Changes to tenant fees
Private tenants are now protected by the Tenant Fees Act which came into effect on 1 June this year. The Act limits the costs that landlords can impose on tenants to secure or renew a tenancy.
From 1 June 2019, the only payments that landlords or letting agents can charge to tenants for new contracts are:
- a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than 5 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
- a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than 1 week’s rent
- payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
- payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and Council Tax
- a default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement.
Government guidance is available on the Act for tenants, landlords and letting agents.
Private Sector Landlords’ Forum
The Council recognises the importance of the private sector in delivering one part of the local housing mix in Elmbridge.
The last Elmbridge Private Sector Landlords’ Forum met in summer 2018 and the next one is planned for spring 2019.
The forum gives private sector landlords the chance to meet, network and discuss current issues. With the arrival of Universal Credit, the expansion of HMO licensing, grants and loans to bring empty properties back into use, and the Council's new enforcement policy, there is always valuable information to help private landlords.
For information on Universal Credit please see the Understanding Universal Credit site, which gives top tips for landlords.
Private rented sector news
Universal Credit has recently been introduced in Elmbridge, more information is available: Universal Credit - top tips for landlords.
We also provide email bulletins for landlords, property managers and letting agents to update on the latest national and local news in relation to the private-rented sector.
June 2018 is the most recent edition of Private Rented Sector News. If you would like to be receive these please contact us.
Rights and responsibilities
As a private sector landlord, you have both rights and responsibilities, here are some useful guides:
Housing conditions in the private rented sector
The Council is the authority for regulating housing and public health conditions in the local area. We have a duty to make sure that residents have safe and healthy homes to live in. We will take enforcement action against people who own, live in, or rent homes, as necessary. Action is most commonly against landlords, usually following complaints by tenants.
Failure to carry out essential repairs or maintenance to keep homes decent and safe can result in action by us.
Property inspections and possible outcomes
If a tenant makes a complaint about their home or their landlord, we will usually inspect the property. When doing this, we use the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to identify what, if any, hazards exist and how serious these hazards are.
After an inspection, officers will decide on what type of action, if any, is appropriate. There are number of possible outcomes:
No further action – where, following an initial investigation, the complaint cannot be substantiated.
Informal action – written warnings and / or providing advice, is usually the first option if there is a problem and those involved are willing to co-operate.
Formal notices - we may issue formal notices, for example, to force a landlord to carry out repairs.
Works in default – if essential works are not done by a landlord, we may do them instead to ensure safety and then recover the costs from the landlord. We may still decide to prosecute the landlord.
Cautions / interviews under caution – if we issue a simple caution but this is ignored by the alleged offender, we will review the case and decide if other action is required.
Prosecution – before starting any prosecution proceedings, we must be satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.
Civil Penalty Notices - the Council can serve a Civil Penalty Notice as an alternative to a prosecution with fines of up to £30'000.
Rent Repayment Orders - in unlicensed HMO's for example, tenants can apply to the Courts for a Rent Repayment Order. Up to a years rent can be claimed if the Council has taken a prosecution case.
Banning Orders - preventing a person from renting out premises can be applied for by the Council in specified cases.
Where appropriate, we will seek to resolve problems through informal action, wherever possible.
Each case is considered on its merits and against the principles set out in our Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy.
How we can help
We can give you free advice to private sector landlords, including:
If you are a private sector landlord, or tenant, in Elmbridge and want further information or advice on property standards and our service, please contact us.