Am I Really Guilty of Breaking the Law?

Landlord Law Blog posted an article about rent books this week which I read with a mixture of interest and guilt.  Since falling into running HMOs I’ve been vaguely aware that it’s a legal requirement for landlords to provide rent books to tenants who pay on a weekly basis.

About once a year I think “I must provide rent books so I don’t get thrown into jail” but the following questions always nag me:

  1. How often will my tenant remember where their rent book is?
  2. Will they remember to leave it out with their rent each week?  I’ve spent years training them to leave their rent in a conspicuous place and don’t enjoy rifling through their underwear drawers or bedside tables to look for it (with their permission!)
  3. How often will I have to replace their rent books when they’ve lost them thereby losing their record of payments from the beginning of their tenancy?
  4. Who’s going to tell me off for not providing them?

I’m not being glib about the need for a record of payments, just about the method.  Maybe the tenants have total trust in me or maybe it’s ignorance but all they care about is that the cash is handed over to me and I provide the accommodation.  I issue a receipt for each payment received, a date for when the next rent is due and, if they’re short or overpay, it’s all recorded in duplicate so we both know where we stand.  Then, I don’t care if they wipe their noses on the receipt, use it instead of a Rizla or file it for safekeeping because my master book has all the payment records for all tenants dating back to the beginning of my landlord career (in case the Inland Revenue want a fascinating read!).

If a tenant is struggling to keep up to date with their rent, I’ll issue a rent statement showing their payment record which also goes onto their file so I can keep track of bad debt for accounting purposes.  Now, if all this sounds like I enjoy being organised – I don’t and have to force myself to stick a book keeping head on for an hour a week.  One tenant’s rent arrears statement runs into three pages when he got into trouble a couple of years ago.  I’m desperate for him to catch up just to save on ink!

The solution, of course, is to get everyone to pay monthly by standing order (excuse me whilst I pick myself up off the floor!) but then we’d miss doing what we do best – having a weekly gossip and catch up.  P.S.  I shall concede defeat and provide proper rent books in case any readers are planning to report me to………………….?

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5 Comments

Filed under being a landlord, Management of an HMO, Rent

5 responses to “Am I Really Guilty of Breaking the Law?

  1. Derbyshire girl

    Tenancy Relations Officers are responsible for enforcing section 7 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which is the failure of a landlord to provide a rent book to weekly tenants. However TROs only prosecute when it’s in the public interest to do so.

    Love the blog by the way.

    • Hello Derbyshire girl (Alice) and Ben. Thanks for your comment and I suspected that my misdemeanour could be used against me should a tenant ever want to put the screws in and the TROs come breaking down my door with battering rams. I appreciate the rent books role and, if I were a tenant, would insist on one if my landlord didn’t give me a receipt.

      Phew! Was slightly worried and will now have confidence to possibly confess my other crimes in my earlier landlording days when I was a newbie. It’s OK, no stabbing or violent assault took place and the vicitims are still alive I think!!

  2. Yeah that rent book requirement is a hangover from years back (pre 1925) and even in placing it in a later Act was before the days of internet banking and other electronic means of transfer so its a bit daft really.

    Although the provision is in there I have never known anyone get done for non compliance and I wonder what view a judge would take if it were raised and there were other more modern methods of keeping it all together.

    Back in the mid 1990s I served a notice on an agent over a harassment matter and his defence was that in faxing it over the document hadnt been properly served and the judge took the view that we had to take into account modern methods, and this was well before emails.

    To be honest I have never threatened a landlord over this issue either, unless they are a particularly nasty one, so dont lose any sleep over it

  3. ian

    If rent is paid in cash, there must be an easy way for the tenant to know that they have paid and be able to prove it.If rent is paid in cash, there must be an easy way for the tenant to know that they have paid and be able to prove it. Giving a receipt each time may be OK, but the tenant will lose them.
    I don’t like the concept of cash being left out in a HMO, what if it goes missing before you collect it?

    I think it is unlikely anyone doing you for not having rent books, provided there is a clear, provable way that both you and the tenant knows what has been paid. As you visit to collect rents, could you have a locked draw for each tenant, that contained a chained down rent book, that you both had access to? (The lock on the draw could be set so the tenant can open it with their room key, and you have a master key)

    Personally I would be investigating payment cards that can be used at the post office when someone collects their benefits. For anyone that gets their income into a bank account, I would expect a direct debit. (But I do HATE cash)

    • Thanks Ian. The cash is always left in a pre-agreed place in their room which also has the added benefit of me being able to make sure that they’re not up to anything naughty e.g. smoking or taking drugs in the room. There doesn’t seem to be a right way to run an HMO and I can see that, if a landlord had lots of them, it would be a pain to collect the rent in person each week.

      Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on other posts.

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