeds recently learned this to their cost. Planas Properties Ltd. was ordered to pay more than £16,500 in fines, costs and compensation after leaving tenants without gas supply for 11 days.

A gas fault was reported to the landlord by the HMO tenants, but the landlord failed to carry out the repairs needed. Consequently, the supplier cut off the gas supply to ensure the property was safe. This meant the tenants had no hot water, no heating, and no hob to cook on.

When the case went to court, the tenants also told of abusive and threatening behaviour by the landlord. The local authority said that several requests made by them to have the gas reinstated were ignored.

What can be learned from this case? If you ignore your tenants (for whatever reason) and don’t comply with local authority requests, it will cost you. Best have that Gas Safe registered gas engineer on speed dial – and make sure that you have a good working relationship with every maintenance professional you may need at the drop of a hat.

Improvement Notices Cannot Be Ignored

Local authorities can serve improvement notices if they believe a rented property falls short of safety standards. Such notices aren’t recommendations – they are orders. If you don’t act on them, be prepared to pay thousands in fines and compensation – and still make the improvements cited in the improvement notice.

A property landlord in Retford, John Bragasik, was served improvement notices under the Housing Act 2004 and ignored them. He was recently forced to pay out nearly £16,000 at a magistrates’ court.

Bassetlaw District Council had been contacted by a health visitor, concerned for the well-being of the tenant and her children. The local authority sent an environmental health officer to inspect the property.

They identified several hazards under the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS), including excess cold, fall hazards, electrical hazards and fire risks. Radiators were missing, there was a lack of internal doors, and the property had defective floorboards at the top of the stairs, as well as an obsolete electric consumer unit and no residual device protection. Hence the improvement notice.

The council gave the landlord 28 days to comply with a schedule or works. The landlord did nothing. So, it served an improvement notice. Two months later, still no work had been carried out. Of the £16,000 the landlord had to pay out, £10,000 was levied as a fine.

Once more, we see that property landlords who ignore their local authority will be taken to court. They will be found guilty, and they will be fined heavily. And they’ll still need to make the improvements previously ordered.

Rogue Landlords Are Being Fined Millions

Local authorities are clamping down on who they consider rogue property landlords. Whether you are ignorant of landlord laws, make a mistake, or can’t get maintenance carried out quickly, you run the risk of being taken to court. You will lose.

Across the country, local authorities are seeing millions of pounds in penalty notices and fines being levied on property landlords they are prosecuting. One such local authority is Havering, in Essex. In the last 12 months alone, landlords there have suffered from almost £500,000 of penalty notices issued. Fines of up to £20,000 have been made by the courts. The local authority issued more than 2,500 formal warning letters between April 2018 and August 2019.

How Can You Avoid Hefty Penalties?

One of the major problems faced by property landlords is the ever-changing landlord and property laws. Yet the onus is on you to keep pace with these changes. Not all landlords who are fined are bad landlords. They have just made mistakes.

Our landlord clients can rely on us to ensure that their properties are inspected regularly, their tenants are cared for, and that the current laws are in focus always. Such attention to detail could help you avoid unnecessary fines, needless compensation claims, and the ignominy of being labelled a criminal landlord. Don’t take risks with your property, your tenants, and your good name. Contact Ezytrac today at   +44 0 1522 503 717.

Live with passion

Brett Alegre-Wood