Back to News

Extended eviction ban on residential property to end

The extended eviction ban in the private and social rented sector comes to an end on 23 August, with no further extension planned.

Confirmation came in a parliamentary statement in response to Baroness Altmann, who had asked about provisions to help the private landlords who had been unable to reclaim possession of their properties, despite having obtained legal possession orders before evictions were suspended back in March.

Housing Minister, Lord Greenhalgh said: “From August 24 2020, the courts will begin to process possession cases again.

“This is an important step towards ending the lockdown and will protect landlords’ important right to regain their property.

“Work is underway with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, to ensure that judges have all the information necessary to make just decisions and that the most vulnerable tenants can get the help they need when possession cases resume.”

Sarah Naylor, partner and head of commercial and property at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “Precisely what this “work with the judiciary” looks like remains to be seen; it may be some sort of pre-action protocol.

“In addition to the new evictions, there are already those that are yet to work through the system. Whether courts have the capacity to deal with this influx of cases is another thing.

“Regardless of the obstacles, we will continue to work closely with our landlord clients to ensure they operate within the law, particularly in these difficult times.”

Ben Beadle, CEO of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “We have every sympathy with tenants who face genuine difficulties because of the loss of income due to the coronavirus crisis and nearly all landlords are working with tenants who are struggling to keep them in their home.”

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, added: “The ban hasn’t stopped people who have lost their jobs during this pandemic from racking up rent arrears. Even if they have a plan to pay them back, these debts will throw struggling renters straight back into the firing line of an automatic eviction as soon as the ban lifts.”

Lodgers can be evicted without a court order. However, landlords should still give reasonable notice that they want them to leave.

Tenants struggling to pay rent – It’s worth checking that you are receiving all the financial help you are entitled to. This may include universal credit which can include a local housing allowance that covers around 30% of the lowest rent in your area.

Legal advice for new landlords

See our range of services for new landlords to help you comply with your legal obligations.

Back to News

Buy to let landlords, rents and coronavirus

Buy-to-let landlords who find they have tenants struggling to pay their rent due to the coronavirus crisis have been thrown a financial lifeline.

The government has introduced a range of measures in an effort to ease the financial pressure many landlords and tenants will inevitably find themselves experiencing. One of the measures introduced is access to a three-month mortgage repayment holiday, the same as previously offered to homeowners.

Tracie Croft, property lawyer, commented: “Landlords and tenants need to respect each other’s position at this difficult time. Landlords are operating a business, but where the tenant is genuinely unable to pay their rent because of their current financial position, an agreement will need to be reached.

Eviction proceedings

As part of the measures introduced by the government, landlords can no longer begin eviction proceedings for at least 3 months. During this time, I would recommend that the landlord and tenant work together to find an affordable repayment plan.”

Housing secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, said: “The government is clear, no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord faced with unmanageable debts. These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage…It’s important that everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”

Some banks and building societies were very quick to roll-out the three-month repayment holidays for landlords. Nationwide director of mortgages, Henry Jordan said: “As the UK’s second-largest buy-to-let mortgage provider we feel it is important to extent protection to landlords and their tenants during this uncertain period. We have extended mortgage payment holidays to include rental properties so that landlords with tenants who are unable to meet the rental payments because of coronavirus are protected as much as possible.”

He added: “We would encourage tenants to speak to their landlords if they are impacted or worried about coronavirus to ensure that steps can be taken to support them.”

Suspension on home repossessions

The government’s three-month payment holiday plan offers reassurance to those who have borrowed for either residential or BTL properties that their homes will not be repossessed during this period of extreme uncertainty.

Stephen Jones, CEO at UK Finance, commented: “Monthly mortgage payments tend to be the largest outgoing for the vast majority of households and lenders want to reassure both homeowners and landlords who have tenants who may be affected financially that the industry is working hard to put measures in place to support them during these uncertain times.

“In addition, to the industry’s support for residential homeowners, mortgage lenders are extending the same support to buy-to-let landlords who have tenants experience issues with their finances as a result of COVID-19 and the options include a payment holiday of up to three months.

For those customers already experiencing financial difficulty, lenders have also agreed a three-month moratorium on residential and buy to let possession action.”

Are you a landlord in need of legal advice? Our specialist team can be reached on 01302 320621 during office hours or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk and we will get back to you.

Back to News

New rental property charges come into force

From June new renters in England and those renewing their tenancies will not have to pay any upfront fees before they take up their tenancy.

The Tenant Fees Act, which comes into force on 1st June 2019, introduces a ban on all tenant fees, including administration charges and agency fees.

It eliminates the fees that were previously payable for reference and credit checks, fees that could run into hundreds of pounds.

There will also be caps on how much landlords and agents can ask for as a security deposit and rent in advance.

Tenancy deposits will be limited to a maximum of 5 weeks rent where the annual rental is less than £50,000, or 6 weeks rent above this amount.

Holding deposits will be limited to 1 weeks rent and must be returned to the tenant within 15 days, unless previously agreed in writing. Payment can be made directly back to the tenant or put towards the first month’s rent or the security deposit.

The landlord will only be able to keep the holding deposit if the tenant pulls out of the tenancy, fails a right to rent check or provides misleading information that affects their ability to rent.

Landlords are no longer able to charge tenants for obtaining references or carrying out inventory checks. The only fees payable are:

Late rent fees – where the rent is more than 2 weeks late the fee can be up to 3% plus the Bank of England base rate.

Lost keys – the cost of replacement keys/security devices can be charged back to the tenant, but must be supported by a receipt.

Changes to tenancy – charges may be made up to £50 for changes such as adding a new tenant, or allowing a pet. Charges above £50 may be made providing the landlord can justify the expenditure. These charges do NOT apply to tenancy renewals or changes to the length of the tenancy.

Tenants who paid more than 5 weeks rent as their deposit will be entitled to a refund of the excess if their tenancy is renewed after 1 June.

Landlords breaching the new rules face fines of up to £30,000.

Back to News

Government announce major shake-up in UK housing market

Whether it’s a broken boiler or plaster falling off the walls, all homeowners and tenants in private, social or leasehold properties will soon have simple access to help when things go wrong.

The government has announced plans to introduce a new housing complaints service that will cover the entire housing market, including millions of private landlords.

Tracie Croft, a lawyer specialising in landlord law, commented: “The housing market has several different complaint bodies. This results in people having to navigate a complex system when they need to complain about unresolved disputes about repairs or maintenance of their home.

By introducing a single point of access for everyone, regardless of tenure, people will be able to get the help they need without having to try and work out where it is that they have to go to register their grievance.”

Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, RT Hon James Brokenshire MP, said: “Creating a housing market that works for everyone isn’t just about building homes, it’s about ensuring people can get the help they need when something goes wrong.

But all too often the process can be confusing and overly bureaucratic, leaving many homeowners and tenants feeling like there is nowhere to go in the event of problems with their home.”

The government estimates that there are between 1.5m and 4m private landlords in the UK. At the moment they are able to voluntarily join The Property Redress Scheme; although only 250 have taken up the offer.

There are currently no timescales for the introduction of the scheme. However, Sean Hooker, head of the Property Redress Scheme, commented: “I look forward to working with the government, the industry and consumer groups to make these plans a reality, level the playing field and further raise standards in the housing sector.”

Are you a private landlord finding it difficult to keep abreast of all the legislation? We can help, contact us on 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk

Back to News

Have you served a defective Section 21 notice?

One of the requirements for serving a valid Section 21 notice on a tenant is that a current version of the government’s How to Rent guide has been served on the tenant prior to serving the Section 21 notice.

The How to Rent guide is frequently updated; the last update being 17 January 2018.

What this means to you

All new tenancies, renewals or fixed-term tenancies which become periodic (roll-over) must include a copy of the updated How to Rent Guide. If not then any Section 21 notice served on that tenant will be invalid and possession will not be granted.

This applies even if the tenant was served with the How to Rent guide at the start of the tenancy.

An example of how the rule applies:

Tenancy began 19 July 2017 – How to Rent guide served

Six month term ends

Tenancy renewed or periodic 19 January 2018 – new How to Rent guide served

Why it was changed

The amendments made were very minor changes removing any reference to the London mayor’s London Rental Standard, which was abolished in 2007. It is very likely that the guide will change again after April 2018 due to proposed changes to the law in relation to landlords and tenants, however, it is crucial that landlords do not wait for these changes but serve the updated version if they have any of the following:

  • New tenancies starting post 17.01.18
  • Renewal tenancies with a renewal date after 17.01.18
  • Any fixed-term tenancy that rolls over into a statutory periodic tenancy after 17.01.18

If you are a landlord or letting agent and are unsure of the rules and regulations in this area, we have experts on hand who would be happy to have a chat with you – call 01302 320621 today.

 

 

 

Back to News

It’s National Ferret Day

Author: Diane Parker

I am reliably informed that 2nd April is National Ferret Day. This is the 2nd April, not the first of April, so I assume it is genuine, and not a joke.

And what can a law firm have to do with ferrets, I hear you cry?

Well, you’d be surprised:

  • Are you a landlord or a tenant? What do those policies say about pet keeping? Ferrets can do a lot of damage if let loose indoors including chewing, scratching and fouling. If you’re a landlord you may have legitimate grounds for eviction of a ferret-keeping tenant, provided your tenancy agreement bans pet keeping (and not just dogs)  and if you’re a ferret-owning tenant, check that pets are allowed in the property and get written permission if they’re not;
  • Purchasing that property in the first place? Some properties have restrictive covenants in place. These don’t normally prevent pet-owning but is a ferret a pet? Or could it be classified some other way – if you have more than one and breed or race perhaps your ferret ownership could be deemed as running a business, which is a frequent exclusion for residential properties;
  • Ferrets bite! And if you drop them down your trouser leg, as seemed to be quite a trend in my childhood, then any bite could be very painful and might even affect your future procreation abilities! Obviously a deliberately placed ferret would be unlikely to attract any liability to the owner, but if the ferret escaped and bit someone or caused a road traffic accident by running into the road, then the owner might be liable;
  • Routinely dropping ferrets down trouser legs might amount to animal cruelty and an RSPCA prosecution – which could lead to criminal sanctions and a criminal record might be on the cards.

So, if you’re thinking of owning a ferret or any other unusual animal, spare a thought for the legal ramifications of such ownership and if in doubt seek legal advice.