On 12 May 2016 the Housing and Planning Act 2016 received royal assent, this act brings in a number of changes to the private residential letting sector, aimed at tackling rouge landlords and empty properties.

A lot of the changes brought in by the Act require further regulations to be made by the Secretary of State, so will not come inforce until a later date. Landlords will welcome changes concerning recovery of abandoned property; however, landlords will not be surprised that the act leaves the door open for yet more regulation, this time in relation to electrical safety.

This note highlights the areas of particular interest for buy to let landlords.

Recovering Abandoned Premises (commencement date yet to be appointed)

Part 3 of the act sets out a three staged warning notice procedure for Landlords to follow in order to recover possession of a property let on assured shorthold tenancy which is believed to have been abandoned. This new procedure does not require the Landlord to apply to court and is designed to be quicker to enable empty properties to be brought back into circulation to meeting the current housing demand.

The new procedure can only be used when the following apply:

1. The tenancy relates to a residential property in England

2. The rent has not been paid

3. The landlord has given the tenant a series of three warnings; and the tenant, named occupier or deposit payer has not responded in writing to the warning notices before expiry.

The rent test is almost identical to mandatory ground 8 of the Housing Act 1988 for obtaining a possession order where there are rent arrears outstanding and the tenant remains in occupation.

The form of notice has not be specified by the act, however, the act does provide for the Secretary of State (“SOS”) to make regulations setting out the form of the third and final notice only.

Three written warning notices must be given to the tenant, any named occupier and any deposit payer. The first two notices must either be personal served or if that is not possible the act specifies 4 additional steps which must be undertaken. The third and final warning notice must be fixed to the property which the tenancy relates.

Landlords will welcome this new procedure, however, may be put off from using it, as the act does provide tenants with the ability to apply to court to be reinstated (within 6 months) if they can show they had a good reason for failing to respond to the warning notices. This reinstatement provisions will create a period of uncertainty for Landlords and therefore some Landlords may prefer to obtain a Possession Order for peace of mind.

Electrical safety standards (commencement date yet to be appointed)

The act gives the SOS the power to make regulations imposing duties on private landlords of residential premises in England only, for the purpose of ensuring that electrical safety standards are met during any period when the premises are occupied under a tenancy.

Electrical safety standards is defined as “standards specified in or determined in accordance with the regulations in relation to a) the installations in the premises for the supply of electricity, or b) electrical fixtures, fittings or appliances provided by the landlord”.

At the time of writing no regulations have been drafted to cover this, but Landlords should watch this space as it appears that it is only a matter of time before this additional requirement will come into force.

Rogue landlords (commencement date yet to be appointed)

Part 2 of the act gives local housing authorities (“LHA”) a number of tools to deal with rogue Landlords and agents. When the regulations come into force LHA’s will be able to apply the First-tier Tribunal for a banning order against residential landlords and property agents who have been convicted of a “banning offence”.

At present the meaning of a banning offence is unknown, as this has been left for the SOS to define in separate regulations.

If convicted of a banning offence, a LHA can apply to the First-tier tribunal for a banning order. The act provides that a banning order must be for a period of at least 12 months and during the period of the banning order the landlord or property agent will be prevented from:

1. Letting a house in England

2. Engaging in English letting agency work

3. Engaging in English property management work

4. Holding a licence for a house in multiple occupation

5. Transferring property to a person/body corporate associated with the Landlord

Breach of a banning order will be punishable by imprisonment and or a fine not exceeding 30,000.

The act provides for a database of rogue landlords and property agents to be maintained. The act provides for HM Revenue and Customs to have access to the database to monitor and ensure Landlords comply with their tax obligations on their investment properties.

Rent Repayment Orders (commencement date yet to be appointed)

In addition to the clamp down on rouge landlords the act brings in the ability for both tenants and LHA’s to apply to the First-tier tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order. The First-tier tribunal has the power to make a Rent Repayment Order where it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a landlord has committed an offence under the following legislation:

1 s.6 Criminal Law Act 1977 Violence for securing entry

2 s.1 Protection from Eviction Act 1977 Unlawful eviction or harassment of occupiers

3 s.30 Housing Act 2004 Failure to comply with improvement notice

4 s.32 Housing Act 2004 Failure to comply with prohibition order

5 s.72 Housing Act 2004 Control or management of unlicensed HMO

6 s.95 Housing Act 2004 Control or management of unlicensed house

7 s.21 Housing & Planning Act 2016 Breach of Banning Order

When determining the amount of repayment the tribunal will have regard to the conduct of both the Landlord and tenant, the financial circumstances of the landlord and whether the Landlord has at any time been convicted of any of the above offences. The amount of the repayment cannot be greater than the rent paid for the period, as defined by the act.

Where a Landlord has been convicted of one of the above offences and the rent repayment order relates to this conviction and is made by the affected tenant, the rent repayment awarded is to be the maximum that the tribunal can order.

All of the above changes at present do not yet have dates for commencement, these changes are coming, however we have no indication as to exactly when, one would expect implementation to be slowed given the recent governmental changes.

In summary the act offers Landlords a reason to be pleased in connection with abandoned properties, whilst adding further regulation to an ever more regularised sector.

For further details on any of the above or for any other Landlord and Tenant advice contact one of our team.

Lee Pearce

Head of Department & Partner

DDI: 01206 719669

Joe Brightman


DDI: 01206 719609