Revenge – a dish best served cold….or preferably not at all.

Northwoodsocial1

It’s a strange time in the lettings industry – an awful lot of new legislation heading our way, as landlords (and agents), and all of it requiring some action and some real understanding.

The main one coming into effect on October 1st 2015 is the impact of the Deregulation Act…and whether this seems dull as dishwater or not, this Act will have profound effects on how we operate our rental properties.

In a nutshell, this Act tries to put an end to a problem that in our book (at Northwood Leicester) scarcely exists – the so-called “revenge eviction” – but which Shelter claim is used by many, many landlords across the country to get rid of tenants who complain too much about unrepaired maintenance issues at their properties. The powers-that-be have deemed this as requiring legislation to stamp out, and so an Act comes into force which changes the way any practical landlord and agent would be operating anyway.

Put very simply, if a tenant has cause to complain about the condition of their rental, and does so in writing, and if the landlord then fails to provide an adequate response within 14 days, you are heading into trouble: the tenant raises the complaint to the Local Authority, the Council puts it through their own time-consuming processes but as an outcome visits the property, and then issues a “relevant notice” (in other words an improvement notice or an emergency remedial action notice), meaning that you and your agent cannot then issue a Section 21 Notice for 6 months.

For those who are unaware of the power of a Section 21 Notice, this is the tool one uses for the mandatory recovery of your property at the end of the tenancy (either the end of a fixed term or after giving notice in a Periodic – rolling – tenancy). It is incredibly important for safe and sane management of your property where you simply need the property back – maybe you want to sell, maybe you need the property for a relative’s use, maybe you simply (in all honesty) cannot get the relationship with the tenant to work and have opted to call a halt, for instance if rent payments have become rather, err, vague. I have never, in twenty-plus years of property management, actually seen a landlord want to evict on the basis of not wanting to do repairs…although one can imagine the scenario, and it is something that rightly ought to be stamped out – if it were at all prevalent.

My estimation of the time this process will take would be an addition of around eight months to the tenancy, probably as a bare minimum, and of course costs of repairs that probably could have been dealt with at the outset with a bit of foresight. Then there’s the whole relationship angle: in what state is the tenancy all the while this process is going on? Are you getting paid? Is the property being cared for? If you are under a Local Authority improvement notice and a delayed Section 21 implementation, you’ve got to think that properly effective action to control the tenancy might just be a little fraught…

Key advice: one, if a job is reported, ensure we as your agents are given instruction to proceed once we have got you the crucial information you need – advice from contractors, a quote, a timeline, leading to a satisfied tenant at the end. Two, talk to us about the whole new legislation – there’s too much to wade through here, but we have always operated as tightly as possible to respect the rights of the home-occupier (the tenant) while managing the property as an investment for the owner (the landlord). This legislation just codifies good practise anyway, but the outcomes for failing to respond when we advise “get on with it” are now pretty penal.

We’re here to help: just come in and we’ll give all the advice you need.

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