cj-law

Landlord & Tenant

Landlord and Tenant Solicitors

Philip Walsh is a specialist landlord and tenant solicitor and provides comprehensive and practical advice on a full range of disputes relating to residential lettings.

Advice for Landlords

The law regulating landlord and tenant arrangements is complex and has undergone many changes in recent years. Taking action without taking specialist legal advice can be costly and can cause considerable delay. We offer advice, assistance and representation across a wide range of areas including:

Setting up a tenancy

Renting out property is not straightforward. Landlords need to comply with numerous statutory requirements. Failure to follow the law can result in serious practical and financial problems.

When setting up a tenancy landlords need to consider:

Gas safety - private landlords must ensure that the gas supply and appliances are safe and provide a valid gas safety certificate from a registered gas engineer. The gas safety certificate must be renewed every 12 months. Landlords are required to keep copies of the inspection report and certificate and should keep records of any works carried out. Failing to provide a gas safety certificate is a criminal offence.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) - landlords are now required to provide incoming tenants with an EPC and landlords who fail to provide an EPC face enforcement action and fines. Crucially for new tenancies starting on or after 1st October 2015 landlords cannot serve a Section 21 notice until they have provided their tenants with an EPC.

How to Rent – The Checklist for Renting in England - If a landlord gives a new tenancy or a replacement tenancy from October 1st 2015 onwards, they must provide an up to date version of the How to rent booklet. Landlords who fail to do so cannot served a valid Section 21 possession notice.

Inspecting the property – Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 imposes upon landlords comprehensive repairing obligations and effective landlords inspect their properties and keep records of their inspections before renting them out to tenants. Landlords should carry out repairs before tenants move in.

Tenancy agreements – many landlords overlook the importance of the tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract and is critical to your tenancy as it sets out exactly what the landlord and the tenant are required to do.

Inventory – landlords are not obliged to make inventories but should always do so especially if they hope to make deductions from deposits for any damage caused by tenants at the end of the tenancy.

Deposits – landlords need to approach deposits with considerable caution as mistakes are frequently made which can entitle tenants to substantial compensation. Deposits must be protected in one of the approved deposit protection schemes within 30 days of receipt and each deposit scheme places an obligation on the landlord to provide the tenant (and anyone who has contributed to the deposit) a copy of the deposit protection certificate; Prescribed Information and the deposit protection scheme leaflet for tenants.

Right to Rent – since 1 February 2016 landlords and agents have been required to establish that all occupiers have the right to rent in the United Kingdom. Failing to comply can result in prosecution.

We at Clifford Johnston can provide advice on all of these issues.

Ending a tenancy and Possession claims

A landlord cannot remove a tenant from residential accommodation without first obtaining a court order for possession. The process is complicated and landlords should instruct specialist landlord and tenant solicitors as soon as possible.

We will advise on whether a landlord is entitled to bring possession proceedings and will provide comprehensive advice on the quickest and cheapest route. In most assured shorthold tenancy cases there are two options:

Section 21

Under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 a landlord can serve a 2-month possession notice and, once the notice period has expired, can issue possession proceedings to obtain a court order for possession. The rules relating to Section 21 notices are different for tenancies which started after 1 October 2015 and there are other technical requirements which, if not complied with, will invalidate the Section 21 notice.

Landlords who bring court proceedings for possession risk having their court proceedings dismissed by the court and risk being ordered to pay their tenants’ legal costs if they get the Section 21 notice wrong.

Section 8

If the landlord needs to recover possession of a residential property before the fixed term of the tenancy has ended they can do so by serving a possession notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, setting out the grounds upon which they rely to obtain possession.

The 17 potential grounds for possession are set out in the Housing Act 1988. The most commonly used ground is Ground 8 which requires landlords to prove that at the date of serving the possession notice and at the date of the court hearing the tenant was 8 weeks or 2 months in arrears of rent.

Tenants often seek to defend rent possession claims and cases can be complex, risky and expensive. If landlords get things wrong their claims can be dismissed and they then have to start again with further costs and expenses.

We can provide advice on the best route to recover possession; we can serve the possession notice and anticipate the likely defences the tenant might put forward.

We also represent landlords at possession hearings.

Disrepair problems

Landlords of residential accommodation must comply with extensive repairing obligations. Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act implies into most residential tenancy agreements an obligation on the part of the landlord to keep in repair:

• The structure and exterior of the property, for example, the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors.

  • Basins, sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework.
  • Water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters.

As a landlord you cannot contract out of these responsibilities whatever wording you put into the tenancy agreement.

Landlords who fail to comply with their repairing obligations can run into serious difficulties, in particular:

  • The Local Authority can force landlords to carry our repairs and improvements and in some cases can even carry out the works and then bill the landlord.
  • The tenant can take legal action in the civil courts and can obtain orders from the court to compel the landlord to carry our repairs.
  • Tenants can claim compensation if they have suffered distress, inconvenience or personal injuries or damages to their possessions. Such claims can be extremely expensive for landlords as the landlord can also be ordered to pay the tenant’s legal costs.

For tenancies which started after (or which have been renewed since) 1 October 2015 landlords are prevented from embarking on a revenge eviction or retaliatory eviction which is when a landlord tries to evict a tenant after the tenant has asked for repairs or complained about conditions in their property. Under the new rules a landlord cannot serve a valid Section 21 possession notice if the tenant complained to the landlord or letting agent in writing and then complained to the local council because the landlord didn't take steps to fix the problem and the council sent the landlord a notice telling them to make improvements or that the council will carry out emergency work

Sensible landlords maintain their properties properly to protect their investments but even in the best managed properties problems can arise. We can offer advice and assistance in responding to disrepair issues.

Landlords should always take advice promptly when confronted with disrepair claims. The Pre-Action Protocol on Disrepair Claims requires landlords to respond with specific information within tight time limits and landlords who fail to comply can face costly financial penalties.

Tenancy deposits

Since 6th April 2007 landlords who take tenancy deposits have been required protect them in one of the Government approved schemes and must provide the tenant with Prescribed Information about the deposit scheme.

Landlords must comply with these requirements within 30 days of receiving the deposit.

Since the deposit protection requirements were introduced landlords have encountered many problems handling deposits and some are still not complying with the rules. We can provide advice on all aspects of deposit protection problems.

Landlords should be aware that failing to comply with deposit protection rules can have serious consequences:

  • If landlords fail to protect the deposit within 30 days of receiving it they cannot serve a Section 21 possession notice – even if they protect the deposit late.
  • If landlords fail to serve the prescribed information they cannot serve a Section 21 possession notice until the prescribed information has been served. Landlords must ensure that the prescribed information is fully completed and that the requirements of the deposit protection scheme have been complied with.
  • Landlords who fail to protect deposits on time can be ordered to pay compensation to affected tenants and refund deposits. Landlords can also be ordered to pay substantial legal costs where tenants are legally represented in deposit compensation claims.

Clifford Johnston can provide advice on complying with deposit requirements and how to overcome problems when things have already gone wrong.

Right to Rent

From 1st February 2016 landlords and letting agents have been required to check the immigration status of occupiers of privately rented accommodation. The requirement comes from the implementation of the Immigration Act 2014.

The key points for landlords and letting agents to remember are:

  • The right to rent checks must be carried out in respect of virtually all privately rented accommodation including assured shorthold tenancies and licences and it even applies to lodgers.
  • The checks must be carried out for all tenancies which started after 1 February 2016 (but note that the rules applied from an earlier date in the West Midlands).
  • The checks must be carried out for all adults living in the property that the landlord proposes to rent (in other words the checks do not just apply to the tenants).
  • Landlords do not have to perform checks for children aged under 18 but they will need to confirm that the children are indeed under age.
  • Landlords need to understand what the “right to rent” actually means and Clifford Johnston can provide advice on this. There are two different groups who have the right to rent namely those with the permanent right to rent and those with a time limited right to rent and the rules or requirements are different for the different groups.
  • If an occupier loses the right to rent the landlord is required to notify the Home Office and take steps to lawfully remove the occupier from the accommodation.
  • There are civil penalties of up to £3000 per occupier if a landlord is landlord gets convicted with the civil offence of renting to someone without right to rent
  • Under the criminal legislation a landlord who allows someone to let the property while being disqualified from renting in the UK can be tried in the magistrate or crown court and if convicted faces an unlimited fine or potentially up to 5 years in prison.

Many landlords and some letting agents seem unaware of these strict and onerous requirements and are failing to comply with their legal obligations. We can assist landlords to understand the requirements and can represent landlords who have been charged with offences under the right to rent legislation.

Landlords should be aware that failing to comply with deposit protection rules can have serious consequences:

  • If landlords fail to protect the deposit within 30 days of receiving it they cannot serve a Section 21 possession notice – even if they protect the deposit late.
  • If landlords fail to serve the prescribed information they cannot serve a Section 21 possession notice until the prescribed information has been served. Landlords must ensure that the prescribed information is fully completed and that the requirements of the deposit protection scheme have been complied with.
  • Landlords who fail to protect deposits on time can be ordered to pay compensation to affected tenants and refund deposits. Landlords can also be ordered to pay substantial legal costs where tenants are legally represented in deposit compensation claims.

Clifford Johnston can provide advice on complying with deposit requirements and how to overcome problems when things have already gone wrong.

Need some professional advice?

Do you have any issues that you are worried about? Contact our professional team for a free, no-obligation informal discussion, where we can discuss your particular requirements in greater detail.