Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tenancy deposit roundup

A few matters on the subject of tenancy deposit protection which I have been meaning to comment on for a while.

The August issue of Legal Action Magazine has two cases on tenancy deposit claims, which go to support tenants claiming against landlords who breach the tenancy deposit regulations. If you want to read the full stories, this is set out in Nearly Legal. However just to summarise:

Woods v.Harrington
This case involved a landlord who protected the deposit so late it was after the tenancy agreement had ended. The Judge held that was 'not only contrary to the letter of the law but is contrary to the spirit of the law and the public policy considerations that Parliament was seeking'. The landlord lost and was ordered to pay the penalty fine of three times the deposit sum for being in breach of the tenancy deposit regulations.

Delicate v. Sandberg
Here the landlord served the s21 notice before the deposit was protected. However notwithstanding this, in the absence of the tenant in prison, they obtained an order for possession and possession of the property via the bailiffs. On being released from prison, the tenant re-entered. The Landlords applied for an order for restitution, but the Court held that the section 21 notice had been invalid, the possession order should be set aside.

The swarb forum
My client Alan (you know who you are) has also drawn my attention to two interesting posts on the forum:

1. This one says that a tenancy deposit case it to be taken to the Court of Appeal, funded by one of the landlords associations. If anyone has any more information about this, please leave a comment.

2. This one is an interesting post looking at the complexities of the TDPS legislation, pointing out that the wording appears to provide for the landlord to escape the penalty by paying the deposit at any time before the court hearing, and also discussing whether the legislation can apply to former tenants as well as current ones.

I will be doing a presentation on tenancy deposits for my talk for Professional Conferences in December, so would welcome any information readers may have about new cases and developments.

(Note - you can read all my other posts on tenancy deposits here)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A whole lot of talking

I seem to have quite a few events lined up for the rest of this year:

On 9 and 10 September I will be doing two seminars at the London Landlords Show, and running two sessions in the Landlord Clinic. Those attending my seminars will also be able to download information from an online support resource I am currently working on.

On 14 September I will be doing a CPD talk for the Norfolk and Norwich Law Society on using the internet and social media to promote your (legal) firm.

On 16 and 17 October I will be doing two seminars at the Landlord and Buy to Let Show in Birmingham, and probably some clinics as well.

On 21 October I will be taking part in the 12th Annual Residential Landlord & Tenant Update Conference 2009 with CLT, taking the 10.45 slot on possession proceedings

On 10 November I am pencilled in to speak at the Suffolk Coastal landlords forum (if we can overcome the transport problems), and

In December I am booked to speak at a conference with Pro Conferences (details available later)


Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Women on top

There are several articles in the Observer today about a new report out which says what we all knew anyway. There are not many women on the boards of big companies.

Its not really surprising. These companies were mostly set up and developed during a time when women either did not work at all, or it was accepted that they did not work in senior positions. They were made by men, for men to work in, and not surprisingly their ethos is not female friendly, however enlightened individual men in the company may be. It is very difficult to change the ethos and culture of any large organisation, and even if those in charge are open to change, it will take a long time.

Personally I would hate to work in a large male dominated company. You read awful stories about women only getting on because they were willing to work harder than everyone else, put up with the sexist jokes, and go along with the lap dancing club culture. Not all companies are like this, but I am sure that many are, at least in part. Why should we have to put up with it? I don't want to, and I am sure that many, many women feel the same. They will do what I did - vote with their feet, and set up their own firms (although I should say here that the firms I have worked for in the past were on the whole pretty decent). Then they have control over their lives, and are able to spend more time with their families. If companies start out with a different way of working, this is much easier than changing one steeped in the male ethos.

Hopefully, in time, companies developed by women to suit themselves will become more significant in the economy, and things will start to change overall. Although I suspect that many women (again such as myself) when setting up their own firms, prefer them to be smaller and more flexible, and are not really interested in building large empires.

In particular, I would really like to see some women setting up and running new banks ...

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Letting agents going bust - three top tips for landlords to protect your position

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to


Rumour has it that quite a few letting agents (although not all by any means) are in financial difficulties. What does this mean for landlords, and what can they do to protect themselves? Here are some tips:

1. Make sure that your agent has payment protection.
Ideally all client money should be kept in a special clients account, separate from the agents own money. If this is done, the money will still be available even if the agent becomes insolvent. Most reputable agents will do this, and it is a requirement of codes of practice, for example that for ARLA members.

If you are worried about this, perhaps if your agent is not a member of one of the agents professional organisations and there have been serious delays in the payment of rent to you, you might want to consider changing the arrangements for payment of rent so it is paid direct to you in future, by the tenant.

For information, the main professional bodies are:

ARLA - the Association of Residential Letting Agents
RICS - the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
NALS - the National Approved Letting Scheme
NAEA - the National Association of Estate Agents
The Guild of Letting & Management

2. Check what the situation is regarding the tenancy deposit
All tenancy deposits taken after 6 April 2007 in respect of assured shorthold tenancies need to be protected in a government authorised tenancy deposit scheme. Failing this, section 21 notices will be invalid, and the tenant can claim the return of the deposit and a 'fine' of three times the deposit amount. You, as the landlord, will be liable for this, even though it may be the agent who is at fault. So you need to check both that the deposit has been protected, and the tenant has been served the relevant notice containing the prescribed information. Failure to do either of these can trigger the penalty.

Another problem is if the agent becomes insolvent and the deposit is not held in a trust/client account. The tenant will be protected, as the tenancy deposit scheme will pay the deposit to them. However the scheme will then look to the landlord (ie you!) to refund them. Under the law of agency you are liable for the acts (or omissions) of your agent. This sort of situation is most likley to occur now with My Deposits, as the Tenancy Deposit Scheme run by the Dispute Service now only accepts agents who are members of recognised professional bodies, and these all require client money protection.

The safest scheme, so far as the landlord is concerned therefore, for the agent to use, is the Deposit Protection Service. Here the money is actually paid over to the scheme administrators, so there can be no question of the agent running off with it.

3. Keep copies of all paperwork
My final point is regarding the paperwork. If your agent goes under, you will need either to take over the management of your properties yourself, or arrange for another agent to take over. This will be much easier if you have copies of all the relevant documents. This should include, particular:

  • The tenancy agreement. This is essential. Make sure that you have an up to date copy of the signed agreement for all your tenants
  • Notices served. For example the tenancy deposit notice, and any possession and other notices served, ideally with details of how and when they were served and by whom
It would also be useful to have:
  • Any referencing documentation. You should be provided with copies of this when the tenant is chosen, so you can satisfy yourself that the tenant found is suitable. This information may also be helpful at a later stage if the tenant defaults on his rent payments.
  • Other documents regarding the management of the property, such as gas certificates, letters of authority regarding housing benefit, records of servicing or maintenance work done at the property, and the like. Agents are unlikely to provide copies of these unless you ask for them. However if you do ask, they are supposed to provide you with what ever documentation you want (if is your property after all and they are your agents).

If your agent proves evasive about passing over copies of documents requested, a visit to his office might help, particularly if you indicate that you will not be leaving until you have them. Strictly speaking the paperwork is yours and you are entitled to it.

Hopefully your agent is financially sound, of impeccable integrity, and your properties are safe in his hands. However there is no harm in taking a few precautionary measures.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My ten top posts on tenancy deposits (as @ 19/08/09)

I have done a lot of writing about the tenancy deposit protection scheme (TDPS) regulations and the problems they have thrown up. You can read them all of course by following the link to the tenancy agreements tag. But which ones are most worth reading? Here are ten suggestions:

1. Tenancy Deposit Protection - 62% failure

This has to be my most popular post ever. It was written over a year ago and still shows up in my stats as one of the most visited posts. It has an amazing 58 comments - people kept asking questions which I answered, until eventually I felt it was getting silly and stopped. If you ask a question there now I won't answer it, in fact it won't even get allowed in now, as the post is officially closed. It is still worth reading though, not so much for the post itself but for the questions and comments which follow.

2. Complaints about the DPS
This is another popular one in the stats, probably because of its title. Many people do have problems, with all the tenancy deposit companies, and this post (and the posts linked from it) gives some guidance on what you should do. In particular there are a few comments on using the Arbitration Act to challenge unfair decisions (a suggestion made by barrister Francis Davey). This post also features the fabulous DPS tea cosy.

If you have a complaint against your TDPS, you should also read:

3. Complaints against the DPS - the governments response
This reproduces a letter sent to one of my clients, who wrote to the Department of Communities and Local Government with a complaint about a DPS arbitration. With thanks to my client (you know who you are) for letting me reproduce the letter.

4. Deposit protection avoidance
This is another popular one and looks at ways landlords can avoid using the tenancy deposit protection schemes. It should be read in conjunction with:

5. Advance rent = deposit?
This looks at a case which throws doubt on the legality of the practice of taking two months rent in advance instead of one month and a deposit. This course of action is not recommended by me now (although before this case I thought, along with many others, that it was acceptable).

6. Landlords out of pocket for deposits - DPS may best best after all
This is an important post as it explains why landlords may be vulnerable if their agent becomes insolvent and the tenancy deposit money is lost.

7. Tenancy deposits with student lets
This is a helpful post for landlords with students, as it looks at what you should do if you have lots of tenants and guarantors signing at different times, before the start of the tenancy. With thanks to Roger for providing the information.

8. Four more cases on possession proceedings
There are many case reports on the Landlord Law Blog on tenancy deposits, but this post looks at four (although one is on licensing), and gives a useful overview of the relationship between the TDPS rules and possession proceedings. If you are interested in case law, you should also follow the link to read about the Sheffield case, one of the very few cases which have been appealed (although sadly, not to the Court of Appeal).

9. New tenancy deposit case - deposit paid before 7 April 2007
This considers a useful case (albeit, as with all of them, a county court decision) as it goes to prove what we lawyers have always thought. Ie that deposits paid before 7 April 2007 where the tenancy is renewed, are caught by the regulations.

10. Tenancy Deposit muddle
Finally, this is an example of the byzantine complexity of the TDPS rules, and how new interpretations are always springing up to ambush us, after we thought we had got a grip on them. With thanks to Alan who drew the forum post mentioned, to my attention.

So there you are. Ten posts (plus linked posts). These will give you a flavour of this, surprisingly complex, subject. If you want more, you will find them all here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Defences to possession proceedings - spurious and otherwise

I have been having a bit of trouble recently with one of my section 21 repossession claims (using the accelerated procedure), which should have been an open and shut case. However, irritatingly, things have been held up due to the tenant putting in a defence claiming that he never received the notice. This is really annoying as we know he has received it (he rang up and told the managing agent so). But notwithstanding this, the Judge has set the case down for hearing (as he has to be sure). In the meantime the arrears continue to accrue (£8,000 plus and counting). It is particularly annoying as we suspect the tenant may have left anyway, but the landlord can't use his keys to go in and have a look as the tenant changed the locks. Another day in the life ..

Thinking about this case, led me to ponder on the sort of defences that get raised, in the cases I deal with (mostly possession claims based on the mandatory grounds).

The "I never received the section 21 notice" is of course a classic, along with (for rent arrears cases) claims that the rent has been paid (in cash of course) but not acknowledged by the landlord.

Another popular defence is the "I never got the paperwork" claim (although at least that has the virute of not being our fault!). And, although its not exactly a defence, I have known several tenants try to drag things out by endlessly saying that they are too ill to turn up to court.

For example, in one case a tenant turned up too late to the hearing (claiming illness), then applied to have the possession order set aside, failed to turn up to that saying that she had to go to hospital (an accident to her foot I think), then applied for a stay of execution, and once again 'fell ill' and didn't turn up. The only hearing she actually attended was yet another application for a stay of execution made on the day of the bailiffs appointment (which she attended on her own as there was not time for the court to tell us about it). However it did not do her any good as the Judge had no hesitation in rejecting her application. (She then turned up at the property after the bailiffs had given possession over to my clients agent and left, somehow managed to inveigle herself inside the property with the agent, refused to leave, and was eventually taken away by the police!)

There are increasingly greater numbers of defendants raising defences based on the tenancy deposit regulations (a large number of which have been reported on this blog), as the regulations gradually become better known. And tenants in shoddy properties can also defend and counterclaim rent arrears repossessions on the basis of the disrepair (on the grounds that compensation for this will offset the rent arrears). Although I have only had experience of one instance of this myself to date.

Perhaps the defences which have annoyed landlords most over the years though, are the defences based on technical errors in section 21 notices. In particular, as many landlords now know to their cost, if the notice is served after the fixed term ends, it has to give the correct expiry date, and even if this is just one day wrong, the claim will fail. It is a silly rule, and most unfair on landlords acting in person who have not read the legislation properly (and after all, who other than a lawyer is going to spend time nit picking over the legislation?). Other section 21 defences include: not mentioning section 21 in the notice, and not signing the notice (although that one got kicked out by the court).

Worries about defective section 21 notices in proceedings are, I am sure, responsible for many of my grey hairs (not that I am particularly grey you understand), and makes what was intended to be a straightforward process, into a nightmare. The same thing is happening with the tenancy deposit regulations.

Have you been involved in possession proceedings? What defences have you seen? If you have a tale to tell, please do leave a comment.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Case throws up injustices in the tenancy deposit scheme legislation

A very interesting article in the New Law Journal (NLJ) from Laura West, barrister, Arden Chambers and Marianne Rivett, solicitor, Kennedys (currently available here) highlights some of the injustices and inconsistencies in the current tenancy deposit protection scheme (TDPS) legislation.

The article considers a case heard in May 2009 in the Central London County Court, Jacklin v Fraser Property Management Ltd, T/a Martin and Co (Bedford). Here the landlord was supposed to protect the deposit but failed to do so. When the agent (the defendant in the case) discovered this, he arranged for the deposit to be protected. The landlord subsequently went bankrupt, and the tenants abandoned the property during the fixed term and stopped paying rent. However despite this, on discovering the problem with the deposit, they brought a claim for the penalty for default, which is the fine of 3x the deposit sum.

The Judge chucked the case out because the claim had been improperly brought by only one of joint tenants (something future joint tenants should note when bringing claims). However the Judge went on to point out various problems as he saw it which would have put him in an impossible situation, had he not been able to do this (this section quotes from the NLJ article):

- He found he would have been compelled to order that the defendant pay the penalty despite the clear arrangement between the defendant and landlord—a completely unjust result. The inequity of such a decision would have been compounded by the fact that the landlord had since gone bankrupt and, had it not been for the actions of the defendant, the monies would have been as good as lost to the claimant.

- Had he been compelled to order the payment of the penalty by either the defendant, or indeed the landlord, the claimant may well have benefited from an enrichment which would have been unjust since he had abandoned the tenancy during the fixed term—where the landlord did not accept the abandonment—and ceased to pay rent without any legal basis for doing so.

- s 213(3) would require the court to either order the person who appears to the court to be holding the deposit to repay it to the applicant (s 213(3)(a)) or order that the person pay the deposit into the designated account held by the scheme administrator under an authorised custodial scheme (s 213(3)(b)) within 14 days.

Any such order would be completely pointless in the circumstances since the deposit was already protected in the insurance backed scheme. Furthermore, were the deposit protected in a custodial scheme the court would be compelled to order the return of the deposit to the tenant (even where the landlord was entitled to a set off).

However, where the landlord had chosen the insurance scheme (as in Jacklin) the court could manipulate the system and merely order the transfer of the deposit funds from an insurance backed scheme to a custodial scheme pursuant to s.213(3)(b) in order to avoid returning the monies to the tenant.

The NLJ article then goes on to consider three other problems with the legislation:

(1) Set off: the Judge in this case appeared to think that he would have allowed set off, whereas in another case, Stankova v Glassonbury, the Judge refused set off on the basis that if the landlord had registered the deposit he would have been able to do this via the arbitration scheme. But then in another case in Tunbridge Wells, Davies v Smith, set off was allowed!

(2) New tenancy agreements. It now seems that deposits paid in respect of a tenancy starting before TDPS came into force in 4/07 will be caught if a new tenancy agreement is given to the tenant but this is not clear from the legislation, and

(3) Whether a tenant receive the benefits of the legislation after the tenancy has ended. The legislation does not define 'tenant' and it is arguable that it only means current tenants. Although I would say that this would also be unfair, as often tenants only discover that a landlord has failed to protect after they have left the property and seek to claim the deposit. They then find that the landlord unreasonably fails to return it and that they are deprived of the benefit of the free arbitration service, because the deposit is unprotected.

I think we will all agree with the NLJ article's concluding comments:

As a result of the draftsman’s haste to get this scheme on the statute books, it would seem that this supposedly “no fuss” mechanism for tenants has run into problems. County court judges seem increasingly perplexed that they are compelled to make orders within a rigid system, with the potential for inequitable and unjust results. This is in clear conflict with the original aims of the legislation. In giving his judgment in Jacklin DJ Lightman commented that “the sooner Parliament looks at this the better”. In the interim it would seem that there is a real need for guidance from the higher courts and, in the longer term, need for amendment of the legislation.

If you have found this summary interesting, I would recommend you read the original article in the New Law Journal. Authors Laura West, barrister, Arden Chambers & Marianne Rivett, solicitor, Kennedys.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Twist Stick or Bust? How Landlords should to deal in the Rented Property Market Summer 2009 - by guest author Paul Hajek

Much has been written about the state of the Housing Market in England and Wales during 2009.

Over the last few weeks data that has been released has edged towards the positive. Although some opinion is predicting that further falls are inevitable, more commentators such as the Nationwide Building Society and the RICS are predicting an end to the fall in prices, and even a slight rise by the end of the year.

How have Landlords fared in all this uncertainty and what are the prospects for Landlords for the rest of summer 2009?

Landlords have certainly not been immune to the falls in the Housing Market. As confidence and turnover fell in the Housing Market, so then as a direct result we have seen an oversupply of rented properties, leading to a reduction in rents achieved.

We have heard tell of a swelling in the numbers of Landlords, the so called new breeds such as the distressed Landlord; the reluctant Landlord and the accidental Landlord. These Landlords i.e. those who did not want to sell in a failing market now sit alongside the more traditional investors and professional Landlords.

What then are the Prospects for the rented property sector?

Clearly, the love affair that the British enjoy with property shows no sign of diminishing. A recent Mintel Poll in the Sunday Times showed that 33% of adults believe now is a good time to invest in property and more than 50% say property is still a good long term investment, despite the recent crash.

It is suggested that large institutional investors are now looking towards the rented sector where they can now see an improvement in the potential yields available, rising on average from 4% to 6%.

The RICS has also indicated that as property transactions begin to rise from their very low levels, the influx into the rental market has slowed as the market reaches equilibrium with supply able to match demand.

The Young Group, a leading Property Investment Group, carries out a quarterly survey of investor market sentiment. Their 2nd quarter report contains upbeat news. 52% of investors are considering purchasing additional residential property assets within London during the next 12 months, compared to 30% who are looking at opportunities in the UK outside of the capital.

Sentiment among Investors remained strong and that 99% of investors intend to hold their residential property investments for the next 12 months. 41% intend to hold their assets for at least 10 years and 12% of private residential property investors intend to retain their property investments for the next 20 years or more.

On average, residential property investors expect to hold their investment assets for the next 10 years.

What are the barriers to improvement in the rented property sector?

The oversupply of rented properties in certain areas will not abate for some considerable time, and this will continue to exert downward pressure on rentals achieved. This is particularly the case with two bedroomed flats in urban areas.
Even where more saleable houses are involved, the market is unlikely to see rises sufficient to tempt the reluctant, distressed or accidental Landlord to cash in on their investments. Some Landlords may well have favourable tracker or low fixed interest rate mortgage and are well placed to ride out the storm.

The shortage of mortgage finance will also be a barrier to Landlords. Mortgage approvals, for which part will be investors looking to add to their rental portfolios, were again up visibly but the shortage in funding is evident in the number of buy to let mortgages declining according to moneysupermarket .com from 4690 to 177 in the last 2 years. Of those mortgages that are available at the time of writing, the Nationwide has a buy to let mortgage at 3.69% but with conditions, and a whopping 3.5% arrangement fee.

Unemployment has not yet bottomed out, and there may be more people forced to sell their properties, further dampening the prospects for a rise in rental income.


It may be dangerous to give too broad a conclusion. Certain parts of the country will be faring better than others. Locally, here in Bristol and South Gloucestershire the outlook for rents are good. Local estate Agents and Letting Agents are reporting that properties coming on the market to rent are letting relatively quickly. Rents have held strong and there is no evidence of a decline in rents achieved.

As ever, events may still derail any nascent stability. Unemployment may lead to lower, reduced prices and plentiful tenants taking the opportunity to buy rather than rent. Mortgages are still are hard to come by.

The Rental Index from the property portal published last weekstates that the UK rental market is stabilising. Although the supply of rental properties doubled between May 2008 to May 2009, stock levels have now declined for two consecutive months. This may be an early indication that the chronic over supply might be at an end.

Rents fell sharply during the period by an average 5.5% or £48 per calendar month. Since then, their Rental Index has shown a small increase of £6 pcm.

The low level of first time buyer activity continues to contribute to demand in the private rented sector.

If you are one of the distressed, reluctant or accidental landlords, who wish to get out of the market, there may be better news than of late. The sentiment, that the bottom of the market is near has been reached means now could be a good opportunity. Although it is still obvious that, if you bought within the last 2-3 years, you will almost certainly be unable to realise as much or any profit from selling now.

For most landlords who are successfully renting (albeit at perhaps less than their last rental), provided their gearing is manageable, they will be well able to ride out the storm and await a more obvious recovery.

For the continuing landlord investors with cash in hand or large deposits, there are bargains to be had, although they may have already missed the best bargains.

For traditional landlords the outlook is still positive and unlikely to force or change their outlook.

It may not be radical to suggest, but the best advice may be to “stick”.


About the Author: Paul Hajek. Is a Solicitor and Principal of Clutton Cox, Solicitors, Chipping Sodbury and a Director of ActionMove, a leading Home Information Pack (HIP) Provider. Paul Hajek has over 25 years experience of the Conveyancing and Estate Agency market, and blogs regularly on his website. He can be contacted on 0844 372 3011; Paul at or via his website

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The dogs trust - Charity of the month (August 09)

The Dogs Trust is the largest dog welfare charity in the UK. Visit their web-site for information on dog friendly holidays, plus dog related questions, re-homing and sponsoring.

Find out how to help with their work here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Discrimination against East European workers in rented property

A recent report on the BBC website highlights the fact that many letting agents are discriminating against migrant workers when renting property. In particular against Polish, Portuguese, Latvians, and Lithuanians.

This question of discrimination against ‘foreigners’ in letting property is not new, and is not confined to the UK. If it a difficult topic. On the one hand, no landlord should not be forced to let to someone he does not want to let to. On the other hand it is illegal for him to discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, colour, religious beliefs, national or ethnic origins. How can this be reconciled?

I suppose one answer is that, if the landlord keeps his opinions to himself and does not tell anyone why he is rejecting a particular applicant, particularly if has a reason for rejecting them which is not connected to their race/national or ethnic origins, there is not a lot anyone can do about it. However if he specifically tells his letting agent ‘No Eastern Europeans’ and the agent goes along with this, then it is clearly against the law.

One question I have not seen answered is why Eastern European migrant workers are being discriminated against in this way. Those I have come into contact with personally, have been decent hardworking people. Is it perhaps because it is more difficult to reference recent migrants? Or do landlords fear that they will up sticks and go back to their home country without warning, leaving large rent arrears? Or do landlords find it more difficult to weigh up and judge foreign nationals, and assess their suitability (particularly if they do not speak English well), in the same way that they do with people of their own nationality?

It has to be said that none of these are entirely unreasonable fears. However, applying blanket judgments against a whole nation is not only unfair but obviously wrong.

One final point. The BBC article refers to this sort of discrimination being against the National Association of Estate Agents mandatory code of practice for its members. However many agents are not members of the NAEA. This is perhaps yet another reason why we should have mandatory regulation of letting agents.

What do you think?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Shoddy HMOs? Don't blame the law, blame the enforcers

A recent article on the BBC news site, complains that landlords are avoiding the HMO licensing regulations by developing HMOs in buildings which do not come within the categories which require licensing, which in most cases requires a building to have three or more stories. Hence, the article implies, landlords are able to get away with shocking standards with impunity.

Well yes, but thats not wholly because of the HMO legislation. There is already power available to Local Authorities to deal with substandard properties. Under part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, Local Authorities can carry out inspections on properties under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and serve improvement notices on the landlord requiring him to bring the property up to standard. If the landlord fails to do this, the Local Authority can prosecute, and also has the power to get the repair works done itself (and recoup the cost from the landlord).

Any one can contact the Local Authority if they are concerned about the standard of a property, it does not have to be the tenant. Local Authorities have a general duty to "keep the housing conditions in their area under review with a view to identifying any action that may need to be taken by them" (s3(1)).

Then there are the HMO management regulations. These require all HMOs to be managed properly and comply with basic standards. Landlords not complying with these, can also be prosecuted.

So although extending the licensing requirements might help, Local Authorities already have powers to deal with shoddy properties in their area, whether they are HMOs or not. The problem, so far as I can see, is not lack of power to do these things, but lack of funding and manpower. Presumably, as Mr Brown has mortgaged the country in order to pay the banks, this is not a situation which is likely to improve in the near future. What do you think?

Stumble Upon Toolbar