On 12 May 2016 the Housing and Planning Act 2016 was passed and will – when it comes into force – (likely to be on dates later this year) make some significant changes to housing law.
The new legislation on “rogue landlords” provides for banning orders to be applied for by a local housing authority if a landlord or letting agent is convicted of a “banning order offence” (though this has yet to be defined. A banning order will prohibit the subject of the order from letting a house, working as a letting agent or working as a property manager for a minimum of 12 months or allow for a fine of up to £30,000 to be imposed.
Landlords are also to be penalised if they unlawfully evict a tenant (under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977) or using violence to secure entry (Criminal Law Act 1977). New provisions allow the tenant to apply for repayment of rent or the housing element of Universal Credit.
As well as addressing issues with rogue landlords, the 2016 Act seeks to give landlords of abandoned properties an easier route to repossession. The new Act provides that a private landlord of a property let on an assured shorthold tenancy may recover possession of abandoned property without first obtaining a court order.
The power arises only if:
(a) there are either 8 weeks’ rent arrears (weekly rent) or 2 months’ rent arrears (monthly rent) and,
(b) the landlord has given sufficient notice to which the tenant (and any other named occupier or person who paid a deposit) has not responded. Three notices must be given, the second between two and four weeks after the first and the third at least five days before possession is recovered.
A tenant has the ability to apply to the County Court for reinstatement within six months of the recovery of possession and the Court may grant reinstatement if there is a good reason for failing to respond to the warning notice.
This route may therefore not be attractive in a number of cases, particularly where the property is abandoned and the tenant cannot be found – the risk of the notice provisions being found not to have been complied with will be weighed by landlords against the certainty of obtaining a possession Order “the old fashioned way” and being more sure of keeping possession if the tenant turns up.
Other provisions in the Act include the possibility of tenancy deposit providers being required to share information with local housing authorities, the potential for landlords to be required to meet electrical standards and for tenants to have a right implied into tenancy agreements to enforce such a requirement and the possibility that letting agents may be required by the Secretary of State to join a client money protection scheme.