Leasehold service charge: what to do if it doesn’t get paid?

The terms of the lease require the leaseholder to pay the leasehold service charge. Likewise, the lease determines in advance the ground rent of the anticipated year’s expenditure. Any non-payment will result in a breach of the lease.

The landlord or resident management company must collect the leasehold service charge. Therefore, they should initially try proactively to seek to get the payment. For example, you can find easy ways for payments, i.e. direct debit or make a concession as long as a precedent was not set.

Many leases allow the landlord to charge late payment fees where leaseholders breach their lease by late payment.

What are your fire safety responsibilities?

Since the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 came into force, it has become possible to levy variable administration charges for breaches of a lease, such as late payment, even if the lease does not specify this. When advising a leaseholder of an administration charge, ensure that the leaseholder also receives a notice of the Tenant’s Rights and Obligations (Administration Charges). As the charge is variable, this simply means that whatever administration fee is levied it must be reasonable.

Interest charges

Leases often allow you to charge interest on unpaid leasehold service charge. This often encourages to make payments in a timely manner. A typical lease will specify a late payment interest rate of around 4% above base rate.

What is a block manager and their responsibilities?

If your lease does not contain this option then you may be able to apply to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) for a variation of the lease under Section 35 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 – they will need to be seen as fair and reasonable. Equally, the FTT can prevent landlords requesting interest charges if they seem to be unreasonably high.

A variety of reasons can often delay the payment of the leasehold service charge.

For example:

  • when someone has died,
  • a property has been sold
  • or a leaseholder is made redundant,
  • an investment landlord cannot attract a tenant

Therefore, it is important that the landlord, Managing Agent or Residents Management Company (RMC) investigates proactively.

10 Tips for buy to let success

Where debt recovery is necessary it is best to follow a clear and strong procedure ideally with a zero tolerance to late payment explaining to all leaseholders in very clear terms why payment of the leasehold service charge is so crucial to the running of their development, its maintenance and with that the maintenance of the apartments market value.

We would recommend the following procedure:

  • Reminder letter: 14 days after the due date, explaining the procedure that will follow in case of no payment
  • Second reminder – 21 days after the due date advising that you will initiate legal action 7 days after the date of this letter.
  • Legal action initiated – after 28 days.

At each stage of the request for monies due it is best to offer the leaseholder the opportunity to discuss the outstanding monies to see whether you can make a suitable concession.

How to ensure your property is safe?

Prior to the legal action, the letters provided to the defaulting leaseholder must be clear and concise. They must refer the leaseholder to the availability of legal advice. Also, they must provide a reasonable time for the leaseholder to respond. They will also state what will happen if the date passes and the debt remains unpaid. If the leaseholder requests further information, you must allow them sufficient time to provide the information to you. If you’re not following the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), then the court could possibly strike out the claim. Your solicitor will have ensured before the issue of any court claim to serve all relevant notices and invoices. So, a strikeout would be rare.  At that time, there is unlikely to be any scope for a dispute upon commencement of court proceedings.

When considering instructing a solicitor to act on behalf of the RMC, consider instructing a firm that specialises in the recovery of the leasehold service charge.

A specialist law firm understands the need to turn around the arrears situation as fast as possible for the benefit of all the leaseholders and the continued good management of the estate. Some law firms will work on a no recovery-no fee basis. Therefore, they will not charge any upfront fees to the RMC. In fact, they will be able to recovery their professional legal fees from the late paying leaseholder so long as the lease allows this – the vast majority of leases do.

How to make your property more attractive to tenants?

Where flats and apartments are subject to mortgages, the leaseholder will not only be breaching the terms of their lease but also the mortgage companies requirements. You can inform mortgage companies of the debt. They will be keen to protect their investment to avoid any possible forfeiture of the lease and the loss of their security. They may even offer to add the debt to their clients’ mortgage with or without a leaseholder’s consent.

You can seek legal action usually by seeking a judgment by the court (CCJ). This may award the monies owed plus fixed costs (for claims under £5,000) and late payment interest to be paid by the defaulting leaseholder. Once the court grants a CCJ, your solicitor has a variety of options to enforce the court’s order.

In most cases, if there is a mortgage on the property, your solicitor will often give the mortgage provider a further opportunity to protect the mortgagee’s interest. They can pay on behalf of the leaseholder the full amount owing including the solicitor’s costs, interest, administration charges and, of course, all the arrears of the leasehold service charge and ground rent.

If the leasehold service charge payment still remains outstanding, a number of the following enforcement measures are available:

  • “Warrant of Execution” by the court’s bailiff to seize goods to the value of the debt;
  • An Attachment of Earnings Order deducts monies regularly from the debtor’s salary;
  • A Charging Order secures the debt against land or shares in which the debtor has an interest;
  • A Third Party Debt Order requests that a third-party who owes money to the debtor (often banks or building societies) pays the monies

Most claims under £5000 are dealt with as small claims in the County Court.

What is West London Property Networking

Please contact Pelin Martin to book a 30-minute free property consultation on +0208 994 7327 – pm@bluecrystallondon.co.uk

Accidental Landlord Tips

An Accidental Landlord may not have planned to be a landlord.

However, they can still be prepared! For this reason, we have prepared 5 tips for you.

Accidental Landlord Tip 1:  Have you noted the legalities?

Mortgages

You need to change your mortgage into a Buy-To-Let mortgage. If the property is leasehold, you need to check your paperwork as you may need to inform the freeholder and get their permission before renting the property.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies

Insurance

A standard home insurance probably won’t cover the property if you start renting your property out. Look into specialist landlord insurance that includes all the cover you need.

How to be a landlord and manage my property?

Tax

It’s important to keep rental statements and expenses for your rented property. It’s advisable to both instruct and speaks to an accountant with any tax questions and legalities.

It would be beneficial for landlords to join the National Landlord Association. There is so much regulation nowadays that this is the best way to stay up to date.

What is vacant property management?

Accidental Landlord Tip 2: Get a local expert

Decide how hands-on you’d like to be when managing your property. If you’re looking to manage it yourself, there may be rules and regulations for landlords that you aren’t yet aware of, and it may also be more time-consuming than you first think it will be.

Talking to a property management company can help you understand the rules and regulations. This is a great option because we will manage communications and maintenance with the tenants. It’s important to make sure that your tenants are happy and comfortable and that your home maintenance is being taken care of.

Expenses you can offset against as a landlord

Accidental Landlord Tip 3: How is your property presented?

If you’re an accidental landlord it’s likely this was your home, so make sure it continues to look and feel homely for your new tenants.

Think about adding some homely touches for the property photos as this will lead to higher enquiries and is likely to attract people who respect your property, and will keep it as it is.

If you’re decorating the property, we’d encourage you to use clean and neutral colours so that it attracts more people and it’s easier for them to manage.

Property Inspection Checklist

Accidental Landlord Tip 4: Make sure you get the right people for your property

When it comes to renting your property, you want good tenants who will stay a long time and look after your property. Think about your pricing and it may be worth going for the most suitable tenants over the ones who will pay the most money.

Don’t rule out anyone until you had a few viewings and you can compare them to decide which you think would be most suitable. This may mean compromising on furniture needs or move-in dates but if you go with your gut instinct, you’re likely to get in good tenants.

Section 24 of income tax

Accidental Landlord Tip 5: Avoid rental voids by combining long lets with short lets

One worry about being a landlord is rental voids between long-term tenants. On average, it takes around 8 weeks to find a new tenant. You can rent your property with Airbandb between long-term rentals to receive a constant income.

What is West London Property Networking

Please contact Pelin Martin to book a 30-minute free property consultation on +0208 994 7327 – pm@bluecrystallondon.co.uk

How to serve Section 21 Notice

In this article, we’ll find out how to serve Section 21 Notice, since just one wrong form could put your no-fault eviction back a few months.

When would you need a Section 21 notice?

In England and Wales, Section 21 can be used to end Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) at the end of a fixed-term tenancy or during a periodic tenancy, where there is no fixed end date.

The process is one that landlords do not need to prove that the tenant has been in breach of their contract. A judge must grant your request as long as the notice is validly served.

How to serve a Section 21 notice in England and Wales

  1. You must serve a Section 21 notice at least two months before you want to end the tenancy – assuming you collect the rent weekly or monthly. Remember you must honour any agreed fixed term, during which you cannot use Section 21 to regain possession. For tenancies that began on or after 1 October 2015 in England, you cannot serve Section 21 in the first four months of a tenancy.
  1. Use a properly drafted Section 21 notice. You must serve the notice in writing. Also, in England, for tenancies that began on or after 1 October 2015, you must use a prescribed form known as Form 6a. For older tenancies in England, and all tenancies in Wales, there is no prescribed form.
  1. You may serve the notice in person, by hand, to the tenant. Preferably, make sure that a witness is present, who can sign a statement of truth. This way, you have evidence that you served the notice correctly. Also, the tenant cannot refuse to accept delivery. Alternatively, you may post the notice. If you choose to post the notice always request a certificate of posting. Notices physically left at the address are deemed received the next working day. Notices sent by first class post are deemed received two working days after posting.

It is advisable not to use recorded delivery, as the tenant may refuse delivery.

How to avoid an invalid section 21 notice.

When can’t you use a Section 21 notice?

You cannot use a Section 21 notice if any of the following apply:

  • The tenancy is not an AST.
  • The date you wish the tenancy to end is fewer than six months since the initial tenancy started.
  • The fixed term has not ended unless there’s a break clause in the contract that allows you to do this.
  • The property is categorised as a licensable house in multiple occupation (according to the HMO Legislation) and does not have a HMO licence from the council.
  • The council has served an improvement notice on the property in the past six months.
  • The council has served a notice in the last six months that says it will do emergency works on the property.
  • You have not fully complied with the tenancy deposit protection regulations requirements.
  • The property is in Wales and you are not registered and/or do not have a landlord licence with Rent Smart Wales.

How to manage tenancy deposit disputes?

In England, you also cannot serve a Section 21 notice if you have not given the tenants copies of:

  • A current gas safety record for the property (where required).
  • The government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide; and
  • Made available the property’s Energy Performance Certificate before creating the tenancy (where an EPC was legally required at the time of marketing).

In London recently, a possession order was refused because a gas safety certificate was not issued before the tenancy started. As the legislation is currently drafted, the judge found that a landlord cannot rectify this by issuing the certificate at a later date. This was upheld at the Court of Appeal. This ruling does not hold outside London, but a similar ruling could be made elsewhere. Landlords should ensure that they issue the gas safety certificate to new tenants before they are given the keys.

When creating a new AST in England it is essential to clearly record that the tenants were given a copy of ‘How to Rent’, an EPC (where required) and a valid gas safety certificate prior to the tenancy beginning.

How to evict a tenant in the UK?

What if tenants don’t leave by the end date?

A tenant can legally stay in the property even after a notice expires. If the tenant doesn’t vacate the property by the end of the notice period, you can apply to the county court to start proceedings to regain possession. Proceedings must begin in a court that covers the location of the property.

The Section 21 process may use the ‘accelerated’ procedure, which does not normally involve a court hearing and is therefore relatively straightforward and inexpensive. The court will make its decision by considering the documents provided by the landlord and the tenant unless it considers a hearing is required. Applications for possession using the accelerated procedure cost £355.

To make an accelerated claim:

  • You need to apply to the county court using an N5B form. There are separate forms for England and Wales.
  • You need to supply the court with relevant paperwork, including copies of the tenancy agreement, notice(s) sent to the occupier and any other relevant documents (such as letters).
  • Your tenants must receive a copy of your application by the court. They then have 14 days to challenge your application.
  • If all the paperwork is in order, the court will usually give tenants two weeks to leave but can allow up to six weeks.
  • The most common reason for the court to reject possession claims is that a letting agent signed them. Only the landlord personally, or their solicitor, can sign the court papers. A letting agent can help to draft the paperwork but cannot sign on the landlord’s behalf. Otherwise, you can properly draft a power of attorney and produce it to the court.
  • A landlord has the right to represent themselves but may prefer to instruct a solicitor. If you do choose to represent yourself, we would advise getting some legal advice first.
  • Make sure any solicitor you instruct has a long experience in this area of work.

Do you know the rules of becoming a landlord?

What if my tenant is in breach of the tenancy?

If your tenants are in breach of the tenancy and you want to remove them more on this basis, you may choose to use a Section 8 notice. However, with a Section 8 notice, you must prove to the court’s satisfaction that a breach of contract has occurred. Unlike Section 21 counterclaims are possible and could hold up legal proceedings. Overall, this route can be more complex and costly than a valid Section 21 notice.

Bear in mind that with Section 21, landlords cannot claim any monies, for example, if the tenant is in rent arrears. If you wish to claim for debts as part of the possession claim, you must use a Section 8 notice.

For added security, some opt to issue both a Section 21 and a Section 8 notice at the same time.

Once a possession order has been granted, if your tenants do not leave by the date specified, you can apply for a warrant for possession. A bailiff may serve this, carrying out a court-ordered eviction. This can take four to ten weeks for a county court bailiff. A county court ‘warrant of possession’ costs £121.

What is West London Property Networking

Please contact Pelin Martin to book a 30-minute free property consultation on +0208 994 7327 – pm@bluecrystallondon.co.uk

Assured Shorthold Tenancies

Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) are the most common type of tenancy agreement.

Discover all its criteria and when this agreement cannot be used.

Most private tenants receive assured shorthold tenancies, usually for 6 or 12 months.

The tenant must protect their deposit and give them at least 2 months’ notice to leave.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies allow the tenant to remain in the property for the first six months or an initial fixed period.

In accordance with the Housing Act 1988, in Assured Shorthold Tenancies, the landlord has the right to guaranteed possession after the initial six-month period.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies protect the tenant in terms of the sum of rent.

The main requirement with this type of agreement is that the landlord and tenant agree on the minimum term and the amount of rent. This means that the tenant has the right to challenge excessively high rent or changes in the agreed rent.

How to manage tenancy deposit disputes?

The Housing Act 1988 has several main criteria for Assured Shorthold Tenancies

  • The property must be let as separate accommodation
  • The property must be the tenant’s main or principal home
  • The tenant should be an individual

What are tenants’ Rights in an Assured Shorthold Tenancy?

You cannot use a shorthold tenancy when a property is being let:

  • for more than £100,000 per year
  • as a holiday home
  • for a very low rent / at no cost
  • to a tenant while the landlord is residing in the same property
  • with more than two acres of agricultural land or an agricultural tenancy
  • under a tenancy which began prior to the 15 January 1989, or which was formerly a protected tenancy
  • to a private limited company
  • belongs to the Crown or a government department

What are the common landlord pitfalls?

Assured Shorthold Tenancies were introduced in 1997. Afterwards, it has become the main type of tenancy agreement used by most landlords to let residential properties.

All tenancies which started on or after 28th February 1997 are classified as Assured Shorthold Tenancies.

The Housing Act 1988, revised in 1996, aimed to improve the rights of both landlord and tenant and to make letting a property more appealing.

The Housing Act 1996 gave tenants the right to question excessively high or increasing rates of rent. This resulted in a higher number of people choosing to rent properties.

What are the common issues with tenancy agreements?

Most landlords let residential properties using Assured Shorthold Tenancies if they let the property to an individual and is a separate property to the landlord’s one. However, there are circumstances in which you cannot use Assured Shorthold Tenancies as a form of tenancy.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies are right for your agreements if you:

  • Moved into the property on or after 28th February 1997
  • Are renting from a private landlord
  • Have rights which entitle you to privacy in the property where the landlord cannot enter the property without mutual agreement
  • Are paying less than £100,000 per annum in rent.
  • The landlord is not living in the same property as you

You may also have Assured Shorthold Tenancies if you moved into the property between 15th January 1989 and the 28th February 1997, and the landlord told you that you were entering into an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement.

How to avoid tenancy void periods?

Are Assured Shorthold Tenancies different to Assured Tenancies?

The main difference between the two types of tenancy is the legislation regarding the landlord regaining possession of the property.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies entitle the landlord to a possession order immediately after the initial agreed period, which is usually for six months. The landlord is, therefore, able to evict the tenant after the initial fixed term without a legal reason. If this is the case, and the landlord does not wish to renew the tenancy, then they must give at least two months’ notice to end the tenancy.

Company Letting Agreement and Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement

An Assured Tenancy generally gives the tenant more security.

In fact, after the agreement ends, the tenant can remain in the property until the landlord obtains an order of possession from the courts.

The landlord needs to prove to the court the grounds for repossession. For example: has the tenant missed rent payments or disregarded the terms of the agreement?

The landlord must inform the tenant in writing if they are to seek possession of the property through a court order. The tenant does not have to move out of the property until the courts have issued an order. When this happens, they must leave the property by the date on the court order.

What is West London Property Networking

Please contact Pelin Martin to book a 30-minute free property consultation on +0208 994 7327 – pm@bluecrystallondon.co.uk

How to be a landlord and successfully manage my property?

How to be a landlord – a landlord’s checklist for letting a property.

Welcome, we hope you enjoy our ‘checklist for landlords’, where we will cover the majority of stages you’ll go through when letting a property for the first time.

Below is a brief summary of a landlords checklist that will help you understand how to be a landlord and successfully manage your property.

This checklist should answer many general questions about how to be a landlord. However, if you have any doubts regarding the legality of letting a property privately, you must seek legal advice from a suitably qualified professional, such as a solicitor.

The information contained within this document is not legal advice: it is a point of reference and general guide. Landlords should also know that resources like this guide are here to support you and prepare you for the first of many steps to becoming an experienced and profitable landlord.

Do you need smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in rental properties?

Consent to let a property

Before letting a property, landlords may want to cross off a shortlist of contacts that may or may not influence your next steps to become a landlord. These could include any adult or organisation who may either have occupancy rights or some title to the property.  Typically, if you have a mortgage on the property and it is not a Buy-to-let product, you may require a ‘Consent to Let’ from the lender.

Why do you need a property inventory?

Preparing a property to rent

First impressions count, if a tenant walks into the property and it is clean, smells fresh and its’ the size and location they are looking for they have already shortlisted your property as a potential…

5 top tips for having happier tenants in 2017

Energy Performance Certificate

An Energy Performance Certificate or otherwise known as an EPC is essentially a certificate issued to the Landlord after a qualified energy assessment of the property has been completed…

How to rent your home while working from abroad?

Furnished or unfurnished?

It will all depend on the type of tenant/tenancy you are looking for or Tenant you want to engage with i.e. students, professionals, sharers, long-term tenants or short-term tenants and your access to storage…

Top 10 tips on buying an investment property

Marketing your property to let

Present as much information as you can on the biggest UK property websites in a clear and concise manner. This will amplify your chances of finding your next tenant. Photos, description and price are key to any tenant…

Conducting rental viewings

Landlords should make sure the property is at its best shape before arranging a viewing. It is important to be at the property on time and ready to meet the tenants.

You prospective tenants will probably ask you certain questions i.e
  • who are the neighbours are?
  • what kind of a heating system does the property have?
  • are pets allowed in the property?

These are just some of the questions a landlord would be facing.

Tenant referencing

When deciding whether or not to accept someone as a tenant, a Landlord should do as a minimum precaution these 3 references:
  1. an Employment reference,
  2. a Landlord Reference (where applicable)
  3. and a Credit Check reference

These will help you ensure that they owe no money, they have paid the rent to a previous landlord and they have a job to cover ongoing rental payments…

Tenancy agreements

Most new tenancies created are as an Assured Shorthold but knowing which one and the implications of each is important. If you have never written one before and need to be sure it covers everything, get some help first time around…

Tenant deposits

One of the UK government approved schemes must protect tenants’ deposits from the beginning of a tenancy. Then, you’ll have to, where applicable, return them at the end…

Rent

Most landlords require their tenants to pay the first months’ rent upfront with the deposit. These funds must be cleared before the tenant takes possession of the property i.e. you hand over the keys…

Moving the tenant in

Having a fully completed, Property Inventory and Schedule of Condition is probably as equally important as the Tenancy itself. Without it, the Landlord will have very little to no chance of claiming from the deposit for any non-rent payment or property damage…

Gas safety regulations

Gas Safety Regulations place a statutory duty on all landlords of residential property to ensure that all gas appliances, pipework and flues are maintained in a safe condition…

The electrical equipment (safety) regulations 1994

Landlords need to ensure that every electrical appliance supplied must be safe to use and the electrical installation in the house is completely safe.

Landlord buildings and contents insurance

Landlords may not always have the right type of insurance for a tenanted property and in most cases, they would not be covered by the insurers…

Utilities – gas / electric / water / council tax

It is recommended to inform new tenants that it is their responsibility to register with the appropriate services. In fact, until they do it, you may be receiving a few extra bills at the end of the month.

Managing your rental property and tenant

Two useful tips when letting a property:
  1. in an area of high supply and low demand, consider letting the property slightly under market value.
  2. The second tip is to always respond to your tenants’ needs in a courteous and timely fashion…

Quarterly inspections

Most landlords would make arrangements to visit the property during the tenancy. This will help you ensure that both tenants and landlords are happy because they are looking after your property.

Ending the tenancy agreement

Under the Housing Act 1988, a landlord who has granted an Assured Shorthold tenancy has a legal right to get his property back at the end of the tenancy.  In order to invoke this right, they must follow the correct legal procedure which includes servicing a notice to his or her tenant.

West London Property Networking

Please contact Pelin Martin to book a 30-minute free property consultation on

+0208 994 7327

pm@bluecrystallondon.co.uk