The Association of Residential Letting Agents has thrown its weight behind a new software upgrade designed to help protect agencies in the light of impending changes to the Section 21 process.
Although there remains some doubt as to whether legislation will be re-drafted in time for an October 1 start date, it still appears likely that there will be imminent changes which mean that landlord or their appointed agents must provide an “adequate response” to repair requests within 14 days of receipt.
Despite the law stating that in order for a response to be “adequate” it must be in writing, state what remedial works the landlord (or agent) is proposing to carry out and a reasonable timeframe for the completion of any remedial works there has been no official guidance on what a reasonable timeframe would be.
It has, however, been indicated that a reasonable timeframe would depend on the factors including the vulnerability of any occupiers to the issue complained of and, as such, a template response may not be “adequate” in all circumstances.
If a response is not considered “adequate” then a local authority may serve a “relevant notice” - after which there is a risk that any pending Section 21 notice would be invalidated and no further Section 21 notice can be validly served for six months.
The changes to the software system, by Fixflo, include a detailed and structured immediate response to tenants for every repair request received, a workflow for handling communications in cases involving vulnerable occupiers and the automatic compilation of time and date stamped repair requests and responses which can be accessed and annexed to a Section 21 notice.
“While agencies will need to take their own legal advice and no liability is accepted due to the uncertainties surrounding this legislation, in the absence of further government guidance ARLA considers that the Fixflo system for dealing with the need to provide an adequate response constitutes best practice for the industry” says ARLA managing director David Cox.