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Legal expert alarmed at agents "not compliant" with new tenancy regulations

A legal expert is claiming that changes to S21 eviction procedures introduced back in October are not being adhered to by some letting agents and landlords.

Legal associate Andrew Verlander from FBC Manby Bowdler says the increase in demand for buy to let investments since pension reforms were introduced last year, coupled with the rush to buy investment properties ahead of the April 1 stamp duty surcharge deadline, means some less experienced purchasers are failing to check their compliance with the Deregulation Act. 

This legislation outlines the areas that landlords need to ensure compliance of when dealing with new Assured Shorthold Tenancies after October 2015.  

These were that a landlord or agent acting on their behalf must provide (before the start of a tenancy) copies of the energy efficiency certificate and gas safety certificate and a copy of the government’s How To Rent booklet. They must also provide evidence that the tenant’s deposit has been protected in a recognised scheme.

Failure to comply with these elements can impact on the landlord’s ability to serve a S21 notice in order to evict tenants; in addition, the act also puts restrictions on an agent or landlord servicing S21 notices where they haven’t responded appropriately to disrepair complaints from the tenant.

“In spite of the Deregulation Act being introduced almost a year ago and being enforceable against new ASTs since October, we’re continuing to see a worrying number of landlords who wish to evict their tenants but can’t due to their own mismanagement of the tenancy agreement. Perhaps of even more concern is that there are also otherwise reputable lettings agents who are similarly not as compliant as they need to be” says Verlander.

“Most commonly we’re seeing landlords failing to secure the tenant’s deposit in the stated timeframe or neglecting to ensure that the property is fitted with the necessary number of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and checking them prior to the start of a new tenancy.  Agents, meanwhile, can slip up simply by not providing the tenant with a copy of the government’s prescribed information booklet.”

Verlander says more mistakes may be made in the rush to beat the stamp duty surcharge.

“Buy to let investors, both experienced and those who are newer to the market, should be wary about rushing to complete on a property purchase before Stamp Duty changes without given due consideration to their legal obligations. This is particularly exacerbated when the property has a sitting tenant and the tenancy agreement isn’t compliant with the terms of the new legislation.

“The introduction of this legislation removed the requirement for the date of possession to be the last day of a period of tenancy since now it only needs to provide two months’ notice in order to be legally compliant. Additionally, the same S21 Notice can now be used regardless of whether it is for a fixed term notice or a periodic tenancy notice, thus removing potential confusion in this respect” he says.

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