Landlords – The importance of having an annual gas safety check on your tenanted property.

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This blog focuses on the importance of having an up to date annual landlord’s gas safety check on your property.   The law requires this to be done annually whilst you have a tenancy in place.

If it is not done and you allow the certificate to expire then you are putting lives at risk and breaking the law. HSE gives gas safety a high priority and will take the appropriate action to ensure compliance with the regulations; this could result in a substantial fine and/or a custodial sentence.

It really is that serious.

If you let a property equipped with gas appliances, you have three main responsibilities:

  1. Maintenance: pipework, appliances and chimney/flues need to be maintained safely. Gas appliances should be serviced in accordance with the frequency given in the manufacturer’s instructions. If these are not available, you should ask a Gas Safe registered engineer to service them annually.
  2. Gas safety checks: An annual gas safety check should be carried out on each gas appliance/flue. This will ensure gas appliances and fittings are safe to use. There is a legal requirement on you to have all gas appliances safety checked by a registered engineer annually and you also need to maintain gas pipework and flues in a safe condition. This is UK law.
  3. Record: A record of the annual gas safety check should be provided to your existing tenants within 28 days of completion, or to new tenants upon the start of their tenancy. If the rental period is less than 28 days at a time you may display a copy of the record in a prominent position within the dwelling. You’ll need to keep copies of the record for at least 2 years.

Some landlord/tenant relationships can become problematic, and tenants may refuse to give you access to the property. If this is the case, you should have a previously drawn up agreement with the tenant allowing you access to the property to ensure any maintenance or safety work is carried out. You’ll have to take (and demonstrate that you have taken) all ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure the work is carried out – this can involve giving a tenant notice. If a tenant does refuse access, be sure to keep a record of any action taken as you may need this at a later date. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations do not give powers to ‘force disconnection’ of the gas supply in these circumstances and you may need to seek legal advice.

I once again stress that if you are a landlord and you wish to carry out your own landlords gas safety check then please make sure that it has been done before the expiry of the latest one.  There is no “cooling off period”.   It is also your responsibility to evidence that you have tried all possible ways of getting access to the property if the expiry date passes and there is a gap between the checks.

Should you wish Crucible to take over the management of your gas safety checks then please contact Dawn Watts (Property Manager) who would be more than happy to undertake this for you.

d.watts@cruciblesalesandlettings.co.uk – 01709 300333

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Guidance for landlords

Alex Cook, Partner at Helix Law, describes how the court gives guidance to help landlords avoid inadvertently accepting surrender of a lease in his guest blog for us below.

 

A landlord wishing to avoid allegations that its conduct inadvertently amounts to accepting surrender of a lease should ensure it has records showing why, for example, it is accepting the return of keys and on what terms, and should respond to letters and record phone calls to make its position clear, a court has ruled.

 

A company had acted as guarantor for a tenant under a lease. When the tenant went into administration the landlord argued that the tenant’s guarantor had to take over the lease instead. The guarantor argued that the tenant had surrendered its lease automatically by ‘operation of law’, and the landlord had, by its conduct, accepted the surrender. If there had been a surrender, the guarantor had no obligation to take over the lease.

 

There is a surrender by operation of law if there is unequivocal conduct by both landlord and tenant which is inconsistent with continuation of the relevant lease, and which evidences an intention by the landlord to take back possession of the premises.

 

The circumstances were that the administrators had, after vacating the property, sent the keys to the landlord and offered to surrender the lease. The landlord took receipt of the keys (but without responding to the letter enclosing them), changed the locks to secure the property, and marketed it. While doing so, it entered into several phone calls about a possible surrender, although these had not been adequately recorded.

 

The High Court found that, looking at the landlord’s behaviour as a whole, it had not accepted the surrender. It had merely been protecting its interest in the property, and had told the administrators what it was doing. The lease therefore continued and the guarantor had to take it on under the terms of its guarantee, and pay compensation.

 

Helix Law are a specialist litigation firm based in the South East who act for landlords nationwide, also offering a free landlord advice line for landlords who instruct Crucible Sales and Lettings. More information on Helix Law can be found here (www.helix-law.com) together with further blogs regarding property law, landlord & tenant and employment issues which can all be accessed free of charge here (www.helix-law.com/blog). Alex, or any member of the Helix Law team, can be contacted on 01273 761990 or via email to ac@helix-law.com.

 

Recommendation

 

  • Any landlord wishing to avoid allegations that its conduct may amount to acceptance of the surrender of a lease should ensure it has records showing, for example, why it is accepting the return of keys and on what terms, and should respond to letters and record phone calls to make its position clear.

 

Case ref: Padwick Properties Limited v Punj Lloyd Limited [2016] EWHC 502

Landlord licensing scheme

Have you heard about the new landlord licensing scheme?

In an attempt to cleanse the community of rogue landlords the government has implemented a new landlord licensing scheme, which means that landlords who operate in certain areas will need the license to ensure they remain legally compliant.

In Rotherham the designated areas are Eastwood, Masbrough, Dinnington and Maltby South East and came into force on the 1st May this year. Landlords who have properties in these areas will now have to have a five-year license, costing up to £625. However, there is a discount of up to £100 if landlords are accredited, the property has been assessed independently against the Housing Health and Safety Rating system in the last 6 months, and is shown to be free of Category 1 hazards.

The penalties for not obtaining a license can also be pretty steep. In an area subject to selective licensing, all private landlords must obtain a licence and if they fail to do so, or fail to achieve acceptable management standards, the authority can take enforcement action, e.g. issuing a fine of up to £20,000 or in some cases, assuming management control of the property.

According to the council the license will benefit tenants and the wider community in the following ways:

• Reduce the turnover of occupiers in domestic properties
• Ensure private landlords are managing and maintaining the property
• Reduce crime and anti-social behaviour
• Make sure minimum standards for rented housing are met.
• Reduce the number of empty properties

How will it benefit Landlords?
• Selective licensing will create a clear set of rules that all landlords must follow.
• Landlords will also have to give and ask for references for their tenants, hopefully ensuring that the tenants they choose will pay the rent and look after their property.

Let us know your thoughts. Do you feel this is a fair way to monitor landlords and ensure they are looking after their tenants and property?

Should tenant fees be banned and what are the implications if they are?

Should tenant fees be banned and what are the implications if they are?

You may have heard amongst the recent election campaign hubbub that Labour wish to ban tenant fees.

As an agent that manages over 550 properties throughout South Yorkshire this is an issue that is close to our hearts and we would like to address why these charges exist.

The majority of letting agents base their business model on charging both the tenant and the landlord. Not being able to charge tenants would result in the agent having to pass these charges on to their Landlords, which in turn would put pressure on landlords to increase the rent on their properties to cover the additional cost.

You might ask yourself, however, if increasing rents is an option now why do we not instigate it?

In a mature provincial lettings business around 60% of income is derived from management commission and 40% from other fees including tenant fees. The average management commission nationally is 9%, which means that on average every £1 of rent generated is split 9p into the agent’s pockets and 91p into the landlord’s. So a ban on charging tenant fees, which translates into an increase in rents, will benefit landlords, but would have a large impact on the agent’s profit and loss sheet.

At Crucible Sales & Lettings our average tenant fee is £216 including VAT (dependent on how may people are applying). Our tenants are not VAT registered so this is a cost which they have to burden.

In context, this figure represents a very small percentage of what a tenant will pay over the lifetime of their tenancy based on our average rent and tenancy length. I am sure you would agree this does not feel exploitative.

It is also interesting to look at the average length of a tenancy in 2015. Approximately, 12 years ago the average tenancy was 14 months. It is now double that.

Private rental is now overtaking social housing and has been since 2013. It is no longer a lifestyle choice, a stop gap between leaving school and buying your first home. Increasingly, we house the nation, and with over a million new tenancies being granted every year, renting a home  will be the only property transaction many people will have had experience of.

With this growth in the private rental market comes a responsibility not to alienate a generation of renters. We must work with the new Government to secure longer tenancy lengths and prevent price gouging on fees. We need to ensure that fees are transparent and fair. Tenants must feel safe and secure in the lettings process and landlords should also have a clear understanding of what their agent is charging their tenant.

Pension Pot Landlords

This could be a very interesting year for buy to let and property investment.

In April this year a new legislation comes into practice enabling people to draw down their pension pot in one lump sum. This would enable them to take control of their own pension pot investment, giving them a pocket full of cash to do what they want with. Continue reading “Pension Pot Landlords”