August has long been regarded as the silly season in the media, where stories make the headlines that would normally struggle to find a resting place somewhere between the TV listings and the adverts for walk-in baths. It would also now appear that aside from odd-shaped vegetables and babies with luxuriant bouffants, August is now ‘Protect the Tenant’ Month/’Get landlords to do the council’s job’ Month. Firstly, all months should be about protecting the tenant; that is one of the principle responsibilities of the professional lettings agent; as well as protecting the landlord. The two are symbiotic and should always remain as such. However, it would appear that Harrow Council’s Selective Licensing Scheme that aims to look after both tenant and landlord has been deemed by many commentators to be tantamount to harassment-of both parties. The scheme will require landlords in Edgware and the surrounding environ to make-from 1 November 2015-monthly inspections of their tenant’s homes. Under the licensing conditions, the Council also makes landlords responsible for ensuring that external areas are maintained in a reasonable state of cleanliness, including removing any bulky or non-domestic items of waste. The National Landlords Association (NLA) is warning that some of the licence conditions will lead to tenants felling harassed and hounded in their homes and it has branded the conditions unacceptable and unfair for landlords.
I agree. So why did Harrow feel the need to introduce the scheme? At Cheshire and Co we endeavour to inspect our properties every two months; for the benefit of the landlord and the tenant. We supply the inspection dates 12 months in advance, send a reminder email and text 2 weeks and then 3 days before the inspection date. Have a guess how many of the tenants fail to make an appearance? Answers on a postcard and the winner gets a signed picture of me. The list of excuses given for a no-show would fill a book. The purpose of the inspections is to ensure that the property is not being abused under the terms of the contract (3 dogs, a cannabis farm, 47 illegal immigrants) and also to determine any issues that the tenant may have with the property and to address them swiftly and in the appropriate manner. Getting landlords to be part-time bin men is pushing it in my book; if an individual owns a property with a mortgage from the Halifax, they would be rightly outraged if the H called to ensure that they had got rid of the sofa sitting in their driveway. Similarly, what happens with one rented flat in a block in which the remainder are all owner-occupied. How do Harrow Council plan to patrol the cleanliness of the area outside? Well, that paving slab is your responsibility… For tenants, a monthly inspection is excessive; once every 60 days is not unreasonable and if the property is not a cess pit and there is a problem with a wonky door/leaking shower, the problem is rectified sooner rather than later.
I would be intrigued know the real reasons behind Harrow Council’s decision. Saving money by getting landlords to do the Council’s job through refuse collection and inspecting properties for illegal activity under the guise of tenant protection is a. sneaky b. lazy and c. disingenuous.