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Software firm reveals blizzard of red tape tying up lettings sector

The changes to tax relief for landlords comes on top of a blizzard of new health and safety requirements, regulations and legal measures introduced over the past decade according to research by software company OnBoard Pro.

While some of the individual measures have been seen as sensible improvements to improve transparency of the sector or the safety of tenants, the combined effect of all the changes is to make the sector much more complex for agents and landlords alike. 

OnBoard Pro says that in less than 10 years the following landmark changes have been introduced, all adding to the workload of those in the sector:

- April 2006, Scottish landlords must join national register before letting property;

- April 2012, mandatory for rented properties to have an Energy Performance Certificate upgraded between tenancies;

- November 2012, Letting agent fees charged to tenants banned in Scotland;

- November 2013, Advertising Standards Authority rules for agents to include information about non-optional fees in adverts;

- October 2014, mandatory for letting agents to be a member of one of three government-approved redress schemes;

- February 2014, landlords and agents required to carry out Legionnaires’ disease risk assessment after updated guidance from Health and Safety Executive;

- May 2015, mandatory for all letting agents to disclose and display full fee tariffs, as well as their chosen redress scheme and whether they offer client money protection;

- June 2015, under the Deregulation Act it is mandatory for the small number of deposits taken before April 6 2007 which then became periodic to be protected.

These specific requirements come on top of ongoing piecemeal measures such as the HMRC requesting agents to provide a list of landlords they have collected rent on behalf of, and the raft of individual council blanket- and selective-licensing schemes. 

And there’s more to come according to OnBoard Pro:

- from October 2015 it will be mandatory for all rented properties to have working and periodically-checked carbon monoxide and smoke alarms; 

- from October 2015 changes under the Deregulation Act will affect landlords’ ability to serve a Section 21 notice if they or their agent do not handle repair requests properly;

- from next year agents and landlords will be required to carry out energy improvements to rental properties if requested by tenants and deemed reasonable, ahead of a 2018 deadline from which it will be illegal for properties to be let unless they have an Energy Performance rating of ‘E’ of above;

At some point it is also likely that Right to Rent immigration checks - recently piloted in the West Midlands region - will be rolled out nationally. 

“The role of a full service letting agent becomes more complicated and regulated as each year passes. As legislation and administration duties increase, utilising the latest technology allows agents to streamline processes and subsequently spend more time looking after tenants and brushing up on the latest legislation and industry practice” says Stephen Purvis, chief executive officer of OnBoard Pro.

His firm makes pre-tenancy software allowing agents and landlords to check the suitability of tenants, issue contracts digitally, submit utility readings automatically, handle guarantors and inventories, allowing a full tenancy application to be completed on the same day as a tenant views a property. 

He says up to 18 hours of administrative time can be saved by using Onboard Pro.

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