Changes to the Housing Act 2004 will make it easier for tenants to get rent refunds from landlords who fail to carry out essential repairs, or those who don’t follow strict eviction procedures.
From now on, First Tier Tribunals will have the power to force landlords to repay tenants or local authorities up to 12 months rent and impose fines of up to £30K, even when landlords have not been found guilty of any offence by a civil or criminal court.
Tenants and local authorities will be able to bring a claim before a First Tier Tribunal for a variety of alleged offences, including harassment, forcefully entering a property, failing to comply with an improvement order or unlawful eviction.
While the changes to the law are designed to tackle rogue landlords, they could also trip up decent landlords who make a simple mistake or, through ignorance, don’t stick to strict eviction procedures.
For example, landlords aren’t legally able to issue a tenant with a Section 21 eviction order unless they have correctly protected the tenant’s deposit, issued them with Prescribed Information relating to where and how the deposit is protected, given the tenants copies of a valid Gas Safety Record and Energy Performance Certificate and the Government’s How to Rent guide.
Also, they can’t issue a S21 within the first four months of the tenancy and it must give the tenant at least two months’ notice. Landlords who don’t follow these rules could be dragged before a tribunal, so it’s important you get all your ducks lined up at the start of the tenancy to make sure you can end it correctly.
Also, it’s easy to see how otherwise decent landlords could be accused of harassing tenants. Imagine you have a nightmare tenant who isn’t paying their rent, won’t leave the property and ignores your phone calls, you’d probably want to go round and give them a piece of your mind, right? Don’t. Even calling them and getting angry on the phone could prompt them to take you to a tribunal for harassment.
Make sure you start the tenancy in the right way, carry out essential repairs asap, and end the tenancy according to the strict letter of the law and you’ve nothing to fear. Ignore the rules and you might be in trouble.