Landlords face more pressure as they try to keep pace with legal changes.
Harriet York, pictured, the lettings manager for Fine and Country Southern Hampshire and Town and Country Southern estate agents at Drayton, Portsmouth, says a variety of problems with maintenance, serving statutory documentation and fitting safety alarms is now building up for landlords in the residential lettings sector.
‘Landlords must keep up with their legal obligations for maintenance and they must keep in close contact with their lettings and managing agents,’ says Harriet.
‘October 1 saw the introduction of new regulations on the fitting of smoke alarms and CO detectors that have already been widely publicised.
‘But the government also determined that from the same date a proscribed form of Section 21 possession notice must now be used.
‘The wording on this underwent last-minute changes and landlords have to use the correct form if they are to successfully seek repossession.
‘Laws governing retaliatory evictions were introduced under section 33 of the Deregulation Act 2015 with the result that landlords must follow the correct procedures with regard to property maintenance and dealing with issues raised by tenants.
‘If the tenant can be shown as the cause of the poor condition of their home, either from positively damaging the property or omission then private landlords have protection, but the burden of proof is on the landlord.
‘If it can be genuinely shown the property is on the market for sale there is also an exemption.
‘The law also now stipulates that at the start of the tenancy the landlord or letting agent must give the tenant details of where and how the deposit is held and copies of both the EPC and, where applicable, the gas safety certificate and the government’s eight-page booklet How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England which is only available electronically and has to be printed at the landlord’s expense to be handed over each time. It is important to keep evidence of the serving of this paperwork.
‘Maintenance is essential both for tenant safety and to safeguard landlords’ investment. ‘Paperwork is where most people fall down rather than property condition, but without proof that everything has been done correctly landlords could face problems.
‘Employing a competent letting and managing agent has probably never been more important if landlords want to keep control of their property, especially as immigration status checks also become mandatory from February 1, 2016.