Let’s take a look at some news items from the past week.
Government Model Tenancy Agreement dangerously out of date
Landlords are warned not to use the governments ‘model’ tenancy agreement as it has not (at the time of writing) been updated and contains incorrect advice.
This is found on p24 as explained by the Negotiator:
On page 24 of the document it advises landlords and agents on what to do when a tenant asks to have a dog or cat live with them.
“The Tenant must not keep any pets or other animals at the Property without the prior written consent of the Landlord which must not be unreasonably withheld or delayed,” it says.
“If permission is given, it may be given on the condition that the Tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit.
“If consent is given on the condition that additional deposit is paid by the tenant, then the landlord must also protect that additional deposit in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme.”
But since June 1st such an ‘additional reasonable amount towards a deposit’ has been prohibited and deposits are limited to five weeks’ rent.
The only way landlords or letting agents can charge extra for pets is to charge an additional ‘pet rent’, as many have begun to do.
Local Authority crackdown finds that most agent websites are illegal
Officers from the Brent and Harrow Trading Standards have found that only 14 out of some 67 letting agent websites checked by them comply with regulations. They are also cracking down on agents who do not have client money protection or are not registered with a Property Redress Scheme.
293 letters have been sent to agents warning them of what they need to do. 49 letting offices the two areas; nine businesses have been issued with financial penalty notices, and six have received formal written warnings.
Simon Legg, head of Brent and Harrow Trading Standards, says:
Often agents try to blame their web programmers for errors, but it’s the agents’ responsibility to check that their websites content is correct.
Well obviously! It’s a bit much if letting agents are blaming non-compliance with legal rules on their web developers!
Local Authorities need to do more checks like this. As can be seen from this example there are many agents who are not complying with the law, which is unacceptable. The rules are there to protect the public.
Its claimed that one in five agents still have no client money protection
Another problem it seems with letting agents is that around 20% still have no client money protection (CMP). This is claimed by Client Money Protect which is one of the 6 approved CMP schemes.
Eddie Hooker, the chief executive of Hamilton Fraser, said:
The requirement for all letting and property management agents in the private rented sector in England to join a client money protection scheme has been heavily publicised, agents cannot hide behind ignorance as an excuse for non-compliance. Those who are not complying with their legal obligations under the Act could face a fine of up to £30,000, so we urge all agents to check that they are covered as a matter of urgency.
“We are currently turning applications around in 48 hours. If you already have membership, please ensure you are displaying your membership both in branch and on your website as you may also be liable for a £5,000 fine if you fail to do this.
Letting agents alert police to drug dealers
However, here is a good news item about letting agents! It appears that routine checks on properties have been instrumental in bringing drug dealers to justice. For example in Plymouth an agent carrying out checks on a property found nine suitcases open in an empty living room which contained bags smelling of cannabis. Two men have now been convicted, neither of whom were on the tenancy agreement.
The article goes on
Another rented house was raided, where detectives found more drugs, and this time over £10,000 in cash.
By chance, that same day, the team received a call from another suspicious letting agent who had gone into yet another property and realised something was not right.
Again, more drugs were found at this address, and a further big amount in cash – £41,219.
As part of Operation Othello, investigators suspected that the cannabis was being delivered to the rental addressed by members of a Vietnamese crime group.
It just goes to show how important it is to do property checks and inspections.
Ban on gas boilers in new homes to be implemented
The ban was first suggested by former Chancellor Philip Hammond in March but Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that it will be accelerated and could be brought in from next year as part of a package of green measures.
Although this proposal is just for new homes, if we are to take climate change seriously, gas appliances will have to be banned generally as they are a fossil fuel. landlords, therefore, should think carefully before installing gas appliances in rented properties. If possible alternative hearing methods should be used.
Pet rents still an issue
The argument about pet rents still rages – I have just been speaking about it on Radio Kent. But as I said there, its not illegal, one of the few charges landlords are permitted to make to tenants is rent, and they are perfectly entitled to charge more for tenants with pets.
Maybe this is something the alternative deposit schemes could address?