Reasons to choose Wilson Browne
- Transparent Costs
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- Fixed-fee packages available
- Free Initial Consultation
If you’re a private landlord, our job is to make yours easier.
There is a lot to consider when you are renting out a property. Our Housing Team provides specialist legal advice to private landlords on all aspects of tenancy management. We act for a large number of landlords in the private rented sector – whether we are instructed by the landlord direct or via letting agents working on their behalf. We have a proven reputation for excellent advice, clear action and getting the result the landlord needs.
One property or an entire portfolio
Whether you have one property or an entire portfolio, whether it is your first time dealing with an issue or you have faced problem tenants before, we can advise on Tenancy Agreements, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, service of Notices and the issue of proceedings. We provide clear advice on steps that you can take, the costs involved and how long the process might take.
We are well known in the Northamptonshire and Leicestershire Courts and have trusted agents to who represent our clients in cases further afield.
Dealing with problem tenants
Our team understands that when tenants cause problems this can have serious financial implications for landlords. Our advice is proactive and practical – we have a wealth of experience in resolving these issues and can advise on the best way forward for a landlord.
We regularly represent landlord clients in Court proceedings to recover possession of property (with or without recovery of rent arrears) and can advise on:
- Tenancy agreements / assured shorthold tenancy agreements – we can review template tenancy agreements to ensure that they serve your purpose or draft bespoke tenancy agreements on your behalf. We regularly assist buy-to-let clients in setting up tenancy agreements to use in their portfolios.
- Advice on the tenancy deposit scheme / deposit protection – if you take a deposit this must be lodged with a statutory agency eg. Deposit Protection Service (DPS) and prescribed information served within 30 days. Failure to comply with these requirements can prevent you from serving a Notice and ending the tenancy and can also lead to the imposition of compensation payments of between 1 and 3 times the level of the deposit.
- Tenancy Deposit Scheme requirements (ie legal requirements for deposits)
- Section 8 Notices– these are used to obtain possession of a property on grounds such as non-payment of rent, breach of other tenancy terms or in certain circumstances when a landlord needs the property back.
- Section 21 Notices – these are used to obtain possession of a property on a no-fault basis. Landlords will need to comply with requirements such as service of an EPC, gas certificate and How to Rent Guide as well as ensuring any deposit is protected and the prescribed information is given before such a Notice can be validly served
- The issue of proceedings for possession and recovery of rent
- The issue of accelerated possession proceedings for property only
- Recovery of rent arrears
- Warrants for possession
- The Housing Act
For hearings further afield we instruct agents and fully brief them to ensure our landlord clients achieve the result that they need.
Our fixed-fee packages allow you to control legal costs and to pick and choose those aspects of our services that you need in any given case. We always seek orders for the tenant to pay the landlord’s costs where it is possible to do so.
Call us today for a free initial discussion. Our Private Landlord team are here to give you all the help you need.
Gas Safety Check
Landlords are obliged to provide their tenants with an up to date Gas Safety Certificate.
It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that all gas appliances and fittings in the property are maintained and regularly serviced. As well as the obligation to provide a tenant with an up to date Gas Safety Certificate at the commencement of the tenancy, a landlord must also ensure that annual gas checks are completed and are carried out by a registered Gas Safe engineer.
Tenancy agreements should make provision for access to e permitted so that gas checks can be undertaken and if a tenant refuses entry a landlord can – and should – apply to the Court for an Order allowing them to gain access.
A record of the annual check must be presented to the tenant within 28 days of the check taking place and landlords should keep a careful record of the checks that have been completed for two years.
Landlords should ensure that the tenant knows how and where to turn the main gas supply to the property off in event of an emergency and if a property management company is instructed they should be aware of this as well.
For more information look at the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and the 2018 amendment to those which came into force on 6 April 2018.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
New regulations came into place in 2015 which state that all residential rental properties must be fitted with carbon monoxide detectors.
Detectors must be fitted in rooms used as living accommodation where solid fuel appliances are installed. Although they are not required for gas appliances, it is being encouraged as ‘best safety practice’ to fit them wherever possible.
Having detectors installed is a legal requirement, with a fine of up to £5,000 for non-compliance
Landlords are responsible for checking that the detector is working properly at the start of every new tenancy, with the tenants then responsible for checks throughout the duration of their occupation.
Landlords are also required to ensure that smoke detectors are fitted on every storey which is used as living accommodation. Failure to comply could result in a £5,000 fine for a landlord.
Landlords are responsible for supplying and fitting smoke detectors and ensuring that they are in full working order on the first day of every new tenancy.
Once the tenancy commences the tenant is responsible for testing the detectors regularly to ensure that they are in good working order. Ideally tests should be completed once a month. If a tenant reports a smoke detector is no longer working then the landlord is responsible for replacing it as soon as possible
Energy Performance Certificate
Landlords must provide their tenants with a valid EPC at the beginning of the tenancy. It is not enough to have an EPC – a landlord must actually provide that to the tenant before the tenancy starts.
Failing to provide your tenant with a valid EPC will mean that a landlord is not able to rely on a Section 21 Notice should they need to serve one later on. In addition, a fixed penalty of £200 per property can be imposed.
From 1 April 2020 all properties that are rented out must have an Energy Efficiency rating of at least E for the rental to be legal.
How to Rent
Landlords must provide their tenant with a current copy of the government’s “How to Rent” guide. Again, failing to do so will prevent a landlord from issuing a Section 21 Notice if one is required.
The “How to Rent” guide is amended now and again by the government without notice or fanfare so it is always best to download a current copy when a tenancy agreement is issued rather than relying on one kept as a copy from a previous tenancy.
The booklet provides tenants with information about their rights for the duration of the tenancy.
The Guide can be provided to the tenant via email as long as the tenant has agreed to receiving the booklet in that format. It is advisable to get written confirmation that the tenant is happy to receive the booklet by email and to obtain confirmation of receipt of the booklet from the tenant.
Tenancy Deposit Protection
Many landlords will decide to take a deposit from a tenant. Getting this wrong can have very serious consequences.
Any deposit taken by a landlord issuing an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must be registered in a custodial or insurance-based scheme. Once the tenancy deposit has been lodged with a tenancy deposit scheme the Prescribed Information must be served on the tenant within 30 days.
The Prescribed Information includes:
• The address of the property that deposit has been taken for
• How much deposit has been paid by the individual you are sending the information to
• How the deposit is protected
• The name and contact details of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme
• Details of the TDP scheme’s dispute resolution service
• Your name and contact details
• The name and contact details of any third party that’s paid the deposit
• What would lead to you holding some or all of the deposit back
• How your tenant can apply to get the deposit back
• What to do if they can’t get hold of the you at the end of the tenancy
• The actions they have to take if there is a dispute over the dispute over the deposit at the end of the tenancy
A landlord’s chosen TDP Scheme will issue a certificate showing what has been taken and how much is being held on the tenant’s behalf. A copy of this must be provided to the new tenant, and any third party who has contributed to the deposit, within 30 days of taking the deposit.
A failure to protect a tenancy deposit can result in an Order that the deposit plus compensation of between one and three times the deposit amount be paid to the tenant. It will also not be possible to rely upon a Section 21 Notice if the deposit has not been properly protected and the Prescribed Information served in the specified period.
Right to Rent
It is now mandatory for landlords to check their tenant’s Right to Rent.
If you are a landlord letting private rented accommodation, a landlord or occupier allowing a lodger to live in a property, or a tenant or occupier sub-letting a property, you are responsible for carrying out a Right to Rent check. If this is not done properly it can result in a fine of u to £3,000.
The scheme has been broken down into a four-step process designed to make it as simple as possible for the thousands of landlords and tenants.
Landlords are required to :
Step 1: Identify the prospective tenant
Clarify the names of all of the tenants over the age of 18 who will be living at the address, whether they are named on the tenancy agreement or not.
Arrange to liaise in person, or via video link, and confirm that they have documentation that will serve as identification.
Step 2: Verify the tenant’s identity
In person, or via video link, verify that your tenant’s documentation matches their identity. There are three lists of acceptable forms of identification.
‘List A, Group 1’ only requires one form of identification. It includes:
• A passport (current or expired) showing that the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK.
• A passport or national identity card (current or expired) showing that the holder is a national of the EEA (European Economic Area) or Switzerland.
• A registration certificate or document (current or expired) certifying or indicating permanent residence issued by the Home Office, to a national of a European Union, European Economic Area country or Switzerland.
• A permanent residence card, indefinite leave to remain, indefinite leave to enter or no time limit card issued by the Home Office (current or expired), to a non-EEA national who is a family member of an EEA or Swiss national.
• A biometric immigration document issued by the Home Office to the holder indicating that the person named is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK. The document must be valid at the time of the check.
• A passport or other travel document (current or expired) endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control and is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK
• A current immigration status document containing a photograph issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the named person is permitted to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK. The document must be valid at the time of the check
• A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
• Two of the following documents from ‘List A, Group 2’ would also be acceptable. These documents must be produced together and they must be dated to show they were issued within the specified date shown, and contain the full name of the prospective tenant.
• A full birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland, which includes the name(s) of at least one of the holder’s parents or adoptive parents.
• A letter issued within the last 3 months confirming the holder’s name, issued by a UK government department or local authority and signed by a named official (giving their name and professional address), or signed by a British passport holder (giving their name, address and passport number), or issued by a person who employs the holder (giving their name and company address) confirming the holder’s status as an employee.
• A letter from a UK police force confirming the holder is a victim of crime and personal documents have been stolen, stating the crime reference number, issued within the last 3 months.
• Evidence (identity card, document of confirmation issued by one of HM forces, confirmation letter issued by the Secretary of State) of the holder’s previous or current service in any of HM’s UK armed forces.
• A letter from HM Prison Service, the Scottish Prison Service or the Northern Ireland Prison Service confirming the holder’s name, date of birth; or a letter from an officer of the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales, an officer of a local authority in Scotland or an officer of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland.
• Letter from a UK further or higher education institution confirming the holder’s acceptance on a course of studies.
• A current full or provisional UK driving licence (a photo card without paper counterpart is acceptable). A current UK firearm or shotgun certificate.
• Disclosure and Barring Service certificate issued within the last 3 months.
• Benefits paperwork issued by HMRC, Local Authority or a Job Centre Plus, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions or the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development, within the last 3 months.
‘List B’ documents are to be used when a time limited excuse is established.
• A valid passport or other travel document endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the
• A current biometric immigration document issued by the Home Office to the holder, which indicates that the named person is permitted to stay in the UK for a time limited period – you MUST copy both sides of this document.
• A current residence card (including an accession residence card or a derivative residence card) issued by the Home Office to a non-EEA national who is either a family member of an EEA or Swiss national or has a derivative right of residence.
• A current immigration status document issued by the Home Office to the holder with a valid endorsement indicating that the named person may stay in the UK for a time-limited period.
• In the case that the person has an ongoing application with the Home Office, or their documents are with the Home Office, or they claim to have a permission right to rent, an email from the Landlords Checking Service providing a “yes” response to a right to rent request. This will only be sent to the landlord by the Landlords Checking Service
Landlords should take a copy of the tenant’s documentation (making sure that they date the copy that they take).
Step 3 – Follow up checks
Once a landlord has made the Right to Rent check, and is confident that the tenant is suitable, the landlord must retain the copy that they made of the tenant’s documents and record the date of the check.
If the landlord had to take a check using one of the documents from List B, it is likely that a follow-up check will be necessary to check the status of the tenant’s right to remain in the UK during the length of the tenancy. .
Step 4 – Landlord records
The landlord must keep the copies of documentation for the duration of the tenancy, and at least one year afterwards. It is important to be able to prove that the checks were carried out appropriately.
Legionnaires' Disease Plan
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia, caused by the inhalation of contaminated water. The bacteria that causes it can flourish anywhere that there is water at suitable temperature and the scary fact is that residential water systems are not immune.
In most cases, all that is required to maintain a bacteria free water system is to ensure that the system is kept moving, with no water left to stagnate in pipes or tanks, and the temperature is controlled – Legionella bacteria can only flourish between 20 – 45°C.
Landlords have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of the tenants through the maintenance of their property. Since 2001, assessing the risks of exposure to the Legionella bacteria has been a legal requirement. Although a vitally important piece of maintenance, this is a little known piece of legislation, and many landlords still don’t have Legionella Assessment plan in place.
There is no legal guidance on how often the checks should be carried out but carrying a check out when the gas safety check is completed can make management easier. To carry out a Legionnaires Disease Plan landlords should
• Check if water can stagnate anywhere within the property’s system – are there any long or redundant lengths of pipe? If so, consider removing these in order to remove the possibility of pooling stagnant water.
• Check with the ‘Water Fittings and Materials Directory’ that none of the fixtures and fittings in your water systems are ‘Legionnaires friendly’ – certain materials encourage the growth of the bacteria and should be avoided if possible.
• Ensure tanks and cisterns are covered and free from debris
The Team acted for a Charity in seeking possession of property let under Licence. The decision was made to terminate the Licence following a number of issues with behaviour.
The Team were able to advise the Charity on compliance with their own internal governance in reaching the decision to end the Licence. This involved the Trustees passing a specific resolution and providing notification to the Licensee in a specified format of the decision and her rights to appeal it before service of the actual Notice to Quit.
Possession proceedings on the grounds of trespass were issued on expiry of the Notice and a Possession Order made at a hearing where the making of the Order was opposed on behalf of the Licensee. An application for a Warrant was also required and an appeal lodged. The Team – led by Partner Jennifer Laskey – successfully argued for the appeal against the Warrant to be dismissed.
The Licensee left the premises 2 days before the eviction date.
This matter shows the Team’s considerable knowledge of the wider implications for a client of taking possession proceedings and its understanding in particular of the internal framework of its clients. The necessity of a formal resolution and notice prior to service of the Notice to Quit was essential in ensuring a Possession Order could properly be sought.
Action taken where the legal owner died during proceedings
Partner Jennifer Laskey acted for clients in seeking possession of property owned by their mother and managed by them under a Power of Attorney.
The claim itself was based on the accrual of significant rent arrears over a period of more than 12 months, giving more than sufficient basis for the use of Ground 8 as the reason for possession. Notice was served on Grounds 8, 10 and 11 and proceeding issued once the Notice had expired.
The proceedings were straightforward until the death of the legal owner just days before the possession claim was due to be heard.
That change in circumstances brought the legal standing of the Attorney to an end but the Executors had not yet obtained a Grant.
At the first hearing the matter was adjourned to allow time for the position to be clarified.
A subsequent hearing took place at which permission was given for the proceedings to be amended. The Team then secured agreement from the named Executors that they would step in to the proceedings on behalf of the deceased.
The claim was amended to reflect the Executors acting on behalf of the deceased and an Order for Possession was then made. Subsequently a Warrant for Possession was issued with Bailiffs attending assisted by the police to secure vacant possession of the property.
The rent arrears remain a debt to the Estate but the fact that action was taken even prior to the issue of a Grant of Probate allowed the ongoing rent arrears position to be brought to an end.
Ground 6 Possession Proceedings
The Team acted for an Estate in circumstances where long-running tenants of the deceased were occupying premises found to be dangerously in need of repairs to the electrical and heating systems.
The property was a mixed use building with two upper floor flats. One of the flats was vacant but the other was occupied by tenants who had been in occupation for many years.
The Team first took steps to ensure that the tenants were not occupying as a result of a Protected Tenancy. Evidence was obtained to show when the tenants took up occupation – since no written tenancy agreement existed – and confirmed that the Estate was dealing with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement.
An electrical inspection of the property identified a number of high grade hazards requiring remedial work which could not be undertaken whilst the tenants were resident.
A Notice Seeking Possession relying on Ground 6 was served. The Local Council conducted their own assessment of the property and agreed that the premises were unsafe.
Alternative accommodation was found for the tenants and they vacated the property shortly before the first Court hearing, allowing proceedings to be discontinued.
This was a complex claim for possession which required the Team to identify the nature of the tenancy before advising on the appropriate course of action. Thankfully the tenants were accommodated locally, avoiding the need for the Estate to incur further legal costs and additional delay in being able to undertake the works.