A lettings expert claims that many agents are failing to comply with appropriate legislation, rendering their landlord clients liable for legal and other consequences.
David Alexander of the Apropos lettings management firm says he has found cases across the country where properties are let or managed without appropriate compliance, and some with serious long-term issues which have remained unaddressed for years.
“We have been encountering many landlords who are unaware that they are liable for any failures to comply with regulations. Even if they don’t personally manage their properties and it is an agent or another individual who is directly involved with the letting, they remain liable for any breaches of the regulations” warns Alexander, who cites several examples his firm has come across when taking over property management.
Electricity - “I personally went to look at a property on behalf of an investor who was looking to purchase and let with us. The agent (who also does lettings) had agreed a tenancy and the property was being sold as tenanted. When I looked at the fuse board, it was a very old type with no trip switches or RCD protection. I know that this would not pass an EICR inspection and asked the agent if the property had a current EICR certificate for the commencement of the new tenancy which was due to start in August 2020. The agent said ‘no, the rules are a bit grey around this, so we aren't doing them yet’. All new tenancies starting on or after 1st July 2020 must have a valid EICR certificate.
“This threw up two areas of major concern. Firstly, that all the properties currently under the agent's management and which have tenancies starting after July 1 2020 would potentially be non-compliant and secondly, the potential purchaser of the property would be purchasing something which they think is compliant and be liable. Ultimately, as we know, the landlord carries the responsibility for this.”
Damp and Mould: “I went to a property one hour before a tenant was moving in to complete the inventory and hand over keys. The property was clearly damp and had black mould growing throughout the first floor. I called the agent to tell them of the issue and what they wanted to do about it? The agent said ‘just hand the keys over and they would deal with it later, as we haven't told the landlord about it yet.’ This is a clear breach of the housing health and safety rating system and as it would have been myself handing the keys over, I had to refuse and return the keys to the agent.
“This was without a doubt a Category 1 issue which means it was unfit for human habitation. The landlord was unaware that the tenant was being placed into an unsafe property. I know for a fact that the agent handed the keys over to the tenant that afternoon providing a major liability for the landlord.”
Smoke Detectors: I went to inspect a four-bedroom house. Due to the layout, there were multiple floors (three including the ground floor). There were no smoke detectors anywhere in the property! There should have been at least four smoke detectors in the property. When I called to tell the agent, they said: ‘Don't worry, I am sure the tenants will put some in.’ This is a Category 1 issue, and the property should not have been let and again, the liability lands with the landlord and not the agent.”
David Alexander continues: “These situations are irresponsible and inexplicable in the modern age. A good letting agent will provide a system which allows landlord and tenant easy means of communication to update and inform each person involved of any issues with a property.
“…When we have told landlords that they have not been compliant they have been genuinely shocked and appalled that they were liable for these regulatory breaches yet had not been informed of outstanding issues. Landlords need to know that they can trust their agent to keep them on the right side of the regulations and to ensure tenants are safe and happy. Trying to get away with these examples of atrocious service and disgraceful behaviour is simply unacceptable and must be stamped out.”