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M3 Landlord Link Forum

Keith Parkins | 16.10.2006 16:52 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles

A forum for landlords organised by four local authorities and a landlords association held at the Holiday Inn in Farnborough on Thursday 12 October 2006.

'Landlords associations and councils might seem unlikely partners, but the SPLA is already working closely with nearly half the local authorities in its area and ready to get started with the rest.' -- spla news, Autumn 2006

The Rotten Borough of Rushmoor (as it is known locally) together with three neighbouring local authorities, Surrey Heath, Hart and Basingstoke and Dean, plus the Southern Private Landlords Association hosted a Landlords Forum at the Queen's Hotel in Farnborough, afternoon and evening of Thursday 12 October 2006. The cost of around £400 was shared between the organisers.

The meeting consisted of an opening talk by government, various workshops, and an evening question and answer session. The evening question and answer session was cancelled through lack of interest, though this did not go down well with those who arrived in the evening.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Housing Act 2004 and its various implications for landlords. Stalls were run by local authorities, fire service, mortgage brokers etc.

Those attending came from further afield than the area covered by the local authorities, including Southampton, Oxford and Guildford. This was due to publicity by Southern Private Landlords Association.

Opening session

The meeting was opened by Simon Llewellyn from Ruth Kelly's department the Department for Communities and Local Government, formerly the ODPM before John Prescott was stripped of all his responsibilities.

Simon Llewellyn focused on the deposit scheme. Because of the problems tenants have had in the past of getting their deposits back from Rachman landlords, the deposit will now be protected.

Landlords and their agents will now have to join one of two schemes. This is mandatory for all deposits and comes into effect on 6 April 2007.

Landlords will either have to have an insurance policy that underwrites the deposit or will have to hand their money over to a third party, as yet to be named by the government.

Landlords will be prohibited from using Section 6 of the Housing Act 2004 to gain possession of their property if they have not complied with the deposit scheme.

Landlords can be fined up to three times the amount of the deposit if they have failed to comply with the scheme.

Landlords are required to advise tenants on taking a deposit of the scheme and what will be happening to their money

RSLs (registered social landlords) and housing associations are not covered by the scheme, neither are council tenants, that is they will have no protection under the Housing Act 2004. The deposit scheme that some councils operate to provide tenants with deposits to obtain accommodation is protected by the scheme.

Simon Llewellyn claimed social housing tenants are protected by the industry regulator the Housing Corporation. This is nonsense. With many housing associations seen as modern-day Rachman landlords, tenants would view his comment as a sick joke. The Housing Corporation is a toothless watchdog, and more often than not acts as the industry voice rather than acts on behalf of the tenants.

Private landlords are not happy as they believe there should be a level playing field for all landlords, not exemptions for social housing landlords.

Questions were raised as to what if the Statutory Custodian (who holds deposits) goes bust or defaults. This concern was brushed aside.

Deposits amount to something of the order of £260 million!

There is also concern as to when tenants will get their deposits back. If there are no grounds for non-return, the tenant would normally be entitled to return when they vacate the property. It appears that they will now have to wait for the money to be returned by the Statutory Custodian.

The deposit scheme is covered by Part 6 of the Housing Act 2004.

There are still loose ends to be tidied up, secondary legislation will be enacted by means of Statutory Instruments.

Simon Llewellyn warned of the need for landlords to hold an inventory, and that the inventory needed to be accurate, detailed and up-to-date. Failing that, no landlord would have a case in court if damage was caused or items were missing, as there would be no evidence. Although not required under the Housing Act 2004, an inventory is seen as best practice

An independent arbitration service is being established under the Housing Act 2004 to settle disputes. Landlords were not happy with this provision and preferred to go through the courts.

Local authorities have a role to advise tenants as well as landlords of the new legislation. They are clearly failing in their obligations to tenants.


Workshops were held on numerous topics: hazard and risk assessment, fire risk, tax fiddling, legal advice in particular setting up tenancy agreements and serving Notice to Quit, mortgages, inventories etc.

Hazard and Risk Assessment

All dwellings, private and rented, including RSLs and housing associations, have to be risk assessed under the Housing Act 2004

This consists of an intelligent assessment of the risk, then working out the likely consequence.

Structure is covered and external areas such as garden paths. For RSLs and housing associations this would include common areas.

A hazard can be damp, excessive cold or heat, asbestos, wiring, noise, sleep disturbance, contamination.

Landlords can be served enforcement notices, required to carry out work to make properties safe.

Landlords can still be served notices under other legislation where tenants are at risk of harm.

Fire Risk

This workshop was appalling. The fire officer had been dropped in it that day, new legislation had only just come into force. It would be fair to say the session was mainly waffle.

The emphasis of the new regulation is on fire prevention.

The only properties that are covered by the new regulations are communal areas of HMOs (house in multiple occupancy) and flats, this includes outside communal areas. RSLs and housing associations are covered.

A serious anomaly is that for the vast majority of housing, it will be unqualified council officials who will be assessing fire risk under their legislation rather than qualified fire officers under fire regulations.

From the questions raised from the floor, there is clearly a very serous problem with interpretation by over zealous fools from the sublime to the ridiculous.


Excellent presentation by Lynne Rabouhans, co-chairman of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks.

A good inventory is essential. Without which no landlord has a legitimate claim against tenants.

An inventory should be written in layman's terms which anyone can easily understand.

Most inventories are poorly drawn up, they are inaccurate and lack sufficient detail.

Stating dining room table and chairs, bathroom mirror, is not sufficient, must include a description.

An inventory should not use subjective terms such as poor condition, fair condition, etc, it should contain an actual description of the condition of each item on the inventory.

An inventory should include all fixtures and fittings.

Inventories should include an itemised list of all keys, also an itemised list of manuals for all appliances. If a landlord fails to supply a manual for any appliance, the tenant cannot be held liable for misuse.

If surfaces or carpets require special care or attention, the landlord must supply written instructions, otherwise the tenant is not liable.

An inventory drawn up by an independent person carries more weight in court than one drawn up by a landlord or agent.

An inventory is as much for the protection of the tenant as it is the landlord.

More problems are caused by landlords than tenants. Landlords have problems accepting fair wear and tear, for which they receive rent.

The inventory does not have to be drawn up in the presence of the tenant, but it must be checked in the presence of the tenant on the day the tenant moves in. Any changes noted. If the tenant disputes any aspect of the inventory this must be noted on the inventory. Both parties sign and date the inventory, both parties keep a copy. The inventory has to be checked again on the day the tenant moves out.

It was stated there should be three copies of the inventory, although I cannot recall the reason why. Maybe to produce in Court if there is a dispute?

Photos are useful as a supplement to an inventory. Photos must be dated and signed, copies to both parties. Digital photos may be copied onto a read only CD or DVD, the disc then dated and signed, copies to both parties. Photos are a useful aid to descriptions, but of little use on their own.

Videos were seen as being of little value, other than as an aid to descriptions and to the location of items on the inventory. The same procedures to be followed as for photos, signed and dated, copies to both parties.

Inventories are part of the lease, a legal document, and must be kept with the lease.

On termination of the lease, if everything is in order according to the inventory, the landlord must promptly return the deposit in full. If not, then the inventory may be used to assess any charges to be levied against the tenant.

The landlord may only make deductions from the deposit for damage or loss. The landlord has to take account of wear and tear, cannot demand new for old, that is make use of the tenant for betterment.


This is the second session Rushmoor has helped organise for landlords. So far no similar sessions have been organised for tenants. Following the session Rushmoor hosted earlier this year, they were asked to hold one for tenants. They refused.

Surrey Heath, one of the local authorities co-hosting the forum, said they had not held any sessions for tenants, but now that it had been brought to their attention, they would consider doing so.

Local Rachman landlords are noticeably absent from these briefings. The landlords attending, are in the main, wishing to see standards improve, the sector improve, Rachman landlords driven out of business (some should be in prison). This will only happen if tenants are aware of their rights.

Some local authorities are taking pro-active action against bad landlords. This is not happening in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, where even when tenants complain, nothing happens, when tenants complain of harassment, housing officials have even gone so far as to advise landlords how to legally evict and from where they can obtain the necessary information.

The forum was entitled M3 Landlords Link Partnership, subtitled Landlords and Local Authorities Working Together. Says it all really.

SPLA appears to have a growing influence within local authorities, and brags of this in its membership newsletter. It is organising or proposing to organise numerous partnerships and forums with local authorities within its area. The M3 Landlords Link Partnership is but one of many. Evidence of this growing influence is that SPLA is on the recruitment panel for a Landlords Officer at Southampton City Council!

Under the Housing Act 2004, measures are now in force for the licensing of HMOs (shared housing). Landlords who fail to comply are committing a criminal offence. According to a survey carried out by SPLA, a third of councils in the South are failing to enforce the new legislation. SPLA say: 'figures would suggest that there are thousands of criminals of this type.' [spla news, Autumn 2006]

Landlords operating a HMO without a licence face a maximum fine of £20,000.

From 2008, landlords will have to provide energy saving certificates to their tenants prior to any lease being signed.

Note: Housing Act 2004 was drawn from recommendations made by the Law Commission on housing legislation that have been brought forward. More legislation is in the offing.

Related topics and further reading

A clean-sheet new start for renting homes, press release, Law Commission, 5 May 2006

Councils delay on HMO licensing, spla news, Autumn 2006

Fred Harrison, Boom Bust: House Prices, Banking and the Depression of 2010, Shepheard-Walwyn, 2005

Keith Parkins, Rushmoor Private Landlords Forum – January 2006, Indymedia UK, 23 January 2006

Keith Parkins, London Social Forum – housing and land rights conference, Indymedia UK, 2 October 2006


Keith Parkins