‘Right To Rent’ Pilot Starts

'Right to rent' checks rolled out in West Midlands

‘Right-to-rent’ checks rolled out in West Midlands

Back in September the Government announced that, from December 1st, the West Midlands would be used as a testing ground for the new ‘right to rent’ checks.

From yesterday a landlord (or their lettings agent) who lets out property in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton will need to conduct ‘right to rent’ checks. This new initiative is part of the new Immigration Act 2014 and failure to comply – and thus let to a tenant who has no right to be in the UK – will result in a £3,000 fine per breach.

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Worrying Lack of Awareness about Redress Schemes

Worrying Lack of Awareness about Redress Schemes

Worrying Lack of Awareness about Redress Schemes

A recent survey has made the claim that only 0.5% of the public are aware of the existence of the three Government approved redress schemes.

Since October 1st, a letting agent must legally be a member of one of these schemes to allow renters a recognised and independent route to take any complaint.

The schemes – the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and the Property Redress Scheme – are there to assess tenant complaints and can award compensation where they believe it to be appropriate.

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Housing Minister Rejects Mandatory Client Money Protection

SAFEagent

SAFEagent

Following a request by SAFE Agent, urging the Government to amend the Consumer Rights Bill to include mandatory membership to a Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme for all lettings and management agents, the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, has responded by stating that he has “…no plans to make CMP compulsory.”

A statement released on the SAFE Agent website, by John Midgley the Chair of SAFEagent, stated: “We are disappointed and will continue with our campaign…”

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Young London Receives London Rental Standard Accreditation

London Rental Standard

London Rental Standard

Young London are pleased to announce that we have received London Rental Standard accreditation.

As an accredited letting and managing agent our applicants, residents and clients can enjoy peace of mind knowing that they’re dealing with an agency that fully complies with the law and offers a good service.

The London Rental Standard, a voluntary set of minimum standards, was created by the Mayor of London (Boris Johnson) to set out the level of service that those operating in London’s Private Rented Sector are expected to adhere to.

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Time is Running Out for Letting Agents to Join a Redress Scheme

Time Running Out for Letting Agents to Join a Redress Scheme

Time Running Out for Letting Agents to Join a Redress Scheme

Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, has confirmed that October 1 is the deadline by which all letting agents in England must have joined an approved redress scheme (the Property Redress Scheme, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Ombudsman).

It seems there will be no grace period, so agents operating in England (the obligations do not yet apply to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) that are not already a member of one of the three schemes should quickly rectify that.

In 18 days any agents that has not signed up to a scheme will be breaking the law and can be fined up to £5,000.

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Calls to Make Client Money Protection a Legal Requirement

SAFE Agent

SAFE Agent

SAFE (Safe Agent Fully Endorsed) Agent, the kitemark that denotes that a firm protects landlords and tenants money, has been urging ministers to use the Consumer Rights Bill to make Client Money Protection a legal requirement for all letting agents.

John Midgley, chairman of SAFE Agent, has written to the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, saying: “Currently, if an agent misappropriates clients’ funds or uses them fraudulently, there is no recompense if the agent is not covered by a CMP scheme.

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Immigration Act Pilot Area Announced

Compliance Corner

Compliance Corner

The government has announced the pilot area and start date for the first stage of the Immigration Act.

The area, in which agents and landlords will have to check an immigrants ‘right to rent’, will be the West Midlands, with a start date of December 1. This area will include Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton, but will not apply in Solihull and Coventry.

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The Importance of Referencing

The Importance of Referencing

The Importance of Referencing

It is best practice for an agent, on behalf of their client, to carry out a thorough reference check to reassure the landlord that they are doing everything in their power to reduce the risk of letting to an unsuitable tenant.

Referencing is used as a tool to check the suitability of a tenant generally before a Tenancy Agreement is drawn up and signed. A thorough investigation is carried out to confirm the tenant’s identity, income, financial status in terms of affordability, employment status and rental history in an attempt to expose any issues that could be a concern for the landlord.

The necessity for tenant referencing stems from the need of the landlord to mitigate any risk of possibly letting their property to a tenant who could cause them an issue at a later date. Also, with the Immigration Act potentially taking effect from October, the onus is now on landlords, or their agents, to check the immigration status of any prospective tenant.

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European Standards for Safety of Internal Window Blinds

British Standards Institution

British Standards Institution

In February 2014 the British Standards Institution (BSI) published a forty page document outlining the new Standards of safety requirements to address certain risks posed to children by internal blinds and corded window coverings.

The Standards apply to blinds which have cords or chains fitted with a hazardous loop that could create a danger in premises where there are children aged between 0 and 4 years who are likely to have access or be present.

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The Property Ombudsman Launches New Codes of Practice

The Property Ombudsman launches new Codes of Practice

The Property Ombudsman launches new Codes of Practice

The Property Ombudsman scheme has issued a revised Codes of Practice for sales and lettings agents in an attempt to further improve standards across both industries.

The Codes, which came into affect on 1st August August, are said to reflect developments in industry practice and legislative changes.

The Ombudsman applies the Codes of Practice when reviewing consumer complaints to ascertain if a registered agent has breached the required standard, which might result in the Ombudsman directing the agent to pay an award (up to the value of £25,000). The Ombudsman will refer serious Code breaches to TPO’s independent Disciplinary & Standards Committee, which has the power to fine or expel agents and engage with regulators such as Trading Standards and the Competition and Market Authority.

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Private Rented Sector Properties with Low EPC Rating to be Banned

Move to ban rental properties with low EPCs

Move to ban rental properties with low EPCs

In less than four years landlords will have to have made sure that all of their Private Rented Sector stock has been made energy efficient.

After April 1st 2018, as part of a requirement laid out in the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s two consultations on the Private Rented Sector Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard Regulations, a landlord will not be allowed to let out their property if it does not have a minimum EPC rating of an ‘E’.

The consultation also refers to April 1st 2016, from this date tenants will be able to request their landlord to carry out reasonable energy efficiency improvements to improve the properties EPC rating. The landlord can not refuse to carry out the necessary works if requested.

The consultation is currently seeking industry input on how to implement these regulations, which are part of the Government’s plans to reduce carbon emissions.

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Time to cool off

Compliance Corner

Compliance Corner

As of today, The Consumer Contract (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013  has extended the contract ‘cooling off’ period from 7 days to 14 days. The regulation will only apply to contracts entered into on or after today (13/06/2014).

The introduction of this new regulation means that the following have been superseded and thus do not apply from today:

  • The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulation 2000
  • The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008

Most importantly, for the Private Rented Sector, the regulation now states that the ‘cooling off’ period no longer applies to Tenancy Agreements or guarantor contracts.

The extended cooling off period is still relevant for Terms of Business for both sales and lettings, unless the contract is signed at the businesses office.

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Immigration Act takes effect from October

Compliance Corner

Compliance Corner

The Immigration Bill, which has now received Royal Assent and become an Act of Parliament, will take effect from October this year and puts the onus on landlords, or their agents, to check the immigration status of any prospective tenant.

The aim of the Act is to prevent people with no right to be in the UK from renting property in the Private Rented Sector.

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A Focus on Compliance

A Focus on Compliance

A Focus on Compliance

PRSupdate’s ‘Compliance’ series brings together all our compliance-related articles giving a quick and easy point of reference to enable anyone involved in the Private Rented Sector to follow best practice and stay one step ahead of legislation changes.

To help I’ll also be including some practical examples and insight into how Young London is meeting the ever-changing challenge to remain compliant!

This blog is a round up of a number of topics raised at the recent ARLA Regional Meeting, including recent case law, the forthcoming Immigration Bill and the Government’s Green Deal.

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Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for Tenants

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) isn’t only confined to sales.  It’s important that tenants remember that they could have an obligation to pay SDLT when renting a property.

SDLT is due on rents that exceed £125,000, cumulatively, during tenancies and (unlike SDLT for sales transactions) is charged at 1% on any amount over and above that threshold, not on the entire cumulative amount of rent.

Here is some additional information, and a link to the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website, that you may find useful.

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