Keeping on top of regulation is an essential role for a property manager. The private residential sector has attracted considerable political attention during the last few years and this has resulted in a flurry of new regulation in both health and safety and rights for tenants with much of the new regulation stemming from the actions of a few rogue operators in the sector. And it’s not just national regulation, local councils are getting involved with many increasingly introducing landlord licencing regimes for individual letting property.
New requirements for landlords were introduced in the Deregulation Act 2015. In health and safety, landlords must have at least one smoke detector on each floor and a carbon-monoxide alarm, wherever there is a solid fuel burning appliance such as a coal fire or wood burning stove. Carbon-monoxide detectors were already a requirement for gas boilers.
The was also a change to the law to prevent retaliatory evictions, where some landlords had evicted tenants for no other reason than they had made complaint. This means that if there is a non-resolved complaint when a Section 21 Notice of eviction is issued, it would be invalid. As a result, there is now even more of a reason for landlords to ensure issues are resolved quickly.
The Deregulation Act 2015 extended tenant deposit protection to the small number of deposits still existing that were taken out before April 6, 2007. Deposit protection was introduced as a part of the Housing Act 2004 to ring fence tenant deposits through a government validated insurance scheme to protect deposits from either the landlord going bust or general misuse.
Separate to the Deregulation Act, landlords need to be aware of Right to Rent. Introduced across England in 2016 as a part of the Immigration Act 2015, it requires landlords to check the immigration status of tenants to see whether they have a right to reside in the UK. Effectively, tenant immigration documents such as passports, visas, leave to remain documentation need to be checked and copies taken. Failure to comply can mean a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant.
Safety is absolutely paramount. When it comes fire safety, landlords need to be aware of the special requirements of Homes of Multiple Occupation (HMO) compared to a home let to an individual or family. The fire safety requirements are higher with, for example, self-closing fire doors, fire escape signs and notices, escape lighting, mains run smoke and alarm systems and documented fire risk assessments and annual maintenance. A property manager will need to be familiar with and make sure such requirements, outlined in the Housing Act 2004 and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, are complied with.
While local authority licencing for HMOs has been commonplace for quite a while, some have introduced compulsory landlord licencing for individual lets in an attempt to improve health and safety and standards in the private rental sector. First introduced by Newham Council in 2013, landlords or their agents must register with the local authority and provide documentation, such as gas and electrical safety certificates and copies of tenancy agreements.
The regulatory landscape changes constantly and it is important that landlords comply, not only to avoid onerous fines, but also to protect their reputation and ultimately, when it comes to safety, the health and wellbeing of their tenants. Having a manager who understands and acts to ensure compliance will take a great weight off landlords’ minds.