The Chairman (Steve Lees) Vice Chairman (Iain Maitland) and Policy Officer (Linda Johns) met with Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Housing & Co-operative Development and Matt Garrett Head of Community Connections Plymouth City Council.
On the agenda and discussed were – abolition of Section 21 notice, HMO licensing and purpose built student accommodation, planning and empty homes policy.
Their next planned meeting is for 30th September 2019.
On 8th August 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government made slight changes to the Section 21, Form 6A and the Notes which accompany the form. The changes are very minor but we remind SWLA members to use the most up to date form when serving notice or this could cause issues in gaining possession. As Form 6A is a statutory notice, the wording is prescribed and cannot be changed without a statutory instrument, it’s only the layout of this form that has been updated. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms#form-6a
The ‘How to Rent‘ guide has also been updated with minor changes;
The publishing went ahead without any obvious updates on the publication page. ‘How to Rent’ guides should always be printed from the gov.uk website to ensure that the most up to date copy is given to your tenant at the start of their tenancy. Note, the latest publication still has May 2019’s date within the booklet. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent
Just a little reminder, when giving out a copy of the “How To Rent Guide” to your tenants at the start of their tenancy, please always search the Gov.uk website for How to Rent Guide to ensure you give the most up to date version possible to your tenants.
Read the full report here;
It has found that of the landlords that had used Section 21:
• 84% had used it because their tenant hadn’t been paying rent
• 56% had used it because of damage to property
• 51% had used it because of anti-social behaviour
• 26% said that they had served a Section 21 notice at the tenants’ request – to enable them to seek social housing to avoid them being classed as intentionally homeless
We encourage members to approach their MPs to explain the impact the loss of Section 21 will have on them and their businesses. A letter template can be downloaded on the SWLA Members Area under ‘stationery’. Alternatively, contact the office if you would prefer a copy by email.
The government, with cross party support, intends to abolish the Section 21. There will be a consultation process, but the intention is clear: Section 21s will go!
Tenant lobby groups have long campaigned for longer tenancies and more security of tenure. Cross party MPs have been convinced that Section 21s are greatly mis-used. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The majority of landlords only seek repossession for legitimate reasons. In a government survey, it was found that the most common cause of repossession is rent arrears (58%) with misuse of property/anti-social behaviour second (45%).
The reality is that Section 21 notices are used by landlords because all other processes are not working. South West Landlords Association has joined with 17 other landlord/agent representative bodies to form the ‘Fair Possession Coalition’. Members of the coalition and their Blueprint for Reforms to Regulations Governing Repossession can be viewed on the SWLA website news feed.
This document has been forwarded to both government and opposition Housing Ministers and the M.O.J.
It is imperative that the Section 21 is not abolished without a new system in place that provides landlords with the same level of confidence about repossessing properties in legitimate circumstances.
*Statistics from the English Housing Survey 2017/2018
The current Section 8 process, under which a landlord can repossess properties based on a number of grounds, is not fit for purpose and does not provide the level of certainty of a Section 21.
The current judicial process for dealing with possession cases is confusing for tenants and landlords and takes on average over 5 months from service of notice to possession.
The Coalition wants a comprehensive overhaul of the regulations and processes for possession. There should be clear grounds for repossessions that are unable to be exploited by criminal landlords or unreliable tenants. Also a fully funded housing court, use of mediation and local venues. The process should be less intimidating for tenants and landlords and should enable both to obtain swift and accessible justice.
We request all of our members to read the Coalition’s proposals; https://www.landlordssouthwest.co.uk/2019/07/18/swla-joins-fair-possessions-coalition/
Then, contact your MP to ensure that they are aware of landlord concerns regarding the removal of the Section 21 without a suitable replacement procedure.
There is a letter template on the SWLA website in the ‘members area’ which you can download, amend and send. Alternative, please contact the SWLA office and we will email you a copy.
LANDLORD CONFIDENCE KEY TO POSSESSION REFORMS
SECTION 21 repossessions should be retained in the private rented sector unless and until a new system is in place that provides landlords with the same level of confidence about repossessing properties in legitimate circumstances.
Groups representing landlords and letting agents forming a ‘Fair Possessions Coalition’ have united in warning that plans to abolish Section 21 repossessions without a new system in place would undermine investment in the sector at a time when private landlords are relied upon on to provide homes for one in five households in England.
In a statement the Coalition notes that whilst landlords much prefer to have good tenants staying long term in their properties they need certainty that in legitimate circumstances, such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, they can swiftly and easily repossess their properties in much the same way as social landlords and mortgage lenders.
It is argued that the current ‘Section 8’ process, under which landlords can repossess properties based on a number of grounds, is not fit for purpose and does not provide the level of certainty offered by Section 21.The current judicial process for dealing with possession cases is confusing for tenants and takes an average of over five months from a landlord applying to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening.
Instead of tinkering with the system, the Coalition calls for a comprehensive overhaul of the regulations and processes enabling landlords to repossess their properties. It should lay out clear grounds for repossession that are unable to be exploited by criminal landlords or unreliable tenants.
Linked to the reform should be the establishment of a new, dedicated, fully funded housing court. This should make better use of mediation taking into account models in use abroad and meet in local venues such as schools and community centres, making the process less intimidating and easier for landlords and tenants to obtain the swift and accessible justice they need if the relationship is to work effectively.
The Coalition argues that such reforms must form part of a wider package of measures including welfare reforms to better support vulnerable tenants to sustain tenancies and smart taxation to encourage the development of the new homes for private rent the country needs.
The Fair Possessions Coalition is made up of: ARLA Propertymark; Cornwall Residential Landlords Association; Country Land and Business Association; East Midlands Property Owners; Eastern Landlords Association; Guild of Residential Landlords; Humber Landlords Association; iHowz; Landlord Action; Leeds Property Association; National Landlords Alliance; National Landlords Association; North West Landlords Association; Portsmouth and District Private Landlords’ Association; Residential Landlords Association; Safe Agent; South West Landlords Association; and Theresa Wallace (Chair, The Lettings Industry Council)
A thriving private
rental market that provides choice for tenants hinges on landlords having
confidence that they can regain possession of their property in a timely and
efficient way. At present, only Section 21 repossessions provide that
certainty. It should be kept unless and until a new system is in place that
provides landlords with the same level of certainty. The other routes currently
available for repossessing properties do not meet this test.
1.0 KEY PRINCIPLES FOR RESPOSSESSIONS
1.1 The process for repossessing properties should meet the needs of tenants and landlords in a modern private-rented sector and must be established upon the following key principles.
2.0 THE CASE FOR FAIR POSSESSIONS
2.1 Private landlords prefer to have reliable tenants in their property long term. Changes in tenants creates greater work and costs which no landlord actively seeks, whilst a desire for continuity makes in-tenancy rent increases less likely.
2.2 That is why the average length that a private sector tenant has been in their current property is increasing and is now 4.1 years (English Housing Survey (EHS), 2017-18). It is why in the last 3 years around 90 per cent of tenancies which came to an end were ended by the tenant (EHS, 2016-17). Also, 70 per cent of landlords have said they kept the rent the same following their most recent tenancy renewal (English Private Landlords Survey, 2018).
2.3 With the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warning of average annual rent rises of 3 per cent over the next five years as a result of the demand for private rented homes exceeding supply, it is vital that the vast majority of landlords who do the right thing are supported to provide the homes to rent the country needs. Quite simply, security of tenure will mean nothing without there being sufficient homes to rent in the first place.
2.4 As a consequence it is essential private landlords have confidence that in legitimate circumstance they can swiftly and easily regain possession of their property, in the same way mortgage lenders and social landlords can if they need to.
2.5 Much of the focus of debate has been on the use of Section 21 repossessions. Some have argued that they amount to ‘no fault evictions’ but that is not the case. All the evidence from our respective organisations shows that the overwhelming majority of landlords use Section 21 for legitimate purposes such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour, where Section 8 is often ineffective.
2.6 For the vast majority of landlords, using Section 21 is the only certainty they have that in legitimate circumstances they can regain possession in a timely way. Section 8 is simply not working as it should for two key reasons:
2.7 There are clearly a small minority of landlords who abuse their position and seek to evict tenants simply for raising concerns about standards in a property. This is unacceptable, but as the Deregulation Act makes clear, such ‘retaliatory evictions’ are already illegal and councils have powers to prevent them. Sadly, as with too much legislation in the sector, these powers are not being properly used or enforced.
3.0 GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS
3.1 The Government has made clear its plans to scrap Section 21 repossessions in favour of reforms to Section 8 and improvements to the Court Processes.
3.2 In the interest of maintaining confidence in the market and the supply of sufficient private rented housing it is vital that rather than tinkering with the current regulations wholesale reforms are made to legislation and processes governing the repossession of properties by landlords. This is more likely to achieve a result that is fair to both landlords and tenants.
3.3 This means not rushing change and also ensuring that all the elements for the reformed regulations and processes are in place well before Section 21 is removed. This would give essential confidence that any new system put in place works and that space is available to properly address any teething problems before Section 21 is abolished.
3.4 The Government should also consider the law of unintended consequences. This includes:
4.0 FAIR GROUNDS FOR REPOSSESSION
4.1 Landlords have legitimate reasons to repossess. These need to be laid out so they are clear and comprehensive. This will ensure that both landlords and tenants understand their rights and responsibilities to each other. It will also make it clear where a landlord is abusing their position making it more difficult for them to do so. Equally, a tenant will be clear about when a landlord has the right to ask them to leave and when and how this may be open to challenge.
4.2 We will be preparing a detailed note on what the grounds for repossessing properties should be and the processes and time scales that should apply alongside this statement. In the meantime, the basic grounds should include:
5.0 A FAIR PROCESS FOR REPOSSESSION
5.1 There should be an initial ‘starter’ tenancy, as is the case in the social rented sector, before it switches to the indefinite model being proposed by the Government. It is not reasonable to expect the private sector to offer better terms than a social sector which is the beneficiary of generous funding and tax breaks.
5.2 There needs to be clear and adequate periods of notice given by a landlord when seeking repossession.
5.3 The grounds for repossession need to be made clear to the tenant.
5.4 There need to be safeguards for tenants to ensure that they have protection against abuse of these rights by the minority of bad landlords.
5.5 The level of evidence that a landlord is required to produce when making an application under any ground should not be set at such a high level as to make it unreasonably difficult for them to comply but also should be sufficient to fully justify an application.
5.6 Applications to repossess properties should be easy to use to ensure landlords are not required to invest considerable sums of money for legal representation.
5.7 There should be a clear time frame for each ground of repossession to be applied for and implemented.
5.8 There should be clear and easy to understand rights for a tenant to challenge an application. Where there is a challenge there should be a clear, and easy to apply for, process for adjudication.
5.9 This needs to be efficient, expeditious and inexpensive.
5.10 Councils and others should be instructed not to encourage (or even insist that) tenants disobey court orders to leave by a specified date on the basis that the tenant will not be re-housed unless they have held on until the bailiffs arrive.
5.11 There should be a minimum fixed-term before which a tenant may not unilaterally serve notice that they intend to leave the property. This would protect landlords from uncommitted tenants who leave very shortly after a tenancy has commenced.
5.12 The Government should establish a dedicated and properly funded housing court to address the failures in the current system, namely that it takes too long to repossess property through the courts and the system is far too confusing for landlords and tenants to uphold their rights given that multiple bodies currently adjudicate on different matters in the sector.
5.13 A housing court should build on the work of the existing Property Tribunal. This would have the advantage of:
5.14 Work should be carried out to look also at different models around the world to establish what might work in the UK.
6.0 PREVENTING RENT CONTROLS
6.1 We are concerned that the logic of the Government’s plans for indefinite tenancies is that there will be calls for restrictions to prevent landlords increasing rents as a means of encouraging tenants to leave a tenancy where they may have no other ground available.
6.2 The reformed structure for repossessions should ensure that this does not open the way to rent controls which, all the evidence proves, would be highly damaging and lead to a very significant reduction in supply.
6.3 Rather, the Government should reiterate that the law as it currently stands already includes provisions to prevent market abuses.
REFORMS ARE NEEDED
7.1 We further call for the proposals to form part of a much broader package to support tenants and good landlords. This should include:
SWLA General Meeting; Wednesday 16th October 2019
7.30pm, Future Inn Plymouth
Speakers covering landlord related topics
Thank you to everyone who attended our open office get together! It was great to catch up and enjoy a cream tea.
Next date for your diaries; Wednesday 16th October 2019, SWLA General Meeting at Future Inn, Plymouth. Three speakers to keep our members up to date on numerous landlord matters.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP has today announced a call for evidence on deposit protection in England.
This call for evidence seeks to understand the barriers tenants face providing a second deposit when moving from one tenancy to the next. It looks at what can be done to speed up the return of deposits to tenants at the end of the tenancy.
Gillian Kerr, SWLA Office Manager attended the meeting in Bristol on Wednesday 12th June 2019. Items discussed included;
The West of England Landlord Expo (Bristol) date for 2020 is set for 26th March 2020. It’s the Expo’s 20th Anniversary so promises to be a busy and informative day. All landlords are welcome and it’s free to attend, pop it in your diary! SWLA will have a stand at the event.
½ Day Landlord Training Courses
Monday 7th October 2019
Venue – Charter Room, Plymouth Guildhall, Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 1HA
If you are accredited this will count towards your CPD hours, but the course is open to all.
Cost for SWLA members – £35 per half day or £65 for both courses.
Cost for non-SWLA members – £40 per half day or £75 for both courses.
First Session – 9:30 – 12:30 – Understanding the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and Fitness for Human Habitation
Some things for you to think about, the potential high penalties for landlords who do not keep their property in repair and safe. This can lead to delays in evictions as well as damage claims from the tenants. On this course we will be looking at what is and is not acceptable condition.
Second Session – 13:30 – 16:30 – Inventory
Inventories – move in and maintaining a good property condition. What are the best ways to record condition, how at the end of the tenancy to access what is tenants damage and how much the landlord can lawfully claim in compensation.
Places secured upon receipt of payment, book your place through the office 01752 510913.
Making Tax Digital (MTD) – Mandatory digital record keeping for VAT for businesses over the VAT threshold (with turnover over £85,000) came into force from 1 April 2019. This was an important first step in the modernisation of the tax system to which the government remains committed.
The government have confirmed a light touch approach to penalties in the first year of implementation. Where businesses are doing their best to comply, no filing or record keeping penalties will be issued. The focus will be on supporting businesses to transition and the government will therefore not be mandating MTD for any new taxes or businesses in 2020.
Information above taken from the ‘Spring Statement 2019: Written Ministerial Statement’. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/785618/WMS_final_Commons.pdf
For further information, see the gov.uk website; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-tax-digital/overview-of-making-tax-digital
Here’s the latest landlord engagement newsletter; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-landlord-engagement-newsletters/may-2019-universal-credit-landlord-engagement-newsletter
The gov.uk guide has also been updated and answers many landlord queries; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-rented-housing–2/universal-credit-and-rented-housing-guide-for-landlords
Condensation can lead to damp and mould issues, here is a video with tips on how to reduce it! https://www.plymouthenergycommunity.com/advice/energy-tips
Cornwall Home Solutions within Cornwall Council operates as a home improvement agency within the county. They administer adaptations in people’s homes across all tenures, operate a Handyperson Scheme, and relocate clients with an adapted or accessible housing need into more appropriate properties.
The service head, Karen Sawyer, has advised that the number of adaptations being agreed in private rented homes are not at a high level, compared with other housing sectors.
Cornwall Council would like feedback from landlords and agencies as to what difficulties or barriers may be present which prevent landlords being able to allow adaptations or agreeing to let to those with an adaptation need.
Engagement with the private rented sector has revealed that two key barriers to adaptation were:
These issues will be addressed by:
• removing the need for a lettings certificate for modular ramping and stair-lifts
• replacing the five year lettings certificate for other medium and large adaptations with a two years letting certificate
• providing financial support for reinstatement work to put property back to the original condition before adaptations were allowed
The more feedback Cornwall Council receive the better, it will help them shape an adequate response to the needs of the sector. Feedback and queries can be directed straight to Karen: email@example.com
For more information see the Home Solutions Website; https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/housing/home-solutions/
The Ministry of Housing, Communities, Local Government have issued a new Section 21, form 6a that must be used from the 1st June 2019. We will be updating our stationery to include this shortly, however in the interim please use the form on gov.uk website. Here is the link for the form 6a;
Please also be aware, the Notes on “How to Complete Form 6a” have changed as well. Here is the link for the Notes.
The Ministry of Housing and Local Communities have updated the ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’ guide.
Landlords and Agents must provide tenants with the latest copy of the guide at the beginning of a tenancy. Landlords are not required to supply a further copy of the publication each time a different version is published during the tenancy.
Print the guide straight from the gov.uk website to ensure that you are providing the latest version to your tenant.
In relation to the Housing Act 1988, Section 21; the Form 6a is also expected to be updated.
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 has arrived (01 June 2019). SWLA landlord stationery and documents have been updated accordingly. You can print documents straight from the SWLA website ‘members area’ to ensure that you are using the most up to date version.
The ban applies to assured shorthold tenancies (except social housing or long leases), tenancies of student accommodation and licences to occupy housing in the private rented sector in England. Most tenancies in the private rented sector are assured shorthold tenancies.
You cannot require a tenant (or anyone acting on their behalf or guaranteeing their rent) to make certain payments in connection with a tenancy. You cannot require them to enter a contract with a third party or make a loan in connection with a tenancy.
From 1 June 2019, if you enter into a tenancy agreement, student let or licence to occupy housing in the private rented sector, you will be prohibited from charging any fees or other payments that are not included in the list of permitted payments.
Where a tenancy agreement was entered into before 1 June 2019, you will still be able to charge fees until 31 May 2020, but only where these are required under an existing tenancy agreement. After 1 June 2020, the term requiring that payment will no longer be binding. Should you, in error, ask a tenant to make such a payment, you should return the payment immediately and must return this within 28 days. If you do not return the payment within 28 days, you will be treated for the purposes of the Act as having required the tenant to make a prohibited payment (a payment that is outlawed under the ban). You do not need to return any amount of tenancy deposit that is over the cap for tenancy agreements that were entered into before the Tenant Fees Act came into force.
From 1 June 2020, the ban on fees will apply to all applicable tenancies. You will not be able to charge any fees after this date unless they are a permitted payment.
If the fee you are charging is not on this list, it is a prohibited payment and you should not charge it. A prohibited payment is a payment outlawed under the ban.
The only payments you can charge in connection with a tenancy are:
a) the rent
b) a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
c) a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week’s rent
d) payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50, or reasonable costs incurred if higher
e) payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
f) payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax; and
g) A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device, where required under a tenancy agreement
More information/guidance for landlords on the Tenant Fee Ban can be found on the gov.uk website;
21 May 2019, Smith Square London
SWLA Vice Chair Iain Maitland attended the joint RLA/NLA hosted summit chaired by the crossbench peer The Earl of Lytton.
The summit was to agree a united Draft Blueprint for Reforms to Regulations Governing Repossession. Representatives of landlords amd letting agents met to;
When the agreed Draft Statement is finalised, SWLA will promulgate, lobby and encourage members to lobby to have the principles incorporated into any new legislation proposed in the wake of the abolition of the Section 21 Notice (often referred to as the ‘No Fault Eviction’).
Steve Lees (SWLA Chair) and Iain Maitland (SWLA Vice-Chair) met with Matt Garrett and Councillor Penberthy on Wednesday 22nd May to discuss the Private Rented Sector.
The bulk of the meeting covered discussion on the recent announcements of the government’s plans to abolish Section 21 (no fault) evictions. Prior to consultations taking place, Plymouth City Council will work with SWLA to understand the difficulties that landlords will face if Section 21s aren’t an option, also understanding what improvements need to be made in the Section 8 court process.
Other topics discussed included student accommodation in Plymouth, the possible effect of Brexit on the Private Rented Sector and HMO licencing.
The Home Office have released Brexit Guidance on Right to Rent.
Until 1 January 2021 EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will continue to be able to prove their right to rent in the UK as they do now, for example by showing their passport or national identity card.
There will be no change to the way EU, EEA and Swiss citizens prove their right to rent until 1 January 2021. This remains the same if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal. Landlords do not need to check if new EEA and Swiss tenants arrived before or after the UK left the EU, or if they have status under the EU Settlement Scheme or European temporary leave to remain.
Landlords will not need to retrospectively check the status of EU, EEA or Swiss tenants or their family members who entered into a tenancy agreement before 1 January 2021.
Irish citizens will continue to have the right to rent in the UK and prove their right to rent as they do now, for example using their passport.
Landlords should continue to conduct right to rent checks on all prospective tenants to comply with the code of practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation and the code of practice for landlords: avoiding unlawful discrimination.
As is currently the case, in order for a landlord to obtain a statutory excuse from a civil penalty when letting to the non-EEA family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, the prospective tenant will need to show Home Office issued documentation as set out in the legislation and guidance.
New guidance on how to carry out right to rent checks from 1 January 2021 will be issued at a later date.
For more information see the gov.uk guidance; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/right-to-rent-checks-for-eu-eea-and-swiss-citizens-after-brexit
A new version of Form 6a which is used to issue notice under Section 21 in England will be released on the 1st June 2019 to comply with the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act.
The changes are as follows;
Amendments have been made to ensure the form accurately reflects the restriction on terminating a tenancy where a prohibited payment has been made by the landlord and not returned to the tenant, or the holding deposit has not been returned/forwarded in accordance with the Tenant Fees Ban regulations.
An amendment has been made to provide more details on HMO licencing in relation to serving a Section 21 notice. No Section 21 notice may be given in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy of part of an unlicensed HMO whilst it remains unlicensed.
More information has been added for tenants regarding homelessness support services. The form provides a link to Government possession guidance and further information on bodies such as Citizens Advice and Shelter.
SWLA will update the ‘members stationery’ area on 1st June 2019 with the new form.
Whether you are a seasoned landlord, or a first time buyer, this event offers free advice on all aspects of letting property. SWLA will have a stand at the event, come along and see us if you are there!
Thursday 23 May 2019, 4.30pm to 8.30pm
Old Forde House, Brunel Road, Newton Abbot, TQ12 4XX – Free parking
For further information and to book your ticket;
We had a great turn out for our General Meeting on Wednesday 24th April at the Future Inn, Plymouth.
Over 80 of our members came along to hear our 3 speakers present;
We also had Jeremy Wood from Excaliber Associates speaking about the importance of having comprehensive landlord insurance.
We’d like to thank all our speakers for their interesting and informative presentations and all our members and guests for coming along.
At present, the government is proposing a consultation on the abolition of Section 21 repossessions, in the private rented sector. Please be reassured, we will respond and keep you informed as and when updates are received.
The government will collaborate with and listen to tenants, landlords and others in the private rented sector to develop a new deal for renting.