Smoke and confusion for landlords, following legal changes

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Landlords in the UK are facing smoke and confusion following a string of major legal changes by the government, which have been introduced with either little notice or guidance.

New regulations for Section 21 notices – used by landlords to gain possession of rented property – now prevent landlords from serving notice within four months of a tenancy start date, within six months of a complaint about the state of a property or an official improvement order, or using the notice six months after it has been served.

Landlords or letting agents will also need to prove that they have given tenants a government booklet, “How to Rent”, EPCs, a gas safety certificate and information about their deposit.

Sanford, managing director of Pennington Properties in Huntingdon, points out one point of confusion to Property Industry Eye : “The legislation doesn’t specify when the booklet should be given, but it should be, presumably, just before the start of the tenancy. However, the booklet is laid out in such a way that it is meant to be given to prospective tenants before they even look at a property, so it seems a bit late to be giving it to them once they have committed to a tenancy.”

The changes follow another piece of legislation that has been equally poorly received.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 was passed this week, requiring all landlords in England to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property from 1st October, and test them at the start of a tenancy. Carbon monoxide alarms must also be fitted in rooms with a solid fuel appliance.

While these guidelines are clearer, landlords and agents have complained at the lack of notice given by the government for compliance. Indeed, those found not to be complying with the regulations face a fine of up to £5,000.

David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), comments: “Whilst ARLA is entirely supportive of the aims of the regulations, we remain concerned that the Government has ignored calls from across the Private Rented Sector to reconsider the timeframe for its implementation.

“It is simply impracticable for letting agents, who may manage a huge amounts of properties, to gain access to the properties and to install these alarms on behalf of their clients in the time frame allotted.

“On behalf of its members, ARLA has written to the Government on this issue to raise its concerns and suggested that all existing tenancies should be allowed to have until 1st January 2016 to comply. We were encouraged to see that Lord Marlesford showed support for our proposals in Parliament and again put our suggestion to the Government.

“However, despite our efforts it appears that the Government will now go ahead and implement the new requirements as planned. We urge our members to ensure that they do all they can to ensure that their properties comply with the new regulations before the measures come into effect.”