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How to avoid fines as a BTL landlord

As a landlord, you have a number of different responsibilities and obligations that you need to stay on top of, in order to provide a safe property for tenants to live and ensuring that both you and the tenant are fully protected. Many of your responsibilities relate to health and safety, dispute resolution, licences, finances and much more, but a surprising number of landlords are often unsure of their responsibilities, and a large proportion fail to oblige.

If you do indeed fail to meet the responsibilities that you have as a landlord and do not operate in the correct way, you can be hit with various different fines for a whole range of reasons. Here are some of the biggest fines faced by landlords and tips on how to avoid the same fate.

Landlord converts houses into flats illegally

Having not gained the correct permission beforehand, a landlord in London converted houses into flats and studios, which saw them faced with a fine of £310,000.

Planning permission is required for any change to the way that the property is being used, and it is illegal to change the primary use of the property without planning permission.

Dividing the house into more than one residence is known to be a change in the use of the house and therefore requires the correct permission, whilst HMO’s also require specific safety checks to be approved.

Tenant evicted illegally by landlord

After serving their tenant with a notice to move out of the property, this landlord proceeded to change the locks only a few days later, not giving the tenant adequate time to make other arrangements. The landlord was prosecuted by Sheffield City Council and was hit with a £3,700 fine for their actions.

To evict a tenant legally, you must give them at least two months’ of written notice, and if they fail to comply, you must seek a court order for their eviction, with bailiffs the only people able to evict them at this stage.

Illegal eviction and landlord harassment, of which the changing of locks falls into, are both criminal offences, which can actually lead to time in jail and the requirement to pay compensation to their tenant.

Houses in HMO rules breached by landlord

A fine of £60,000 plus further costs was handed to a husband and wife partnership for offences relating to management and multiple occupations. The Uxbridge Magistrates Court found that their property was unsafe, as well as the fact that they had broken a prohibition order on letting a room in a house that was being shared.

A HMO is known as being a property that at least three tenants live in, despite only being one household. All aspects of the house are shared by the tenants, apart from their only specific bedroom, regardless of how many tenants there are. HMO’s require certain safety checks and come with a number of obligations relating to the living quality and the property itself, as well as other responsibilities.

Landlord fails to meet fire and electrical safety standards

Health and safety considerations are an essential aspect of being a landlord, particularly as failing to consider different elements of safety for the property can put the lives of your tenants at serious risk.

A landlord in London faced a fine of £214,000 for doing just that after it was found that one of their properties had a live electrical cable exposed on an electric cooker hob, meaning that there was a significant risk of electrocution.

As well as this, another one of his properties was found to be in breach of fire safety regulations, with no safe fire exit available to the tenants and a lack of electrical and gas certificates for the property.

As a landlord, you are responsible for keeping on top of potential health and safety issues, including maintaining the safety of the tenants in the property through personal and professional checks. You should always have appliances PAT tested and you should make sure that there are sufficient measures in place in case of a fire, including a fire alarm and a clear route to a fire exit.

Safety offences and HMO breaches by landlord

After breaching safety obligations, a landlord in Brighton was hit with a fine of £43,680 by Brighton Magistrates Court. They found that the landlord’s property was home to 12 tenants despite the property only being licensed for nine, there was not a clear fire escape route, the bedrooms were too small and measures in place for the event of a fire were unsatisfactory.

Landlords must comply with the obligations and responsibilities associated with HMO’s, to ensure the safety of their tenants and to keep the quality of living space high. The properties themselves must also continue to meet certain specifications in order for them to remain legal.

Mark Burns is the managing director of property investment firm Hopwood House.

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