In the current economic climate, landlords are doing all they can to prevent their income levels from dropping. Landlord fines are the last thing you need, so what can you be fined for, and how do you avoid them?
It's of paramount importance that your premises are safe for your tenants to live in. We live in an increasingly litigious society, so it's vital to ensure that there are no obvious safety hazards before your tenant moves in. Are your wardrobes secure, for example? I know of one landlord whose tenant went to use the wardrobe on the first day and when they pulled at the handle, it fell forwards and narrowly missed him. Make sure that there are no cracks or loose panes of glass, and that carpets are firmly fastened down. Remember that slips, trips and falls from your tenants could leave you exposed to heavy fines.
When you think of safety as a landlord, you think of gas safety. Annual gas safety checks are essential not just for your tenant's health, but for your financial health. If you don't have a valid gas safety certificate for your property then you could be given an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison. There have been several cases recently where landlords have been fined around £10,000.
Starting October 2014, you'll need to ensure that all of your tenants are legally entitled to be in this country. If you have residents from outside of the European Union without a valid residence, study or work visa, then you could be fined up to £3,000. Always ensure that you see these documents before you discuss renting the property. It's another level of bureaucracy, but it can safeguard you from a hefty penalty.
You can also be fined if you evict a person improperly. Getting the eviction order itself, using a Section 21 notice, is a straightforward procedure, but how do you get them out of your premises after the eviction has been authorised? If you do it yourself by throwing their belongings onto the streets and then changing the locks, you are leaving yourself open to a big fine. Court precedents have shown that judges take a very dim view of this, and you could find that you have to pay your ex-tenants compensation and legal fees. That's why it's essential to hire a bailiff to carry out evictions in a legal manner.
It may seem that there are more ways than ever to be fined as a landlord, and that you're constantly walking a legal tightrope. By taking these simple steps, however, you can remove the threat of landlord fines:
1 Ensure your property is safe and hazard free before tenants move in;
2 Have annual gas safety checks carried out by qualified personnel;
3 Check the immigration status if prospective tenants before they move in;
4 Have evictions carried out by third party bailiffs.
Being a landlord can be fulfilling, and provide a lucrative income stream, as long as you avoid the pitfalls that can lead to landlord fines.