No Letting Go is hosting a series of free webinars to help landlords and letting agents get to grips with the legalities and praticalities of assessing legionella risk in residential rental properties.
Following the launch of its Legionella risk reporting service earlier in the year, Gary Claven, No Letting Go’s operations manager said, “We were surprised at how much confusion there was in the market place about compliance and the whole risk assessment process. We decided that a series of interactive webinars would be a good way for people to get concise and accurate information first hand.
Karen Morris, Lettings Manager for Hunters in Wokingham said, “I now have a thorough understanding of exactly what our obligations are around Legionella risk; the webinar really clarified things for me.”
Stacey George, Lettings Manager of Hunters, St Leonards on Sea added, “I’ve been able to put together a really good document for the team, we can now confidently answer any questions surrounding Legionella. We know exactly what we need to do and what records need to be kept. It was also good to get an understanding of what is involved in the assessment process, how risk is calculated and reported.”
Potentially fatal, around 550 cases of Legionella are reported each year. It’s thought that the numbers could be as high as 180,000; detection levels are low as it is not usually tested for and the disease presents with pneumonia-like symptoms.
On the 1st December 2014, the Immigration Act 2014 came into effect. Under Section 22 of this act a landlord must not authorise an adult to occupy a property as their only or main home under a residential tenancy agreement unless the adult is a British citizen, or EEA or Swiss national, or has a ‘right to rent’ in the UK. Someone will have the ‘right to rent’ in the UK provided they are present lawfully in accordance with immigration laws. Landlords who breach section 22 may be liable for a civil penalty.
Landlords have the option to appoint an agent to act on their behalf and where an agent has accepted this responsibility, the agent will be the liable party in place of the landlord (non-compliance with the legislation could lead to a fine of up to £3,000.00) The legislation and civil penalty scheme will be introduced in geographical phases starting with a pilot area of Birmingham, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell from the 1st December 2014. From this date, any adult who wishes to occupy a property as their main/principle home under a residential tenancy will be required to provide their agent/landlord with proof of their ‘right to rent’.
Acceptable documentation includes passports and biometric residence permits. In a limited number of cases, such as where tenants don’t have their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check using the ‘right to rent’ tool on the website.
It is currently proposed that the legislation will rollout nationally in April 2015 (however this is subject to change by the government).
The legislation does not require any right to rent check to be carried out for any occupants of tenancies which commenced prior to the 1st December 2014. In brief there are 3 steps in establishing and maintaining a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty:
- Conduct initial right to rent checks before authorising any adult to occupy rented accommodation.
- Conduct follow-up checks at the appropriate date if initial checks indicate that an occupier has a time-limited right to rent.
- Make a report to the Home Office if follow-up checks indicate that an occupier no longer has the right to rent.
Prior to accepting an offer from an applicant, the responsible party should complete the following:
- Obtain original acceptable documents of all occupants over 18 years of age (including permitted occupants, family etc)
- Check, in the presence of the holder, that the documents appear genuine, that the person presenting them is the prospective occupier, the rightful holder and allowed to occupy the property.
- Copy each document clearly, retain a record of when the check was made and retain the copies securely for at least one year after the tenancy agreement comes to an end.
Where an applicant has a time-limited right to rent, the landlord will have an obligation to conduct follow up checks to ensure a tenant continues to have rights to reside in the UK. This check must be carried out either within a year of the previous check or on expiry of the persons permission to be in the UK whichever is later.
Checks must be carried out in the same process as above (original documents, in person and copies taken). – Further information regarding the legal requirements can be found https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-rent-landlords-code-of-practice
Before renting a property in the UK, the landlord you are dealing with will ask you to pay an up-front deposit. This will usually be to the total of one or two months’ rent. The general reason for taking a deposit is to give the tenant an incentive to look after the property; however, while most landlords are trustworthy, as a tenant, handing over such a large amount of money to someone you don’t know has to be seen as a risk. Therefore, it is essential that you know your rights and responsibilities.
Here are some tips on how to protect your deposit when moving into a rental property.
Make sure the landlord is a member of a Tenancy Deposit Scheme
As of 6 April 2007, all deposits taken by landlords must have been safeguarded by a Government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme. There are three schemes available and landlords are free to choose which one to use; safeguarding each deposit and informing the tenant of the scheme used within 30 days or receiving the money.
Before handing over any money to a landlord or signing any home inventory, UK residents are urged to check that the landlord is part of a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. It is also essential to keep a receipt of payment as evidence.
Understand the tenancy agreement
Tenancy agreements may seem overly wordy and tedious, but they contain essential information about what you can and cannot do while renting a home. Rental agreements often contain clauses related to the keeping of pets, and certain aspects of the home; if you do not clearly understand these clauses and do not abide by them, you may lose your deposit.
Also essential is a full home inventory. UK-wide inventory company services specialise in providing comprehensive reports into the condition of a property and its contents before a tenant moves in to a home and after they move out. A landlord will generally provide you with such an inventory and it is important that you read and agree with it before signing, otherwise you may be accused of causing damage that was pre-existing.
It can be wise to hire a home or flat inventory company of your own to carry out a report before moving in and out of a property. This will help protect you in a dispute over deposit.
Don’t make changes without permission
If you wish to make any changes to a property, such as replacing doors or painting walls, make sure that you get permission IN WRITING before doing so.
Look after the property
Remember, as a tenant it is your responsibility to look after a property. This means causing no damage and returning it to its original state at the end of the tenancy. Most disputes between landlords and tenants are over the general state of cleanliness. Not keeping a home clean is a silly way to risk losing your deposit.
Only use regulated agents
To avoid rogue landlords, only rent from agents that are regulated by one of the following professional bodies:
- National Federation of Property Professionals (NFoPP)
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS).
When hiring a home or flat inventory company, it is recommended that you use a member of the AIIC (Association of Independent Inventory Clerks).
If you believe that a landlord is wrongly holding your deposit and they cannot be convinced to give you it back, it is possible to have a court settle a disagreement. The court will look at all of the evidence in the case and make a decision on whether a landlord should return part or all of the deposit.
In the event of a dispute, a home inventory will be vital in helping a court decide a case, although it should be said that the evidence contained within inventories often prevents disputes reaching court.
Mention the word ‘landlord’ to some people and it will yield a reaction of dread or intense anger. Stories of landlords from hell are all too common, and while most are genuine and responsible, a small number of landlords ignoring their legal duties have allowed the few to tarnish the name of the many. If you find yourself in a situation whereby a landlord is refusing to carry out repairs that you feel are his or her responsibility, there are steps you can take.
Build a case
If a landlord is flat out refusing to do repairs or is ignoring your repeated requests, it may be that you have to take legal action; but before doing this you will need to build a strong case, which requires the help of a home or flat inventory company.
An inventory report is generally carried out before a tenant moves into a property and after they move out. However, it is possible to have in-depth reports quarterly, yearly, or at the mid-point in a tenancy agreement. By compiling a report, home or flat inventories can show clear evidence of damage and how a property has deteriorated since a previous report.
In addition to this, you should compile your own portfolio of evidence, by taking photographs of required repairs, copies of medical notes showing proof of your health being affected by the problem, receipts for any money spent on trying to fix the problem, and copies of letters sent to a landlord in relation to repairs.
While building a case, you should continually write to your landlord about the issue.
Contact Housing Standards Team
The next step is to contact your local council housing standards team. Housing standards are committed to ensuring all properties within their borough meet acceptable living conditions. Housing standards will ask for details and evidence of disrepair as well as name and contact details of the landlord. They will then arrange to visit the property and inspect the damage. At this time, the landlord will be contacted and given the opportunity to undertake all repairs. If he or she fails to do so, the council may serve statuary notices, followed by court action.
Taking legal action
It may be possible to take your landlord to court where an order can be given for necessary repair works to be carried out and possible compensation paid to you for inconvenience, damage to personal property and health caused by repairs not being done. Before taking this step though, you should be aware that court action can be a long and expensive process and should always be a last resort.
It is essential that you speak to your solicitor or to Citizen’s Advice before making a decision on legal action, and find out if you are eligible for legal aid. The evidence compiled by a home and flat inventory company and yourself will ensure you stand a good chance of winning in court; however, only ever proceed after having received comprehensive legal advice.
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