Update from Topproperty – licensing, inspections and repairs
Topproperty Services registered all of our properties prior to the start of the licensing scheme on 1st April 2022. This was an amazing achievement by our property maintenance team – many private landlords (and agents) are still registering their properties for the first time, over a year later. From this we protected our landlords from any possible rent repayment orders from tenants as the licences were duly applied for. The new scheme also comes with wide ranging implications for us as managing agents – the council now insist on the managing agent being the licence holder. Under the previous licensing scheme this was optional and the council held no view either way.
Being legally compliant by registering on time has come with a very unfortunate side effect – as the council scaled up their staffing for the inspections they had very little work to do until licences were granted, and our properties were among the first to be legally licenced, we have had almost every single property inspected so far.
Stance on inspections
The inspections show a clear change in approach for the local authority from the previous licensing scheme. The previous scheme was focused heavily on the paperwork side of compliance and indeed most prosecutions were based on this (indeed one reached the first tier tribunal and was appealed – the final affirmed penalty was £5625 for not having copies of the periodic inspection reports). The majority of penalties were for administrative breaches under the old licensing scheme. The NRLA has some useful information here
The new scheme shows a focus on property standards and response times to assess issues. Tenants in the property at the time of inspections have been asked if someone had assessed the issue within 72 hours of it being reported and the experience so far has been that if it takes too long for the inspector to sign off on the inspection (eg waiting for proof of maintenance issues being dealt with, down to contractor invoices and closing report being sent to the inspector) they are willing to pass to licence enforcement. This usually comes in the form of an improvement notice and the potential of prosecution of the licence holder and possibly the landlord. This inspection regime also appears to involve the tenants more than the previous scheme as the council now notifies occupiers of the inspection.
Our maintenance agreements
We are making some subtle changes to our maintenance management. This won’t have a significant day to day impact on how we do the maintenance but you will start to see maintenance logs coming to you as an automatic notification. In most cases you won’t need to take action on these. You might be suprised by the number of these which shows you the background work that goes on at Topproperty Services – quite a few of these will have been resolved by the online system we use and the giving of advice to tenants to help them resolve the query without our help.
These issue logs are there for your information and you will be able to ascertain what actions have been taken by us on these issues.
If the maintenance cost exceeds the pre-set limit of £250+VAT for any item, we will let you know through the log.
Note that due to the change in stance of the local authority, if issues would constitute a licence breach or for necessary contractual reasons (to avoid a breach of Section 11 of the Landlord Tenant Act for example) we can go ahead even in the absence of agreement of the landlord. That is because we are the licence holder, which comes with very onerous conditions and responsibilities – including civil penalties and being on the receiving end of Enforcement Notices etc.
By sending out these notifications to all landlords and updating the log if the issue exceeds the limit you will be made aware of these costs.
During summer we raise most maintenance issues as part of our checkout process and that is automated – we may have to switch off these notifications for a brief period of time over summer so you are not inundated with messages. This is something we will look at closer to the time
Our scope has widened significantly as we have to meet the council’s requirements for inspections as per the licence conditions and on the back of feedback from the council’s licence inspections.
Quotes for works
Where a contractor has to quote for works this will be sent to you via the issue log, Landlords have 7 days to accept the quote.
Landlords who are allocated actions on maintenance.
Landlords are reminded that as per the agency agreement there is a 7 day window to complete works if they are taken outside of Topproperty.
Communications relating to maintenance issues
All communications to landlords and tenants are through the issue logs on fixflow – please respond via the issue log.
That covers off this update- more will follow!