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Outrage over S21 and smoke alarm confusion as deadline nears

The property industry has hit out at what appears to be government confusion over a raft of new rules coming into effect in only three weeks from now.

Firstly the National Landlords Association says it is “plain farcical” that changes have been announced this week concerning restrictions to Section 21 'no fault possession' notices in two official documents posted online by the government (here and here).

They appear to be challenging for many to understand without additional guidance - which is not forthcoming - and Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA, is up in arms. 


“These regulations are poorly worded, badly timed and are being tabled with just days to spare before they are due to come into force on October 1. As we understand it, there will be no guidance from the Government explaining how to comply before then. How can a landlord about to let a property on a tenancy from the start of October be expected to comply with these new requirements if they’ve not been told what they are and what is expected?”

Lambert adds: “It’s shoddy, to say the least. Coming hot on the heels of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm debacle in the Lords yesterday, which due to official incompetence looks highly unlikely to come into force this year, this is something akin to a Laurel and Hardy sketch.”

And the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are also subject to confusion over the fate of legislation which was supposed to have made their installation compulsory in private rented homes.

Draft regulations were laid earlier in the year to require private sector landlords to install at least one smoke alarm on every storey of their rental property from October 1 this year, providing local authorities with the power to fine landlords who fail to comply £5,000.

But the House of Lords earlier this week rejected the draft legislation at is final stage on the basis that the proposed introduction is less than three weeks away and that the government has not done enough to inform the private rental sector of the changes. The Lords has also complained that the legislation is poorly worded.

Now the British Property Federation, which has supported the draft legislation, has warned that by the time the legislation is approved, landlords - and agents who act for them - will be left with mere days to comply with the legislation, risking the £5,000 fine.



The BPF has issued further concerns that information about the impending change in legislation has been poorly disseminated, and that many landlords may even be unaware of the changes and the potential fines. 

“We’ve been fully supportive of the campaign to make smoke alarms compulsory in private rented properties, and are therefore extremely disappointed to see this unnecessary delay in proceedings” says Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the BPF.

“The original timeframe for the legislation was tight, but allowing time for a further debate in the Lords is going to make this even worse. Coupled with the fact that there has been no publicity on the changes, we are worried that many landlords are going to be caught out by the fine as a result of government’s disorganisation and lack of clarity” he says.

"It is particularly frustrating that one of the reasons that this revocation has happened is because the introduction is worded poorly, as there has been no consultation on this.” 

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    The new regulations require tenants to be given the 'How to Rent' booklet as Prescribed Information at the start of the tenancy. However the way the booklet is worded indicates that it should be given to tenants before they even look at a property! How is this going to work? We will also have to get to tenants to sign that they have received the booklet as proof if we have to go to Court. Ill thought out again!!

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    British farce at its best (or worst !)

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    Agents should be insisting that Landlords install Smoke Alarms and carbon monoxide detectors as a matter of course regardless of legislation.

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    @Ian Sanford - this has been pretty much the case in Scotland for the past two years. Regulatory changes now call upon the landlord to install not just a smoke detector in both the ground floor and then each level thereafter but also install a smoke detector in the main living space (usually the lounge) and a heat detector in the kitchen - meaning at least four detectors in a standard two story house - all detectors must be interlinked which in itself poses new issues as a Hard Wired set of smoke detectors installed two years ago when it first became compulsory to install at least two (one on each level) are very unlikely to be compatible for interlinking with a heat detector... in most cases this means that the every smoke detector needs to be replaced for the sake of installing a heat detector in the kitchen. Furthermore, the electrical wiring now required testing every 5 years and old type fuse boards replaced by those with trip units.
    Landlords and agents in Scotland are also required to provide a Tenant Information pack (How To Rent document in your case), this must be provided each time the tenant renews their lease as the law requires the 30+page document to be signed for whenever a new lease is signed!! It never ends... There is also reform to the Housing Scotland Act which is due to come into effect early next year which proposes the abolition (in effect) of short assured tenancies as landlords will no longer be legally permitted to simply not renew a tenancy unless there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement - very important information for landlords based in England with properties in Scotland (there is quite a significant number) as the consultation has only be made known in Scotland so unless the Landlord has a good agent that keeps abreast of legislation and changes to the tenancy laws, or he/she has registered with the local landlords association there is every possibility that many unsuspecting landlords may find themselves in very hot water over the coming 12 months. Strangely enough, local authorities are exempt from the wiring/smoke detectors/tenant info pack requirements...it's a funny old world.

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    I also noticed that RSLs, where some of the most vulnerable in society are housed, are not encompassed within the proposed legislation -double standards to say the very least!

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    @Stephen Crofts
    Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms: I have been writing to the Minister and his Department urging them to include all properties with fuel burning appliances in the legislation as was proposed in the original Private Members Bill and is the case in Scotland. Reference to gas appliances is made in the explanatory booklet which states ‘however, as gas appliances can emit carbon monoxide, we would expect and encourage reputable landlords to ensure that working carbon monoxide alarms are installed in rooms with these’. So what about the dis-reputable ones – are their tenants not entitled to be protected as well? In addition the Private Rented Sector Code of Practice endorsed by the Government also recommends the fitting of CO detectors in rooms with gas appliances so why not make it mandatory?
    Section 21 Notice: I am pleased that their is now a statutory form of notice and have no problem with tenants being made aware of their rights and responsibilities as we already do with our Tenants Guide. But to make the Proscribed Information a document which, in its present format, should be given to tenants before they even view a property is, to me, a nonsense. Giving it just before the start of the tenancy renders it meaningless. In addition it would appear the notice will not be valid until the tenant has been given the Proscribed Information, so presumably it can be sent with the notice!

  • Stephanos Constantinou

    What a confusion.... first they introduce this new law then the House of Lords rejected the draft legislation at is final stage and now they might continue the procedure from where it left. The best think to do is to start install smoke & carbon alarms before is to late...

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    As others say this is an absolute farce. I have two ideas. 1. Some of the big estate agents get together to form a review body and every time a council or government body, "holds forth" they issue an overview of all the mistakes and foreseeable consequences without resorting to arguable opinions. They should of course have some sort of pompous branding for the newspapers to latch on to. 2. My letting agent has informed me that I must install new smoke detectors. Can I say to all, "THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS NOT INSTALLING THEM IT IS TESTING THEM!" Someone has to take responsibility and the only person regularly visiting my flats is my local to the flat, letting agent. If I were to do this I would have hundreds of mile of driving, have to make appointments etc. and run the risk of severely upsetting a tenant by telling them they must replace the batteries. I have asked several agents in the past to undertake this little job. We all know it only needs someone to press the test button but the excuses are manifold. We never get out hands on any maintenance work, not ever, no way. Our inspectors are ladies ?? Our inspector ladies would have to stand on something to reach them which would be unladylike. (I have some sympathy but......) The tenant has to do the test and replace the batteries. This ought to bee the modern equivalent of a music hall joke. If you are an agent you can probably add some more. Actions resulting could the be be passed on to the landlord or who ever. There is a BUT in that tenants can neither be forced or trusted to do this work and it is of no practical use to try and make a law to change this. The point is that, I believe, the person providing the letting contract and no one else should have the legal responsibility to look after the fire alarm tests. Morally of course everyone should have some responsibility. (I do not have any need of CO alarms). The result of making such a law would be a magnificent simplification, the removal of all sorts of people with ponderous opinions and who just get in the way and provide a sound source of accurate records if there is a fire. I could relax and stop writing as well. 


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