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Our regular weekly roundup of news items that interested us.  This weeks items include right to rent issues and some bad news for activists (although welcome for landlords)

Right to Rent changes into force

On 6 April, the changes to the ‘right to rent’ rules came into force.

The Government Guidance document that details the changes can be found here and details of the changes can be found on page 6 & 7.

However, to summarise, the most significant changes are:

  • Identity Service Providers (IDSP) can now be used by landlords to check whether a British or Irish national has the right to rent. Note: there are currently no active accredited providers so landlords will have to continue with manual checks.
  • Biometric Resident Permits (BRP’s) issued by the home office can no longer validate a right to rent. The tenant will instead either need a share code from the Government immigration App or the original visa documentation.
  • The Continuation of the pandemic procedure. This is confirmation that checks by landlords over video and manually checking documents will be a viable process until 30 September 2022. By that point, it is hoped that IDSP’s will be widely accessed.

With these changes noted, it would be advisable for landlords to read the changes from the link above as well as familiarising themselves with the Government guidance page here

Rent Reform Activists ordered to pay £100,000 to Landlord

This week, a case involving Rent Reform Group Acorn against a landlord has resulted in the group paying just under £100,000 in costs and damages after a case over harassment, defamation and breach of data rights.

The case, as reported here all began over a fee of just £300 but exploded into what the landlord’s defence team describe as ‘a campaign of harassment’.  The harassment of the landlord included: filming and confronting the landlord at her address, wielding defamatory placards and sending abusive messages over social media.

A spokesman for JMW Solicitors commented:

Clearly, there is a place for legal and legitimate campaigning, but the tenant’s and Acorn’s conduct seriously crossed the line.

They have been ordered to pay the landlord nearly £100,000 and apologise.

In other news relating to Acorn, the group is staging a ‘national day of action’ this weekend to coincide with the launch of their rental reform blueprint. They are organising protests and marches in six cities across England including Newcastle, London and Leeds.

According to its manifesto: Acorn and the Renters Reform Coalition want an end to Section 21, tenancies to run as long as the tenant wishes, a national landlord register, rent controls and other pro-renter changes to the system.

All fair enough, so long as they do not terrorise landlords.  Zobia Rafique, the landlord in the harassment case, describes her ordeal here.

Goodlord report shows that rents are up and voids are down

This week, PropTech supplier Goodlord reported in their index that a recent surge in rental price and dropping void periods have continued into the spring of 2022.

The average rent within the UK rose by 4% from £968 to £1,006 per property. The biggest shift was properties in the North West of England, which rose by 6% while there was also noticeable rises in London, West Midlands and the South West. Rent is now at its highest level since August 2021.

Voids also dropped: the average void of a property in March dropped from 18 days to 16 on average.

However, this may be attributed to the rising cost of living and the current energy crisis.

Letting Agents & Landlords warned over increasing charges for all-inclusive HMOs

This week, Housing Minister Eddie Hughes warned letting agents and landlords to only increase charges relating to all-inclusive HMOs what is necessary amidst the increase in higher energy costs.

In a question posed to him, Eddie Hughes warned that:

Where the landlord is responsible for paying the energy supplier and bills the tenant separately to rent, the landlord can only charge for the ‘maximum resale price’ which includes the energy the tenant has used, the tenant’s share of the standing charge, and the VAT owed.

Ofgem guidance states that while landlords and letting agents are entitled to increase the charge to cover the amount undercharged, they may face civil proceedings for the recovery of the overcharge.

Tenants ‘clueless’ over their liabilities, according to PaymentShield

New research shows that many renters are vulnerable to losing money because they areunaware of their liabilities. The survey – whilst relatively small, showed that 46% of renters don’t have a contents insurance policy in place.

This statistic is worrying considering the latest England Housing Survey by the Government revealed that of the letting agents and landlords that did not hand back the full amount of the deposit at the end of the tenancy, around 62% of instances were down to damage to property and its contents.

Paymentshield spokesperson Rana Ali commented on the report by saying:

Our latest research demonstrates that many leaseholders continue to be unaware of the merits of tenants liability insurance and therefore highly exposed to financial loss.  Every single renter in the UK should have tenants’ liability as the absolute minimum protection, and we want to encourage an industry-wide effort to echo this message.

Tenant insurance is not particularly expensive so is worth investigating.  More information on tenants contents insurance and liability can be found here.

 Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

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