There are just days to go until it is time to ring in a new year-and a new decade, so it is a good time to reflect on the last twelve months.
Every week, we shine a light on some of the things our members give our advice team a call about, and how we were able to help them.
Our advice team help out landlords and letting agents on a whole range of topics -whether it be navigating legislation changes, welfare reform or practical tips such as fire safety.
In this article, we have put together the top ten most read ‘Call of the Week’ articles from 2019, starting with the tenth most read.
- How do I serve a Section 8 notice and recover rent arrears?
In July one of our members contacted us in relation to an ongoing claim they were involved in to recover possession of their property, because the tenant was in rent arrears. The landlord had decided previously, based on another call to our advice team, to go down the section 8 route, as their tenants were in at least 2 months of arrears and unlikely to pay this money off and would be in even more arrears by the time a court hearing was scheduled. Our member wanted to recover the arrears owed to them at the same time as going to court, so section 8 would be the way to go about this. We advised them the next steps to take.
- Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act and existing tenancies
On 20th March 2019, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force, making it a requirement for landlords to ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy, and then maintain this standard throughout the rest of the time the tenant lives in the property.
While the RLA would always advise landlords that their properties must be fit and safe to be rented out, this particular piece of legislation does not apply to all tenancies straight away-and this is the part our member wanted clarification on.
- After March 20th 2019, any tenancies which are new, or renewed the legislation will apply from the start date of the new tenancy. This will include any statutory periodic tenancies that start after a fixed term comes to an end.
- There is a 12-month grace period until March 20th 2020 before these tenancies are caught by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.
- We advised the member that he should arrange to check these properties before March 20th 2020 to make sure they are still fit for human habitation.
- How can I deal with antisocial behaviour at my property?
Several of the calls featured in our weekly call of the week articles this week have been in relation to anti-social behaviour. Whether it is your tenant behaving antisocially or your tenant complaining about a landlord behaving in this way, it is no surprise that most landlords want to deal with the issue as quickly as possible.
In this featured call, a landlord had given our advice team a call because they were becoming increasingly concerned about the behaviour of one of their tenants. They had tried to work with the tenant to help them out-but sadly they were not co-operating. Here’s what we advised.
- Section 21 documentation for tenancies that began before 2015
It is fair to say that Section 21 has rarely been out of the news this year, especially since the Government first announced its intention to axe it in April this year.
In this call, a member wanted to gain possession of their property in order to sell it. The tenancy began before 2015, and because the member had never served a Section 21 notice before they wanted to check they had the right documentation to do so. Here’s our advice.
- How can I recover rent arrears?
Many landlords do their best to work with their tenants if they unexpectedly end up in rent arrears.
One of our most read call of the weeks this year was from a member who was having difficulty simply knowing what his next step should be.
It was quite a complicated situation.
This week our advice team were able to help out one of our members who was having difficulties with what steps to take with an issue they were encountering relating to one of their tenancies.
The tenant had originally signed for a 6 month Assured Shorthold Tenancy which was now in the periodic stage.
The problem our landlord was having was to do with damage caused by the tenant, and also the fact that this tenant was struggling to pay the rent consistently and had fallen into arrears. There was damage being caused by consistently leaving windows shut when cooking and drying clothes inside of the property, which was leading to damp presenting in the property. The tenant was also in 2 months of rent arrears.
- Missing gas safety certificate
In September, a landlord gave our advice team a call about the sensitive topic of needing to gain possession of his property, because a tenant was in more than four month rent arrears with him.
The landlord wanted to do this using the Section 21 process, but was struggling to do so because of an error made by their letting agent.
The letting agent mostly managed the property, but at the start of the tenancy they had not given the tenant a copy of one of the required prescribed pieces of information – the gas safety certificate.
This meant that they were now struggling to gain possession through the Section 21 route. They called our team looking for advice on what the next steps to take should be. Here’s what we advised.
- Dealing with condensation
During the winter months, our advice team receive many calls on issues relating to property maintenance. A common question from landlords is how they can deal with condensation, so it’s no surprise that this was one of our most read call of the weeks this year.
Our advice team were able to give a member detailed advice on how best to deal with condensation in their property-check out how we were able to help here.
- Gas Safety certificates
Similar to the call further up in this article, another member called our advice team this year with a query about gaining possession. This time, the tenant had accrued high rent arrears, and the landlord wanted to gain possession because of this. While this landlord did give the tenant a copy of the gas safety certificate at the start of the tenancy, they were concerned because there was no evidence to show they had done this. They gave our team a call asking what to do next.
- How to Rent guide being updated
It has been a requirement for landlords in England to give tenants certain documents at the start of a new tenancy since 2015. These documents are known as “prescribed information”, and include an EPC certificate, gas safety certificate and the very latest edition of the How to Rent guide.
In fact, if landlords failed to give their tenants the most up to date version of the How to Rent guide at the start of that tenancy, it could mean they struggle to serve a Section 21 notice further down the line if the needed to. So, it’s no surprise that when the How to Rent guide was updated earlier this year, the call of the week on this was popular.
In this call of the week, a landlord wanted to know whether they are required to give a new copy of the How to Rent guide to their tenants, each time this is updated on the Government’s website. Read our advice.
The most read Call of the Week from 2019
- The Tenant Fees Act in England and pre-existing tenancies / deposits
In June this year, the Tenant Fees Act was introduced in England. The Act bans certain fees that landlords and letting agents had previously been able to charge their tenants at the start and during the tenancy. (this is different from the fees ban introduced in Wales in September-see here for details about this).
However, when the Tenant Fees Act was introduced in June, the Tenant Fees Act didn’t apply to all tenancies straight away-rather, it only applies at the moment to new tenancies that are created, and renewal tenancies in England.
This is because there is a transition period, and the Tenant Fees Act will apply to all tenancies in England from June 2020.
A member gave us a call a few months before the new legislation was introduced. They were clear that the Tenant Fees Act introduced a cap on deposits, and this landlord wanted to know if he was required to refund any of his tenants any money he had previously taken for a deposit. Here’s what we advised him .