Here we are with another Friday Newsround. What do we have for you?
‘No DSS’ is illegal
We have now had two cases where Judges have found for DSS applicants to agents with ‘No DSS’ policies and in both cases, the applicants have won.
In the most recent case, where the applicant was again supported by Shelter, the case was properly argued in front of a Judge who (we are informed by Nearly Legal) is not just any Circuit Judge, but the acting DCJ for Birmingham and a contributor to the Judicial College Equal Treatment Bench Book – a judge with considerable knowledge in the area of discrimination.
So her decision is unlikely to be overturned on appeal.
In this case, the applicant was a disabled man with a clean rental record who had always paid his rent on time. When he applied for a property he was told by the agents that it was “company policy” to refuse to rent to people who receive housing benefit.
So what does this mean for landlords and agents?
It doesn’t mean you have GOT to rent your property to people on benefits. It just means that you have to consider their application properly along with everyone else’s.
Which is actually a very sensible thing to do. We have a recession coming and sadly many people are going to lose their jobs. Someone with a track record of paying under benefit may actually be a better bet than someone who is likely to lose their job in a few months time and then stop paying anything.
The most important thing when choosing a tenant is the character of the person. Proper referencing of applicants just now is even more important than it usually is. Bearing in mind that if they don’t pay you are unlikely to be able to evict them for up to a year or more.
More eviction changes
Yes folks, yet more new rules. Sorry. The following has been announced by the Secretary of State:
- Evictions will not be enforced in local lockdown areas and
- There will be a ‘truce’ on enforcement over Christmas – apart from cases involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse
Although actually bailiffs never, or very rarely do evict over Christmas so the only really new item is the no eviction enforcements in lockdowns. Which sort of makes sense in a public health kind of way.
It is of course very unfair on landlords in local lockdown areas who may face more months of unpaid rent. But fairness and pandemics don’t really go together.
The press release also confirms what we already knew about notice periods and announces more money for funding for Discretionary Housing Payments available for local authorities to support vulnerable renters this year,
Re-starting possessions in the courts
The press release also confirms that courts will start to hear possession hearings again from 21 September but will be subject to new processes and procedures including:
- The prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as extreme rent arrears where landlords would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
- No cases from before 3 August 2020 will immediately proceed to hearing, but will have to be ‘re-activated’ by the landlord and then subject to a new review hearing, at least four weeks before the substantive hearing.
- Landlords will also need to provide the courts and Judges with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will be able to adjourn proceedings until the information is provided.
Robert Jenrick said
We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for 6 months – the longest eviction ban in the UK. To further support renters we have increased notice periods to 6 months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months.
It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes
Meaning that landlords will find it exceedingly difficult to evict tenants who are not behaving in an illegal or anti-social manner.
In those cases, landlords best option is probably to try mediation.
Client Money Protection and ‘Pooled Client Accounts’
Regular readers of this blog may remember me writing some time ago about the problems faced by some letting agents who need client money protection insurance but whose banks will not allow them to open a ‘pooled client account’.
That means a bank account for holding client money where all the client money goes into one account as opposed to having separate client accounts for each client. A ‘pooled client account’ is required for client money insurance policies which put agents who can’t get one in a difficult position.
It seems though that banks may now be more willing to provide these to agents who are not ARLA members due to new guidance published by The Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (JMLSG).
Propertymark says the revised guidance now acknowledges the distinction between the AML and CMP requirements for letting agents.
This means that banks should be considering whether the customer is subject to the AML Regulations, but crucially also other regulatory or professional conduct obligations such as client identification rules, professional conduct rules relating to dealing with funds in PCAs or client money protection regulations,
So, good news for those agents then. If the banks take any notice of this new guidance …
- YouGov poll suggests almost a quarter of landlords have lost rent due to Covid
- Give tenants COVID rent relief, letting agents tell government
- Deposit Diaries: Rent Deferral and Deposit Cap
- Competition watchdog launches enforcement action over potential mis-selling of leasehold homes
- No Fixed Abode by Maeve McClenaghan review – how rough sleepers die
- All lettings agents to face mandatory PRS registration, former ombudsman says
Newsround will be back next week