With the news media being pretty much 100% taken up with a BREXIT, a lot of other important news stories are being squeezed out or not getting attention. So I’ve only seen this story on specialist landlord websites – (I’m writing this on Friday morning and it wasn’t in any of the papers I read before work). This is something that will affect millions of people – landlords and tenants.
The government has announced that it intends to make it compulsory for landlords to register with a dispute resolution scheme. (At the moment – Letting Agents already have to do this – but landlords don’t).
There is an official press release on gov.uk here.
It says that “private landlords will be legally required to join a housing redress scheme – boosting protection for millions of renters across the country.”
I won’t summarise it – I would urge you to read it for yourself. But please bear in mind that although the government is announcing this as an intention – it’s not yet law.
While we are on the subject of disputes, Liz, your other blog editor, has asked me to pass on some reminders about what to do if you do find yourselves in a dispute with a tenant.
• If you have a tenant who is actually being aggressive or rude – don’t get provoked. It goes without saying that the vast majority of our landlords are professional and business-like in their conduct. Equally, most tenants are of course perfectly decent people, but things can sometimes get heated and there is such a thing as a difficult customer. I’m sure you don’t need reminding, but I’ll say it anyway – please don’t let yourself be provoked by difficult behaviour.
• Keep full records and document all actions and contact with your tenant. Make sure you save all emails, text messages, letters or voicemails and make a quick written and dated note of any face-to-face or telephone conversations (who said what to who and when).
• Do think about how often you contact the tenant and how and when you do so. It is possible that excessive contact or contact at unreasonable times could be construed as harassment (even if not meant to be). Harassment of a tenant can have serious consequences.
• Make sure you keep records of all payments. (Money and rent is obviously a big area for potential disputes). We still speak to landlords who get into messes from poor or non-existent record keeping. It’s surprisingly common. This can store up problems in court if you ever have to take action against a tenant for rent arrears and with HMRC over your tax. So I’m going to shout here – YOU MUST KEEP PROPER RECORDS OF ALL FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS WITH YOUR TENANT.
• If the dispute is about rent arrears and you think that your tenant might be claiming Housing Benefit but not telling you and using money meant for their rent on something else – remember that there is an online form you can use to contact the benefit team to report arrears. If they find that Housing Benefit payments are being misused they can then re-direct future payments to the landlord. See here. If the tenant is receiving Universal Credit then the council simply can’t help – but the Department for Work and Pensions who administer Universal Credit do have broadly similar procedures that landlords can use – see here.
Obviously – we will try and keep you informed if we hear anything more about the government’s plans.