Letting out a property can be a reliable source of income with minimal time outlay, but trying to cut costs can rebound badly on landlords. Every year those who fail to stay on the right side of the law are fined thousands of pounds for breaching licensing, tenant safety and planning regulations.
Common mistakes can trip landlords up if they don’t take the right advice from an established and reputable letting and management agent such as Letters Ltd.
We outline a few here:
- Failing to carry out Right to Rent checks Landlords or their letting agent are legally obliged to check whether potential tenants have the right to live in the UK before agreeing to let a property. Failure to do so resulted in an average fine of £654 during 2017-8. Letters carry out Right to Rent checks as part of every tenant application process.
- Deposits Landlords must protect tenants’ deposits in one of three government-approved schemes within 30 days. Failure to do so can result in conviction. Letters place deposits in an approved scheme as part of our letting service.
- Breaking rules on tenant safety Landlords who don’t observe adequate electrical and wiring standards face huge fines, and not having a working smoke alarm on every floor could potentially lead to a manslaughter charge, should fire break out. In November 2018 a landlord in St Helens was fined £21,000 for failing to address a number of fire safety risks and health and safety issues at his property. Councils use a Housing Health and Safety Rating System to assess if rented homes have health hazards, like excessive cold or damp, and take action to ensure repairs or work are carried out. Safety regulation is very clear; we are happy to outline it to landlords and let them know of any measures necessary to ensure their property to complies with the law.
- Selective licensing An increasing number of local councils are requiring landlords to apply for permits to rent out their properties. Scarborough Council operates the scheme and, at time of writing, Leeds Council is considering introducing it. York City Council is tightening the regulations around Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) but has no selective licensing laws at present. At Letters we constantly monitor regulatory developments.
- Carrying out conversions without planning permission In December 2018 a landlord from Harrow, north-west London, was fined a record £1.5m for flouting planning rules by converting properties into smaller bedsits without permission and ignoring enforcement rules. In the same month, a couple from Neasden were told to repay buy-to-let income of £322,282 in a similar case. We can give advice to landlords planning a conversion.
- Illegal evictions Tenants have clear rights during their tenancy and If you don’t observe the correct procedures for asking them to leave a property, you can be prosecuted. A Sheffield landlord was ordered to pay £3,364 for changing a tenant’s locks only days after serving them notice to leave; landlords can face a jail term and have to pay damages and compensation. At Letters, we keep the lines of communication open with both landlords and tenants to avoid reaching this point. But if a tenant is required to leave, we follow the law and respect their rights, as well as the landlord’s.
Avoiding fines and legal action is straightforward if you’re aware of the rules. Letters’ letting agents are happy to advise on how to stay within the law. For details of our services, click here.