Monthly Archives: May 2017

Re-checking ‘Right to rent,’ status for your tenants.

Passports

Most landlords are well aware of the ‘Right to rent’ rules that were introduced as a part of the last Immigration Act, which made landlords responsible to check that any adult in their properties has a legal right to be in the UK. I won’t re-state the rules here – if you don’t know them already and want to avoid possible fines running into thousands of – please make it your immediate priority to have a look at the relevant pages on gov.uk

 
But even if you know the rules already, please don’t forget the following: If you have given someone a tenancy, who had an end date to their legal period of stay in the UK and you continue to allow them to occupy your property after that legal stay has expired, you will be in breach of the rules and could be fined.   So do ensure that you are up to date with the status of any tenant likely to be affected.

 
Immigration Enforcement officers are active right now in checking on tenants locally. In fact the blog’s other editor Liz has been involved in joint inspections with Immigration only this month. We aware of quite a few visits they have been making to local addresses and we also know of a few individual tenants who have been creating problems in this area for legitimate landlords who have been trying to do the right thing.

 
If you have any doubts or concerns about what you responsibilities are, about the checks you need to make or documents you need to ask tenants for, contact the Home Office through the gov.uk pages. Landlords are not expected to be experts on the rules. There is plenty of support for landlords and the Home Office can help you make checks on an individual tenant. So you won’t be left alone. They can also give you advice on how to legally end a tenancy if someone has overstayed or shouldn’t be here.

 
One important thing to stress is that these rules are absolutely not a reason to discriminate against people. The Home Office are very clear that you have to make the checks on everyone, even if you think that they are UK citizens.  The checks are easy to make and the help is there if you need it. If someone is in the country legally, there is no restriction on their ability to rent a home– so there is no need to turn away a prospective tenant simply because they are not from the UK.

 
Oliver

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Reporting repair issues to the council.

Reporting repair issues to the council

 

We know that most Sandwell landlords work hard to keep their properties in a good state of repair. After all, it’s in their interest to look after their assets and keep the customer (their tenant) happy.

 
In the limited number of cases where there is a repair problem and the tenant is not satisfied that the landlord has dealt with issue adequately, they can refer the matter to us – more specifically, the council’s Housing Quality Team. There’s a list of issues around health and safety in a property where we have a legal duty to intervene if the landlord is not doing what he or she should. Most of these are covered under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, and this document  gives you a useful, if very basic guide.

 
To handle complaints from tenants – we have a new online form that tenants must use. The good news for decent landlords – (the vast majority) is that we are finding this discourages tenants from making unnecessary or even frivolous complaints to us, helping ensure things are done properly with clear procedures to follow.

 
Before we will accept a complaint, tenants must prove that they have actually reported the matter in writing to their landlord, twice and have not had a proper response.  They are also very clearly advised the Housing Quality Team can’t help them get a council house because they might have issues around disrepair. Tenants are also given information before they can submit a report about damp and condensation, problems that we know are very often due to tenant lifestyles rather than failings by landlords.

 
In cases of real emergency, where there is an actual threat to someone’s safety, we will take reports from tenants by phone, but this will only be in exceptional circumstances. Otherwise – all reports must be made online.

 
If we do contact you about something your tenant has reported, it certainly doesn’t mean that we automatically consider you to be at fault – simply that we have had a problem raised with us that we must investigate. (It’s a legal duty on us). If there is something wrong, we will always do our best to get it sorted out amicably We would far rather be giving people helpful advice about how things can be put right, than taking enforcement action. But if we need to, we do have teeth and will prosecute landlords when we have to.

 
If you need more information about what you need to do to make sure your property is up to standard, email the Housing Quality Team at: privatesector_housing@sandwell.gov.uk
Oliver .

£30,000 penalties for landlords

There are some quite substantial changes about national regulations and law covering housing management in the pipeline, concerning particularly (but not exclusively) Houses in Multiple Occupation, (HMO). We don’t have full the detail yet or actual dates for implementation although some changes could come as early as this autumn.

Government guide on HMO licensing available on gov.uk

I should emphasize that these changes are not yet confirmed and we don’t normally like blogging until we’re certain of the facts,. However, some of these are quite significant so it’s probably worth making landlords aware of what we are currently expecting to happen based on the limited information we have, even if we can’t yet give you anything that’s definite.

So with that warning, we are expecting …

  • Civil penalties of up to £30,000 for landlords who are in breach of key requirements in housing regulations.
  • The removal of the 3 storey rule regarding the licensing of HMOs meaning that all properties with 5 or more people in 2 or more households will be subject to mandatory licensing.
  • Extending mandatory licensing to flats above and below business premises (regardless of what storey the flat is on).
  • A minimum room size of 6.52sq m for bedrooms . (We do expect that this will affect rooms in some HMOs in Sandwell).

These are the probably the most significant that we expect for now, but there are others including:

  • A requirement to ensure there are sufficient refuse disposal facilities
  • Database for rogue landlords and letting agents, and the requirement of a criminal record disclosure to ensure that landlords are fit and proper people
  • Banning orders for landlords who are prolific offenders.
  • New energy efficient regulations starting in April 2018

We will do further posts on all of these once we have some detail. And if you are not familiar with all of the existing regulations about HMOs and you either have one or are thinking about opening one, you can find a government guide on HMO licensing on gov.uk.

There is further information here on the council’s own web pages and you might also find it useful to look at ‘Home Stamp.’ (Home Stamp is a partnership of local Authorities, the private rented sector, Universities, Police and Fire Services). Home Stamp have a good deal of useful info on HMO’s and a varierty of landlord issues.

One final point to HMO landlords – if you have an HMO property that is ‘licensable’ and you don’t yet have a license, you could already under current rules be fined up to £20,000. So if in any doubt about your responsibilities, please check now!

Oliver