HMOs . . . The inspectors are coming.

They never actually went away, but as we start to come out of the pandemic our inspectors are getting busy again!

If you own or manage a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) – you should be aware that they are out there, actively enforcing HMO management regulations. These rules don’t just apply to those HMOs that need a licence – but to any HMO.

A breach of the rules can earn a landlord a penalty of £1,000 with multiple breaches in one HMO earning multiple penalties, meaning not getting things right could get very expensive. The inspectors are also checking that HMO licence conditions are being kept to for those that actually require a licence.

If you own or manage a HMO – you should know the rules already. I wouldn’t recommend you get them tattooed on your arm, (though you can if you like) but you should at least know them pretty much off by heart. So I won’t go through them all again here. If you don’t, know the regulations you can find plenty of information on the council’s website at https://www.sandwell.gov.uk/info/200223/housing/4319/housing_in_multiple_occupation_hmo or just search on google for HMO management regulations.

Oliver

Rent arrears, evictions and “Breathing space.”

Evictions: Nobody likes them. Nobody wants them. And we certainly don’t want to encourage them but sometimes a landlord has no choice.

The law on evictions seems to be in a constant state of change; partly because the government has tried to protect tenants who have suffered financial problems due to COVID-19 although the rules were already tightening up considerably even before COVID struck. Now, there are even more changes.  

There is an excellent article on the National Residential Landlords Association website which sets out the most recent https://www.nrla.org.uk/news-breathing-spaces-new-rules-will-give-tenants-break-from-debt. It’s concise and well-written so I won’t try and summarise it – I’ll just recommend that you read it yourself if you are a landlord thinking, for whatever reason about ending a tenancy.

I will quickly mention though, one of the themes it covers – “Breathing Space.” If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a new set of rules the government has just brought in on debt recovery (including potentially rent debts)  which are there to give  “respite” to “people struggling with debt” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-scheme-to-give-people-in-problem-debt-breathing-space-launched  The government sees these rules as being particularly relevant to protect people who might have mental health issues, but it should be noted they could potentially apply to anyone with a problem debt.  

Breathing Space is definitely something that you should make yourself aware of if you deal with rent arrears. If we hear more about how the new rules start impacting our sector, we will of course let you know.

Liz Mooney

Joint online landlord forum with the National and Residential Landlord Association on Thursday 13/05/21 4-5pm

Join us at http://www.facebook.com/privatehousing. To attend, you must register for this online event at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5641033825210459151?fbclid=IwAR0IcG2GGinRceETifVrnGUZh0duy4-pLgt8-L929Oic31H54kK_fEYv6-4

Join us at http://www.facebook.com/privatehousing

Right to rent: Your tenants, their immigration status and new rules for EU nationals and higher Council Tax charges on empty properties

Right to rent

A reminder; don’t forget, wherever your tenant is from, the government’s ‘right to rent’ rules mean that landlords have a legal responsibility to hold documentary evidence documentary evidence that their tenant is legally entitled to live in the UK, for all periods of that tenancy, not just at its beginning.

If a landlord does not comply they can face substantial fines and potentially imprisonment. Further, the government has been clear that the COVID-19 pandemic does not lessen a landlord’s responsibility to stick to the rules. However, it has issued new guidance on how you can carry out the necessary checks on your tenants in a COVID safe manner. Please see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-right-to-rent-checks?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_source=0033283e-2afe-4f97-9652-99150b54e5ae&utm_content=daily

Landlords should also be aware that the rules for citizens of European Union countries are now changing which could have an impact on their tenant’s right to rent status. BREXIT means that people from EU member nations no longer have an automatic right to reside in the UK. Anyone who is an EU national and who wants to reside in the UK must now ensure that they have registered correctly under the EU Settlement Scheme.  More details are available here. https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

Although this is the tenant’s responsibility and not the landlords – it will become the landlord’s problem if a tenant fails to register correctly and no longer has a legal right to live here. If you become aware that a tenant you let your property to lawfully is no longer entitled to be in the UK – don’t ignore the situation. Please refer to this government guide on what action you should take

Empty properties and Council Tax

Every local authority has long-term empty properties in its area. That can be a problem for everyone: as it affects the community as empty buildings often attract anti-social behaviour; it affects the immediate neighbours, as the street’s appearance is affected or weather damage spreads next-door and the council who will want every potential home giving someone a roof.

Owners can face serious financial consequences. Houses need people in them. Occupiers guard against neglect, the elements and damage from problems like vandalism. Leave a house empty, especially in winter and its state of repair will deteriorate, sometimes badly. The longer you leave it – the bigger the risks. Empty homes are also a terrible waste of an essential resource, both for people who need homes and for the owners too who are denying themselves a source of income or a substantial amount of capital.

A further disincentive to owners from keeping a property empty is the enhanced Council Tax charges they are liable for. From April 2021, these have been adjusted again as follows.

  Additional amount on top of normal empty chargeTotal Council Tax charge
1 April 2019Two or more years 100% 200%
1 April 2020Five or more years 200% 300%
1 April 2021Ten or more years 300% 400%

You can find full information here

https://www.sandwell.gov.uk/info/200207/council_tax/4270/paying_council_tax_on_empty_properties

These additional charges should act as further encouragement for an owner to make the best use of their asset and provide a home for someone who needs it.

Oliver