Author Archives: clbustin

Forum reminder

Just a reminder, our next landlord forum is on Wednesday next week. (Please see flyer below).

The agenda includes Mary Latham of the National Landlords Association (who are joint hosts  or the event). Mary will be talking about changes in housing law and the general picture for our sector. If you have heard Mary before – you’ll know just what a good speaker she is. If you want to stay informed about what’s happening in housing – you need to listen to Mary.

We will also be talking about the General Data Protection Regulations – which represent a major change for landlords of whatever size. This is an issue you simply must make sure you are informed about or you could face some really serious consequences. The other big change covered is the Homelessness Reduction Act and our response.as council.

Please note the change from our usual venue (on flyer below)  – and that this will be an evening session. It will start from 5.30 and formally kick off at 6.00.  If you are able to come, please confirm you attendance by email to Tina Dolan tina_dolan@sandwell.gov.uk  Look forward to seeing you there.

At the same venue, starting earlier in the afternoon and leading into the forum, , landlords are also invited to a separate event hosted by our friends at Brushstrokes. If you don’t know them, Brushstrokes are a leading local charity offering support to migrants – include support with housing and they are interested in the views of private landlords on this issue. For more information – contact Megan Megan@brushstrokessandwell.org.uk

Oliver

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Ending a tenancy legally. Getting section 21s right.

If you need to ask for property back when the term has expired, you must make sure that you have served your legal notices properly and have done everything that the law expects. If you don’t, you could run into expensive legal bills or be stuck with a tenant that you legally cannot get rid of!

New legislation, the Homelessness Reduction Act comes into effect this year. As a consequence of the act, council officers who come into contact with people who have been given a notice to end a tenancy will be obliged to check very carefully that the landlord has done everything perfectly. If the landlord hasn’t, they might have to intervene to prevent the landlord recovering the property. This could leave landlords in very difficult situations.

So it’s even more important than ever that landlords have their paperwork in perfect order and have carried out their legal responsibilities.

This blog doesn’t pretend to offer comprehensive legal advice – we just do quick summaries to raise awareness – so get googling for more information. The websites of the various professional landlord organisations are a good place to start. But here are a few things that can stop you from legally ending a tenancy by issuing a section 21 notice (which is by far the most common procedure).

  • Not carrying out all the required steps to protect a deposit if one has been taken.
  • Not giving a tenant a ‘How to rent’ booklet on more recently created tenancies.
  • Not using the prescribed form to serve a section 21 notice.
  • Not having a current gas safety certificate in place.

That’s not the full list – as I say – get googling. But one to be particularly aware of, is the requirement to have given a tenant a ‘how to rent booklet. (And to be able to prove that you have done so).We have blogged on this issue before, but know that a great many landlords in Sandwell seem completely unaware of this legal duty.  Please make sure you understand your responsibilities here or you could get a nasty surprise.

Oliver

 

Slavery and people trafficking

Thankfully, these are not issues that directly concern many of our landlords, but they are still something that we want everyone who lives or works in Sandwell to be aware of.

Although often unnoticed,  modern slavery and people trafficking are real and are happening right now in our area. Without being  dramatic, at this very moment, in a house or business premises in your street, there could be someone being forced to work against their will, subjected to physical and potentially violent control and deprived of any freedom to either make choices for themselves or get away. The victims could be involved in anything from forced participation in crime, unsafe and exploitative manual labour, organised begging or sex-work.

For various reasons, these problems do seem to be particularly prevalent in the West Midlands and Sandwell Council officers have been involved with some very distressing cases recently.  More positively though as a council, we are playing our part in going out and proactively dealing with the issue where we can as well as doing much work to raise awareness.  For example the successful conference we hosted just last week which bought together more than 150 delegates from different services.

This is an issue though for the whole community and it needs everyone’s attention. Landlords are often well placed to spot potential issues.  Not only do they often have significant local knowledge, but privately rented properties are much sought to house victims by the criminals involved.

Just to be clear, we’re not blaming the landlords here. Criminals will often present themselves to landlords with empty properties, seemingly as ordinary and respectable people so that they can con the landlord into letting them have the property. Please be on your guard, not only with new sign-ups but also with established, existing tenants where there might be something that doesn’t seem quite right going on in our property.

Here are some of the things that just might indicate that something untoward is happening:

  • several unrelated adults living at a single address
  • people being regularly collected very early in the morning and/or returned late at night
  • signs of injury, malnourishment and a general untidy appearance
  • people being isolated from the rest of the community
  • people who live and work at the same address in poor conditions
  • women being kept in houses where there are large numbers of male visitors
  • people who don’t know their address
  • people who cannot produce their documents
  • people who often seem anxious and fearful, especially in the presence of a ‘friend’ or
  • interpreter who appears to be controlling them and their answers

And the official advice is:

If you see something suspicious, no matter how small, please call police on 101, the UK Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Oliver

Matching homes to people (and guinea pigs)

We are very grateful to all the landlords – both private and housing associations – who have come forward in the last few weeks to help us find new homes for tenants who found themselves stuck and in need of urgent accommodation.

Liz (the other blog editor) even found somewhere for Miranda (pictured above) who she found abandoned in an empty flat, after she had worked to rehouse the tenant.

Liz – who has a much softer heart than me, has given Miranda a new and loving home in her own back garden.

But I don’t want to come across as flippant here. Obviously, housing need is a very serious subject to anyone affected, I just want show you some of the odd situations we deal with from time-to-time.

Liz often works with other agencies or council teams who are trying to find accommodation for their clients.

If you are a landlord or a letting agent, have an empty property and are looking for someone to fill it – you might want to let us know first.

Drop an email to Liz, at Elizabeth_mooney@sandwell.gov.uk  telling her the size, location and rent you would hope to achieve.

We’re not promising to find you a tenant – but there is still a good chance we can help you and you can help us.

Oliver