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Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018; Now in Force in England. 20th March 2019

Posted on March 20th, 2019 -

Introduced to raise the standards of living for tenants.

Landlords have no new obligations as part of this Act, however, landlords must meet existing responsibilities with regards to property standards/safety or risk legal action being taken against them by their tenant.

Any privately rented home must be fit to live in at the start of the tenancy and throughout. This includes common parts of a shared building. The landlord is considered responsible from the point in which a hazard is reported to them by the tenant. However, if the hazard is in the common part of a shared building (eg in a HMO or block of flats), the landlord would be immediately liable. The landlord has a reasonable amount of time to deal with the hazard. If a landlord is aware of a hazard and is not actively attempting to remedy it, the tenant can take their landlord to court.

The rules apply to all new tenancies including renewals from 20th march 2019. Existing tenancies which were periodic before this date will need to comply from 20 March 2020.

There are exceptions. The landlord will not be required to remedy unfitness when:  
– the problem is caused by tenant behaviour
– the problem is caused by events like fires, storms and floods which are completely beyond the landlord’s control (sometimes called ‘acts of God’)
– the problem is caused by the tenants’ own possessions
– the landlord hasn’t been able to get consent e.g. planning permission, permission from freeholders etc. There must be evidence of reasonable efforts made.
– the tenant is not an individual, e.g. local authorities, national parks, housing associations, educational institutions
The Act does not cover people who have ‘licences to occupy’, instead of tenancy agreements. This may include lodgers (people who live with their landlord) some people who live in temporary accommodation, and some, but not all, property guardians.


Who enforces this? The legislation allows for the tenant to bring court action directly without first involving the local authority. A judge will decide whether a property is unfit for human habitation based on evidence. The judge will make their assessment based on repairs, stability, damp, internal arrangement, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage, facilities for food preparation and hazards (under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System).

It is hoped that this Act will level the playing field for good landlords who maintain homes fit for human habitation by ensuring they are not undercut by landlords who persistently flout their responsibilities.

For further information;



SWLA Attend West of England Landlord Panel Meeting

Posted on March 14th, 2019 -

Gillian Kerr (SWLA Office Manager) attended the meeting on 13th March 2019 hosted by Bristol City Council.

The meeting included a licencing update from all West of England Local Authorities, legislation updates (Homes Fitness for Human Habitation 20/03/2019, Client Money Protection compulsory insurance for letting/managing agents 01/04/2019, Tenant Fees Bill 01/06/2019). Trading Standards at Bristol City Council being the lead authority for the Tenant Fees Bill.

MEES enforcement was discussed. Also the findings of the MHLGC English Private Landlord Survey.

Making Tax Digital; expected to affect the majority of landlords by April 2020 (date to be confirmed).

With the Government overhauling the housing complaints system, a housing redress scheme membership may be on the cards for all landlords.



SWLA Chair Steve Lees Attends Bristol EPC and MEES Workshop

Posted on March 14th, 2019 -

Items discussed included energy efficiency ratings in the private rented sector; the next year will see many private rented properties having to be brought up to at least an E rating.

Since 1 April 2018, new tenancies, renewals or extensions require the property to have a minimum “E” energy rating. From 1 April 2020, all existing tenancies with a valid EPC must comply.

From 01 April 2019, landlords will be expected to make energy improvements costing up to £3,500.00 (including VAT) to bring properties up to the required energy efficiency standard. Prior to this date, improvements would have to have been made only if there was no cost to the landlord. If there were costs, the landlord could register an exemption. (The cost cap includes monies spent since 01 October 2017 on energy efficiency improvements).

Exemptions can still be registered in certain circumstances, including if £3,500.00 is spent and the property still falls below the expected standard.

For further information, please see the government guidance;



RSM UK Consulting presented their research findings on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.


Landlord Accreditation Training Course

Posted on March 11th, 2019 -

Landlord Accreditation Training Course 

Monday 3rd June 2019 – 9:30 – 4:30pm

Venue – Astor Room, Plymouth Guildhall, Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 1HA

Price – £65 for members of SWLA, £75 for non – members for one day course.

Course covers ASTs, Deposits, Section 21s, Section 8s, HMOs, Gas and Electrical Safety, Inventories and much more.

The course will provide you with all the skills to start, manage and finish a tenancy. 

Places still available. Contact the office on 01752 510913 or via the website to book your place, places secured on receipt of payment.

Over 740 landlords have already completed this course since September 2011.

Course can lead to Accreditation, if required.

We are proud to announce Landlord Accreditation South West (LASW) are founder members of the West of England Rental Standard.

New Septic Tank Legislation

Posted on March 8th, 2019 -

Compliance with the new rules on septic tanks is required by 1st January 2020.

Homeowners will need to upgrade their drainage systems in order to avoid fines from the Environment Agency. The rules prohibit the discharge of waste from septic tanks into watercourses due to the detrimental impact it can have on the environment.

You must use a small sewage treatment plant to treat the sewage if you’re discharging to a surface water such as a river or stream. A small sewage treatment plant (also known as a package treatment plant) uses mechanical parts to treat the liquid so it’s clean enough to go into a river or stream.

Rules originally came into force 01 January 2015 applying to new septic tank systems but from January 2020 they will be rolled out to include all systems – old and new.

For further information;


Client Money Protection Mandatory for Letting Agents

Posted on March 8th, 2019 -

From 1st April 2019, letting agents must belong to an approved CMP scheme. As part of this scheme, they must;

  • display a certificate within branch and on website
  • produce a copy of the certificate to anyone who reasonably requires it (without charge)
  • notify all clients within 14 days if their CMP membership is revoked or if they change to a different CMP scheme
  • provide clients with the name and address of the scheme to which they become a member


The agent must also ensure the level of CMP membership provides enough cover to compensate clients for the maximum amount of client money that they hold.


Local Authorities will have powers to impose fines of up to £30,000.00 on agents who do not belong to a scheme beyond this date. They can also impose fines of up to £5,000.00 on agents who fail to display correct scheme membership details on their website and within branch.



Article information from ARLA


Legal Update 2019 Course

Posted on March 5th, 2019 -

Landlord Training Course – Legal Update 2019

 Tuesday 30th April 2019 – 9:30am – 4:30pm 

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 – £65. Cost for non-SWLA members – £75. 

A must attend one day course covering the subjects below and more….    

  • Another prohibition on serving section 21 notices.
  • Will both professional cleaning and flea treatment be unlawful?
  • How do the tenant fee ban, and deposit deductions relate?
  • Why a property could cost your landlord £3,500.
  • Why you don’t need an EPC just because the current one runs out.
  • What does the new Fitness for Human Habitation legislation mean for you?
  • Will your client money protection meet the new standards required?
  • Plus, other new laws and court cases.

We will review and consider the effect of what has been a busy year of legislative change, look forward to a pivotal year for our industry and consider the impact of recent court cases.

Having progressed now through the House of Lords we will provide you with all the details of the tenant fee act and consider any regulations needed to implement it.

Places secured upon receipt of payment, book your place through the office 01752 510913.

Iain Maitland (Vice-Chair SWLA) Attends Mayor’s ASB and Housing Liaison Group

Posted on February 28th, 2019 -

Wednesday 27th February 2019, SWLA’s Vice Chair attended the liaison group meeting at Torquay Town Hall. Items discussed included the Extension of Mandatory HMO Licencing and it’s progress to date. Also a performance review and updates from police, fire and probation services. Further legislative changes were also discussed.



SWLA Attend Refugee Awareness Conference

Posted on February 26th, 2019 -

Steve Lees (SWLA Chair) and Iain Maitland (SWLA Vice Chair) attended a Refugee Awareness Conference at Plumer House, Plymouth on Tuesday 26th February hosted by the Refugee Integration Service. Representatives from Path, Start, ODILS and PDREC were in attendance. The meeting was opened by Councillor Penberthy and the initial address by Matt Garrett (PCC Community Connections Service Director).

Many discussions and workshops took place. There were over 100 delegates in attendance.

SWLA Notice of a General Meeting

Posted on February 26th, 2019 -

Wednesday 24th April 2019  7.30pm

Future Inn Hotel – Plymouth- 1 William Prance Rd, Plymouth PL6 5ZD



Russell Corre, The Sheriff’s Office
Rapid Eviction of Tenants from Residential Property:
Need your property back and unsure of what to do next? During the presentation we will take you through your options for repossession including the use of High Court Enforcement, the costs, timescales and necessary processes to help you make the best decision.
Melanie Cotterill, Roper James Solicitors
Plan and Prosper:
Business Lasting Powers of Attorney – Protecting your livelihood if you are unable to work
Wills – Protect your family and use your full available inheritance tax allowance
Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare – Give your loved ones a voice for you if you become incapacitated in the future
Annette Stone, Thomas Westcott Chartered Accountants
Update on tax legislation affecting landlords.

New SWLA Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement

Posted on February 14th, 2019 -

Today we have published our new Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement document.

There are a few minor amendments to allow for the changes that are imminent such as the Tenant Fee Bill (01 June 2019) and mandatory 5 year Electrical Installation Safety Checks (date to be confirmed).

The new AST can be found on the members area of our website for free download.

The old SWLA Assured Shorthold Tenancy document (last updated October 2015) is still valid so can still be used for new tenancies. Moving forward, any new tenancies, please use the new revised document where possible.


Mandatory 5 Year Electrical Installation Checks to be Introduced in Private Rented Accommodation

Posted on February 7th, 2019 -

On 29th January 2019 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that 5 year electrical installation checks will be mandatory on private rented accommodation in England.

The implementation date has not been confirmed. Landlords and Agents will be given at least a 6 month time frame to familiarise themselves before it comes into force. It will be introduced in a phased approach, in year one, all new tenancies will be affected and in year 2 all existing tenancies will come within scope.

Properties that already have a valid electrical installation condition report (EICR) will not need to replace it until 5 years have passed since it’s issue.

Inspectors must hold the correct qualifications and be competent to carry out the inspection. Financial penalties will apply if this is not complied with.

We will update our members with further information as soon as a date of implementation is confirmed by the government.


Landlord Training Course – Legal Update 2019

Posted on January 28th, 2019 -

Landlord Training Course – Legal Update 2019 

Monday 8th April 2019 – 9:30am – 4:30pm 

Venue – Astor 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 – £65. Cost for non-SWLA members – £75. 

A must attend one day course covering the subjects below and more….    

  • Another prohibition on serving section 21 notices.
  • Will both professional cleaning and flea treatment be unlawful?
  • How do the tenant fee ban, and deposit deductions relate?
  • Why a property could cost your landlord £3,500.
  • Why you don’t need an EPC just because the current one runs out.
  • What does the new Fitness for Human Habitation legislation mean for you?
  • Will your client money protection meet the new standards required?
  • Plus, other new laws and court cases.

We will review and consider the effect of what has been a busy year of legislative change, look forward to a pivotal year for our industry and consider the impact of recent court cases.

Having progressed now through the House of Lords we will provide you with all the details of the tenant fee act and consider any regulations needed to implement it.

Places secured upon receipt of payment, book your place through the office 01752 510913.

Course will be instructed by Stephen Fowler from Training for Professionals.


Posted on January 25th, 2019 -

SWLA held their Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 23rd January. 

Thank you to our members who attended.

A coat was left behind at the meeting, please contact the office if it’s yours.

SWLA Vice Chair Iain Maitland Attended Cornwall Council Private Rented Sector Liaison Group Meeting

Posted on January 24th, 2019 -

On Tuesday 22nd January 2019, Cornwall Council hosted the meeting in St Austell, chaired by Joe Roberts (Private Sector Housing Manager). Items discussed included Revenue and Assessment Services update, Home Solutions Team Adaptation Policy update, CRLS update and a plan discussed for the following year’s aims of the group.  The progress of the extension of mandatory HMO licencing was also discussed together with notices and prosecutions.

SWLA Attended Plymouth City Council’s Private Rented Sector Steering Group Meeting

Posted on January 24th, 2019 -

Iain Maitland (Vice-Chair, representing SWLA) and Gillian Kerr (Office Manager and Accreditation Co-Ordinator representing Landlord Accreditation South West) attended the Plymouth Charter meeting on Monday 21st January 2019 to discuss and review the aims and objectives of the Charter.

The committee was chaired by Councillor Penberthy (Portfolio Holder for Housing and Co-Operative Development) assisted by Matt Garrett (Community Connections Service Director). Other attendees were representative of letting agents, housing charities, the social sector, Shelter and CAB.


Tenant Fee Bill to come into force in England 1st June 2019

Posted on January 16th, 2019 -

14th January 2019 saw the 3rd and final reading of the Tenant Fees Bill in the House of Lords. Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth confirmed on the afternoon of 15th January 2019 that subject to the Bill getting Royal Assent, the Tenant Fees Bill will come into effect on 1st June 2019 for all tenancies signed on or after that date.

Throughout the report stage amendments have been made; the deposit cap lowered from 6 weeks rent max to 5 weeks rent max for properties with an annual rent of less than £50,000.00.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government believe that the amendments ‘strike a fair balance between improving affordability for tenants whilst ensuring that landlords and agents have the financial security they need’.

The final content of the legislation is not yet confirmed, however key points of the Bill are as follows;

  • Default fees limited to charges for replacement keys (or respective security device) and late rent only
  • Cap holding deposits to max 1 weeks rent (applying to a max of one property only)
  • Creates a civil offence with a fine of £5,000.00 for first offence and civil penalties of up to £30,000.00.
  • Local authorities to retain the money raised and reserve for future local housing enforcement
  • Amendment of the Consumer Right Act 2015 to specify that the letting agent transparency requirements will also apply to property portals (i.e. Rightmove, Zoopla)


What is exempted form the banned list? Holding deposits, rent, deposits and charges for defaulting on the contract are all exempted however are subject to additional restrictions as part as part of the legislation.


A lead local authority will oversee and police the new measures.


For further information on the Tenant Fees Ban in England;



Article Abridged from NLA & RLA



The Tenancy Deposit Scheme; first to appoint an external, independant complaints reviewer.

Posted on January 11th, 2019 -

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) has become the first of the three Government-approved tenancy deposit protection schemes to appoint a new external, independent complaints reviewer.

Margaret Doyle has taken up the new role and says: “Having an independent and impartial outside reviewer is a key process for demonstrating robust arrangements exist for ensuring that customer complaints are dealt with well, and that complainants have the opportunity for review by someone outside of TDS.

“It is also designed to help TDS learn lessons from complaints and to help improve service provision.”

Doyle’s appointment was introduced to enhance the scheme’s transparency to members and the wider private rental sector.

The role of the independent complaints reviewer will be to look at the way the TDS has investigated complaints about its service, in order to ensure that the process has been fair and transparent, and that the issues raised have been properly considered.

In its 2018 Annual Review, the TDS reported that less than 1% of its tenancy deposits ended in a dispute – a total of 14,430.

Of these 14,430 disputes, just 2.65% resulted in a complaint being made about the adjudication decision or the service received.

Steve Harriott, the Chief Executive of the TDS, says: “We take any complaints about our service very seriously and strive for the highest standards of complaints handling practice. If a complainant remains unhappy about TDS’s response to their formal complaint about an adjudication decision or other aspect of TDS’s customer service, they can escalate it to the independent complaints reviewer.

“This role does not make Margaret a TDS staff member, but someone who is appointed by the TDS board to take an independent view of complaints and report annually to the board on their work.”

He adds: “As the only not-for-profit deposit protection scheme operating in England and Wales, TDS is committed to a programme of continuous investment in our systems, processes, people and service. Margaret’s appointment is part of that ongoing strategy and we are proud to have her on board.”

Article from Landlord News (landlordnews.co.uk)


If a tenant owes you rent you can claim it back via the small claims court, how does it work?

Posted on January 10th, 2019 -

Listen to this episode from BBC Radio 4’s Money Box Live. The panel discusses the effectiveness of the system for getting you your money back.



Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 passed through Parliament and comes into force 20th March 2019

Posted on January 4th, 2019 -

It will be a requirement for all social and private landlords (including letting agents acting on their behalf) in England to ensure that a property is fit for human habitation both at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. The Bill amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1984.

If a home does not meet the standards of the HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System), tenants can take legal action in court for breach of contract.

Put forward by Labour MP Karen Buck, the Bill received Royal Accent on 20th December 2018 and comes into force 3 months after that date – 20th March 2019. Initially it will only apply to new and renewal tenancies in England from this date. It will then apply to periodic tenancies 12 months later to give landlords time to ensure properties are up to standard.

The government have a HHSRS guide for landlords and property professionals;


For more information on the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018;



The Explanatory notes issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government;



This is from a legal perspective, written by Cornerstone Barristers;


Tenant Fees Bill in final stages

Posted on January 3rd, 2019 -

The Tenant Fees Bill 2017-2019 is due it’s 3rd and final reading on 15th January 2019 in the House of Lords. Once the final reading takes place, it will then return to the House of Commons for a consideration of amendments, after that it can receive Royal Assent and become law.

The implementation date is not known but is to be expected in Spring 2019 at the earliest. The Bill seeks to ban most letting agent and landlord charges to tenants and will place caps on security and holding deposits.

For updates on the Bill and to read debates on all stages of the bill, please see the following link; https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/tenantfees.html








ICO issues first fines to organisations who have not paid the data protection fee

Posted on January 2nd, 2019 -

All organisations, companies and sole traders that process personal data must pay an annual fee to the ICO unless they are exempt. Fines for not paying can be up to a maximum of £4,350.

This follows regulations which came into force alongside the new Data Protection Act on 25 May 2018.

These first organisations have been fined for not renewing their fees following their expiry and more fines are set to follow. More than 900 notices of intent to fine have been issued by the ICO since September and more than 100 penalty notices are being issued in this first round.


Article from The Information Commissioners Office 28.11.2018

SWLA Office Christmas Opening Hours

Posted on December 20th, 2018 -

The SWLA office will be closed from 3pm Friday 21st December 2018 and will re-open at 10am on Wednesday 2nd January 2019.

Emails and telephone messages will be checked and responded to in that period.

We wish all of our members a very lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.

SWLA Members – 5% Discount at B&Q

Posted on December 7th, 2018 -

As of Monday 10th December 2018, SWLA members with a B&Q Trade Point Card receive 5% off B&Q purchases (to exclude local clearance items, vouchers and services – see T&Cs) without having to have a minimum spend the previous month.

This is on a 6 month trial basis. With the right amount of uptake, this trail period will hopefully be extended.


**please note if over £500.00 is spent in one month, an additional 5% discount will be applied within 7 days to run for the remainder of the current month and the following month**


See the original discount update here;

B&Q Trade Loyalty Scheme Launch



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