Paperwork – The Landlord’s Friend

Over many years of working with private sector landlords, perhaps the most misunderstood and disliked aspect of the role, is paperwork.

Many landlords have work in another profession, therefore try to short-cut the processes involved and cut down on paperwork.

At one time, this may not have had too serious an effect; tenants were more likely to accept that they had been bad tenants and would prefer to leave a property rather than go through the stress of a formal eviction. Sadly, that is not the case today.

Tenants will be told by local authorities that they must stay in the property until a Court orders possession. Landlords start possession proceedings, then discover that changes in the eviction process, introduced with little warning in October 2015 and October and December 2016, mean it is easy for a landlord to make a mistake and have the claim thrown out.

Not only does the paperwork need to be completed correctly, but the eviction process now asks whether certain steps have been taken (issuance of ‘How to Rent’, gas safe certificate, energy performance certificate, deposit protection details) but also for proof that they have been served. 

Therefore, the landlord who struggles with paperwork will find himself in big trouble, if he does not take advice. A simple error, by failing to serve ‘How to Rent’ to the tenant for example, could mean the section 21 notice is thrown out of Court.

Landlords need to ‘cover their backs’ by producing a check-list of the documents served and dating when documents are given at the beginning of every tenancy, making the giving of documents a part of the signing-in process. Technically speaking, at the present time the documents can be served at any time before a section 21 is served, but it is easy to forget if it doesn’t become part of the routine of taking a new tenant. It also protects the landlord should there be a tightening-up of the legislation, as sometimes happens.

A likely change could be that serving the documents purely for eviction purposes, immediately before section 21 is issued will be forbidden – understandable, as the legislation was put in place supposedly to ensure higher standards in the private sector. Only issuing documents prior to issuing a notice feels like a ‘Get out of Jail for free’ card and it seems unlikely that this will be allowed to continue in perpetuity, given that landlords are seen as the enemy in the housing industry.

No-one likes paperwork, what seems the unnecessary bureaucracy, but landlords must be prepared to comply with what the law says. Landlords generally want to do what is right, but changes introduced with little notice will feel like attempts to trap them and keep unwanted tenants in properties as long as possible, however they may have transgressed in their tenancies. Good, clear paperwork and time taken when the tenancy agreement is issued to go through it, protects both landlord and tenant.

Much of the new legislation appears to be aimed at making a section 21 obsolete, by restricting its’ use. Landlords that appreciate the ease of the accelerated possession proceedings and the hassle-free way of evicting must ensure that their claims for possession are correctly done, so the section 21 continues to work as was intended; and that means, getting the paperwork right.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon