In this first week of 2017 on the blog, I thought we should take a quick look at what legal changes are on their way. We have had a lot of changes over the past couple of years, but it ain’t finished yet.
We have had a lot of changes over the past couple of years, but it ain’t finished yet.
The Housing and Planning Act 2016
This act is a done deal and now it’s all about implementation. One thing that landlords are probably looking forward to is the new ‘abandonment’ procedure.
I have had a fairly close look at the legislation and it’s not going to be as easy as many people think. It will mean though that, after a long period of serving notices and waiting for notice periods to expire, you will be able to change the locks, legally, without getting a court order.
There are also banning orders coming and the new rogue landlords database which both look as if they will come into force later on in the year. This is good as it will, hopefully, drive up standards. But it could also affect well-meaning but ignorant amateur landlords who fall foul of the rules.
Remember – ignorance of the law is never a defence. Government and the authorities consider landlords to be providers of a consumer service – accommodation, rather than just being ‘an investor’. So if you are a landlord you need to be aware of this. Yes, it is an investment, but it’s not the same as just buying stock in Widgets Plc. You have FAR more responsibilities.
I think that HMO law and practice is something that is going to hit a lot of landlords hard. ALL tenancies where three or more unrelated people share living accommodation are an HMO. It’s just that at the moment this has not impacted on many landlords as their properties do not currently need licensing.
However come the new rules, far more properties will come into scope. With Local Authorities keeping more of the spoils of prosecution, they will be bringing more of them. You need to be sure you are keeping your house in order if you want to avoid their beady eye alighting on you.
Landlords renting to sharers can start by reading the HMO series on this blog.
Developments in Wales
The Renting Homes (Wales) Act is not expected to come into force until 2018. However, there will be a lot of consultation exercises in the meantime. It is also likely that at some stage the right to rent checks will become mandatory in Wales.
So Welsh landlords and agents need to keep their ear to the ground.
Letting Agents Fees
Not enough agents are complying with the current transparency rules and I suspect that these will now start to be enforced more rigorously, as Local Authorities step up their enforcement procedures.
However, agents now face the prospect of a total ban on fees to tenants. This is unlikely to come into force until 2018, but there seems to be no doubt that it is coming.
My advice to letting agents is to take steps now to reduce the fees you charge to tenants, and to restructure your business so your operation costs are covered wholly by your commission from landlords. So you are no longer dependent on fees from tenants.
The Landlord Law / Easy Law Service
We will be here to help with all of these things along the way.
Housing has finally reached the top of the political agenda and this may mean yet more changes. But stay with us and we will keep you informed.