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Ask the Experts: the most common letting agent questions answered

With over 25 years’ experience in lettings, there’s not much that Julie Ford doesn’t know about supporting landlords, agents and tenants through tricky tenancies and the ever-changing legislative landscape of the private rented sector. Julie worked at Citizens Advice for many years and now wears multiple hats as a consultant supporting landlords and agents who have problem tenants, as well as tenants who are in arrears. Julie is a tenancy mediator for the Property Redress Scheme Tenancy Mediation Service, and an advisor at HF Assist, the helpline for letting agents and property managers. In this ‘Ask the experts’ guest blog, she shares her roundup of the most common questions HF Assist receives from letting agents.  

 

Q: We are taking over the management of a property from another agent, the current tenant is on periodic tenancy and is refusing to sign a new AST, what can we do?

A: When taking over the management of an existing tenancy, there is no need to issue a new AST. This is because the landlord and tenant have not changed. As a managing agent you are not part of the tenancy agreement. You only need to get the landlord to sign terms of business with you.

 

Q: We issued a Section 21, but the tenant hasn’t left, can we change the locks?

A: No, you cannot change the locks. A Section 21 is not in itself an eviction, it is simply a notice seeking possession. The tenant does not have to leave when the two months’ notice expires. In fact, the tenant doesn’t legally have to leave the property until a bailiff is instructed to carry out the eviction 

 

Q: A fixed term tenancy ended and the tenant left without any notice, can I charge them one month’s rent as they left without notice?

A: No, if a tenant leaves on the last day of a fixed term tenancy, returning the keys and providing vacant possession, they do not legally have to give you any notice, so you cannot charge them any rent.

 

Q: The tenant agrees to dates for contractors to attend to carry out maintenance, but then either cancels at the last moment or just isn’t in when the contractor attends. Can we charge the tenant for missed appointments as we are charged by the contractor?

A: No, you can’t charge the tenant for the missed appointments as this breaches the Tenant Fee Ban Act 2019. If you have a clause in your tenancy agreement that states there will be a charge for missed appointments, this would be a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the clause would be void.

 

Q: A sole tenant on an AST wants to move their partner in to the property, do we add them to the tenancy agreement?

A: If the tenancy is fixed term, it’s best practice to add the partner as a permitted occupier at this stage, you will still need to carry out right-to-rent checks but no other referencing is required. You can add them as a permitted occupier simply by using an addendum to the current tenancy agreement ( we have a template on our website). Then at renewal you can fully reference and have them as a tenant on the new AST.
If the AST is periodic, you can either add them as a permitted occupier or fully reference them and then draw up a new fixed term AST with both as named tenants.

 

Q: The tenant moved in six months ago and has now reported that there are mice in the property, who is responsible?

A: As the tenant has been in occupation for several months, the responsibility for getting rid of the mice would be the tenants. However, the landlord does have an obligation to repair the holes where mice may get in under S11 landlord and tenant act 1985.

 

The HF Assist helpline provides practical expert guidance and information from call handlers who have both legal and lettings experience. Upgrading to an HF Assist Premium subscription provides a 24/7 helpline covering all types of legal issues relating to a letting agent’s business, as well as access to a resources library with useful guides, documents and legal templates. For more information visit the HF Assist website

 

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Property Redress Scheme is approved by Government under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015