News from the past week. What do we have for you?
Landlords, Letting Agents and Coronavirus
In view of the Chancellor’s warning, that one-fifth of the entire working population could be self-isolating at any one given time, ARLA has asked the government for guidance on how letting agents should proceed in the coronavirus crisis, particularly where tenants self-isolate.
ARLA CEO David Cox said:
If a tenant were to have the virus or be in a period of self-isolation, what happens if something goes wrong in the property, for example, the boiler stops working?
If landlords and agents cannot go into the property, this means that a tenant could be left without heating or hot water for two weeks or longer.
This would put the agent or landlord in breach of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act, plus other legislation including licensing regulations, requiring them to maintain the property. Which could open up agents and landlords to unlimited liability and banning orders.
Then what about Right to Rent checks which by law need to be carried out face to face?
There is also the problem of landlords and agents having to prepare for the electrical safety regulations coming into force in July. Cox has asked for the government to relax the deadline to give landlords and agents more time to comply.
Eye’s post today has more on this issue, but we do not seem to have many answers.
The rise in ‘no DSS claims’
An interesting post in Property Industry Eye discusses the rise in ‘no DSS’ claims being made by unsuccessful tenancy applicants who are on benefit, following on from a BBC report of two successful out of our settlements.
Eye spoke to insurers who said that they are seeing an increase in notifications being made by agents under their professional indemnity insurance and that as a result, premiums look set to rocket.
One insurance exper told them
We have also had some isolated cases where many agents have been targeted in local areas claiming disability discrimination and using social media to blackmail agents in trying to agree pay-outs
Oliver Wharmby, of Lonsdale Insurance Brokers, warned of a rise in PI premiums. He told Eye that insurers would try to defend themselves and agents against claims wherever possible, rather than simply cave in, but warned
The importance of keeping up-to-date and accurate records to help defend a claim is paramount. If insurers cannot mount a robust defence with good written evidence, this may result in a pay-out regardless of whether the agent is at fault.
In view of all this, ‘No DSS’ notices are inadvisable and landlords and agents should, if possible, consider all applicants. Provided they have the ability to pay.
MP to seek an amendment to the Renters Reform Bill to outlaw ‘sex for rent’ landlords
Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse is seeking an amendment to the forthcoming Renters Reform Bill saying that the current law is not satisfactory.
‘Sex for rent’ deals are an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, punishable by up to seven years in prison, but a minority of landlords are still advertising these ‘free rooms’.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s guidance now include ‘sex for rent’ specifically, making it crystal clear that these arrangements are illegal, but notwithstanding there has not been a single successful prosecution for sex for rent in the past year. Wera Hobhouse writing in Politics Home says
Speaking to legal experts, they raise the concern that anyone bringing a case against a landlord could risk being labelled a prostitute. For this reason, victims feel afraid to come forward – concerned that by involving the law they put themselves in jeopardy. And the worst part is, as the law currently stands, that could easily be the case.
Our system is failing these victims, pressuring them into silence. That leaves predatory landlords free to continue a cycle of coercive sex for rent arrangements.
Going on to say
We need to place a specific duty on landlords not to pursue sex for rent arrangements. I will be putting down an amendment to the Government’s forthcoming Renters’ Reform Bill to do exactly that: provide a mechanism in law to prosecute landlords who exploit their tenants.
Which has to be good news for vulnerable tenants.
I would suggest also that consideration also be given to deeming these tenants to be in ‘priority need’ so they can get Local Authority help with rehousing.
- London borough wants to buy back homes lost to Right To Buy
- ‘Repeat offender’ agent owing £13,000 to consumers is thrown out of redress scheme
- Policy of building homes on flood plains to be reviewed
- Anger that estate agents cannot benefit from business rates holiday – unlike betting shops
- Major lender offering cheap rates for mortgage borrowers making ‘green’ improvements to homes
- Masked armed robber jumps out at agent visiting empty rental flat
Newsround will be back next week.