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Come On In, The Water’s Lovely – But Beware of the Sharks

As a landlord of 16 years, I consider myself fortunate to have never (yet!) fallen victim to the more unscrupulous elements within the sector. Horror stories abound in the media of ‘rogue’ landlords and agents, but in Plymouth those that fall within this category are an extremely small minority. That said, landlords should always remain vigilant.

We had a landlord approach us this week in our offices in Mutley Plain in relation to a tenancy that had been arranged by a third party. It transpired that, whether through malicious intent or incompetence, the correct legal procedures as outlined in the Deregulation Act had not been followed. Furthermore, a significant sum of money had exchanged hands for checks, safety certificates and a tenancy agreement that had not been produced. Whilst this example is extreme and is now in the hands of the appropriate authorities, there remain some agents that are not delivering on their legal and moral obligations.

I would urge all landlords to ensure that their managing agents are registered with a client money protection scheme and form part of a registered membership body such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). This demonstrates that the correct financial procedures are being applied. It also ensures that should a landlord have a grievance with the way in which their agent is operating, the matter can be appropriately addressed through The Property Ombudsman (TPO). Such organisations keep agents honest – both through continuous professional development (the carrot) and the threat of fines and disbarment (the stick).

It is clear that recent changes to S21 eviction procedures are not being adhered to by all. Failure to comply with these elements can impact on the landlord’s ability to serve a S21 notice in order to evict tenants; in addition, the act also puts restrictions on an agent or landlord serving S21 notices where they haven’t responded appropriately to disrepair complaints from the tenant.

If you manage your property or portfolio yourself you need to ensure you are absolutely aware of your obligations and keep abreast of changes. Organisations such as the SWLA can assist in this regard. Legislators will not tolerate 'ignorance'. For those who entrust their property to managing agents, it pays dividends to ensure your chosen agent is a member of a professional body. Resist the temptation to instruct based purely on fees. It can and has been a very, very costly mistake for some.

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