Five key legal changes imminent for landlords

Fri 04 Sep 2015

By Carole Charge
Technical and Compliance Director, Leaders

There are five major legislative changes due to come into effect over the coming months that landlords in England should be aware of. As always, Leaders will update our letting and management procedures in line with new legislation  to ensure compliance for our landlord clients at all times. 

1) Right to rent – the Illegal Immigration Act

A trial of the ‘right to rent’ scheme - in which landlords are required to check the immigration status of their tenants - has recently been completed and is expected to be rolled out across the country by the end of the year.

New powers will allow, in some cases, tenants who do not have the right to live and work in the UK to be evicted from a let property without requiring a court order. Landlords who fail to complete the necessary checks to ensure their tenants are legally able to rent their property could be prosecuted, with potential punishments ranging from four-figure fines to imprisonment for repeat offenders or those involved in organised crime.

2) Section 21

Several changes are being made to the Notice of Possession under Section 21. These include the introduction of anti-retaliatory eviction measures. Landlords will be prevented from serving a valid Section 21 notice for six months if their tenant has recently complained about the state of their property and the local authority has issued a notice of improvement.

Secondly, more pre-conditions for serving a Section 21 are due to be implemented. Whereas landlords are currently required only to have adhered to tenancy deposit rules and have an HMO licence if relevant before serving the notice, they will also have to show they have provided a tenant with a gas safety certificate, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, an energy performance certificate and a copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide before they can seek possession of their property.

Finally, new time limits  are being  introduced governing when a Section 21 Notice can be served  i.e. it cannot be served if the tenant has resided in the property for less than four months and the Notice will now have a limited lifespan of six months only.

3) Rogue landlord crackdown

There have been clear indications the government is ready to launch new measures designed to penalise rogue landlords who blatantly flout existing legislation, allowing their tenants to live in poor and unsafe conditions.

4) Health and safety regulations

Further regulation relating to the health and safety of tenants continues to reflect the high profile of the private rented sector, the latest of which is the requirement to fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all tenanted properties. At the time of writing, the regulations are awaiting parliamentary approval and the full details are yet to be confirmed, however it is expected that, from 1st October 2015, landlords will be required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. Landlords found not to have installed these devices will face a fine of up to £5,000.

Please note that, regardless of the detail of these regulations, The Property Ombudsman and the Private Rented Sector Code of Conduct already require all let properties with gas appliances to have a carbon monoxide alarm. As Leaders subscribes to both these codes of conduct, we require alarms in all our let properties which have either gas or solid fuel appliances.

5) HMO licensing

Currently, a house in multiple occupation (HMO) is defined as a property in which three or more people live but do not form one household, i.e. they are not related or in a relationship. This is commonly known as a house share.

However, the government has suggested it will look again at the definition of an HMO so more properties fall within this designation. In addition, many local authorities have adopted ‘selective’ licensing, requiring licensing of all HMOs and sometimes all let property within their jurisdiction   Landlords are advised to ensure they are up-to-date with any changes being proposed by the local authority in which their  property is located as its  status may be subject to a change in the future.

With ever-changing legislation surrounding letting, the advantages of letting through a knowledgeable and reputable agent such as Leaders are clear. We ensure our landlords are made aware of all legislative changes that will affect them and help them to stay on the right side of the law. 

For more information on landlord legislation and the possibility of changes in the near future, please contact your local Leaders branch