The New Housing and Planning Act 2016 has introduced yet more legislation for landlords to wrestle with as they manage their portfolios. With the buzz-words ‘Rogue landlords’ peppered in the information provided, it is clear that from the Governments’ point of view, it is not intended as a help to any landlord, ‘Rogue’ or otherwise.
Local authorities will be able to apply for ‘banning orders’, so a landlord cannot rent out their property/properties for the following banning offences:
- Violent entry into or onto premises;
- Harassment or eviction contrary to the Protection from Eviction Act 1977;
- Failure to comply with an Improvement or Prohibition Order;
- Breach of a banning order.
Rent re-payment orders have been used where landlords of HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupation) do not hold a licence. The new regulations will allow re-payment orders to be used when a banning offence is discovered, thus reducing the landlord’s income and allowing the tenants to live rent-free! The landlord will be unable to end the tenancy, due to the changes introduced in the last year to ban retaliatory eviction. I make no excuses for neglectful landlords, or those who disturb the quiet enjoyment of their tenants, but many landlords will feel that their tenants do not respond to their contacts, do not allow landlords to do the necessary actions which they have a responsibility for and find the only way they can make their point is by, sadly, acting in a manner that could find them subject to a banning order.
A further change will be the introduction of a database of Rogue Landlords. Good landlords have asked for a database of bad tenants and always been told that this was impossible, data protection would not allow it. The Government have now decided that this does not apply to private sector landlords – if a landlord has been subject to a banning order or convicted of a banning offence, they can be added to the list. It is not clear whether entry to the list is permanent, or whether there are steps a landlord can take to rehabilitate themselves and have their entry removed.
The one change which the Government and commentators are lauding as a benefit for landlords, is that a formal abandonment of property procedure is to be introduced for landlords with properties in England. As Shelter have already started shouting that this is unfair on tenants and that there are enough measures to end a tenancy in a section 21 or section 8, perhaps this is good news for landlords.
I cannot see that it helps. The rent must be unpaid for 2 months (the standard ground 8 condition). The landlord must give 3 warning notices, 2 of them in writing or texts to the property to the tenant, occupier or deposit payer, the third to be posted on the door; none of the recipients must respond to the notices by the specified dates.
As always, the law seems devised without consultation with anyone who would be affected by the changes. Firstly, in many cases, the landlord often does not suspect abandonment until weeks after the tenant has abandoned. They will make efforts to contact the tenant, before the realization dawns that the property is empty. The 8 weeks rent arrears that must accrue before they can take legal steps to re-gain possession are not just 8 weeks, but generally considerably more. This will put some landlords in dire straits. Whilst putting contact attempts in writing is good practice, to place the third notice on the front door alerts any that need refuge from Winter weather, or that want to take out boilers, carpets and anything else in the property, that they are probably safe to do so!
This is not a boon to landlords. Many who thought they were protected by stating in the tenancy agreement that the tenancy can be terminated by service of a 28-day notice to quit if they have a justifiable reason to suspect abandonment, will now find that their rent arrears must be even higher than before and that their properties are left vulnerable and at risk for at least 2 months.
Shelter believe that there are only 2,000 genuine abandonment cases a year. This seems very low, but given that the Government have bowed to pressure and now devised a process to end tenancies where abandonment is suspected, are they satisfied? No. So, new legislation that does not meet the needs of private sector landlords, nor the demands of Shelter. 2017 will be an interesting year, as we see the how the Act impacts on the sector.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon