Birmingham City Council

Landlord Advice

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Overview

We provide information and advice to landlords on a variety of subjects including:

  • finding tenants
  • tenancy agreements
  • landlord access to tenant benefits and arrears
  • overpayments of rent
  • renting out houses for multiple occupation (HMOs)
  • property inspections
  • tenants and antisocial behaviour
  • ending a tenancy
  • property repairs
  • our enforcement policy.

We have a number of frequently asked questions, associated documents and service links to help you. To request advice online use the blue button above.

Essential Information
  • Home Stamp
    c/o Gary Callaghan
    Hay Mills Fire Safety Centre
    Speedwell Road, Hay Mills
    Birmingham
    B25 8HH
    0121 753 1313
    http://www.homestamp.com


    The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
    Arbon House, 6 Tournament Court
    Edgehill Drive
    Warwick
    CV34 6LG
    01926 496800
    info@arla.co.uk


    The National Approved Letting Scheme
    Tavistock House, 5 Rodney Road,
    Cheltenham.
    GL50 1HX
    http://www.nalscheme.co.uk/frameset.htm


    Residential Landlords Association Ltd
    1 Roebuck Lane, Sale
    Manchester
    M33 7SY
    0845 666 5000
    info@rla.org.uk


    National Landlords Association
    22-26 Albert Embankment
    London SE1 7TJ
    020 7840 8937
    info@landlords.org.uk


    Midland Landlord Accreditation Scheme
    Housing Services
    University of Birmingham
    Edgbaston
    Birmingham
    B15 2TT
    0121 414 6438
    mlas@contacts.bham.ac.uk


    Gas Safe Register
    PO BOX 6804
    Basingstoke
    RG24 4NB
    +44 (0)800 408 5500
    enquiries@gassaferegister.co.uk

Frequently Asked Questions
    • When you take a deposit from your tenant you should always issue a receipt and a detailed inventory detailing everything you provide e.g. furniture, carpets and appliances and describing the condition of the property. It is also useful to take photographs. If you have let your property on an assured shorthold tenancy you are required by law (Housing Act 2004) to register your tenants deposit with one of the three government approved Tenancy Deposit Schemes.


      You must:

      • protect your tenants deposit within 30 days of receiving it,
      • and return your tenants deposit at the end of your tenancy.

      You must also provide your tenant in writing with all the information the law requires within 30 days, this includes:

      • your contact details
      • details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme you used
      • information about the purpose of the tenancy deposit protection scheme
      • how to get the deposit back at the end of the tenancy
      • what to do if there is a dispute about the deposit.

      Failure to protect the deposit


      A court can fine a landlord between 1 to 3 times the value of the deposit if you:

      • only protect a tenant's deposit after 30 days, or
      • fail to give the tenant details of the scheme used within 30 days, or
      • fail to protect the deposit (the court can also order you to protect your deposit).

      If you do not protect your tenant's deposit and provide them with the required information, your right to evict your tenant will also be affected. Normally if your tenant has an assured shorthold tenancy, you can evict your tenant simply by giving your tenant two months notice (Section 21 Notice) and getting a court order once any fixed term has expired. But if you haven’t protected your tenant's deposit or given your tenant details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme used, you can only get a court order to evict your tenant if they have breached a condition of the tenancy, for example if your tenant has not paid their rent. You would be able to use a Section 21 Notice if you return all the deposit money to the tenant before serving the Notice or if you are authorised by your tenant to offset the deposit money against rent arrears or damage or if your tenant has brought a court claim for compensation and the matter has been fully resolved.

    • We can help you find tenants - register with Let To Birmingham, our new social lettings agency, and let us take the hassle out of finding tenants.

      If you need to advertise to find a tenant you could try the following options:

      • Local newspapers and magazines
      • A local letting agency
      • A local estate agent (many now have a lettings department)
      • Local shop windows or supermarket notice boards
      • University websites
      • Studentpad - wwww.studentpad.co.uk

      If you contact a letting or estate agent you will probably have to pay a fee for advertising and renting out your property. They can also manage the property for you, subject to a management fee.

    • Although there is no specific permission required before you rent out your property, there are certain requirements you must comply with in order to avoid the possibility of any legal action being taken against you as follows:

      • Fire: all residential premises need to provide occupiers with a reasonable degree of protection in the event of a fire .If your property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) you will need to ensure that it has enhanced fire precautions installed depending upon the height and layout of the property as well as the number and background of the occupiers. Learn more about this from www.homestamp.com
      • Gas: If the house you rent out has a gas supply then the entire gas installation (appliances, pipework and flues) must be maintained in safe working order. The gas installation must be examined and tested annually by a Gas Safe Registered contractor and a landlords’ gas safety certificate obtained which must be shown to all new tenants before they move in and to existing tenants within 28 days of the date it was issued. You must keep the gas safety certificate on record for at least two years. For more information, visit: www.gassaferegister.co.uk. If the property is a HMO then you must provide the gas safety certificate to the Council within 7 days if requested to do so in writing.
      • Planning and Building Regulations: If you are extending or converting a house in to flats or multiple occupation you may need to obtain planning permission. Many types of building work involving the structure of the house,drainage, the electrical installation, replacement windows etc may also need to comply with Building Regulations. Find out more by visiting www.birmingham.gov.uk/planning
      • HMOs: If your property is a licensable HMO (three or more stories in height and occupied by five or more persons living as more than one household and sharing at least one standard amenity) then you must ensure it is licensed. The property must meet particular accommodation and management standards as conditions of the licence. More information on: www.birmingham.gov.uk/hmo. If your property is a HMO but it is not licensable (fewer than three stories or fewer than five households) you will still need to adhere to the HMO management regulations. Similar property standards in terms of amenities, fire precautions and heating will wherever possible be applied to non-licensable HMOs as to those which are licensable through action under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
      • Furniture: any upholstered furniture that you supply with the property will need to comply to the Furniture and Furnishings (FIRE) (Safety) Regulations 1988. A Guide to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations can be found here
      • Electricity: If your property is a HMO but it is not licensable, the electrical wiring in the property must still be safe. Under the HMO Management Regulations, the Council can ask you to provide a valid electrical safety certificate. You must provide this within 7 days of our request so best practice dictates that you carry out regular electrical installation inspections.
    • We don’t always have to inspect it, but in some cases it could be necessary if your property is a HMO. If your property has been licensed as a HMO then we must inspect it within 5 years of the licence application date to assess whether there are any hazards in need of attention under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. How soon your property is inspected within that five year period will depend upon the degree of risk as assessed from the licence application details.

    • Yes, you should encourage any prospective tenants to ask for a Pre-tenancy Determination form. The prospective tenant and landlord must complete and sign the form and return it to a Customer Service Centre, or post it to:

      The Benefit Service
      PO Box 8267
      Birmingham
      B4 7XF.

      The rent service will make a decision within seven working days and inform the landlord and tenant of any decision made (known as a determination).

      A pre-tenancy determination is valid for one year, provided there are no changes in circumstances. It will apply to any person who applies for the same tenancy on the same terms and with the same number of household members. Both the landlord and their tenant will know how much rent will be covered by the housing benefits scheme.

    • If your tenant is receiving housing benefit payments direct and falls into arrears of eight weeks or more, please report it to us. We will then usually send any further housing benefit payments directly to you or the agent.

      If we do not feel that you are a fit and proper person to receive these payments direct, we can refuse to make them or withhold benefits while an investigation takes place. To recover the arrears you would have to pursue the tenant. This may involve taking enforcement action against them.

      If you are considering taking enforcement action against your tenant, please contact the Benefit Service by:

      Telephone: 0121 464 7000

      Or write to:
      Benefit Service
      Birmingham City Council
      PO Box 8267
      Birmingham
      B4 7XF

    • Yes, as long as the claimant has signed part 16 of the housing benefit application form. Also, as the landlord you must be able to provide us with the following information when calling about your tenant’s claim:

      • Your name and / or company name
      • Your address and / or company address
      • Your tenant’s name and address
      • Your landlord code if you have one

      If the claimant has signed part 16 of the benefits application form, we can discuss the following:


      1. That they have claimed or renewed their claim for housing benefit: We can tell you that we have received a form from your tenant, and the date on which we received it;
      2. That we have made a decision on your tenant’s claim: We can tell you whether or not they are entitled to the benefit, but we can’t give you the reasons or tell you how we’ve calculated it;
      3. That we have made a payment to your tenant: We can tell you that we have made a payment to your tenant and the dates of entitlement, but we can’t tell you the amount or how we’ve calculated it;
      4. That we need more information to make a decision on your tenant’s claim and what information we need: We can tell you that we have written to your tenant asking for more information about their income, capital or circumstances, but we can’t tell you about specific information we have asked for, such as salary, incapacity benefit, Job Seekers’ Allowance, bank account or non-dependant details.


      Generally, if we either pay you direct or have your tenant’s permission to speak to you, we can apply the above principles. If we are paying you direct however, you will obviously know the amounts we’re paying.

      In addition to this, regardless of who the payments are going to, if:

      • You have a valid landlord code
      • You have been given verbal or written confirmation
      • The claimant has signed part 16 of the new or old form

      We can provide you with the following information without breaching Data Protection legislation:

      • Whether we have issued a short review form (or whether one we have issued hasn’t been returned)
      • The reason why we have suspended a claim (for example, if the claimant is no longer entitled to receive income support, we can tell you that we believe their circumstances have changed and that we have written to them to ask them to clarify the situation)
      • The reason why we have cancelled a claim (for example, due to the claimant not returning specific information we have asked for about their income, capital or circumstances, although we cannot disclose the specifics)
    • This will depend on what benefit your tenant is claiming and also the outcome of their original application.

      If your tenant is receiving local housing allowance, it will generally be paid directly to them, unless they are protected by the safeguard policy and have applied to be placed onto this. Examples of when the safeguard policy will be used are:

      • Vulnerability
      • Arrears
      • Unable to open bank account
      • A history of debt problems

      We will need them to provide evidence for each of the above.

      If your tenant is claiming housing benefit, we will pay it in accordance with the original application and how the tenant originally agreed payments would be made. This would be one of three options:

      • Directly to the landlord – you must have a valid landlord code for this
      • To the tenant by cheque
      • To the tenant by BACS (bank transfer)

      If you are unsure of how payments will be made then contact the benefit office on 0121 464 7000 for further advice.

    • If you are paid direct, it will be paid four weeks in arrears. We make payments to tenants two weeks in arrears.

      If your tenant receives the benefit payments direct, any payment arrangements would have been set out prior to the tenancy being granted.

    • If you’re receiving direct payments for housing benefits for more than one tenant, we will only send you one notification / receipt / cheque. With it, we will include a schedule that shows the dates and the amount of housing benefit we’re paying on behalf of each tenant.

      If we’re paying the benefit direct to your tenants, we will not send you any payment information.

    • We will tell you as soon as we are aware of any overpayments. There are many reasons that overpayments of housing benefit are made, for example if you have continued to receive payments after your tenant has left.

      If you have received direct payments for tenants and there has been an overpayment, we will recover the overpaid amount from you. You must tell us as soon as you become aware of any overpayments to stop any action being taken against you.

    • There are several options for recovering any overpayments we have made:

      • We can send an invoice
      • We can deduct it from future benefit payments
      • If the tenant moves to another address with the same landlord, we can take this into account when calculating payments at the new address
      • We can recover it from housing benefit payments made directly to the landlord for any of their other tenants
    • You can appeal against the following:

      • The decision to pay or not to pay housing benefit direct to you
      • Recovery of overpaid housing benefit
      • The method of recovery of overpaid housing benefit

      You can ask us to reconsider our decision but you must do this within one month of the date on the decision letter. If you are unhappy with our decision you can appeal against it.

      Find out what to do if you disagree with our decision on your housing benefit /council tax benefit.

    • You must tell the Benefit Service of any known changes in your tenant’s circumstances, for example, if they have started working. Landlords who consistently fail to report changes may not be considered a fit and proper person to receive housing benefit payments.

      If your tenant moves out, you must tell the Benefit Service immediately of the date the tenant leaves the property. Please call them on 0121 464 7000 and then send written confirmation to:

      The Benefit Service
      PO Box 8267
      Birmingham B4 7XF

      Alternatively, you can visit your nearest Customer Service Centre and they will forward the details on to us. Once a tenant leaves there is no further entitlement to housing benefit.

    • No, you can let your property with only a verbal agreement, but we wouldn’t advise this.

      A tenancy agreement is a legal document that secures your position as landlord. It’s sensible to put everything in writing so that both you and the tenant have a clear record of both your rights and responsibilities as the landlord and your tenant’s rights and responsibilities. The agreement should include information about:

      • The type of tenancy
      • The length of the tenancy
      • How much rent the tenant should pay and how often
      • Who is responsible for repairs
      • How to end the tenancy and the procedure for leaving the property

      The tenancy agreement should also show the landlord’s (or agent’s) name and address and a contact telephone number.

      Contact us for more advice on setting up a tenancy. Please note that a tenant can not claim benefits without a valid contract.

    • The law around ending a tenancy is relatively straightforward. You will normally have to serve a written notice on your tenant. The type of notice depends on when the tenancy started and why you want them to leave.

      If your tenant refuses to leave, you may need to get a possession order from the County Court, depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have with your tenant. If your tenant still doesn't leave, you may have to go back to court to get a bailiff's warrant.

      The important thing to remember is that you cannot evict your tenant yourself, you must follow the correct procedure. Contact us for advice.

      There are different types of tenancies, each with different notice types:

      Regulated Tenancy
      If your tenant moved in before 15 January 1989 they will probably have a regulated tenancy. To end a regulated tenancy you will have to serve a 28-day notice to quit.

      Assured Tenancies and Assured Shorthold Tenancies
      If your tenant moved in after 15 January 1989, they will have either an assured tenancy or an assured shorthold tenancy.

      • An assured tenancy gives your tenant the long-term right to stay in their home. You can only end it if you have a specific reason for doing so, such as rent arrears (there are 17 Grounds). You must serve either two weeks’ or two months’ notice to quit, depending on your reasons for doing so.
      • An assured shorthold tenancy is for a fixed period of time and gives your tenant fewer rights. At the end of the fixed period of time, you have an automatic right to end the tenancy. You will need to give your tenant two months’ notice. The notice period cannot end before the end of the agreed fixed-term period. If you don’t give notice before the end of the fixed term there are special rules for issuing it at a later date. Please see the Compact Law website for further advice.

      Resident Landlord Lets and Lodgings
      If you share living accommodation such as a living room, kitchen, or bathroom with your tenant, you need only give reasonable notice. This notice should be at least equal to how often the rent is payable (for example, weekly or monthly). At the end of the notice period you can carry out a peaceful eviction and there is no need to get a court order. If you are going to evict your tenant you must be careful not to cause a breach of the peace. It is sensible to take legal advice first.

      If you live in the same house as your tenant but don’t share living accommodation you must serve a notice to quit that:

      • Is equal to how often the rent is due
      • Gives at least 28 days’ notice
      • Must end on the last day of a rental period

      The notice must be on a special form which is available from legal stationers. If your tenant has not left at the end of the notice period, you must apply to the County Court for a possession order.

      If you’re not sure what type of tenancy you have created, or how much notice to give, see the Compact Law website for further advice.

      Remember – it is a criminal offence to evict a tenant without following the correct procedure.

    • If your tenants complain about antisocial behaviour, or someone complains to you about your tenants, you need to take action. Doing nothing can mean that you lose tenants and money – and this can happen whether it’s your tenants’ behaviour that is the problem or if someone else is making your tenants’ lives a misery.

      Call the Birmingham Antisocial Behaviour helpline on 0121 303 1111 for help and advice.

    • As a landlord you are responsible for repairs to:

      • The structure and outside of the property
      • Basins, baths, sinks and toilets
      • Fires, radiators, water heaters
      • Water, gas and electricity supply and meters
      • Water tanks and boilers

      You should include details of your responsibility for the maintenance of your property in your tenancy agreement. You should also provide tenants with clear guidelines on how to report a repair.

      If the repairs are not done promptly, tenants can:

      • Contact the housing service and ask the council to take action. The housing teams would then speak to the landlord about the repairs and will work with the landlord to get these completed. If the landlord continues not to fix the repair then depending on the repair further action may be taken by the housing team
      • Take you to court
      • Sue you for compensation if they are injured or their possessions are damaged because you didn’t carry out the necessary repairs. Any visitors affected because you didn’t carry out repairs can also sue you
    • The best way is to find a builder that is TrustMark certified. TrustMark is a government initiative set up to help individuals find a reliable trader. Any trader that is ‘trust marked’ means they have had their financial position checked and have signed up to a code of practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care.

    • A landlord code is only provided once a landlord has been through the Landlord vetting process. If you are receiving or are due to be receiving housing benefit payments directly from us, you will need to have a landlord code. If you are thinking of renting to the student community you must have a landlord code to appear on the universities’ property rental websites and notice boards.