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A Warm Welcome to Sarah Westwood MCILEX Copy

02 / 04 / 2024

Berensens Solicitors are happy to announce the appointment of Sarah Westwood MCILEX, as their residential Landlord and Tenant lawyer.

Sarah has worked for 18 years in local firms and has successfully run her own business for 11 years, but has decided to come back into the employed arena to offer Landlords and Lettings Agents her extensive knowledge in this niche area of law and to ensure that access to accurate, affordable advice can be secured in this credit crunching time.

Sarah will provide updates on the every changing law in this area and will be looking to hold landlord seminars and lunches in 2024 to ensure any of our clients can access quite and accurate advice.

As a taster, here are a couple of updates, which have happened in the last month or so:

New How to Rent Guide

 A a new edition of the How to Rent Guide was announced in October 2023.  This edition has been updated with advice on how to access free legal aid services, advice and support, regardless of financial circumstances.

This should be used going forward and if you are about to issue a s21 notice, please check that the tenants have in fact received a copy of the How to Rent guide.  If not, they will need to be served with one prior to the s21 notice. It is fatal to a s21 notice if you cannot show the tenant has received this document.

 Documents to be served for s21 Notices

 It has come to my attention that some local authorities are giving out false information regarding the service of documents and protection of the deposit.

A local authority has stated to a number of clients that as the deposit was not protected or protected late, they are unable to serve a s21 notice at all, or until the deposit is returned to the tenant. 

That is not true.  Providing a deposit is protected prior to the s21 notice being served, it is accepted.  If it was protected late, then of course, the usual sanctions are available to the tenant to take against the Landlord, but it does not prevent the landlord from issuing a s21 notice.

Insurance policies

Many agents are now selling insurance policies to landlords, to protect nonpayment of rent and to assist in the possession process should that arise.  As Landlords you need to ensure the policy is right for you and your property or portfolio of properties and you should also ask the question if your Agent is getting “commission” for this policy.  The adeage, if its too good to be true, it usually is, but here are some good insurance policies out there, you should be be wary it will cover your needs in the event of taking action again your tenant.

Furthermore, you should be aware of the fact that under an insurance policy, usually referred to as Legal Expenses policy or Rent Protection policies, landlords have the right to choose their own legal advisor to assist them.  You do not have to use the panel appointed solicitor.  You may feel more comfortable with using a local solicitor who you can have face to face meetings with and with your fees still being covered by the policy.

I am aware that once panel solicitors are involved they are delays in issuing proceedings and questions being asked which almost always results in the panel solicitor suggesting they “re-issue the notice”.  This is not usually required and if you are not happy with that advice, you should seek a second opinion. Its not always just about having your rent paid, it should be about getting the right tenant in the property and ensuring you have a good return on your investment.

The relevant section applicable to all insurance companies is found under the Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990, s5 (4) and s6, which read

(4) The company shall, in the policy, afford the insured the right to entrust the defence of his interests, from the moment that he has the right to claim from the insurer under the policy, to a lawyer of his choice or, to the extent that the law of the relevant forumso permits, to any other appropriately qualified person.

 Freedom to choose lawyer

6.—(1) Where under a legal expenses insurance contract recourse is had to a lawyer (or other person having such qualifications as may be necessary) to defend, represent or serve the interests of the insured in any inquiry or proceedings, the insured shall be free to choose that lawyer (or other person).

(2) The insured shall also be free to choose a lawyer (or other person having such qualifications as may be necessary) to serve his interests whenever a conflict of interests arises.

(3) The above rights shall be expressly recognised in the policy.

A further update will follow shortly