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Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Lawful Tenants Refused Rental Properties
Because Of Right To Rent Immigration Checks

Right to Rent immigration checks could cause more UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords to refuse tenancy applications from lawful tenants because they are over cautious about letting to tenants with foreign accents and names or have unfamiliar identity documents.

According to the Residential Landlords Association, (RLA), the complexity of the Government’s plans to turn landlords into unpaid Border Agency staff could see lawful tenants being refused housing.

The warning comes as new research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) indicates the difficulties caused by the Government’s Right to Rent scheme, originally piloted in the West Midlands, concluding that UK PRS landlords Right to Rent checks have resulted in discrimination against tenants who appear “foreign”.

The JCWI research discovered that:

  • 42% of landlords were less likely to consider tenant applications from someone who did not have a British passport,
  • 27% of landlords were reluctant to engage with tenancy applications from people with foreign accents or names

Under the new immigration bill, PRS landlords are set to be legally responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants. Following the pilot scheme in the West Midlands, the Government recently announced that the immigration checks by landlords would be expanded nationwide, with landlords facing up to five years in prison for failure to undertake the Right to Rent checks.

Residential Landlords Association policy director, David Smith, said: “Whilst the RLA opposes discrimination against tenants because of their race or nationality, the Government’s plans are causing confusion and anxiety for many landlords. If the Government expect landlords to act as border police it should provide the training and material needed to give them the confidence to carry out the checks required of them. In the absence of such support, today’s research sadly shows the inevitable consequences of the policy which the RLA has long voiced concerns about. Faced with considerable sanctions, landlords will inevitably play it safe where a tenant’s identity documents are either unclear or simply not known to them. It is concerning that the Government remains committed to rolling out the Right to Rent policy nationwide without first publishing its assessment of the impact it has had in its own pilot area. Ministers should halt plans to proceed with its rollout to allow time for proper scrutiny and consideration of the impact it is likely to have.”

The research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants comes before the publication of the Home Office’s own assessment of the Right to Rent pilot scheme detailing its level of effectiveness.

There seems to be a huge communication breakdown somewhere, we as landlords are now unpaid members of the UK Border Agency, like it or not, we mustn’t discriminate against any tenant applicant because it is an “ism” and can be punished by imprisonment and a large fine, however, if we house someone in need, we leave ourselves open to prosecution and a large fine. If we act in a professional manner, we are accused of not caring, but if we have too much contact with tenants we are seen as overbearing and interfering. If we spend money on properties we are seen as rich money grabbers that are open to exploitation and if we don’t spend vast amounts to correct damage caused by tenant lifestyles as and when tenants demand then we are called tight and heartless. Homeless charities want the UK PRS closed down, the Government want as much of our profits as they can get their hands on and the media think we are all descendants of Rachman and Rigsby – How is the system supposed to work?

Landlords Outraged At Right To Rent Prison Threat

Landlords Outraged At Right To Rent Prison Threat

Landlords Outraged At
Right To Rent Prison Threat 

Private rental sector landlords and letting agents have expressed outrage over proposed amendments to the forthcoming Immigration Bill (2015) expected to be introduced in September, when MPs return from their summer break.

Section 20 – 37 of the Immigration Act 2014 contained the provision to make it compulsory for landlords to check the immigration status of all new adult tenants. Now officials want to enforce the measures, in order to strengthen their grip on the private rental sector (PRS).

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Landlord Fined For Unreasonable Delay On Repairs

Landlord Fined For Unreasonable Delay On Repairs

Landlord Fails To Conduct Repairs And Is Fined Over Delay

A landlord in Northumberland has been fined £2,000 (GBP) by Sunderland Magistrates Court for failing to carry out rental property repairs within a reasonable timescale.

Mr Brij Bushan Chowdhry was fined £1,000 (GBP) plus £900 (GBP) costs and a £100 (GBP) victim surcharge for failing to comply with the terms of a Housing Act Improvement Notice served on one of his properties.

Complaints about the disrepair of the rental property were first made by Mr Chowdhry’s tenants back in September 2010 and the property was subsequently visited by housing officers and a list of essential repairs was passed to Mr Chowdhry, however, the repairs were not carried out.

Sunderland City Council served a formal improvement notice to Mr Chowdhry in October 2012 but he again failed to act.

Sunderland City Councillor Graeme Miller said: “We work closely with private landlords to provide them with what help and support we can to maintain their properties, but will not hesitate to take action against those who fail to do so wherever necessary. Sunderland City Council will prosecute poor landlords who fail to co-operate with us in eliminating poor standards of accommodation in our communities. All tenants have the right to expect to live in safe, secure and healthy housing and we will continue to work with private landlords to ensure that right is respected.” 

This story seems very one sided, however there is little point in landlords ignoring either tenant requests for repairs or formal improvement notices served by county councils because as the above report shows, the landlord will lose. What is worse is that without repairs being done the damage will get worse and the costs to make good any damage will increase, so swift action may have a cost implication but failing to do anything will be far more expensive in the long run.

But, what if these requests were not ignored?

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Government Set To U-Turn On Immigration Checks By Landlords

Government Set To U-Turn On Immigration Checks By Landlords

Immigration Checks Unworkable Say Critics

There could be a moral victory for common sense on the cards as the UK Government are set to perform yet another U-Turn on policies as they are forced to back down on requiring landlords to conduct immigration checks on all tenants.

The Government plan was announced in the Queen’s Speech back in May and intended to force private rented sector (PRS) landlords to check their tenants’ immigration status or face fines of up to £3,000 (GBP).

Under the intended reform, all UK landlords and letting agents would be forced to check the immigration status of every tenant and tenants would have to produce documents showing they have permission to be in the UK.

There are also been concerns raised about landlords’ ongoing responsibilities for tenants already in their rental properties whose status may have gone from legal to illegal. Under the proposals, first-time offenders could face fines of £1,000 (GBP) per illegal immigrant in their rental properties. Landlords who failed to make proper checks within the last three years could also be fined £3,000 (GBP) per tenant.

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Absentee Landlords should be forced to use good Property Management Services

 

92-year old tenant, Mrs Helen Bora, has called for absentee* landlords, to be forced to employ the services of a good property management companies after she was found to be living in a rodent-infested flat with a broken lavatory, broken windows and taps that could only be operated with a pair of pliers.

Mrs Bora, a decorated World War II veteran, had lived in the flat in Bloomsbury for 12 years but her repeated complaints to her landlord, John Garvey, who lives in Ireland, were ignored.

It was only when Mrs Bora phoned the Environmental Health Department at Camden Council about her lavatory, that inspectors took action and moved her to a new home.

When asked about her experiences, Mrs Bora commented, “It affected my health badly and I felt frustrated and angry. That’s what I’ve got against this country; that they let people who live abroad buy properties and not look after them. They should be compelled to use a property management company.”

Camden cabinet member for community safety, Abdul Hai, said: “This is a particularly upsetting case, involving a highly vulnerable lady. We have a duty to protect residents in cases like this and I hope this prosecution acts as a warning to landlords that we will always take enforcement action where necessary.”

Mr Garvey didn’t attend court and was fined £10,000 (GBP) in his absence for failing to comply with two improvement notices on the building and £3,364 (GBP) costs.

  (landlords who buy investment property in a region of the UK but who live in another part of the country or even overseas)

Buy to let landlords who own rental properties in the North East, Yorkshire, East Anglia and London, should be aware that they will be among businesses targeted by six new HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) taskforces.

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) report that HMRC are likely to focus on private rented sector (PRS) landlords providing temporary accommodation and landlords of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) although specific details on the scope of the taskforce have yet to be announced.

It is expected that the taskforce will initially focus on private sector landlords in specific areas, but if the taskforces are successful, their remit could be easily extended to cover the whole of the UK.

In 2011/12, HMRC launched 12 taskforces with up to 30 more set to follow in 2012/13.

The taskforces are a result of the Government’s £917m spending review investment to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and fraud which aims to raise an additional £7bn each year by 2014/15

HMRC are using specialist teams and sophisticated techniques to gather information from across Government departments, and other sources including press and internet advertisements, universities and colleges, to identify individuals who are not paying sufficient tax and the chances of going undetected are increasingly remote.

It is not just unpaid income tax that HMRC are investigating, landlords providing temporary accommodation, perhaps to seasonal agricultural labourers, students or even homeless people, may find that a sizeable VAT liability is incurred.

Some landlords may not realise that VAT is chargeable on temporary accommodation as HMRC tend to treat it in the same way as hotel or guest house accommodation.

Landlords may not be registered for VAT when they should be and so could face a back-dated VAT claim.

The HMRC taskforces undertake intensive bursts of activity in specific high risk trade sectors and locations in the UK.

Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke, said: “HMRC is on target to collect more than £50 Million (GBP) as a result of the taskforces launched in 2011/12. We have made it clear that we will not tolerate tax evasion. Everyone needs to pay the taxes they owe in full. We are determined to crack down on the minority who choose to break the rules. It is not fair that at a time when most hard-working people are paying the right tax, others are trying to get out of paying what they should.”

HMRC’s Director of General Enforcement and Compliance, Mike Eland, said: “These six new taskforces will bring together specialists from across HMRC to tackle tax dodgers. If you have paid all your taxes you have nothing to worry about. But deliberately evading tax you should be paying can land you with not only a heavy fine but possibly a criminal prosecution as well”.

Landlords do have legal responsibilities over electrical safety

Confusion over Landlord's Electrical Safety obligations

The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) have highlighted some confusion over electrical safety between PRS Landlords and tenants in private rented sector properties.

30% of landlords did not realise that they were responsible for the electrical safety within their Buy-To-Let properties, according to the ESC’s survey.

This potentially could lead to very dangerous consequences for both landlords and tenants.

If a landlord is found to be negligent over electrical safety they could be liable for a fine of up to £5,000 (GBP).

The ESC’s found that 38% of landlords were not aware of any penalty for failing to maintain an adequate level of electrical safety within their rental properties.

Those landlords could be putting their tenant’s lives at risk!

Being a landlord can be both financially and mentally tough sometimes, and finding a variety of landlord products and services to aid a profitable property rental business can be challenging. Tenant referencing and landlord insurance may incur costs at the start of a tenancy, but the peace of mind and financial safety net those services provide can be a real benefit for landlords.

Why should electrical safety be any different? Ensuring that all the electrical devices in the rental property are safe and fit for purpose may also incur financial expense at the start of a tenancy, but what price can you put on someone’s life?

Financial outlay to ensure continued electrical safety can be minimised by regular checks and maintenance.

With this in mind here are a few tips from the Electrical Safety Council for UK landlords.

  • Landlords are responsible for making sure the electrical installation is safe in a property

This responsibility applies at the start of a tenancy and the property must be maintained in a safe condition throughout its duration.

Landlords should carry out basic visual checks to ensure that the installation has no hazards, including broken accessories (such as sockets and light switches), signs of scorching around sockets due to overloading, damaged cables to portable equipment or trailing cables/flexes.

  • Have a regular periodic inspection and test carried out on the property

Landlords of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), have a legal obligation to have a periodic inspection carried out on the HMO property every 5 years.

If the property is not an HMO, there is no current legal obligation to have the installation inspected and tested on a periodic basis.

However, the ESC recommends that a periodic inspection and test is carried out by a registered electrician on private sector rental properties at intervals not exceeding 5 years, or on a change of tenancy.

They will then issue an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) which details any damage, deterioration, defects or conditions within the installation that give rise, or potentially give rise, to danger.

  • Make sure that your property has adequate RCD protection

Since 2008 the UK standard for the safety of electrical installations, BS 7671, has called for almost all electrical circuits installed in homes to be RCD protected.

An RCD is a life-saving device which protects against dangerous electric shock and reduces the risk of electrical fires.

  • Use a registered electrician for any work on your property

By choosing a registered electrician, you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the work is being done to the UK National Standard, BS 7671.

  • Carry out Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) on appliances provided as part of the rental agreement

As a landlord you are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that the appliances you provide for a tenant’s use are safe.

Portable Appliance Testing is one way of doing this and it should be carried out before a new tenancy starts or have appliances checked annually for longer tenancies.

Council tenants in England who sub-let their homes could now face up to 2 years in prison under the coalition government’s new proposals.

The government plans would see the creation of a new criminal offence “Tenancy Fraud”, with a fine of up to £50,000 also possible.

UK Government officials estimate that up to 160,000 tenants sub-let their council homes to other people at cost of £5 Billion a year to the taxpayer.

Grant Shapps, the UK’s Government Housing Minister said: “Tenancy cheats are taking advantage of a vital support system for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and getting away with a slap on the wrist while our waiting lists continue to grow. It’s time for these swindlers to pay the price. It would cost us billions of pounds to replace the huge number of unlawfully occupied social homes across the country. Meanwhile tenancy cheats can earn thousands of pounds letting out their property, which was given to them in good faith and which could instead be offering a stable home to a family in need. The proposals I’ve announced today would not only deliver justice to these fraudsters but will also act as a deterrent to those who think they can earn a fast buck from this precious resource. I want everyone to know that our country’s social homes are going to those in genuine need, not providing a ‘nice little earner’ to someone who could afford to live elsewhere.”

Local councils would also receive more powers to investigate fraud, including better access to information from banks and utility companies.

Ministers are putting the proposals forward for consultation.

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Her Majesties Customs & Revenue (HMRC) is set to expand spot-checks to include landlords and small business owners across the UK in 2012.

UK Landlords and small business owners need to be prepared for an unwelcome knock on the door and a potential investigation into their business activities, by the TAXMAN!

HMRC is planning to investigate thousands more landlords and small businesses in 2012, and is expanding its investigations on several fronts.

The Business Records Check regime, trialled in selected areas of the UK in 2011 will expand its remit to the whole of the UK.

HMRC initially aimed to target 50,000 UK small businesses but have since lowered their expectations to target around 20,000 small businesses and landlords in 2012.

HMRC planned to take on around 90 extra staff in order to help it conduct its investigations, suggesting that it considers the checks to be an important priority.

The purpose of the unannounced visits is to ensure that businesses have kept sufficient records, and that those records back up their tax returns, and that could mean potential trouble for a large number of small enterprises.

Landlords and small business owners that are found to have kept insufficient or inaccurate records could be fined – heavily!

UK landlords have often mused over their immunity to such investigations, until the end of 2011, when the Revenue announced the establishment of a new task force specifically charged with investigating landlords in the North East of England and North Wales, and these investigations will now be extended across the country as part of the Revenue’s continued drive to clamp down on tax evasion, leaving UK landlords with no doubt over their position.

UK landlords are legally obliged to keep comprehensive records detailing rental income and related expenditure. Landlords must keep these for at least six years following the end of the tax year to which they relate. Accurate record-keeping is the most important way in which landlords can protect themselves.

UK landlords should ensure the accuracy of their tax returns. HMRC has dished out fines for relatively minor infractions, and it is therefore important that a landlords tax return is fully supported by detailed records.

Two landlords have paid a heavy price in separate cases for failing to comply with HMO regulations.

Sikander Hayat has been fined £9,500 after being prosecuted for blocking escape routes, failing to ensure that the fire alarm system was working, and failing to ensure a constant supply of electricity at one of his rental properties.

Hayat pleaded guilty to seven charges of failing to comply with HMO regulations in respect of a property in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Banbury Magistrates’ Court heard he also failed to make appropriate arrangements for disposal of refuse.

Hayat was prosecuted by Cherwell District Council and also had to pay the authority’s costs of £300.

In a second case, Graham Snowdon has been fined £10,000 by York magistrates for renting out an HMO without a licence.

The case was brought after a licensing enforcement officer visited the premises in April for an unannounced inspection and found eight tenants living over four floors.

The council said that the premises did not have an HMO licence and was lacking in fire detection and prevention equipment. Other amenities were below the legal standard.

As well as a £10,000 fine, Snowdon was also ordered to pay costs of £1,216.50 and a £15 victim surcharge.

 

Source: RLA News Service

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