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‘Accidental landlords’ are taking unknown risks

So called ‘accidental landlords’, a new breed of landlord who lets out their property to avoid selling at a loss, are providing a welcome boost to the supply of housing at a time of very high demand for private rented homes, according to buy-to-let specialist Paragon Mortgages.
 
However, Paragon Mortgages’ managing director John Heron warns that many of these landlords may be ignorant of the large number of regulations involved in letting property. It is estimated that there are more than 50 Acts of Parliament and 70 sets of regulations governing the private rented sector1. Landlords risk fines if they let out their property without complying with the necessary legislation.
 
Heron says: ‘The onus is on the landlord to make sure they comply with all regulations and they are liable if something goes wrong, even if they employ the services of a letting or managing agent. Ignorance of legislation is not a defence.’
 
‘People who are letting out property they have been unable to sell are unlikely to have a detailed understanding of the legal requirements they have to comply with. For example, do they have an Energy Performance Certificate for the property or do they have a Gas Safety Certificate? What have they done with the tenant’s deposit and have they got adequate insurance in place? Failure to comply with certain regulations could not only result in heavy fines, it could also mean a custodial sentence.’
 
In addition, owner-occupiers could contravene their mortgage conditions if their lender does not know they are letting their property, which could have a knock-on impact on tenants if the property was repossessed.
 
Heron concludes: ‘The only solution is for landlords – accidental or experienced - to ensure they have a thorough understanding of relevant regulations. Getting help with this is not difficult. It would make sense to join the National Landlords Association, which provides a wealth of information and advice to their members. Also using the services of a professional letting agent, preferably ARLA registered, will make sure that an experienced individual is on hand to guide you through the process.’
 
Common regulations in the private rented sector include:
 
Gas and electricity: Boilers must be checked annually by a Corgi-registered tradesman, who will issue a Gas Safety Certificate. Tenants should be given a copy when they begin the tenancy and within 28 days of an annual check. All electrical items and fittings should be checked regularly as landlords could be liable if a tenant is harmed by an electrical item provided.
 
Fire safety: If the property was built after June 1992, tenants must have an adequate means of escape and a mains-operated inter-connected smoke alarm should be fitted on every floor. It the property is a furnished let, furniture and furnishings made after 1950 must meet fire resistance regulations. The National Landlords Association has produced a Fire Safety Logbook, available from its www.landlords.org.uk website.
 
Regulator Reform (Fire Safety) Order: Landlords who own flats in a block are required to liaise with the managing agents and other homeowners to ensure that a fire risk assessment of the common parts is carried out.
 
Energy Performance Certificates: From October 2008 it became a legal requirement for landlords to make an Energy Performance Certificate of the property available to prospective tenants when letting a property. Failure to do so can result in a £200 fine and the landlord being prevented from marketing the property until the EPC is obtained. For further information on EPCs visit www.paragon-epcs.co.uk.
 
Tenancy deposit protection:From 6 April 2007, all deposits (for rent up to £25,000 per annum) taken by landlords and letting agents for Assured Shorthold Tenancies in England and Wales, must be protected by a tenancy deposit protection scheme.
 
HMOs: Rental homes spread over three stories or more and occupied by at least five tenants in two or more households are classed as Houses in Multiple Occupation and require a license by the local authority. A comprehensive guide on HMOs is available to download from the Literature section of the www.paragon-mortgages.co.uk website. 
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