Are your tenants afraid of you?

Are your tenants afraid of you?

The rise of retaliatory evictions

More than two out of five (41%) private tenants have waited longer than they usually should for their landlord to carry out a repair, according to a recent report by Citizens Advice.

Why? Because they’re afraid of being evicted, having their rent put up or being blacklisted.

The report goes on to explain that there is still an entrenched culture of fear among private tenants. Last year alone, Citizens Advice helped people with more than 16,000 problems around private rented sector homes in poor condition.

Your responsibility as a landlord

Private landlords in the private sector have a legal responsibility to fix problems in a reasonable time – usually a month or less, or 24 hours for the most serious cases.

If you fail to carry out the necessary work within a reasonable time, a court can order you to carry out a repair and / or award financial compensation.

The reality

57% of tenants who took part in the survey told Citizens Advice that they didn’t want to force the issue with their landlord for fear of repercussions.

30% of tenants said they’d carried out repairs themselves and 14% had paid for repair work themselves. One family had spent £10,000 of their own money fixing a range of issues in their home, including a broken heating system, after repeated complaints to their landlord failed.

The most common issues are broken fittings, faulty electricals and leaks, all of which can make life miserable as well as potentially dangerous and unhealthy for tenants.

Current protection for tenants

  1. Assured shorthold tenancies starting before 1 Oct 2015

If your tenancy started before 1 October 2015, there’s no special protection that prevents you as a landlord from evicting a tenant who complains about repairs. That said, new rules are set to come into force late next year and these should provide your tenant with more protection.

  1. Assured shorthold tenancies starting on or after 1 October 2015

New rules now apply to newer tenancies which could protect your tenant if they complain about repairs or conditions in your property and you respond by issuing a section 21 notice.

The new rules mean a court can refuse to order eviction if all the following apply:

  • your tenant complained to you or your letting agent in writing (by letter or email)
  • you issued a section 21 notice after they complained
  • your tenant complained to the local council because you didn’t take steps to fix the problem
  • the council sent you a notice telling you to make improvements or the council would carry out emergency work.

The new rules may also apply if your tenant complained about the repairs to the council because they didn’t have a postal or email address for you.

Service of an improvement notice

If the council serves you with an improvement notice or notice requiring remedial action, the section 21 notice you’ve served on your tenant becomes invalid.

That means that if the improvement notice is served before the court hearing, your case will fail and the court won’t order your tenant to leave.

Service of improvement notice after court hearing 

If the council doesn’t serve you with an improvement notice before the court hearing, the court can order your tenant to leave. And the court can’t overturn an order to evict if the council’s notice comes later.

How long does an improvement notice affect your ability to evict?

A section 21 eviction notice will be invalid for 6 months after you’ve received an improvement notice from the council.

The new rules don’t apply if your tenant:

  • only complained verbally or you served a section 21 notice before they complained in writing
  • complained to the council but the council took no action or only served you with a ‘hazard notice’

The new rules also won’t help if you can prove to the court that:

  • the tenant caused the problem they’re complaining about
  • you’ve genuinely put the property up for sale – sales to friends, family or business partners might not count
  • the property has been repossessed by your lender and the property will be sold with vacant possession (this will not apply if the tenancy started before you took out the mortgage)

The new rules don’t apply to the section 8 court procedure for non-payment of rent.

The way forward

eviction Citizens Advice is calling for better protection by rolling out independent complaints bodies – or Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes – across the private rented sector. Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Renters should be able to ask for repairs to their home without fear of retaliation…renters [need] protection from retaliatory action, so they feel confident reporting a problem in their home and don’t feel like their only option is to dip into their own pocket.”

Steps you should take as a landlord

It should go without saying that if you’re a landlord you should always carry out work as quickly as possible. Try to imagine what it would feel like if it was your family living with the issue that’s been reported.

But actually, there’s more you can do:

  • Make it clear to your tenants that you won’t retaliate and encourage them to report issues. That might mean making a point of asking them on a regular basis whether everything is okay. If you don’t want to be that involved, make sure you have a good letting agent, and encourage them to keep an open dialogue with your tenants. You or letting agent needs to be proactive to show that you take your responsibilities seriously and will ensure repairs are carried out quickly, with no repercussions.
  • Make sure any repairs done are not done at unsociable times and make sure you give your tenants reasonable notice. It’s your property but it’s their home after all.
  • Don’t leave repairs unfinished and make sure someone (you or your agent) follows up with the tenant afterwards.

At the end of the day, your tenants are likely to stay longer and treat your property better if they feel that you care about both your property and them. And that’s got to be a good thing for everyone. If you don’t treat them well and carry out repairs quickly, you may find yourself falling foul of the new legal provisions.

Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking

www.ewemove.com/dorkingHe’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.

Multi award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.

Enquiries to 01306 406 506 / 01372 701 702, or via email to dorking@ewemove.com

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What’s important to landlords?

What’s important to landlords?

Getting more out of your rental property

Despite what some might describe as repeated attacks by the government on the landlord lifestyle, the number of landlords in the UK increased in 2013 -2014 by 7%, reaching 1.75 million (HMRC). And in 2014, two million private landlords owned and let some five million properties in the UK (Paragon). In short, the Private Rented Sector (PRS) is still a growing and successful sector.

The reason, of course, is that it still represents an exciting opportunity and a great way to earn a residual income. But contrary to popular belief (and as I know having been a landlord for some time), it’s not all about the money. So, what is important to landlords, what do you struggle with, and perhaps most importantly, as a letting agent, how can I help?

Maximising your yield

maximising the rental yield It may not be all about the money but it goes without saying, that profit will always be important. It’s not rocket science to suggest that in order to maximise your yield, you need to keep a keen eye on expenses and get the best possible rent for your property. And a good letting agent can help with both of those.

Letting agent fees

Letting agents often make big promises about what they can deliver but let’s start by taking a careful look at their fees.

It’s tempting to choose the agent with the cheapest headline tariff. But. And it’s a big but, make absolutely sure you know what extras will be charged on top of the basic fee or “Full Management” tariff. They can be deceptive.

Will you have to pay extra for:

  • set up fees,
  • inventory fees,
  • fees to lodge deposits,
  • estimates for repairs, and / or
  • finding a tenant?

What happens if your tenant leaves in the first 12 months? Will you be charged again by your agent to find a new tenant or is that included in the upfront fee?

In other words, don’t be fooled by an attractive headline fee only to find that the final bill adds up to a great deal more than those agents who you thought were more expensive!

What’s the best rentable value?

Whether or not you know the area in which you’re hoping to buy (or let), the insider knowledge of your letting agent can be invaluable.

Your agent should know the state of the rental market – has a significant employer in the area relocated elsewhere? Is it a popular area for students or young workers making it suitable for multiple occupancy? Are there plans for improved infrastructure that could make this a desirable commuter area? Has a planning application been submitted for a development which may make this a very unpopular place to live?

Don’t just rely on your own knowledge or research of similar rental properties in the area. Instead take advantage of your agent’s knowledge and experience to make sure you buy a property with the best possible rental value.

Ensuring you get the best tenants  

As a landlord, you want to avoid two things – long periods of time when your property is empty and unreliable tenants who leave the property in a mess or don’t pay their rent.

That means, the quality of your tenant vetting process is vital. Check at the outset what your chosen agent’s vetting process is and that it’s robust. If it isn’t (or they haven’t really got one), walk away. You’ll end up with the first person who turns up and that’s rarely a good thing.

All agents should credit check the tenant and the guarantor, as well as asking for references. And all references should always be checked out thoroughly.

Then ask your agent whether they visit prospective tenants in their current accommodation. Because that can be a very good indicator of how they may treat your property.

An easy life

As I said, being a successful landlord isn’t all about maximising profits. Most landlords I know genuinely care about their tenants and want to be sure that they are living as comfortably as possible. But that doesn’t mean they want to spend every second minute following up tenant complaints, checking properties and making sure they’re compliant.

In short, most landlords want peace of mind and the knowledge that their tenants are happy and their properties and tenancies are legally compliant.

And that’s where a good letting agent can add real value. For example, at EweMove, we’ll manage all statutory compliance aspects of letting your home, from your Energy Performance Rating to your tenancy agreement and your inventory.

We’ll also make sure that we’re there when you or your tenants need us. We’ll keep you updated if there is a problem and we can recommend trusted suppliers.

In fact, we recommend that it’s a good idea to agree in advance what sort of issues you always want to be involved in and what issues you’re happy for us to resolve without bothering you. Although of course, we’ll always keep you informed – you just may not want a call from us at midnight on a Saturday night!

What’s important to you?

I’d love to know what you value most from your letting agent and what’s important to you. Please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking

www.ewemove.com/dorkingHe’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.

Multi award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.

Enquiries to 01306 406 506 / 01372 701 702, or via email to dorking@ewemove.com