Croydon win their case to license in Croydon by Sharon Betton

I reported last year that Croydon were attempting to block-license  all private sector landlords.  This was delayed following a request for a judicial review by Croydon Property Forum, a group of small Croydon landlords who used as the basis of their request the fact that they felt the authority had not “taken reasonable steps” to consult all interested parties.

A ruling last December, following a case brought by a local landlord, was that Enfield had not consulted sufficiently.  This halted licensing for the time being, but I had a feeling this would not be the last of it, that Croydon would appeal.  They did and the case was heard on 4th August 2015.

Sir Stephen Silber QC, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London refused the application for the judicial review.  Naturally, the deputy and cabinet member for home, regeneration and planning sees this as a way of raising housing standards and dealing with anti-social behaviour.  As anticipated, the plans for borough-wide selective licensing will proceed from 1st October 2015.

Licensing to be restricted (slightly!)

Since 1st April 2010, local authorities have had carte blanch to designate licensing schemes wherever they wanted,  with no independent scrutiny to agree that a case has been adequately made to introduce this measure.  This has led for borough-wide licensing schemes, Newham and Liverpool being just two, though it seems difficult to believe that the whole of the Private Rented Sector in a borough could be so badly affected by anti-social behaviour and low demand that this was the only way to combat it.

It was originally introduced by part three of the 2004 Housing Act and came into force from 6th April 2006 and until 2010 it was necessary to seek approval from the Secretary of State.  Reasons for a scheme were specific – it should be an area with a high incidence of anti-social behaviour and be an area of low demand.  Landlords had to pay a fee to obtain a license for each property, which was a big drain on their profit margins.  It is unpopular with landlords and not just because of the money; good landlords are being hit with the bad.

From 1st April 2015, this will change.  Where an authority wishes to impose borough-wide licensing, they will require Government approval for this.  Schemes will have to be smaller than 20% of the geographical area of a borough, or 20% of the private rented sector.

This is good news for those, like me, who feel that borough-wide licensing cannot be necessary; however, we all know that where an authority believes that selective licensing is the panacea to cure all ills, they will continue with the schemes, but now they will ensure that the numbers are such that they can continue without let or hindrance from Government.

We can, however, hope that this restriction and the challenges being made about licensing, will cause authorities to think very hard before they go ahead with more licensing schemes, which  landlords dislike and where their efficacy has been challenged.

By Sharon Betton

Landlord’s Responsibilities Beyond the Boundary

All landlords are aware (or should be!), that they are liable for injuries their tenants sustain due to disrepair within a private rented property.  They will also understand that this applies to areas within the curtilage of the property – within the garden or yard area.  But how many know that they should also be looking for disrepair of any areas which provide access to the property?  I would hazard a guess – not many.  However, a ruling in Edwards v Kumarasamy (2015) has changed that.

The tenant lived in a second floor flat.  Disposal of rubbish was in communal bins, which were in the car park.  To access the bins, there was a path from the front door; it was on this path that an uneven paving stone caused him to trip and damage his knee.  Most landlords may think that this path constituted more of a highways issue than a landlord responsibility, but not so.  The Court awarded the tenant £3,750 in damages.

This clearly shows that landlords need to be as aware of potential hazards in the areas leading to the property as in the property itself.  This could also call into question the view expressed in many tenancy agreements, that until a repair is notified, there is no responsibility on the landlord to undertake repairs if they have not been notified to him.

Landlords are advised to include a careful inspection of the exterior in their regular property inspections and do whatever is possible to alleviate the risk.

It seems that there are more and more responsibilities being levied on Private Sector landlords but in this litigation obsessed society, take the advice and do what you can, or face large claims in court.

By Sharon Betton

 

NWLA Meeting Bolton Arena Tuesday 2nd June 2015 – 8pm

Dear All

You are invited to an open meeting at:

Bolton Arena Middlebrook Leisure & Retail Park… Arena Approach, Horwich, Bolton BL6 6LB

ON TUESDAY 2nd JUNE 2015 AT 8.00 PM

EDDIE ARROWSMITH – Regional Manager and PHIL BOYES – Local Engineer from NICEIC – (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting)

Eddie and Phil will discuss Electrical Safety Regulations within the Private Rented Sector. They will increase awareness of potential risks within your properties and they will answer any questions you may have regarding this subject.

HARRY DEWICK-EISELE – Managing Director – Safelincs Ltd

Safelincs is a leading Fire Safety Equipment provider, offering smoke, fire and gas detection products and advice. Harry will explain the latest Fire Safety advice and regulations and will recommend the correct products to suit your individual needs.

HAROLD LEVER – Chairman – North West Landlords Association

Harold will provide members with any relevant updates.   We will of course have the last 30 minutes for time to network with tonight’s speaker, guests and other members.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available from 7.30 pm the meeting will start at 8.00pm prompt.

*If you wish to attend this meeting then please can you inform the office either by email: admin@northwestlandlords.com or by ringing the office on 01204 495 595 to book your place*

Yours sincerely

Harold Lever

Chairman

Manchester Meeting – Tuesday 12th May 2015

Dear All,

You are invited to our open meeting at:

 

Irish World Heritage Centre

1 Irish Town Way, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M8 0AE

ON TUESDAY 12th MAY 2015 AT 7.30 PM for 8 PM START

Irish Heritage Centre Pic

Speakers include:

NICOLA PHILLIPSON – Housing Law Barrister – Zenith Chambers, Leeds

Nicola will present a training seminar on the following subject – Avoiding and Defending Disrepair. The training will cover landlord’s responsibilities and their legal obligations under Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.

JASON FIELD – Divisional Business Partner – Trade Point B&Q

Jason will discuss new & exclusive offers within TradePoint including promotions and demonstrations available within store. Jason will also explain the benefits of using your member’s only discount card.

MARGARET COLLIER – Vice Chairman – North West Landlords Association

Margaret will update you on the highly relevant topic of Rent Control within the Private Rented Sector and the effects this will have on ‘Generation Rent’.

*Please can you inform the office either by email: admin@northwestlandlords.com or by ringing the office on 01204 495 595 to book your place*

We will of course have the last 30 minutes for time to network with tonight’s speakers, guests and other members.

We have arranged for tea, coffee and biscuits to be available from 7.30 pm, the meeting will start at 8.00 pm prompt.

Yours sincerely,

Harold Lever

Chairman

 

 

Bolton Landlords Meeting

You are invited to an open meeting at:

Bolton Arena Middlebrook Leisure & Retail Park

Arena Approach, Horwich, Bolton BL6 6LB

ON TUESDAY 7th APRIL 2015 AT 8.00 PM

JOHN BAGULEY – Ombudsman – Ombudsman Property Services (OS)

Ombudsman Services was founded in 2002 to provide independent dispute resolution.  They provide an impartial and cost effective means of resolving disputes outside the courts.

John will update us on all their services available and the introduction of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Directive which comes into force from July 2015.

BARRY WALKDEN – Director – Walkden Group Ltd

Part of the Walkden Group includes power washing which covers all aspects of external cleaning to domestic, commercial and industrial properties.  Additionally they offer a special decontamination and rapid virus response sanitation service. 

JASON CRITCHLEY – Business Development Manager – DCBL Bailiffs & High Court Enforcement

Jason has been asked to speak and update our Bolton members following a successful Manchester meeting.

We will of course have the last 30 minutes for time to network with tonight’s speaker, guests and other members.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available from 7.30 pm; the meeting will start at 8.00 pm prompt.

We are situated on the Second Floor Conference Room.

*If you wish to attend this meeting then please can you inform the office either by email: admin@northwestlandlords.com or by ringing the office on 01204 495 595 to book your place*

Yours sincerely

Harold Lever

Chairman

 

 

NWLA Members Meeting Tonight Tues 3rd March 2015

DON’T MISS OUR MEETING IN MANCHESTER TONIGHT!!!!

At the

Irish World Heritage Centre…
1 Irish Town Way, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M8 0AE

Irish Heritage Centre Pic

TUESDAY 3rd MARCH 2015 AT 7.30 PM for 8 PM START

Our Speakers include:

MATTHEW HASSALL – Corporate Assessments Manager – Revenues & Benefits Unit – Manchester City Council & COLIN BILLINGSLEY – Department of Work & Pensions (DWP)
Matthew & Colin will update us on the impact the roll out of Universal Credit is currently having on landlords and tenants.

Also

As seen on Channel 5’s TV programme – CAN’T PAY WE’LL TAKE IT AWAY!!

From the Company behind the hit series: JASON CRITCHLEY – Business Development Manager – DCBL Bailiffs & High Court Enforcement Officers

Jason will explain the different options of Debt Recovery, Possession Order Enforcement, Costs and how quickly can you get your property back.

*Please can you inform the office either by email: admin@northwestlandlords.com or by ringing the office on 01204 495 595 to book your place*

We will of course have the last 30 minutes for time to network with tonight’s speakers, guests and other members.

We have arranged for tea, coffee and biscuits to be available from 7.30 pm, the meeting will start at 8.00 pm prompt.


Being fair to tenants!

A recent query on terminating a tenancy on the grounds of rent arrears gave me pause for thought.  No-one can doubt my understanding towards landlords who are patient and sympathetic when arrears accrue – perhaps more sympathetic than they should be, accepting excuses far more readily than I would.  The landlord I spoke to seemed to have taken all my advice about being aware of arrears a little too much to heart and was over-anxious about his rent.

The tenant was accepted and had been open that he would require housing benefit; however, he had paid 2 months’ rent in advance when his tenancy started on 1st September.  The rent was paid for September and October and the next rent, due on 1st November, had not been paid.  I do not know what the tenancy agreement said so do not know whether it said the rent was payable 2 months in advance so therefore was already 2 months in rent arrears or whether it was payable monthly, but evicting on a rent arrears ground under the circumstances outlined would be difficult.  Even worse, it plays into the hands of those who feel that landlords are money-grabbing and uncaring.

Of course, landlords should be aware of when rent is due and take steps when arrears start to accrue, but accepting a housing benefit/Universal Credit dependent tenant and not understanding that this will almost inevitably cause delays.  It would also be very difficult to maintain rent payments in advance and jumping on them when the rent payment is a couple of days late does take it to extremes.  By all means, write a short but pleasant letter so they know that you are on top of the situation.  That should prompt the tenant to contact housing benefits/DWP to find out exactly what is happening with the claim.

The situation with this tenant could be worthy of the landlord’s anxiety, but it is really too early to tell.  He could also be the model tenant, who had acted responsibly to get 2 months’ rent in advance at the start of the tenancy.  A little patience could build a really strong landlord and tenant relationship.

Sharon Betton

CAB produce wrong report on the Private Sector – again! by Sharon Betton

So says the Residential Landlord Association responding to a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)  report on the Private Rented Sector.

They start by stating there is “comparatively little regulation” of the private sector.  As landlords pick themselves up off the floor in shock, they will be delighted to know that the RLA strongly refute this, basing this on facts alone.

There are 100 Acts of Parliament containing over 400 individual regulations that private landlords must comply with.  Increased regulation in the private sector would be unlikely to have a positive effect.  There have been huge improvements in standards in the private sector over the last 20 years, much of it voluntarily due to accreditation schemes.   If further legislation is introduced, it is likely to discourage landlords from taking the most vulnerable and those  most in need of accommodation.

CAB and Shelter make no acknowledgement of statistics that show 84% of private sector tenants are perfectly satisfied with their accommodation – social landlords would envy such statistics as dissatisfaction rates for social tenants are far higher.

Chris Town, the Vice Chairman of the RLA, is clear that tenants must be protected and criminal landlords eradicated from the sector.   Mr. Town stated “Rather than pile yet more regulations on the sector, what is needed is better enforcement of existing powers, which hard-pressed councils already find difficult to enforce”.

Would further regulation be matched by the equivalent enforcement staff and powers  to adequately police the increased legislation?  Further cuts now being discussed for 2016 and 2017 lead me to doubt this.    Landlords will respond better to working with local authorities and not being treated as the enemy,  as we have found in Bolton – an authority who listen to landlords.  Landlords should listen to what their landlord associations tell them and want to raise standards due to common decency and a desire to practice good management.  Agitators will continue to call for more legislation and the only way to combat that is by raising standards voluntarily.

Sharon Betton

 

Retaliatory Eviction

The second reading of M.P. Sarah Teathers’ private members bill on Retaliatory Eviction took place on 28th November. This sought to limit the extent to which  landlords may end a tenancy using a S.21 notice, the Accelerated Possession Procedure.

Whilst the S.21 notice, where no reason has to be given to end a tenancy, is the most straightforward means of gaining possession, it is often used by landlords where there are rent arrears and/or anti-social behaviour. Where arrears exceed 8 weeks, or there is severe anti-social behaviour, there is always the option of a S.8 notice – but this marks the tenant out as a bad tenant. Use of a S.21 does not require the landlord to reveal  that there have been problems in the tenancy. This therefore means the tenant can go on to make a fresh start somewhere else. Now its’ use will be severely restricted.

How many landlords have had tenants who don’t report repairs, but are happy to talk about them to Housing Advice, Shelter or the CAB? They will be unable to use a s.21 as it will be seen as a retaliatory eviction. Many, many landlords behave in a kinder and more generous way than some tenants deserve. They want to provide decent properties – it is their investment that is deteriorating! But they are hampered by tenants who don’t know how to combat condensation (keeping rooms ventilated), by not having sufficient ventilation between cold walls and furniture items, by expecting landlords to be mind readers.  A far more likely scenario is the tenant who is misbehaving and, following a conversation where the possibility of eviction is raised, suddenly discovers that the property is in a poor condition and reports it, so a S.21 cannot be issued.

Are M.P.’s so short-sighted that they cannot believe that these steps, far from protecting tenants and raising standards, will make it harder for some of the most vulnerable to find acceptable properties?  Why should a landlord take a risk on a tenant when he has no certainty that he can recover possession by use of a S.21? Simply on the basis that they are vulnerable, they may live in poor conditions, be unable to keep a property the way it should be and therefore, allow repairs to go unreported – at which point, a helpful visitor will suggest a complaint is needed.

Should it eventually become law, then new tenancies must include provision for a monthly inspection to ensure all is okay in the property, which may stop needless complaints being used and you being unable to issue a S.21.

By Sharon Betton