Legal Update for Landlords: Changes to Legislation

In April 2017, local authorities gained the power to fine rogue landlords up to £30,000. Although this is an exceptionally high figure, it is reserved for landlords who are deemed inept, are in serious violation of housing regulations, or are found guilty of abusing tenant rights.

Most local authorities do everything they can to help landlords understand the rules and regulations they need to follow. We have highlighted some main areas you should be aware of in order to protect your interests.

Changes to Existing Legislation

Landlords are now subject to several on-the-spot fines. Local authorities do not need to go through any time-consuming, complex or costly legal proceedings to ensure that a rogue landlord is fined.

These fines can come about as a result of the following:

  • Non-compliance with an improvement notice under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System
  • Failing to comply with an overcrowding notice
  • Not adhering to HMO management regulations

Local authorities can also keep the money from the fines they administer. This means that they will be able to fund the resources they need in order to fine different landlords as and when they see fit, and will therefore always have the resources to investigate and fine landlords repeatedly.

The fines can also be imposed in multiple situations now. For example, for failing to resolve problems that could cause health issues such as damp and mould, a landlord can now receive a hefty fine – whereas this may have been overlooked before.

Local authorities can also create ‘rent payment orders’ when landlords either harass tenants, are violent towards tenants, or leave properties in an inadequate condition. Landlords may be required to pay up to 12 months of rent back to tenants in such circumstances.

These new powers mean that local authorities may make fining rogue landlords a priority, so it is crucial to make sure that your properties adhere to all the necessary legal requirements.

What Should Landlords Do?

Even if you do not consider yourself to be a full-time landlord – for example, if you only rent out one or two properties to friends or relatives – it may be an idea to rethink your practices, because local authorities can take action against any type of landlord.

You now also need to keep on top of changing legislation, and you have an obligation to understand the legislation that is in place. Speak with local letting agents who are part of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the National Approved Letting Scheme, or the Association of Residential Letting Agents – this can be a good way of keeping on top of such legislative changes, because all of these organisations make it their priority.

There are currently 326 local authorities in England, and they have a total of 442 licensing schemes between them. Some of the schemes apply nationally, but some are specific to a property type or a local authority – therefore each property under each different local authority often needs to be licensed in a different way. As such, it is crucial to understand which licence is right for you in order to avoid future penalties.

You should also be aware of how your local authority is enforcing the regulations set by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. These regulations cover important issues such as dangerous boilers, damp, and other health hazards such as poorly-fitted banisters.

Making sure that your licensing is correct and that you are adhering to all health and safety rules are key steps towards ensuring that you cannot be fined by a local authority and that you are working well within the confines of the law.

Protecting Your Interests

Whether you are thinking about investing in a buy-to-let property venture or you are already an established landlord with years of experience, it is always imperative to bear in mind any legal complications that you may come across. By ensuring that you are compliant with the law and tenant rights at all times, you will protect your interests and continue to thrive as a successful landlord.

For further information on the things to consider before investing in buy-to-let properties, read our comprehensive guide to being a landlord.