Private Sector Housing
The archived articles below were previously published on the Private Sector Housing page. These articles were correct when they were previously published.
Landlord fined £21,575 for illegal HMO
Epping Forest District Council successfully prosecuted and fined Mr Veli Bunul £21,575, when found operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) and breaching legislation designed to protect tenants. The Council was call to inspect a three storey family town house in Tillingham Court Waltham Abbey, found to be occupied by three separate families, each with young children, all sharing one kitchen and two bathrooms.
Housing 11 occupants, the property was overcrowded, had inadequate fire precautions or a safe means of escape in event of an emergency. Basildon Magistrates court was particularly concerned about these failings which could have potentially led to lives being at risk and tragic circumstances. The Court heard that Mr Bunul of Chase Side, London E14 had ignored all of Epping Forest District Council’s warnings about his responsibilities to licence the property and his obligation to make it safe. He alleged he was unaware that the property was being occupied by several families, claiming someone else collected the rent on his behalf. The court did not find this a reasonable excuse and so carried his conviction alongside a hefty fine.
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “We will not tolerate landlords who rent properties which fail to meet standards. The Council has a commitment to ensure that private landlords in the Epping Forest district do not take financial advantage of vulnerable tenants and put their lives at risk. We will not hesitate to prosecute landlords who show a disregard for the law and their responsibilities towards occupants”.
New licensing rules
The Government are bringing in an extension to the current licensing regime. From 1 April 2018, any property with five or more people from two or more households will require a licence, regardless of how many floors there are in the property. Landlords must comply with licence conditions to ensure properties are safe for the amount of people occupying them. In addition, minimum space requirements are to be imposed to prevent exploitation by overcrowding.
Advice to Landlords
Landlords that currently operate a licensable HMO in Epping Forest District (3 or more storeys, occupied by 5 or more people living as 2 or more households) but do not currently hold a licence should contact the Council’s Private Sector Housing Team immediately to avoid prosecution. Anyone operating such an HMO without the appropriate licence is committing an offence, risks a criminal record and an unlimited fine on summary conviction. Other landlords operating or thinking of operating an HMO that will fall under the new licensing regime from 1 April 2018 are encouraged to contact the Private Sector Housing Team for further information and advice.
Advice to tenants
If you think you may be living in a property that requires a licence and one is not displayed in the property, or you are concerned about the property conditions, please contact the Private Sector Housing Team on the details below:
- 01992 564348
- Apply for a HMO
- Advice for tenants and landlords
Important changes relating to Houses in Multiple Occupation
There are some important changes, coming in April 2018, affecting housing multiple occupation. We want to inform landlords, tenants and all interested parties of the changes and also about a consultation into proposed amenity standards that is very much in their interest to respond to.
Property owners, landlords, agents and tenants, please forward your details including email address to the firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can update you about changes affecting HMOs and so we can include you in the consultation about amenity standards
Extension of licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMO).
This is an advance notice to advise landlords and tenants that it is expected from 1 April 2018 that a large number of properties that currently do not need a licence to operate, will do so.
Currently a house in multiple occupation (HMO) that is 3 or more storeys and occupied by 5 or more people living as 2 or more households and sharing at least one amenity (kitchen, bathroom, toilets) requires a licence from the Council. There is a charge to the landlord for the licence and certain conditions need to be met including fire safety and amenity provision, property standards and management. The landlord can be prosecuted for failing to obtain a licence or for not complying with the licence conditions.
The proposal is that from 1 April 2018 the 3 or more storey rule will be removed so all properties (regardless of how many floors) with five or more people from two or more households will require a licence. Assuming the April 2018 timescale is met; landlords who rent out these properties will have until October 2018 to apply for a licence.
We will keep you updated about the timescales, costs and the fire and amenity standards that will be required which are likely to differ to some extent from the standards for a 3 storey licensable property. In the meantime if you would like to discuss any points please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Private Sector Housing Team on 01992 564348
Please also note that if you own a house in multiple occupation that is 3 storeys or more and licensable but you have not applied for a licence, you must do so immediately or face the possibility of a fine (unlimited) for non-compliance. You can make an application on line https://www.gov.uk/house-in-multiple-occupation-licence or request an application form from the Private Sector Housing Team.
Minimum space requirements
Minimum room sizes are being introduced in HMOs that need a licence. Rooms used for sleeping by one adult will have to be no smaller than 6.51m2 and rooms for two adults will have to be no smaller than 10.22m2 by law. Rooms slept in by children of 10 years and younger will have to be no smaller than 4.64m2.
The licence will specify the maximum number of persons (if any) who may occupy any room and the total number that can live in the house as a whole.
HMO Amenity Standards – have your say
Councils are responsible for ensuring that the size of an HMO and the number of facilities are suitable for the number of people living in it. We are proposing to set standard conditions that can be consistently applied across the participating councils in Essex. This will include things such as the number of toilets, bathrooms and kitchen facilities and also room sizes for sleeping and communal living space where appropriate.
Before any implementation, we want to consult with landlords, tenants and all interested parties for their views as we want it to be fair and reasonably achievable. Following consultation and consideration of any amendments it is proposed that the Essex Amenity Standards will be applied to all HMOs and enforced where appropriate.
We are very keen to get the views of as many landlords, tenants and interested parties as possible. The consultation document when finalised will be posted on the website for a number of weeks. If you forward your contact details including email address to the email@example.com we can send the link directly to you.
Energy efficiency requirements for privately rented properties from 1st April 2018
As from the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Regulations come into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020.
It will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption.
A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches.
For many landlords this will mean that they will no longer be able to rent out a property with a rating of F or G after April 1st 2018. As such landlords with properties in this EPC bracket should begin preparing now for April 1st. However, there are several nuances and exceptions and landlords are advised to read the Government publication: Guidance for landlords and Local Authorities on the minimum level of energy efficiency required to let domestic property under the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015.
The current regulations require that landlords will be required to make energy efficiency improvements for the purpose of the Regulations, where funding is available to cover the full cost of purchasing and installing the improvement(s) from one or more of a Green Deal Plan, Energy Company Obligation or similar government sponsored scheme. Where funding is not available to fully cover the cost of making a recommended improvement then the landlord will not be required to make that improvement to the property.
Please be aware the Government launched a consultation exercise on proposals to amend the domestic regulations. A key proposal in this consultation involves the removal of the ‘no cost to the landlord’ principle described above, and the introduction of a ‘landlord funding contribution’ component which would take effect where a landlord is unable to obtain suitable third party funding. To protect landlords from excessive costs, the consultation proposes the introduction of a cost cap: a limit on the amount any landlord would need to invest in an individual property.
Landlords, tenants and other interested parties may want to respond to the consultation document which closes on 13 March 2018.
Getting your tenants to manage their waste
Getting tenants to properly manage their waste is a challenge not just for neighbours, but for landlords and councils alike.
Guidance has been published designed to address the problem. Landlords and councils seeking to improve waste performance in a largely transient domestic rental sector need to provide greater communication between themselves and tenants to give a clearer definition of responsibility, according to the guide.
The guide identifies a number of areas in which councils can work more effectively with tenants and landlords to tackle waste management problems in the domestic rented sector.
Research with stakeholders representing councils, tenants, private and social landlords and managing agents for the guidance highlighted a number of key ‘points of failure’ within the generic rental process where problems can originate. Potential problems include: landlord and tenant responsibilities not being clearly defined; bins not being provided to new tenants; and tenants not understanding the waste collection system in their new area.
Although focused on the rental sector within London, the guide’s authors say that many of the issues and interventions it contains are not limited to the capital, or even the rental sector. The guide states: ‘We hope that local authorities and other stakeholders in the sector nationally will find these conclusions of interest and we welcome contact from any organisations with relevant experience or insight that would like to get involved in further work to tackle these typically urban issues.’
The guide looks at a number of areas in which councils could address the issue, like communications, collaboration, service provision and tenancy agreements. It suggests that councils should use a number of policies to make improvements to recycling from rented properties in their area, including:
- incorporating waste management into landlord licensing processes;
- using tenancy agreements to define responsibility more clearly;
- developing greater collaboration between council waste services departments that interact directly with tenants and landlords;
- engaging with users of Airbnb and similar short-term renting services to classify waste from lets; and
- making targeted communications available to landlords and tenants on responsibilities and how to use the waste services available.
Greater protection for landlords as CMP to be made compulsory for letting agents
There was good news for landlords and tenants after the government took measures to prevent rogue letting agents stealing your money by agreeing to make it mandatory for all agents to put cash in Client Money Protection (CMP) accounts.
The change will mean that if any letting agent goes bust or makes off, the money belonging to landlords will remain safe.
Under the new plans, agents found to be handling client money without having CMP will be fined at least £5,000 or potentially shut down.
A government working group, chaired by Lib Dem Lord Palmer and Labour shadow minister Baroness Hayter, looked carefully at the existing and concluded that CMP should be mandatory for all agents handling client money.
“The evidence was overwhelming, and we recommended the government use its reserve powers to implement this,” said Baroness Hayter. “We are therefore delighted that the government has accepted our recommendation as it will ensure tenants and landlords alike are provided with extra security in the lettings process.”
Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), added: “This is great news for landlords and tenants alike."
“Landlords should be concerned about agents having control over money due to them and formal schemes offer protection against any criminal activity that would deprive them of this cash.”
Extension to Mandatory HMO Licensing
The Government have announced their intention to expand the mandatory HMO licensing scheme, with the change due to come into force at the end of 2017 with a 6 month grace periods for landlords to comply.
The main proposals are: -
- Removing the height restriction - currently an HMO licence is only required in properties of 3 or more storeys;
- Extending licensing to flats above and below business premises;
- Setting a minimum room size of 6.25m2.
For further details on the proposals can be found via the https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/extending-mandatory-licensing-of-houses-in-multiple-occupation-and-related-reforms.
Rent a room
The Rent a Room scheme is an optional scheme that's open to owner occupiers tenants who let out furnished accommodation to a lodger in their main home. It allows you to earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free, or £3,750 if you're letting jointly. You don't have to be a homeowner to take advantage of the scheme.
Further information is available on www.gov.uk/rent-room-in-your-home/becoming-a-resident-landlord
Get an Energy Performance Certificate
Energy Performance Certificates
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rates the energy efficiency and environmental impact of your property. It is rated on a scale from A to G (where A is the most efficient and G the least efficient). As from the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Current running costs for heating, hot water and lighting and a list of recommended energy saving improvements are shown on the certificate.
You can get an EPC from an accredited domestic energy assessor.
- Energy Performance Certificate National Register.
- Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors.
- National Energy Services.
Why you need an EPC
An EPC is required for nearly all privately rented residential accommodation. The exception is in cases where individual tenants of a shared house have separate tenancy agreements. These properties do not require an EPC.
An EPC will offer you the opportunity to differentiate your property from your competitors and gain a distinct marketing advantage.
Landlord's Energy Saving Allowance
You can reduce your tax bill by up to £1,500 a year with the Landlord’s Energy Saving Allowance.
See Landlord's Energy Saving Allowance on GOV.UK for more information.
Help and advice
Energy Saving Trust provides impartial information on home energy efficiency and can advise you on any grants and offers that may be available to help you with the costs of installing measures.
Call 0800 512 012
They are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
Lettings agents and property managers: redress schemes
It's a legal requirement for all lettings agents and property managers in England to join one of these three Government-approved schemes.
Purpose of the schemes
To allow you to complain to an independent person about the service you've received if you're:
- a tenant or landlord with agents in the private rented sector
- a leaseholder or freeholder dealing with property managers in the residential sector
Ultimately the requirement to belong to a redress scheme will help weed out bad agents and property managers and drive up standards.
Enforcement by the council
We can impose a penalty of up to £5,000 where an agent or property manager should have joined a scheme but has not done so.
Find out more
Find more information on GOV.UK or by contacting us
Extension of licensing of houses in multiple occupation
This is an advance notice to advise landlords and tenants that it is expected from 1 October 2017 that a large number of properties that currently do not need a licence to operate, will do so.
Currently a house in multiple occupation that is 3 or more storeys and occupied by 5 or more people living as 2 or more households and sharing at least one amenity (kitchen, bathroom, toilets) requires a licence from the Council. There is a charge to the landlord for the licence and certain conditions need to be met including fire safety and amenity provision, property standards and management. The landlord can be prosecuted for failing to obtain a licence or for not complying with the licence conditions.
The proposal is that from 1 October 2017 the 3 or more storey rule will be removed so all properties (regardless of how many floors) with five or more people from two or more households will require a licence. Assuming the October timescale is met; landlords who rent out these properties will have until April 2018 to apply licence.
We will keep you updated about the timescales, costs and the fire and amenity standards that will be required which are likely to differ to some extent from the standards for a 3 storey licensable property. In the meantime if you would like to discuss any points please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Private Sector Housing Team on 01992 564348.
Please also note that if you own a house in multiple occupation that is 3 storeys or more and licensable but you have not applied for a licence, you must do so immediately or face the possibility of a fine of up to £20,000 for non-compliance. You can make an application on line https://www.gov.uk/house-in-multiple-occupation-licence or request an application form from the Private Sector Housing Team.
New Powers to deal with rogue landlords
Most landlords provide well maintained and well managed properties. However, there is significant minority that rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation. New powers under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 have been introduced to given local authorities new powers to deal with private landlords who fail to meet legal requirements.
Civil Penalty Notices
Councils can now issue a Civil (financial) Penalty to a landlord as an alternative to prosecution. The penalties can be used for failure to comply with an Improvement Notice, offences in relation to licensing; offences of contravention of an overcrowding notice and failure to comply with management regulations in respect of House in Multiple Occupation.
The penalty can be up to £30,000 per offence and will be based on a number of factors including the severity of the offence; the track record of the offender, the harm caused to the tenant, to act as a deterrent to the offender and others and to remove any financial benefit the offender may have obtained as a result of committing the offence.
Rent Payment Orders
These orders have existed where a landlord has been prosecuted for renting out an unlicensed property. However, they have now been extended to cover the following situations:
- Failure to comply with an Improvement Notice;
- Failure to comply with a Prohibition Order;
- Breach of a banning order;
- Using violence to secure entry to a property;
- Illegal eviction or harassment of the occupiers of a property.
These powers are now available to Local Authorities and tenants to claim up to 12 months rent from a landlord who has committed an offence above.
Database of rogue landlords and Banning Orders
There are two further elements of the Housing and Planning Act that are proposed to be introduced in October 2017. These are the launch of the national database of rogue landlords and property agents and the introduction of banning orders and management orders:
- The database of rogue landlords and property agents will be operated by the Government but its content shall be managed and maintained by local authorities. Only local authorities will have access and can publish details in some cases;
- Banning orders will prohibit landlords or agents from letting their own properties or from any involvement in the letting and property-management industry or associated companies. Local authorities will be able to apply to a Tribunal for making an order following the commission of 'banning order offences' by landlords and agents. The order may then be made for a minimum period of 12 months and maximum unlimited period.
Epping Forest Council approach
As a local authority we will be revising our Enforcement Policy to make it clear when we will choose to use these powers and will provide an update on this at a later stage.
However, compliant landlords do not have anything to be concerned about.
The Council will also publish guidance on how the level of penalties will be decided.
All landlords are invited to the Landlord Expo, to be held in Bristol on 25 May 2017. The event includes: -
- free seminars;
- promotional exhibitor stands;
- information on the latest issues and matters of interest to private sector landlords.
Change of rules regarding lawful possession of a property
New legislation has changed the process a landlord must follow to repossess a property under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. Under the Deregulation Act 2015, landlords will be unable to end a tenancy using a Section 21 notice if they fail to address a repairs complaint made by a tenant which is then referred to a local authority.
The legislation affects assured short hold tenancies created:
- after 1 October 2015
- before 1 October 2015, but renewed with a new contract after that date
After 1 October 2018, the legislation will affect all assured short hold tenancies retrospectively.
As a landlord, you can seek to repossess a property through section 21 as long as:
- the fixed term on a contract has ended
- you’ve given the tenant two months’ notice in writing that you want possession
Changes to the existing process include:
- information you must give the tenant
- how the notice is given
- when the notice can be given
- when the application to the court is made
- refund of rent to the tenant
- how tenants are protected if they complain about the property
Information you must give the tenant
Before a valid section 21 notice can be served, you must give the tenant:
- a current gas safety certificate
- an energy performance certificate
- the latest version of the government leaflet How to rent
You can email the leaflet, if the tenant has given you an email address and agreed you can use the email address for that purpose.
Right to rent checks
In England, from 1st February 2016 landlords letting private rented accommodation must complete a right to rent check for new tenants. This means that tenants have the right to live in the UK before allowing them to rent the property.
Checking that a tenant has a right to be in the country is a new legal requirement that the government has introduced for private landlords.
Landlords must check that the tenant, and any other adults who'll be living there, are in the country lawfully.
Anyone who rents accommodation to someone who isn't in the country lawfully without carrying out the check can receive a penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant.
Agents must carry out the checks if they're acting on a landlord's behalf and have agreed to do them. The checks also apply when people rent out all or part of their home, for example, when taking in a lodger or when subletting.
Further information and advice on the checks that need to be made is available on WWW.GOV.UK
Housing law consultation - Houses in multiple occupation and residential property licensing
The Department for Communities and Local Government opened a consultation on extending the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation. The consultation sought views on the Government’s proposed details for: the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation; the assumptions made in its associated impact assessment; national room sizes; the fit and proper person test; refuse disposal facilities; and purpose built student accommodation.
For the consultation document, click here. The consultation closed on 13 December 2016.
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