Many landlords will be getting their accommodation ready in preparation for the university students who are about to descend upon Southampton. Most likely the AST agreements will have been signed already and the deposits for this coming year paid. What else aside from ensuring the property is somewhat habitable do landlords need to know? With an increase of landlords bypassing the middle man and managing their properties directly, I have set out below some key pointers for landlords in Southampton and the surrounding area.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Familiar with this term? Most likely as nearly all properties that are rented to 3 or more unrelated students will qualify as a HMO. Normally you only require a licence if the HMO is for 5 or more people on three or more stories (mandatory licences). However in Southampton all HMOs in Bevois, Bargate, Portswood and Swaythling require a licence (additional licence). Following the conclusion of a consultation this year, from the 20th October 2015 the additional licensing will also be rolled out to cover the areas of Shirley, Freemantle, Millbrook and Bassett. Failing to obtain a licence will result in a fine and/or criminal proceedings.

Notice to new owners – you will need to reapply as upon sale a licence is revoked. For further guidance contact the Council directly via hmo@southampton.gov.uk.

The Deposit

There is now so much to say about deposits which have become such a hassle that some landlords have decided to do away with them altogether (not recommended). In summary once the deposit is protected send all prescribed information (often obtained from the deposit protector) to the tenant and to any person who paid the deposit (the parents) on behalf of the tenant. If you have a student returning for another year and so you have granted a second fixed term tenancy or a periodic tenancy then extend the deposit scheme and re-serve the prescribed information on the relevant people. Failing to undertake these steps will mean that you will not be able to serve a s.21 notice to terminate the lease, you may also face having to pay back the deposit to the tenant plus compensation of up to three times the deposit amount.

Gas Safety and Electrical Certificates

From the 1st October 2015, landlords will not be able to rely upon a s.21 notice unless they have provided the tenant with an energy performance certificate and a copy of a Gas Safety Certificate. As a result I recommend that you serve these documents at the outset of the tenancy together with the prescribed information related to the deposit as stated above.