Let­ting is boom­ing, and so are com­plaints by tenants

Pri­vate land­lords are break­ing the law in record num­bers, ac­cord­ing to a new York­shire sur­vey. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

LAND­LORDS in York­shire are fall­ing foul of in­creas­ingly com­plex rental prop­erty leg­is­la­tion.

Re­search by the county’s big­gest res­i­den­tial let­ting spe­cial­ists, Lin­ley & Simp­son, re­veals that in some lo­cal au­thor­ity ar­eas the num­ber of com­plaints in­ves­ti­gated is now more than five times higher than it was a decade ago.

Pros­e­cu­tions and le­gal no­tices are also at an all-time high, with some land­lords pay­ing fines of more than £20,000 af­ter be­ing con­victed of se­ri­ous breaches of the law that were judged to put their tenants’ lives at risk.

Lin­ley & Simp­son say it car­ried out the re­search as part of its cam­paign to drive up stan­dards across a bur­geon­ing in­dus­try that still re­mains un­reg­u­lated. It also keen to raise aware­ness among both land­lords and tenants of the im­por­tance of only us­ing let­ting agents who are mem­bers of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Res­i­den­tial Let­ting Agents (ARLA), the Na­tional Ap­proved Let­tings Scheme (NALS) or the Royal In­sti­tute of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors (RICS).

It is also warn­ing tenants who let di­rect from land­lords to be wary and to check that gas and elec­tri­cal safety checks are upto-date, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency re­ports are avail­able and bonds are be­ing kept in ten­ancy de­posit schemes.

The cam­paign comes as ex­perts pre­dict that a record one-in­six UK homes will be sup­plied through the pri­vate rented sec­tor by the end of this year.

As part of the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, Lin­ley & Simp­son asked coun­cils across the ar­eas of York­shire in which it op­er­ates, in­clud­ing those in Leeds, Brad­ford, Wake­field, Har­ro­gate and York, to re­veal both the num­ber and na­ture of pros­e­cu­tions brought over the past ten years. It also as­sessed how many court ac­tions were against in­di­vid­ual land­lords and how many were brought against pro­fes­sional let­ting agents.

“Our re­search shows that the spi­ralling rise in de­mand for rental prop­er­ties over the last decade is matched by an up­surge in com­plaints and pros­e­cu­tions,” says Lin­ley & Simp­son di­rec­tor, Will Lin­ley.

“This trend is in part down to the in­creas­ingly liti­gious so­ci­ety in which we live, and in part down to the in­creas­ing bur­den of red tape as­so­ci­ated with be­ing a land­lord.

“The les­son to be learned from our re­search is that land­lords are best served by em­ploy­ing only an ac­cred­ited agent. If they don’t, and they are not armed with all the nec­es­sary knowl­edge needed to let a prop­erty, they are ex­pos­ing them­selves to le­gal ac­tion and big fines.”

“No­body books a hol­i­day with a travel agent who is not prop­erly ac­cred­ited and reg­is­tered, but, as ever-in­creas­ing num­bers are find­ing to their cost, this isn’t al­ways the case in the rental mar­ket where the stakes are far higher.”

Mr Lin­ley said tenants and land­lords want­ing the ul­ti­mate peace of mind should rent prop­er­ties through agents that had met strict mem­ber­ship cri­te­ria laid down by or­gan­i­sa­tions such as ARLA, NALS and the RICS.

He also urged lo­cal res­i­den­tial let­ting agents to back the re­cent launch and roll-out of the Safeagent client money pro­tec­tion scheme.

“The Safeagent kitemark now makes it far eas­ier for land­lords and tenants to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the good, the bad and the plain ugly among let­ting agents.

“Only those agen­cies which are guar­an­teed to safe­guard client money will be able to dis­play it. Those who are not, and who con­tinue to tar­nish the rep­u­ta­tion of the sec­tor, will be ex­posed.”

Mr Lin­ley added that pri­vate land­lords who are mem­bers of the Res­i­den­tial Land­lords’ As­so­ci­a­tion (RLA) also of­fered re­as­sur­ance as did ini­tia­tives run by some lo­cal coun­cils to vet well-in­ten­tioned in­di­vid­u­als who man­age their own buy-to­lets, such as Wake­field Coun­cil’s Re­spon­si­ble Land­lords’ Scheme.

The Lin­ley & Simp­son re­search also re­vealed:

Leeds has mounted the most pros­e­cu­tions, with more than 135 pros­e­cu­tions in the last two years alone. A to­tal of 132 cases were against pri­vate land­lords, with just three against let­ting agents. In Brad­ford, all but one of the 19 pros­e­cu­tions brought in the last two years were against pri­vate land­lords.

Brad­ford has wit­nessed the big­gest in­crease in com­plaints, rock­et­ing from 263 in 2000 to more than 1,313 in 2010. A to­tal of 1,130 of these com­plaints were against in­di­vid­ual prop­erty own­ers, and 183 against let­ting agents.

The big­gest re­ported fines in­cluded £20,000 plus costs for a case brought suc­cess­fully by Brad­ford Dis­trict Coun­cil; £17,000 for breach­ing rules con­cern­ing Houses in Mul­ti­ple Oc­cu­pa­tion (HMOS) in a pros­e­cu­tion made on be­half of Leeds City Coun­cil; and £10,000 plus costs re­sult­ing from ac­tion taken by York Coun­cil.

The most com­mon breaches which lead to le­gal ac­tion in­volved the fail­ure to li­cence HMOS; not meet­ing strict health and safety reg­u­la­tions; fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment of tenants’ de­posits; and ha­rass­ment and il­le­gal evic­tion of tenants by land­lords.

HIGH-TECH: This house was built with no ex­pense spared and boasts smart home tech­nol­ogy and views over to the White Horse at Kil­burn – 35 miles away from its lo­ca­tion in a sought-af­ter area on the out­skirts of Leeds. The home has a Mediter­ranean feel with its ter­races and im­pres­sive gar­dens.

KITEMARK CALL: Tenants should check out their land­lord and let­ting agent’s cre­den­tials as the pri­vate rental sec­tor re­mains largely un­reg­u­lated.

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