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Latest legislative changes Landlords should be aware of

Immigration Bill

Earlier this month during the Queen’s speech, the government announced some concerning news. They are putting the responsibility on landlords and letting agents to check the immigration status of any prospective tenants to ensure they have the Right to Rent. This means, if you’re a private landlord, you’ll need to carry out identity checks on all adults moving into your property. It won’t be enough to simply carry out credit checks on the tenants paying the rent or signing the agreement. Failure to comply could result in a civil penalty up to a maximum £3000.

As a letting agent we can do this on your behalf. But I hope, before the scheme is rolled out nationally, that the government takes the time to review how the first phase in the West Midlands has worked.

Find out more about the Queen’s speech and what was in it for the Property Market.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

In October 2015, Landlords will be required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their rented properties.

The changes mean that if you have not yet installed smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your rental properties, you will need do so. You must ensure that there is at least one smoke alarm per floor, as well as Carbone Monoxide alarms present in any rooms containing a solid fuel burning appliance – both of which are new requirements. Failing to comply with the legislation could leave you open to a penalty of up to £5000.

Read the draft legislation.

More and more local authorities to impose selective licensing

Under the Localism Act 2013, local authorities can introduce selective licencing of privately rented homes to address problems in their area such as low housing demand and/or significant anti-social behaviour, in addition to the requirements of the Housing Act 2004 relating to Houses in MultiplesOccupation (HMOs).

Since 1st April 2015, a new General Approval and additional criteria for making a scheme have come into force.

Local authorities will require confirmation from the Secretary of State for any selective licensing scheme which would cover more than 20% of their geographical area or would affect more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority area based on figures from census data.

The additional criteria are:

  • that the area contains a high proportion of properties in the private rented sector, in relation to the total number of properties in the area; and
  • that those properties are occupied either under assured tenancies or licences to occupy;

And that one or more of the following applies:

  • the local housing authority considers it would be appropriate for a significant number of the properties to be inspected, with a view to determining whether any category 1 or category 2 hazards exist on the premises;
  • that the area has recently experienced or is experiencing an influx of migration into it;
  • that the area is suffering from a high level of deprivation;
  • that the area suffers from high levels of crime;

If you’re looking at expanding your property portfolio make sure you check with your local authorities about selective licencing so you can make an informed decision on your investment.

Find out more about the criteria of making a selective licensing scheme.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

Since May 27th 2015, letting agents must display their fees in their branch and on their website. The items on the list must be all the fees, charges or penalties payable to the agent by a landlord or tenant. Failing to do so could lead a financial penalty of up to £5,000.

You can now find this list of fees in all Andrews letting branches. Find out more about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 - chapter 3.

Liability for water payments for landlords

Since January 1st 2015, landlords in Wales, Cheshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire are liable for tenants' water debt. The Welsh Government has introduced new legislation that affects on any landlords whose property receives water or sewerage services from Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water.

It is important to note that even if you are a landlord living in England with tenanted property in the Welsh Water and Dee Valley Water areas - you have to share your tenants' information with the water board.

The legislation requires landlords to inform Welsh Water about tenants in their properties within 21 days of the tenants moving into the property. Failure to do so means that landlords can become jointly and severally liable with the tenant for any outstanding water and sewerage charges.

Check who supplies your area or find out more from the Welsh Water website.