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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?

Shelter Target PRS Landlords Again!

Shelter Target PRS Landlords Again!

Shelter Attacks PRS Landlords With
More Bogus Propaganda

The homelessness charity, Shelter are once again targeting private rental sector landlords, with claims of abuse and neglect being aimed at the sector.

Shelter claim that that 125,000 tenants have suffered abusive behaviour from landlords in the past year and the health of 1 Million private rental sector tenants have been affected by rogue landlords not doing property repairs or dealing with poor conditions in their rented property, with almost 300,000 parents who rent reporting serious impacts on their children’s health caused by poor property management.

The charity maintain that damp, mould, and bad ventilation in private rented sector properties are causing asthma, allergies, breathing problems and worse among tenants, and they are laying the blame squarely on landlords shoulders.

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Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Industry welcome to weak tenants’ charter that could see UK PRS landlords at odds with

Buy-To-Let Mortgage Lenders

The new tenants’ charter was announced by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (CLG), Eric Pickles, last Wednesday, allowing tenants to ask for longer tenancies and better transparency of letting agents’ fees.

The new tenants’ charter will also aim to force all lettings and property managing agents controlling PRS rental properties to join a compulsory redress scheme.

The Tenants’ Charter, published for consultation, outlines what tenants should be looking out for at every stage when renting a property in the UK’s private rented sector, including lettings agents having to inform customers what all their fees are upfront, before they have committed to anything, including visiting a property.

However, the introduction of these terms under the banner of the tenants’ charter could threaten the business future of large numbers of landlords who would technically be in breach of the strict buy-to-let mortgage terms imposed by many mortgage lenders, which generally stipulate that tenancy agreements are to be for a period of no more than one year.

Secretary Of State For Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles

Secretary Of State For Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles

Mr Pickles stated that the Government intend to publish a code of practice setting standards for the management of property in the private rental sector (PRS) along with guidance setting out the role of public bodies in protecting tenants from illegal eviction.

Mr Pickles said: “This government is on the side of hardworking people and the last thing we want to do is hurt tenants and kill (property) investment by increasing costs and strangling the sector with red tape. But tenants deserve better value for money, and dodgy landlords should be under no illusion they can provide a shoddy service with impunity. These proposals will raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation, root out the cowboys and rogue operators in the sector, and give tenants the confidence to request longer fixed-term, family-friendly tenancies that meet their needs”

Mr Pickles also said that the Government will develop a model tenancy agreement which will clearly set out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and ensure families can benefit from longer tenancies, without changing the existing legal framework for the rental market. He said “Longer tenancies will give families greater certainty and security, especially for those with children at school, and reduce costs for both tenants and landlords who will not have to pay letting agents to arrange frequent contract renewals.”

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee said: “I am pleased that the Government has embraced many of the recommendations in our private rented sector report. The proposals for a tenants’ charter and model tenancy agreements reflect our calls for greater awareness of rights and responsibilities. Far too often the security needed by families is not being provided by the private rented sector. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has listened to what the Committee said about the need for more family friendly tenancies. It is also welcome that the Government is taking forward our proposal to allow rent and housing benefit to be clawed back when landlords have been convicted of letting out dangerous property. The Committee will be watching closely to ensure that they are translated into action. We will also press to ensure that the Government’s gathering of information on selective licensing leads to action to raise standards. Much remains to be done if renting is to become an attractive alternative to owner occupation. It is disappointing; therefore, that the Government does not see fit to crack down on cowboy letting agents and their rip off fees and charges. It is also regrettable that the Government has declined to give local authorities the powers and freedom they need to improve housing in their areas.”

Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current
Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Property professionals generally agree with the introduction of the new tenants’ charter but many think that the Government have sidestepped the opportunity to enforce much tighter regulation of landlords in the private rental sector and lettings and property managing agents in particular and many feel that the new measures fall short of what is really needed.

It will be interesting to see if the Government put pressure on the banks and mainstream mortgage lenders to abolish or ignore such limiting clauses, allowing them to deliver on the real aim of the tenants’ charter.

Caroline Kenny, an executive of the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) wants the Government to build on the experience and expertise of those industry bodies which already require higher standards of their members. Commenting “Responsible agents who choose to belong to professional bodies which require client money protection insurance, impartial redress and an adherence to a strict Code of Practice are forced to compete with those who show little regard to professional standards or the needs of their clients. UKLA believe that this package of proposals represents a missed opportunity for the Government to make mandatory the kind of comprehensive protection offered by the UK Association of Letting Agents and other industry regulatory bodies, which are called UKALA & NLAfor by those working in the property industry and needed by hardworking consumers who are unable to differentiate between good and bad letting agents.”

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “The NLA has long argued that private renting can be far more flexible than commonly perceived, and we need to tap into this potential to meet the changing needs and expectations of those who rent. We look forward to working with government to make a success of these proposals. However, we believe that the Government has missed an opportunity to require greater professionalism of letting agents. While the requirement to belong to an approved redress scheme is a step in the right direction, it does little to protect the financial interest of landlords and tenants working with unregulated agents.”

Residential Landlords Association

Join The Residential Landlords Association

Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) welcomed the Government action to improve tenants’ understanding of their rights and responsibilities saying: “Tenants take more trouble buying a second-hand car than renting a house” Ensuring that tenants and landlords each understand clearly their rights and obligations to one another ensures a balanced relationship and enables them to hold each other to account based on the large number of laws already in existence. It will also play a vital role in rooting out those willfully criminal landlords who reap misery on tenants. We look forward to working with Ministers on the Charter as well as on how to best get this information to tenants.”

RICSPeter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said “The long overdue announcement was definitely a step in the right direction. The lettings sector has for far too long been the Wild West of the property industry, with many tenants having absolutely nowhere to go should they wish to complain about shoddy service. The introduction of a code of practice specifically covering those managing rented property should certainly improve standards.”

Chief Executive of the Housing & Homelessness charity Shelter, Campbell Robb said “This announcement is recognition that current private renting arrangements are not fit for families with children, who need greater long-term stability. This is a welcome step in the right direction, and ministers now need to consider how to make longer tenancies a real choice for the families desperate for a more stable place to live.”

The announcement of the new Tenants’ Charter was good news for consumer champions, Which? Who have been campaigning since 2007 when they first called for an amendment to the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 requiring letting agents to join an approved complaints scheme, just as property sales agents are. The consumer groups investigations also discovered earlier this year that major letting agents are acting unlawfully by not being upfront about the fees charged to clients.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, looks set to be implemented in Spring 2014, giving all landlords and tenants access to a complaints scheme. This will mean that 40% of agents who currently aren’t signed up to a redress scheme will have to become members

Which? Executive Director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Renting is now the only housing option for millions so we’re pleased to see the Government taking steps to address problems in the lettings market. Making charges clear upfront will enable people to shop around more easily, and longer tenancies could mark the end of unnecessary renewal fees. The new legislation giving landlords and tenants access to a complaints scheme now needs to be brought in as soon as possible and there must be strong action taken against any agent in breach of the scheme.”

  • Do you think the proposals go far enough?

Take our Poll on the Tenants Charter or leave a comment below!

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New Row Over Letting Agent's Evil Fees

New Row Over Letting Agent’s Evil Fees

Homeless Charity Wants All
Letting Agent Fees To Be Met By Landlords

The homelessness charity, Shelter have started to campaign to get all letting agent fees currently charged to tenants banned throughout England, and they want landlords to foot the bill for it, a point which has angered the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and caused consternation with the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA).

Shelter have launched a new report, “Letting Agencies: the Price you Pay”, claiming that charging landlords is a fairer way of doing business and the charity also claim that tenants are having to go without food or heating to meet increasing housing costs because letting agents’ fees are out of control.

Shelter were instrumental in getting letting agent fees banned in Scotland and now want the practice outlawed by MPs in England and are calling for politicians to take action.

The homelessness charity seem to think that all letting agents are the devil in disguise and recently questioned 58 separate letting agents throughout England, anonymously, asking them about what fees each charged in order to set up a tenancy for a tenant and discovered the average administration fee charged by agents was £350 (GBP) plus upfront rent and tenancy deposits. Less than a third of letting agents questioned charged fees totalling more than £400 and seven charged in excess of £700.

The Shelter research claims that in the last three years,

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Government Funding To Boost Shared Tenancies For Homeless

Government Funding To Boost Shared Tenancies For Homeless

£1 million Government funding boosts rental options for single homeless people

This week, Communities Minister Don Foster announced a cash boost of up to £1 Million (GBP) to support single homeless people providing access to shared tenancies within the UK private rental sector.

The funding is intended to help homeless people to find a safe and secure home in shared accommodation or Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) in private rented sector (PRS) properties.

Mr Foster allocated up to £800,000 (GBP) for homelessness charity Crisis to fund schemes to set up new shared tenancies for single homeless people within the UK’s private rented sector.

The minister also announced a further £230,000 (GBP) for the charity to continue its Private Rented Sector Access Programme, which works with local landlords to help vulnerable people find the homes they need in privately rented accommodation.

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Hi all I read the following article in the Guardian this week and I thought I would share it with you as I happen to agree with the viewpoints stated by the author Heather Kennedy.

Please take a couple of minutes to read the following…. 

Is Shelter’s campaign against ‘rogue landlords’ helpful for private tenants?

Law-breaking landlords aren’t the sole blight on the private rented sector, despite Shelter’s eye-catching campaign

How do you feel if I say the words “energy performance certificate”? What about “London landlord accreditation scheme”? Is your pulse racing? I didn’t think so.

The dry and cumbersome language of the private rented housing sector is not exactly the stuff of captivating media headlines. For those of us trying to shout from the rooftops about how bad things are for private tenants right now, this can present a problem.

One organisation that has succeeded in capturing widespread attention is Shelter, with its simple and popular ‘evict rogue landlords’ campaign. The housing charity is encouraging residents to report dodgy landlords to their local authorities, who can take legal action if they are found to be operating outside the law.

The message has gained traction. Across the public debate on welfare and housing, the concept of the “rogue landlord” has caught on fast. It is central to our understanding of what is wrong with the private rented sector.

So if talk of ‘rogue landlords’ has helped to make the difficulties of life as a private tenant mainstream news, what’s the issue?

The problem is that Shelter’s concept seduces us into believing the deep-rooted problems in the private rented sector can be eradicated by punishing a small, malignant minority when in fact large-scale policy overhaul is now urgently needed.

There are plenty of fully legal landlords happy to bully their tenants, impose huge rent increases and end contracts on a whim.

Some renters and their landlords have come to consider this acceptable behaviour, so a rogue is always someone else: someone a friend of a friend told you about, or that one you saw on the telly. Never the landlord you have – or the one you are.

Of course unlawful evictions, harassment of tenants and illegal hazards need to be tackled. But I speak to private tenants across London every day and for most of them, current legislation offers them little or no protection against the problems they face.

For those landlords who are operating illegally, local councils have a feeble track record at prosecuting them, as Shelter points out. What Shelter doesn’t explain is how councils are supposed to find the time and resources to deal with the spiralling number of complaints from tenants, and at a time when funding for local authorities is being cut by central government.

Councils are already overwhelmed by the sheer volume of complaints they receive and can often only hope to provide basic dispute resolution between landlord and tenant.

For Shelter to suggest that we can prosecute our way out of this problem using current legislation is at best naive and at worst disingenuous.

The figure of the rogue landlord as a modern-day folk devil might be media-friendly, but it is meaningless for the majority of private tenants.

We need nuanced debate about the private rented sector, to reflect the diverse and complex experiences of tenants.

Shelter does some excellent work getting housing issues into the mainstream press, but right now its analysis is being allowed to dominate the debate.

Unlike council tenants, who have rich a tradition of self-organisation and representation, private tenants have no collective identity or voice.

This is partly why we’ve found it so difficult to challenge unfair treatment. It’s only now, as pressures on private tenants reach an apex that we’re beginning to speak as one and forge this collective voice.

Not until tenants are allowed to define their own campaigns and solutions will we begin to see the deep rooted change to the private rented sector we so desperately need.

Heather Kennedy is the founding member of Digs, a support and campaign group for private tenants in Hackney

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. Join the housing network for comment, analysis and best practice direct to you

70% Rise in Tenant Evictions over last 3 years

70% rise in Tenant Evictions over 3 years

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and homless charity Crisis say that UK court orders to evict defaulting tenants in the Private Rental Sector have risen by more than 70% over the past 3 years.

Homeless charity Crisis analysed Ministry of Justice figures to reveal that within the last 12 months some 36,211 landlords have been granted a court order to evict bad tenants, an increase of 12% on the previous year and 70% higher than the 21,351 court orders granted in 2009.

Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy at Crisis, said: “Sadly it is no surprise that we are seeing thousands of private tenants facing eviction. They face a dreadful combination of high unemployment and underemployment, draconian cuts to housing benefit and soaring rents. Our concern is that many of these people will have nowhere to turn, and end up falling victim to homelessness. In fact the Government’s own statistics point to this already happening. We are calling on the Government to rethink cuts to housing benefit that will inevitably leave increasing numbers of people unable to pay the rent. We are also in desperate need of more social and affordable housing in order to rein in the soaring rental market.”

The RLA want more done to prevent tenants getting into rent arrears and are currently lobbying the Government to change the way that the housing element of the new Universal credit system will be paid.

Latest Government figures show that between 2009 and 2011, the number of people approaching their local authorities as homeless due to the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy or due to rent arrears increased by 42% to almost 10,000 households.

Sim Sekhon spokesman for the UK’s leading Tenant Eviction specialists, Legal 4 Landlords, said “Landlords who do not have specialist insurance in place to protect rental incomes face the prospect of rent default by tenants as they in turn face increasing financial pressures. At Legal 4 Landlords we provide the complete tenant eviction service for landlords with a success record that speaks for itself, that’s why we are the UK’s leading tenant eviction company”.

Massive rise in tenant eviction orders as landlords are forced to get tough causing outcry from homelessness charity Crisis.

Over the last three years there has been a 70% rise in court orders for the eviction of tenants in the UK Private Rented Sector (PRS).

12% Rise in Tenant Evictions over last 3 years

12% Rise in Tenant Evictions over last 3 years

Homeless charity Crisis set about analysing figures released by the Ministry of Justice that revealed in the last 12 months some 36,211 PRS landlords have been granted a court order for the eviction of tenants, a rise of 12% on the previous year, and 70% higher than the 21,351 court orders for tenant eviction granted in 2009.

The data shows that between 2009 and 2011, almost 10,000 individuals approached their local authority claiming to be homeless due to the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) or because of rent arrears. A rise of 42% on previously released figures.

Duncan Shrubsole, Policy Director at Crisis, said: “Sadly it is no surprise that we are seeing tens of thousands of private tenants facing eviction. They face a dreadful combination of high unemployment and underemployment, draconian cuts to housing benefit and soaring rents. Our concern is that many of these people will have nowhere to turn, and end up falling victim to homelessness. In fact the Government’s own statistics point to this already happening. We are calling on the Government to rethink cuts to housing benefit that will inevitably leave increasing numbers of people unable to pay the rent. We are also in desperate need of more social and affordable housing in order to rein in the soaring rental market.”

Sim Sekhon from the UK’s leading tenant eviction specialists, Legal 4 Landlords commented: “In these austere times UK landlords are being forced to take action with bad tenants or tenants with rent arrears as they simply cannot afford to go without the rent. We have seen a significant rise in tenant evictions in the last 12 months and unfortunately this trend is set to worsen due to the raft of benefit cuts and welfare reforms being pushed through parliament. Landlords are finding their own finances stretched and are having to take legal action for the eviction of non paying tenants before their entire rental businesses go bust. There are ways for landlords to avoid being in this situation but it does require action to be taken before the start of a tenancy, all applicants should be thoroughly tenant referenced and landlords can utilise Rent Guarantee Insurance to keep the monthly rent flowing.”

Legal 4 Landlords the UK No.1 specialist landlord service provider

Legal 4 Landlords the UK No.1 specialist landlord service provider

To find out more about the specialist products and services

offered by Legal 4 Landlords please visit their comprehensive website

Hi All
My property management agents were in the process of interviewing a pair of prospective tenants for one of my properties. The applicants were a homeless married couple who had been forced to relocate to the area due to losing their jobs and wanted to move to an area with better employment opportunities.

The application was going great until it came to checking the couple’s housing benefit entitlement….

According to the local authority (I wont name and shame them here for legal reasons) the married couple were only entitled to the shared room rate because they were married and under 35. The management company attempted to argue over such blatant discrimination by the local authority but the facts seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Single claimants under 35 would be entitled to receive the shared room rate in full as individuals, but because the applicants were married they only counted as a single applicant!

It has taken 4 months of hard work, stress and a great deal of legal wrangling to sort out, including requests for Discretionary Payments, consultations with LHA professionals and arguements with various Government departments.

Following tips and advice gleaned from “The Essential Landlords LHA Handbook” I have now been able to get the full 2 bed LHA rate paid directly to me and the local authority have been forced to make a grovelling apology to the tenants!

It just goes to show that when armed with the right information and legal standpoints there are always options open to landlords, and it pays to invest in the knowledge of experts!

I would like to publicly thank the LHA Expert for his brilliant LHA book and tons of helpful advice!

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Help the RLA

Join The Residential Landlords Association

Details of the Government’s new procedures for the payment of universal credit have been released – and they confirm that the landlord’s right to insist on direct rent payments if a tenant is in arrears will be scrapped.

Instead, payments will be made directly to tenants and it will be up to them to pay their rents or not. The proposals will mean the end of direct payment to landlords for rent as we have known it, and the new procedures will apply across the board to local authority tenants, housing association tenants and tenants in the private rented sector.

The RLA has serious concerns about the proposals:

1. No back stop provision under which a landlord can demand payment direct.
2. Lack of clarity/much greater individual discretion in operating these rules because “guidance” replaces regulations.
3. No means of redress for landlords if things go wrong/no rights of appeal.
4. No proposal that the guidance should reflect the landlords interests to make sure that rent is paid and that a roof is kept over the head of the claimant.
5. The whole concept of trying to improve tenant’s responsibility at the cost of much greater risk to landlords with strong likelihood of significantly higher arrears.
6. Much less likelihood of landlords being willing to take on benefit claimants. This could even translate into less likelihood of a willingness to take on claimants who are in work especially part time work because the same rules will apply to them.
7. No provision for first payment of benefit direct to the landlord.
8. We have argued with DWP that there should be a right for landlords to be paid direct payments once there are six weeks arrears and also that the whole system of vulnerability should be assessed according to the tenant’s interest of keeping a roof over their head and the landlord’s interest to receive the money, as well as the public interest of making sure that the benefit is used for its intended purpose.

Richard Jones, the RLA’s policy director, said, “We strongly believe that the Government’s whole approach is flawed and although the objective of helping tenants manage their financial affairs is in isolation a laudable one, the Government has wholly failed to appreciate the consequences of this. There will be a much higher level of arrears, an unwillingness of landlords to house benefit claimants (at a time when there is huge pressure on social housing), increased unwillingness by banks to lend for this kind of property (or increased interest rate to reflect the risk), much higher levels of evictions and much greater homelessness.”

The RLA has produced a briefing note for landlords, and this can be downloaded by clicking here.

What can I do?

Further details will follow about how you can assist the RLA in opposing these proposals.#

Join the Residential Landlords Association

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