Landlords and letting agents are still expressing confusion over how they should respond to tenants’ requests for repairs, under new rules.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has criticised the lack of official guidance and is concerned over the “uncertainties” surrounding the new legislation.
As the change comes into effect on 1st October, under the Deregulation Act, it is not long before every tenancy in England that starts on or after that date is affected.
ARLA Criticises Lack of Guidance for New Section 21 Rules
Under the new rules, landlords and agents will face increased liability and risk.
They must provide an adequate response to repair requests by tenants within 14 days. Failure to do so could mean that the section 21 process cannot be used.
An adequate response is one given in writing, not over the phone.
The response must state the work to be conducted and give a reasonable timeframe for its completion. However, the new law does not specify what a reasonable timeframe is.
Determining factors could include the vulnerability of tenants and the nature of the complaint. However, all complaints must be dealt with.
If a response is not deemed adequate, the local authority may serve an improvement or emergency remedial notice, meaning that section 21 notices cannot be served for six months, as a way of avoiding so-called revenge evictions.
Repairs software supplier Fixflo has launched an upgrade to its service, helping to protect agents through the change.
Fixflo now offers a detailed and structured immediate response to tenants for every repair request received, a workflow for dealing with communications in cases involving vulnerable tenants, and the automatic compilation of time and date stamped repair requests and responses, which can be accessed and annexed to a section 21 notice.
The upgrade is available to all existing Fixflo customers, at no extra cost.
Managing Director of ARLA, David Cox, says: “While agencies will need to take their own legal advice and no liability is accepted due to the uncertainties surrounding this legislation, in the absence of further Government guidance, ARLA considers that the Fixflo system for dealing with the need to provide an adequate response constitutes best practise for the industry.”1
Partner and head of the landlord and tenant practice group at Dutton Gregory Solicitors, Robert Bolwell, speaks of the new law: “The Deregulation Act 2015 has marked a sea change in the way in which landlords can behave when confronted by a genuine disrepair issue raised by a residential tenant.
“It is now vital that landlords and their professional advisers have in place systems to respond quickly to a tenant’s complaint, no matter how trivial that complaint may seem at the outset.”1
A video of Fixflo’s managing director, Rajeev Nayyar, discussing the change with property law expert Tessa Shepperson, can be viewed here: http://landlordlaw.tv/series-1-episode-2-repair-issues/
Also, a free guide to the new law, produced by ARLA and Fixflo, can be downloaded here: http://www.fixflo.com/Section-21