Rental Sector – The Rising Tide of Regulation

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Rental Sector – The Rising Tide of Regulation

Published 17 octubre 2018

Whilst the government would have us believe that this is an unregulated sector, any professional active in this space with tell you otherwise.  Despite Sajid Javid moving on from his Communities Secretary post, momentum continues within his former department to develop consumer protectionism in the sector.  The How To Rent guide is but one further example.

On 26 June 2018, and again on 9 July 2018, updates to the "How to rent: the checklist for renting in England" documents were published. Provision of the up to date "How to rent" guide is one of the requirements imposed on landlords at the beginning of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy . Landlords and agents should therefore ensure that the correct version of the guide is served going forwards, otherwise, the section 21 (no fault) procedure to obtain possession cannot be used until the breach is rectified.

The updated "How to rent" guide refers to a new publication: "How to rent a safe home", first published on 26 June 2018 (replacing the now withdrawn "Renting a safe home" guide"). The new safe home guide gives a useful overview of a landlord's responsibilities for repair and maintenance for properties let under an AST. For example, the guide explains the obligation on landlords to provide tenants with a copy of the gas safety certificate at the outset of a tenancy, and again within 28 days of the annual gas safety check. The guide refers to obligations in respect of the Energy Performance Certificate, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, electrical safety, and highlights other potential hazards, for example, damp and mould, and trip hazards.

The guide concludes with advice to tenants for further action, if a landlord fails to carry out necessary repairs, including contacting the local council (environmental health/housing department) or bringing a housing disrepair claim. The guide highlights the provisions in the Deregulation Act 2015 protecting tenants from retaliatory eviction where a legitimate complaint about a property's condition has been raised.

The "How to rent a safe home" guide is likely to be a valuable reference tool for tenants who are unhappy with the condition of their rented home. It remains to be seen whether – armed with the information in the guide – there is an increase in tenants asking landlords to carry out repairs and/or involving their local councils in repair issues. There may also be an increase in claims against letting agents, if a tenant alleges that a failure to repair has caused injuries to be sustained, or damage to personal property. Such claims could stem directly from tenants, or from landlords seeking to recover their outlay following resolution of a claim by the tenant.

To protect against the risk of claims, and to assist in the defence of claims which may arise, agents would do well to ensure that:

  • Contracts with landlord clients clearly set out responsibilities for responding to repair issues, and the financial limits of an agent's authority to deal with reported defects;
  • Tenancy agreements clearly set out the tenant's responsibilities for maintenance (e.g. gardening) and reporting issues that arise;
  • Where a tenancy is fully managed, regular inspections take place, with the property's condition and any concerns raised by the tenant recorded and reported back to the client;
  • Adequate systems are in place to record issues raised by landlords and tenants, and to diarise actions through to resolution;
  • Where an agent arranges a repair, adequate checks are undertaken to ensure that contractors are suitably qualified and insured;
  • Tenants are informed who is responsible for repairs and the agent's role, to avoid misunderstandings which can aggravate the situation.

Authors

Naomi Park

Naomi Park

Leeds

+44 (0)113 251 4793

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