Managing property brings a wide range of responsibilities, to ensure tenants have a safe and secure place to live. These regulations or obligations relate to health and safety, finances, contracts, licences and building regulations. There are many ways that landlords can slip up and fail to meet their obligations. This can lead to hefty fines and have an adverse effect on a landlord’s reputation.
One landlord in London faced a fine of £310,000 for converting a house into a House of Multiple Occupancy. By dividing the property into flats and studios, the work required planning permission as well as approval to be used as a HMO. In another case concerning an HMO, a landlord was fined £60,000 by Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, after it found the property was not safe. The landlord had also broken an order by letting a room in a shared house. The rules on HMOs are very specific and so landlords should make sure they are not breaking the regulations. A HMO is a property which is rented by at least three people who are not from one ‘household’, such as being from the same family, but who share a bathroom and kitchen. The local authority will have information about HMOs and how to apply for a licence.
Another landlord was fined £3,700 after being successfully taken to court by Sheffield City Council for illegally evicting their tenant. The landlord served notice to quit but then changed the locks a few days later. The tenant should have been given two months’ notice to quit in writing. If they do not comply with the notice, the landlord has to take out a court order and only bailiffs are allowed to evict them. Changing the locks after a few days’ notice is a criminal offence and can lead to imprisonment, as well as fines and the landlord having to pay compensation to the affected tenant. As can be seen, the fines can be significant. In another case, a London landlord was handed a hefty £214,000 fine for breaching fire and electrical safety regulations. It was found that there was a live cable exposed on an electric hob, leading to a risk of electrocution, Another of the same landlord’s properties did not have a safe fire exit or electrical and gas certificates.
Meeting the legal and licensing requirements means a lot of administrative work for landlords and property managers. One way to keep on top of it is by investing in specialist landlord software which can deal with the back office duties of being a landlord. All paperwork can be stored in an app, such as contracts, electrical and gas certificates, check-ins, check-outs and inventories, so they are all in one place. Landlords can also keep photos and videos of property and belongings which can be used as evidence if there is a dispute over the state of repair or damage to property. Investing in such software and apps can also mean that landlords are alerted when a contract or safety certificate is about to expire.
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