“Right to Rent”: New Rules

Landlords and letting agents need to make sure they’re on top of the new set of amendments to the Immigration Act which came into effect at the beginning of December.

The penalty for letting to illegal migrants has been toughened. Previously this was a civil offence, but it’s now become a criminal offence, which means the fines are potentially higher and there is even a possibility, in the worst cases, of a prison sentence.

The vast majority of letting agents and landlords will be unaffected by these particular changes, but there are a few other amendments in the area of evictions that they ought to be aware of.

Who Has the Right to Rent?

These new regulations revolve around the right to rent and the Home Office identifying people who are in the country illegally and therefore do not have the right to rent property. If the Secretary of State has given them permission to take up the tenancy, that’s okay, otherwise the Home Office refers to these people as “disqualified” from renting and they are basically those who:

• Need permission to enter or stay in the UK but don’t have it
• Do have leave to stay but are subject to a condition saying that they can’t occupy the dwelling they are currently occupying

Agents and landlords already have to check tenants’ documentation to make sure they are here legally. Remember to check all of the tenants – you’re not allowed to pick out individuals you have suspicions about. You need to make copies of the documents and to keep them for a year after the tenancy ends.

There’s been some grumbling from landlords about the fact that they are not experts at document authentication. How are they supposed to know whether a passport is genuine or not, unless it’s a really obvious fake? There’s no answer to that, so it’s a case of doing the best you can.

1. If none of your tenants has a legal right to rent

If none of the adult tenants has the right to rent and the Secretary of State notifies the landlord of their identity, the landlord can give the tenants 28 days notice provided that the notice is correctly worded and formatted. This notice can only be used where the Home Office has given the landlord notification that all of the occupiers are disqualified from renting and not in any other circumstances.

You can use this notice even if the tenancy started before the changes to the legislation came in. If it is properly served with the accompanying Home Office list of tenants, then the landlord can repossess the property without any recourse to the High Court – the notice itself is like a High Court order. See here for more information: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/1060/images/uksi_20161060_en_001.

You can serve the notice by delivering it in person to the tenants, sending it through the post, leaving it at the property and so on. The Protection from Eviction Act won’t apply to tenants who are identified as having no right to rent.

2. Some have the right, some don’t

A much more common situation will be that a group of tenants are renting a house, and while some of them have the right to rent, others don’t. Again, the landlord has to have a written notice identifying the disqualified tenant, and this must come from the Secretary of State (i.e. the Home Office).

It now begins to get a lot more complicated, and any landlord in North Manchester would do well at this stage to talk to their letting agent who will be able to give professional advice or point them in the right direction.

Also be aware that the landlord has to take action within a reasonable period. Currently we are waiting for guidance on what that actually means, but a period of four weeks has been mentioned.

Landlords Have Trouble Keeping up with the Changes

The fact that these changes have happened and yet most members of the general public are unaware of them shows just how difficult it is, particularly for smaller landlords, to keep up with the constant amendments to legislation. One law is changed, and because of the complexity of the legal framework that governs housing, another law is amended in consequence.

It’s not surprising that landlords need to use letting agents. An individual landlord would be really hard pushed to keep up with these constant changes.

Don’t Fall Foul of New Letting Regulations

The government recently revealed they are planning to crack down on rogue landlords and agents, with those who treat tenants poorly potentially being banned from letting properties. The new initiatives will target property agents and landlords who mistreat their tenants and do not provide them with safe and suitable accommodation. The plan is to improve standards across the rental market as a whole and to protect both tenants and the interests of responsible property owners who ensure their properties meet the required standard. Gavin Barwell, the government’s current housing minister, set out the proposals, which aim to ensure the worst offenders can be banned indefinitely from managing or letting a property. In the event of banning orders being issued, the landlord or property agent would have their name added to a national register to enable the authorities to see they don’t let or manage any other properties anywhere in the country in future. It is hoped that the proposals will help protect the millions of tenants currently renting properties in the UK.

Some of the most serious offences the proposals aim to address include the flaunting of health and safety regulations. In the event a landlord fails to complete work requested by the local council, a ban could potentially be issued. Other serious offences include things like making violent threats to tenants, or evicting tenants illegally.

It is hoped the proposals will force rogue landlords to ensure properties remain in a good state of repair at all times, and that the rights of private tenants are not neglected. Rogue landlords are commonly featured in the media, and the charity Shelter has an ongoing campaign that urges local authorities to sign up and pledge to stamp out irresponsible landlords. Over 100 local councils are currently taking part in the campaign.

Advice for Landlords or Would-be Landlords

If you are currently a landlord or are thinking about entering the property market as a landlord, you will have nothing to worry about if you adhere to all the necessary rules and regulations. In fact, for legitimate and responsible landlords and property agents, the new proposals should be seen as a positive thing. With rogue landlords and agents being forced out of the market, tenants will be safer and the remaining landlords will enjoy an enhanced reputation rather than being tarred with the same brush as the less scrupulous individuals who blight the property industry. If you’re looking for Harpurhey landlord advice, or own property in any other district of Manchester or the surrounding areas, dealing with a reputable property agency and ensuring you comply with all relevant regulations will be vital in order to ensure you are not faced with a lengthy ban.

Some of the reasons a landlord or agent could be banned include:

– Evicting a tenant illegally
– Letting out unsafe properties that have failed inspections by the local council
– Committing or conspiring to commit a criminal offence with the tenant, including supplying illegal drugs or tax evasion
– Criminal damage or theft
– Growing cannabis on the property
– Committing housing benefit of identity fraud
– Violently threatening a tenant, or actually using violence against them
– Letting a property to anyone who is in the country illegally
– Failing to complete any work the local council requires in order for the building to comply with health and safety regulations

The minimum ban length will be 12 months, while there is no upper limit for the maximum time a rogue landlord or agent can be banned for. This will allow the authorities to ban the worst offenders indefinitely, and potentially for life. Anyone served with a banning order will be unable to profit from renting out any other properties he or she owns or manages. Those banned will also be unable to work in the property management sector subject to banning orders will not be able to earn income from renting out housing or engaging in letting agency or property management work. Unscrupulous landlords might also have their properties taken over by local authorities, who would then manage the properties themselves and rent them out to tenants.

The proposals are good news for responsible landlords and property agents who uphold high standards and provide suitable accommodation for tenants. By improving the standards and practices across the industry, the new proposals will ensure reputable landlords do not lose tenants to those who charge cheaper rents by bypassing applicable rules and regulations and failing to properly maintain their properties.

£5 million cash for councils to stop rogue landlords

Housing Minister announces cash boost for councils to tackle rogue landlords.

Councils across the country are to receive a £5 million cash boost to tackle rogue landlords in their area, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis announced today (22 January 2016).

Forty-eight councils will share the funding so they can take on the irresponsible landlords that force tenants to live in squalid and dangerous properties, making their lives a misery.

The cash will also allow councils to root out more ‘beds in sheds’. Since 2011 nearly 40,000 inspections have taken place in properties with over 3,000 landlords facing further enforcement action or prosecution.

The funding will allow local authorities to carry out more raids, increase inspections of property, issue more statutory notices, survey more streets and to demolish sheds and prohibited buildings.

Mr Lewis said

“today’s funding is part of a package of measures that will ensure millions of hard-working tenants get a better deal when they rent a home. Significant progress has already been made, now with £11.7 million distributed to councils to crack down on rogue landlords.

And we have introduced protection for tenants against retaliatory eviction where they have a legitimate complaint and stopped landlords from serving an open-ended eviction notice at the start of a tenancy.

The measures will not hamper the vast majority of landlords who are diligent and responsible. Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

Many private rental tenants are happy with their home and the service they receive, but there are still rogue landlords that exploit vulnerable people and force their tenants to live in overcrowded and squalid accommodation.

We are determined to tackle these rogues which is why we are providing 48 councils with extra funding, so they can get rid of the cowboy operators in their area and bring an end to tenants living in miserable homes in the name of profit.

We also want to raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation across the sector. The funding will ensure tenants know what level of service they can expect and have confidence to get help and take action if things go wrong.

The poor quality, overcrowded and dangerous accommodation let by rogue landlords can result in a ripple effect of wider problems in the local community such as noise problems; sanitation issues for whole roads; greater fire risk; council tax and benefit fraud and anti-social behaviour such as street drinking.

Today’s funding to tackle rogue landlords is part of an ambitious package of proposals in the Housing and Planning Bill to ensure that England’s 9 million private tenants feel confident to demand better standards and management of their property by landlords.”

Measures in the Bill include:

  • database of rogue landlords and property agents convicted of certain offences
  • banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders
  • introduction of civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution
  • extension of Rent Repayment Orders to cover illegal eviction, breach of a banning order or failure to comply with a statutory notice
  • more stringent fit and proper person test for landlords of licensable properties such as Houses in Multiple Occupation
  • From 1 February 2016 landlords in England will have to carry out Right to Rent checks to ensure potential tenants have the right to rent property in the country.

In November 2015 65 local authorities were invited to bid for a share of £5 million funding to tackle rogue landlords.

Our Councils will receive:
Manchester £60,000
Salford £63,952

Right to Rent checks can be done from 28 days before the start of a tenancy agreement.

 

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