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Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarm Legislation Warning

Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarm Legislation Warning

New Smoke And Carbon Monoxide
Alarm Legislation 
Comes Into Force
On 1st October

On October 1st 2015 the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations are supposed to come into force meaning that landlords or their appointed lettings and property managing agents must install a smoke alarm on every floor of a rental property used for accommodation and fit Carbon Monoxide alarms in any room that contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance, and all alarms should be in good working order.

However, there are calls for this legislation to be delayed due to lack of notice and ambiguity of the actual legislation.

The introduction of the new legislation is intended to save lives, we are already aware of the dangers that a potential fire in a residential rented property can cause, however, many landlords remain oblivious to the danger posed by Carbon Monoxide.

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The Chief Executive of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme,(TDS) Steve Harriott, has blasted the coalition government over continued disinterest in the UK private rental sector, (PRS) in terms of regulatory measures, and urged all landlords to form their own self-regulatory organisation.

The TDS Chief Executives comments emerged following the sudden closure of another letting agent who closed their doors without notifying the landlords or tenants on their books.

Many hundreds of tenants were left wondering if their tenancy deposits were secure in one of the 3 official Government schemes (TDS, TPS or MyDeposits) or if the agent has closed taking their deposits with them, leaving tenants with no way of reclaiming their deposit monies.

Mr Harriott said he was “Sick of crooked and inept letting agents getting nothing but a slap on the wrist and a fine that can, in most cases, be easily paid for potentially putting tenant lives at risk. There needs to be proper regulation of the private rental sector, and if the government aren’t intending to impose regulatory measures then members of the PRS must band together and organise their own”.

The comments from the TDS Chief Executive come at a time when the latest English Housing Survey (EHS) released data from questioning private sector tenants about deposit protection.

Despite deposit protection being a legal requirement for the last five years,

  • 47% of private tenants said their deposit had been protected
  • 24% said their deposit had not been protected
  • 28% did not know.

70% of private tenants whose deposits were protected had the money returned in full at the end of their tenancy but only 17% of private tenants received only part of their deposit back due to damage or poor maintenance and a further 12% received none of their money back for a number of reasons.

While more than half of tenants were given particular reasons for retention of some or all of the deposit, 40% were not told why their deposits were withheld at all.

As a landlord did you know that there are legal requirements regarding tenant’s belongings or that the landlord is legally obliged to provide storage solutions for personal possessions for a period of time following abandonment?

The subject is commonly discussed by UK landlords and usually centres on personal possessions left in rental property and what to do with them.

Frequent scenario’s include:

  • Tenants complaining that the landlord has seized their belongings and refuses to give them back until they pay overdue rent money owed.
  • Landlords asking what to do with a tenant’s personal belongings when they have left the property.

A landlord cannot by law withhold a tenant’s personal belongings in lieu of any monies owed. If a tenant owes rent to the landlord, then the correct way to recover the sum is through the county court in possession proceedings or as a separate action for a money judgment.

If a tenant leaves their belongings in the landlord’s property, as harsh as this may seem a landlord is under a legal obligation to take care of tenant’s possessions.

Protecting, removal and storage of uncollected goods can result in extra costs that the landlord doesn’t want but the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 does provide some guidance.

The same law covers both situations.

There used to be a law called ‘Detinue’ that allowed landlords to hold on to personal belongings when a tenant owed them rent, but this was abolished by the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977

The landlord may have a legal obligation to protect, remove and store a tenant’s possessions resulting in extra costs that the landlord doesn’t want but be advised that if a tenant appears to have abandoned their belongings, it could be argued in court, that the goods left could be evidence of the tenants intention to return and therefore the property was not officially abandoned.

This can be a real headache for landlords who often change the locks on the assumption that the rental property has been abandoned. However, if the tenant subsequently turns up, the landlord could be considered by the courts, to have illegally evicted the tenant. So landlords are urged to act cautiously.

It is good practice, when signing up a new tenant, to collect alternative contact details of relatives or friends who a landlord can contact in the event of having goods left in the premises.

In theory it is possible to insert a suitable clause into a tenancy agreement to set out contractual obligations regarding this, but it is advisable to use a formal notice of collection of goods as well to avoid any possible come backs.

In the event that there is a dispute about ownership of the goods that are left, landlords cannot dispose of goods until the matter is resolved.

If the landlord intends to dispose of the goods left in a rental property then, by law the landlord must give 21 days notice before disposal. If the tenant owes money to the landlord BEFORE service of the notification then the landlord is obliged under the law to keep the personal belongings for at least 3 months before sale or disposal.

The landlord is entitled to sell the goods and keep any reasonable costs that were incurred for storage, removal or sale. The law expects the landlord to obtain the best price they can and then return the amount beyond the landlord’s costs to the tenant.

It is unlikely that tenants absconding or abandoning rental properties would leave expensive items behind, usually it is just junk or old clothes and broken furniture so the likelihood of recouping funds owed through the sale of items is often slight in most cases.

The landlord requirements on this matter may seem particularly onerous but this is just one of the many frustrations faced by private rental sector (PRS) landlords, it goes with the territory. Landlords can make good money but it is not necessarily easy money and the protection of a tenant’s goods is just one area where landlords need to operate within the boundaries of the current legislation.

Complaints Over Tenancy Deposits Increase

Complaints Over Tenancy Deposits Increase

Homeless charity Shelter is urging private sector rental tenants to make sure their deposits are protected, having seen calls regarding deposit protection issues rise by 80% in the last two years.

According to the homeless charity, the average deposit for a privately rented residential property currently stands at £979 (GBP), meaning that if a deposit is withheld at the end of a tenancy, people will be pushed into debt, or even have difficulty securing to a new home.

Landlords who fail to place their tenants’ deposits in one of three authorised schemes within 30 days will face prosecution but it seems many tenants are unaware of the new deadline, leaving some landlords free to flout the law.

Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, commented: “It is extremely worrying that we have seen such a huge rise in problems with tenancy deposits at a time when privately renting is no longer just a stepping stone to something better, but a long term reality for more and more families.”

Landlords who don’t protect tenants’ deposits can face a penalty of one to three times the full value of the deposit, which will then be awarded to the tenant.

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