In this edition Free advertising of your rental properties The Moray Keyfund Legal standards for landlords Future changes in law

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Landlords matter

Information for private landlords in Moray

Welcome to the Moray Council’s newsletter for private landlords and agents. Our

newsletter contains important information that you need to be aware of as a

private landlord or agent.

We have received positive feedback on

Landlords matter

.

We hope our newsletter

will continue to give you useful information

and advice on private sector housing and

landlord issues.

We welcome your feedback. If there is

anything that you would like included in the

next edition, please let us know.

In this edition

Free advertising of your

rental properties

The Moray Keyfund

Legal standards for

landlords

Future changes in law

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Free advertising of your rental properties

We are working with Highland Council and Local Pad to develop a website that will

help people access accommodation in the Private Rented Sector. Private landlords

and agents will be able to register and advertise properties on the website for

free

.

Once registered, you will have access to your own account from which you can

update your properties and make any necessary changes.

It is a free service which gives landlords and tenants a quick and easy way of

advertising and finding private rented accommodation. It will also give information

and advice on the private rented sector within our area and promote good practice.

We hope to have this up and running very soon. If you are

interested in advertising your properties free of charge,

please let us know.

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The Moray Keyfund

We run the Moray Keyfund which is our deposit guarantee scheme. This means that instead of your tenant giving you a cash deposit, we issue you with a ‘guarantee’ for the deposit.

We know that often the only thing preventing people from renting privately is the challenge of finding enough money in one go to pay both the rent in advance and a deposit. The Keyfund is aimed at people who can manage a tenancy successfully, with no or little support, but who are unable to raise the deposit by their own means.

The Keyfund covers the equivalent of up to one months’ rent (a maximum of £450 per application) for: • any damage to the property and furnishings (not items damaged due to normal wear and tear); • cleaning bills if the property is left in a poor condition;

• any unpaid rent owed when the tenancy ends;

• theft (any items that have been taken that is not the tenant’s property).

The deposit does not cover any unpaid utility bills or any damage that is caused by wear and tear.

We interview all interested applicants to find out if the Moray Keyfund is suitable, if the rent is affordable and if we thin k they can sustain a tenancy. If we approve a Keyfund, we will:

• give you a deposit guarantee which you can claim against; • help your tenants to claim Local Housing Allowance on time;

• check the progress of Local Housing Allowance claims and keep in contact with our Housing Benefit section; • keep in regular contact with you and your tenant; and

• help you with any concerns you may have.

If you want more information or want to register your interest in joining the Keyfund scheme, please email

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Legal standards for landlords

Physical standards

The Repairing Standard - Housing (Scotland) Act 2006

You must make sure your property meets the minimum physical standards by carrying out a check before the tenancy starts and making good any repairs. This duty to repair and maintain continues throughout the tenancy. The Repairing Standard itself is a fairly basic standard designed to make sure that the property is habitable and that both the property and any fixtures and fittings are fit for purpose. A critical element of the Standard is that hard wired smoke alarms must be fitted (see below). Where the tenant is not happy and a repair request is not complied with they can make an application to the Private Rented Housing Panel, which then has the power to require you to carry out the work.

The Scottish Government has produced revised statutory guidance on the requirements for smoke alarms. The guidance states there should be at least:

• One functioning smoke alarm in every room which is frequently used by the occupants for general daytime living purposes

• One functioning smoke alarm in every circulation space, such as hallways and landings • One heat alarm in every kitchen

• All alarms should be interlinked

The number and position of the alarms will depend on the size and layout of the house. There should be at least one alarm on each floor.

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Legal standards for landlords

Physical standards

Carbon Monoxide – Review of the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004: Technical Handbooks - Section 3 (Environment) and Section 4 (Safety)

If you let a property with a fuel burning appliance you must fit a battery powered carbon monoxide detector in each room this applies to and position it in such a way that the tenant can hear the alarm. This law has applied from

October 2013 and at the point when a new or replacement boiler or other heating appliance is to be installed after that date.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing - the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, Part 5.

Tenancies that are let to three or more unrelated people are classed as HMOs and these landlords have a further set of standards to meet. The tenancies that fall under this legislation include not only those let by private landlords but by others including registered social landlords. The owner must obtain a license from the local authority where the

property is based, and before one is granted it must meet physical standards set by the local authority. The owner and any managing agent must meet the fit and proper person test and the council must be satisfied that the property is suitable for use as an HMO. Any landlord that fails to obtain a license can be fined up to £50,000.

Energy Performance Certificates – Energy Performance of Buildings (recast) Directive 2010/31/EU

Prior to the start of a tenancy you must give prospective tenants a copy of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which shows a property’s energy efficiency and flags up ways in which improvements could save energy. They must also state the energy efficiency rating in advertisements. The EPC must be left in the property. Failure to do this can lead to a landlord being fined.

Gas Safety - Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994 (Amended 1996)

If there is a gas supply at the tenancy the landlord must arrange for an annual gas safety check by a properly validated gas safety engineer and a copy of the certificate given to the tenant. If a landlord fails to comply the tenant can

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Legal standards for landlords

Legionnaires Disease – The control of legionella bacteria in water systems.

Legionnaires Disease can be life threatening and is caused by a bacteria linked with man made water systems such as tanks, pipes and showers and where the water is subject to particular conditions of temperature and irregular use. Landlords have a duty to carry out a risk assessment of the water systems in the tenancy and are required to abide by the Health and Safety Executive code of practice to identify any risks and a course of action to manage the risk.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have an Approved Code of Practice and Guidance as regards Legionnaires Disease. The Code can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l8.pdf. This confirms that private landlords have a duty to carry out risk assessments on water systems in their properties.

The Code requires private landlords to carry out:

• a risk assessment to identify and assess potential sources of exposure, and thereafter, where a risk has been identified

• to introduce a course of action to prevent or control any identified risk.

The risk assessment can be carried out by the landlord himself if he is competent to do so, or alternatively can be done by a suitably qualified third party. The ultimate responsibility remains with the landlord, even where he employs a letting agent to manage the property on his behalf.

Legionnaires Disease is potentially a fatal lung infection caused when individuals inhale legionella bacteria. The bacteria can exist in any man made water systems eg water storage systems, taps, pipework etc. Issues to be considered when carrying out a risk assessment include:-

• Where water is stored between 20 & 45 degrees

• Where there is stagnant water in any area of the water system

• Where there is rust, sludge, scale or organic mater in the water system

• Whether there are any outlets which are not frequently used, for example showers or taps in second bathrooms • Where tenants are particularly at risk due to age, illness or weakened immunity.

You must regularly review the risk assessment and keep records of same. Where risks are identified, you must take appropriate action.

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Future changes in law

The Immigration Bill

The Immigration Bill is set to become law once it has been approved by the Parliament. Although not

law yet, it is understood that the measures imposed will require all private landlords to conduct simple

checks on the immigration status of their tenants. Landlords will therefore be required to:

ask prospective tenants to produce identification from a checklist of specified documents

check the documentary evidence and keep a copy of it for their records

not lease the property to a tenant who cannot produce satisfactory evidence of their right to reside

in the UK

These checks should be completed before entering into a lease. The responsibility for completing the

checks will rest with the landlord. However if an agent is managing a property and sourcing tenants

for a landlord, it can reasonably be expected by a landlord that such checks will form part of the

agent’s duties. Under those circumstances, the agent may face the liability and sanctions for

non-compliance. Where an agent does not intend to carry out such checks on behalf of the landlord, this

should be explicitly set out in writing to the landlord.

Landlords or their agents may be fined up to £3,000 per tenant if they are found to have rented to an

illegal migrant without carrying out the necessary checks.

The government has agreed to a staged roll out of the new duty on landlords to check the immigration

status of their tenants. This duty will be initially tested and evaluated in a single area before national

roll out in 2015.

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Future changes in law – regulation of letting agents

The Scottish Government has issued the draft Housing Bill. The Bill covers a wide range of issues but one of the most significant is the plan to regulate letting agents.

Currently there is no statutory regulation of letting agents, which means that anyone can set up a letting agency, whether or not they have the appropriate experience or qualifications to do so.

 The Bill seeks to introduce a formal register of letting agents, which aims to promote high standards of service and levels of professionalism, as well as giving landlords and tenants easy access to a mechanism that will help resolve disputes where they arise.

 At present, Part 4 of the Bill defines letting agency work as “things done by a person in the course of that person’s business in response to relevant instructions which are:

(a) carried out with a view to a landlord who is a relevant person entering into, or seeking to enter into a lease or occupancy arrangement by virtue of which an unconnected person may use the landlord’s house as a dwelling, or

(b) for the purpose of repairing, maintaining, improving, insuring or otherwise managing a house which is, or is to be, subject to a lease or arrangement”

It will be compulsory for anyone carrying out letting agency work to be registered. Failure to register will be a criminal offence. Applicants must pass a “fit and proper person” test and similar factors to landlord registration will be looked at, e.g. any convictions for dishonesty, fraud, discrimination, and contravention of housing, landlord and tenant law. There will be a fee to register, as yet to be specified. All registered letting agents will be issued with a registration number to be used on all documentation, and advertisements.

Once registered, all letting agents will have to follow the Letting Agent Code of Practice (as yet to be determined). Landlords and tenants can refer breaches of the Code to the new First-Tier Tribunal. The letting agent must be given an opportunity to rectify the breach prior to such a referral being made. Where the Tribunal finds that the Code has been breached, they can issue a Letting Agent Enforcement Order setting out steps to be taken by the letting agent, and failure to comply with such an Order is an offence, subject to a fine and/or ultimately, removal from the Register.

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More information

www. rentingscotland.org

This website offers practical guides if you are letting a property in Scotland. It is

aimed at both landlords and tenants and seeks to provide both parties with clear,

neutral and actionable information on renting in the private rented sector. It

contains landlord guides on a range of topics such as ending a tenancy and dealing

with tenant disputes. There is also the option to sign up to a regular newsletter –

highlighting developments in the PRS and examples of good practice. The website

has a Twitter account, @rentingscotland, which will tweet out regular updates on

the PRS.

Our website also contains information on the private rented sector. This

includes a checklist of things that you must do before you rent out your

property.

Visit us at

www.moray.gov.uk

There are a number of good resources available online which will give you more in-depth and

up to date information.

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When to contact us

We know that the online landlord

registration system can be problematic to

use.

Unfortunately we have no control over the

online site. We administer the site on behalf

of the Scottish Government.

If you are experiencing problems or need

any help, please contact us and we will do

our best to help you.

Please tell us when you:

Change your contact details, including

changes to your email address.

Make any amendments to your

registration. For example, if you add

or remove any properties.

Sell any of the properties that you had

registered.

Add or change your agent (this is a

legal requirement).

How to contact us

If you have any questions or need any help or advice please contact us using the following methods:

;

landlord.registration@moray.gov.uk

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Tell us what you’d like to see in future editions. What information would you find useful? Email us with your suggestions, questions which you’d like us to answer in the newsletter, and any other comments you have at homelessstrategy@moray.gov.uk.

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