Landlord Focus March 2021

Welcome to ‘Landlord Focus’ – the Private Sector Housing Team’s e-newsletter for providing news and relevant information for landlords, letting and managing agents in Reading.  We hope you will find the articles in this issue useful and informative.

By including these summaries, we aim to keep you informed to avoid unintentional offences that could result in enforcement action.  We also want to assure those landlords who offer good accommodation and good standards of management that we continue to actively enforce against those landlords operating illegally and without due regard to the law.

If you have any comments or ideas or suggestions for future editions, please email us at:  hmo@reading.gov.uk

Rent Guarantee Scheme

Reading Borough Council runs the successful Rent Guarantee Scheme, with over 500 tenancies already running on the scheme.  

The scheme matches people who need homes with landlords who have properties to let. We pay the rent directly to the landlord, in advance. We also guarantee to pay up to six weeks’ rent as a tenancy deposit, to cover costs if your property is damaged by your tenants. 

We are currently in need of more HMO properties to satisfy demand.  

If you would like more details about using the Rent Guarantee Scheme, please call – 0118-9372233 or email RGS@reading.gov.uk  

Click before you Evict webpages launched

‘Click Before You Evict’ is a Reading Borough Council website containing a wealth of information for landlords to help them to address issues which could otherwise lead to an eviction.  

The website addresses frequently asked questions on six common themes: 

  • Rent arrears and late payments  
  • An unfit property? 
  • A right to rent 
  • Antisocial behaviour and breaches of contract 
  • Damage and disrepair  
  • Tenants with support needs  

Landlords can signpost their tenants to tenant information pages through the CBYE website. These pages can also be downloaded as PDF information packs to be printed and given to the tenant if they are unable to access a smart phone or computer. The tenant information pages also contain embedded videos with the option for subtitles in English, and a number of other languages spoken throughout the borough.   

For details see www.reading.gov.uk/cbye 

Electrical Safety Regulations extended from 1 April 

These new Regulations require landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every 5 years. Landlords have to provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants, and to the Council if requested. 

Previously although all landlords were required to let their properties in a safe condition, only HMO landlords were required to regularly carry out electrical safety checks by a competent person.  From 1 June 2020 this was extended to new tenancies in the rest of the private rented sector.  From 1 April 2021 this applies to all tenancies, including assured shorthold tenancies and licences to occupy. 

For further details see: 

Electrical safety standards in the private rented sector: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

Changes to waste collection services

Weekly food waste collections begin from 1 February. Smaller general waste bins will be supplied to some properties. Collection days have also changed for most homes in Reading.  

Here in Reading we’re already recycling lots of our household waste, but we could do more. That’s why we’ve launched a new campaign, ‘Reading Does’, to help everyone recycle more with a target of recycling at least 50% of our household waste. 

To achieve this, we’re introducing weekly household food waste collections.  To encourage further recycling the Council is also swapping the 240 litre grey wheeled bin for a 140 litre black wheeled bin.  We can provide extra waste capacity in some circumstances and will consider each case individually. You can apply for extra waste capacity so that we can assess your needs. If approved, we will provide you with RBC branded white sacks which you can put out with your grey bin on collection day. 

We successfully introduced weekly kerbside food waste collections to 3,000 early adopter properties in October 2020, this was extended to the rest of the borough from 1 February 2021. 

For full details see Changes to waste services – Reading Borough Council 

Tall buildings with cladding

The Council continues to monitor and press for action on unsafe tall buildings, with a number of projects ongoing. 

The Government has announced a new fund to pay for the costs of installing an alarm system in buildings with unsafe cladding. Common alarm systems will enable costly Waking Watch measures to be replaced in buildings waiting to have unsafe cladding removed. 

Buildings over 18 metres with unsafe cladding systems and where Waking Watch costs have been passed on to leaseholders will be eligible.   

Applications for the Waking Watch Relief Fund opened on 31st January and responsibility for applying to the fund will rest with the Responsible Person.  For further details see £30 million Waking Watch Relief Fund now open for applications – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

In addition the Government has announced an additional £3.5 billion to the Building Safety Fund which is being used to pay for the removal of unsafe cladding on residential buildings over 18m (6 storeys) in England.  All buildings 18 metres and over will be covered by the fund. See further detail on building eligibility 

A finance scheme has also been announced for leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres (4 to 6 storeys), aiming to ensure they never pay more than £50 a month for cladding removal. 

This builds on steps the government has already taken to support leaseholders, including securing an agreement that owners of flats in buildings without cladding do not need an EWS1 form to sell or re-mortgage their property.  

Changes to HMO licensing process

Mandatory HMO licensing was extended from 1st October 2018, so that all HMOs occupied by 5 or more people now require a HMO licence (not just those with 3 storeys).  This can now include some flats and even bungalows. 

The National Residential landlords Association (NRLA), formed from the recent merger of the NLA and RLA, has informed us they will no longer provide us with confirmation of accredited member status.  We must now therefore require evidence of that status (less than 12 months old) from any applicant wishing to take advantage of the accredited landlord discounted fee. 

We have seen some landlords come out of the HMO market or letting to smaller groups recently.  Please also notify us of changes of address and alterations to the property layout. Please do contact us when this happens either in writing or to hmo@reading.gov.uk so that we can update our records.   

Applications

Applications for new licences should continue to be made using the online form at: www.reading.gov.uk/hmo   

Applications for licence renewals should be e-mailed to us at: hmo@reading.gov.uk  – the form is available to download from our website.

Remember, we can only accept an application for a renewal if it is made before the existing licence expires.  If you are applying after the expiry date of your existing licence, you will need to submit a new application using the online form.

We are continuing to process HMO licence applications, but we are mostly working from home, with limited access to the Civic Offices.  There may therefore be delays to licences being granted or renewed.

You may find it more convenient to contact officers by e-mail.  Please send general enquiries to us at: hmo@reading.gov.uk  if you do not have a specific officer’s e-mail address, and your message will be forwarded on.

Inspections

In most cases we are now issuing draft licences before an inspection has been carried out.  We may also, depending on risk assessment, issue the final licence prior to inspection.  Inspections will then be carried out as soon as reasonably practicable.   If you have applied for a HMO licence and you know that your HMO will be vacant for a period – for example if you let to students who are all returning home for a holiday period – please let us know in advance, as we may be able to schedule the inspection for that time.  Let us know by emailing your contact details, the property address, and the vacant period dates to us at: hmo@reading.gov.uk.

Electronic communication

As there is limited access to the Civic Offices, we are issuing licences and associated documents electronically where possible.  However, the law requires us to have the consent of the applicant and all relevant persons before we can do this, including mortgage providers, managing agents, etc. so you may find that you still receive documents by post even if you have given us your consent to email documents.

If you have applied for a HMO licence and are happy to receive licensing documents electronically, please complete the relevant form at www.reading.gov.uk/hmo  and e-mail it back to us at: hmo@reading.gov.uk   Note: the consent form is now included within the renewal licence application form – but not yet in the new application online form