Should We Have 24-Hour-a-Day Landlord Requirements?


Picture of man led in bed holding a mobile phone

The High Court has ruled that landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMO) in Belfast must be on call 24 hours a day. The ruling comes after the Landlords Association for Northern Ireland unsuccessfully challenged a condition added into the HMO licensing process by Belfast City Council, which stipulated landlords should have an out-of-hours contact number in order to deal with anti-social behaviour. But should we have 24-hour-a-day landlord requirements?


Why Are There Out-of-Hours Landlord Requirements in Belfast?


Belfast City Council proposed the out-of-hours phone line requirement for winning an HMO licence in 2020. It said it was due to rowdy behaviour by students in the Holyland area of the city, which had caused much public concern. It applies to HMOs inhabited by three or more people from different households.


The council’s reasoning was that, due to the existing relationship, landlords could be more effective at diffusing antisocial behaviour in their tenants than the police or council workers who attended the disturbances.


Mr Justice Scoffield, who found in favour of the Council, stated that he believed it to be a reasonable request, confirming they wanted the ruling to help “leverage” the landlords’ influence over their tenants.


Arguments Against 24-Hour-a-Day Landlord Requirements


Landlords were up-in-arms at the legislation from Belfast City Council, with their lawyers claiming it would be impractical for landlords and letting agents with a large number of tenants. If there were calls on consecutive nights relating to different tenants or even more than one call on an evening, landlords could find themselves constantly working, with no chance to properly rest.


Lawyers for the landlords argued that it was not fair to have landlords effectively on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They also put forward that there was very little a landlord could achieve in the middle of the night and that waiting until office hours the next day, there would likely be a similar result.


Should Landlords Be on Call?


It is not unreasonable for tenants to have a 24-hour phone number for emergency matters but that will not always necessarily be for the landlord. It could be for their property management partner, letting agent or another party.


Having landlords always on call directly, ready to be called in case of antisocial behaviour, could well be problematic in terms of their health and wellbeing. One landlord visiting multiple situations in the middle of the night over weeks and months is one of the potential unintended consequences of the decision.


Many property professionals commenting on the story online pointed out that the landlords in that situation could also do very little to help if they do not manage to diffuse the situation. Some cited the forthcoming abolition of Section 21 evictions as proof that landlords’ hands were tied if they failed to diffuse the situation through discussion.


Do You Agree With These Landlord Requirements?


Let us know if you agree with these landlord requirements and whether you think they could work in reality.


If you want us to take on your property management services, talk to us about how we can help you today.

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