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01Apr

Coronavirus: Landlord Right to Rent Checks

Right to rent checks have been temporarily adjusted due to coronavirus (COVID-19) to make it easier for landlords to carry them out.

As of 30 March 2020 the following temporary changes have been made:

* Checks can now be carried out over video calls

* Tenants can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals

* Landlords should use the Landlords Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the existing documents

 

You can read the full Right to Rent guidance during Covid-19 by clicking here.

31Mar

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) come into force tomorrow, 1 April 2020!

So, what does this mean to Landlords?

The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 established the MEES which set a minimum energy efficiency level for all domestic private rented properties in England and Wales that are required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Where this applies, and the property has an EPC rating of F or G, landlords must take appropriate steps to comply with the requirements of the MEES regulations.

Landlords – Step 1 – Check the EPC rating of your rented property. If it has a rating of A through to E then no action is required. It might be an idea to check the expiry of your certificate at this time too. If the rating is an F or G then read on….

From 1 April 2020 it is prohibated to let properties with an EPC rating of F and G, even where there has been no change of tenancy. Landlords with properties assessed at EPC F and G must now improve the property rating to E or register an exemption if they want to continue to let it.

It is worth noting that all existing exemptions registered on the basis that a landlord could not get any funding for energy efficiency improvements will end for individual properties on 31 March 2020, instead of after five years. Landlords who had registered such exemptions prior to 1 April 2019 will now be required to make improvements (up to £3,500) to ensure their properties achieve EPC E by 1st April 2020 – unless a further exemption is successfully applied for.

FUNDING - Since 1 April 2019, landlords of domestic properties with an EPC rating below E must carry out up to £3,500 worth of works improving their energy efficiency even if they cannot obtain third-party funding to meet the costs. If the upgrade to EPC E cannot be achieved for £3,500 or less, then landlords must make all the improvements that can be made up to the cost limit, and then register for an ‘all improvements made’ exemption.

RELEVANT IMPROVEMENTS - The MEES Regulations refer to the concept of ‘relevant energy efficiency improvements’. This is a measure, or package of measures, recommended in the EPC report, which can be purchased and installed for £3,500 or less (including VAT) - the cost cap. Landlords can install any energy efficiency measures, but if their chosen measures are not on the government’s list of ‘recommended energy efficiency improvements’ and they fail to improve the property to EPC E, then landlords cannot let the property or register an ‘all improvements made’ exemption.

Landlords Step 2 – Read the EPC. What are the relevant improvements? Have you already carried out the recommended improvements? If not, you will need to unless you can apply for an exemption.

EXEMPTIONS - There are various exemptions that can be applied for if your property has an energy efficiency rating below an E. If your property meets the criteria for any of the exemptions, you will be able to let it once you have registered the exemption on the Private Rented Sector (PRS) Exemptions Register. Details on the exemptions available and how to apply can be found on the Government's website by clicking here.

Should you need any further information or require assistance in applying for an exemption or instructing a new EPC please contact the office in the usual way. We will be happy to help!

Sarah

30Mar

We want to make sure there is as much relevant information as possible to assist both Landlords and Tenants at this very diffcult time. Therefore, please see below the Governments press release in relation to exisitng tenancies in England. You can read more guidance by clicking here

The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). With these in force, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home.

To ensure all renters are clear on the full package of support that is currently available to them, we are bringing this together into one place.

From today (26 March 2020) landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period.

This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the 3 month notice period can be extended if needed.

This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After 3 months if the tenant has not moved a landlord needs to apply to court in order to proceed.

From tomorrow (27 March 2020) following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellor’s agreement the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the system or any about to go in to it can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.

This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales.

Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme. However we have also put specific measures in place:

  • We are working with the Master of Rolls to strengthen the pre-action protocol requirement and also extend this to the private rented sector. This will help landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen.

  • We have already made £500 million available to fund households experiencing financial hardship.

  • As part of the workers’ support package, the Chancellor announced the government will pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, where workers are placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

  • Both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will increase and from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.

The government is also committed to supporting landlords, and maintaining the positive partnership between tenants and their landlords. That is why, in addition to the measures outlined above, we have also agreed with lenders that they will ensure support is available where it is needed for landlords. Landlords will also be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have a Buy to Let mortgages.

Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made.

An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords. Local authorities are also encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement.

28Mar

Firstly if you can't pay your rent take a deep breath, pick up the phone and call your Landlord or Letting Agent. Remember your health and mental well being is important. Being armed with the right information so you can make informed decisions is key and will also make you feel calmer! I hope the below will help in what is undoubtedly a very difficult and worrying time for everyone. 
 
 
The Legal position of any non-payment of rent
 
There has been no legislative change in relation to the payment of rent by tenants on behalf of the government. It is contractually due and if not paid, it will accrue as arrears and remains payable. Therefore if possible we would encourage you to pay all rent due on or before your rent due date detailed within your tenancy agreement.
 
 
What if you cant pay?
 
1. Contact your Agent or Landlord
Contact your landlord or letting agent. Do this as soon as possible to advise that you may not be able to pay the rent in full on or before your rent due date.  Confirm with them what steps you are taking to try and avoid this situation. 
 
Your landlord may be in a position to offer you a deferred payment (remember this is not a  Rent-Free Period or Holiday, your Rent is still due and payable as detailed in your Tenancy Agreement and will still be owed). A payment plan will then need to be agreed in order for you to pay this money back over a set period of time. Remember to be realistic and honest when agreeing to a payment plan. There is no point agreeing to something that you know will not be achievable.
 
2. Look to reduce your outgoings
Looking into all of your outgoings and costs. What could you cancel, reduce or change? Citizens advice offer some excellent information to assist with this: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/if-you-cant-pay-your-bills-because-of-coronavirus/  
 
3. Apply for Assistance
The Government has offered a series of financial measures to assist you whether you are PAYE or Self Employed. We would recommend starting your claims for Universal Credit or Employment Support as soon as possible to avoid any delays to your payments. 
Some websites that you may find useful are;
 
Understanding Universal Credit
 
Self Employment & Universal Credit
 
Employment & Support Allowance
 
Covid-19 Buisness Grants - Gravesham Borugh Council
 
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan
 
Citizen’s Advice
 
Citizen’s Advice
 
Emergency Funding
 
 
4. Keep Records
It is also worth noting that your landlord may need to request a mortgage holiday for themselves. For them to be successful it is likely that they will need to provide proof that the income they would normally receive is at risk and what has been done to try and prevent the situation. Your landlord may need evidence of your claims to provide to their lender to be able to activate the mortgage holiday, so keep your agent and landlord informed of what you are doing and forward details of your claims to them.
 
 
 
I hope these notes have been helpful. If you need any further help or advice, please do not hesitate to contact us. Whilst our office is closed at this time we are all working as usual from home. 
 
Stay safe, Stay inside and wash those hands! We will get through this!
 
Sarah 

28Mar

As you should know under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, all gas appliances must be checked by a professional tradesman on an annual basis with a Landlord Gas Safety Certificate being issued to the tenants.

 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance confirming that Agents and landlords need to use their best efforts to continue to deliver these obligations and should document all communication with tenants if they are unable to do so due to the virus.

 

If an agent or landlord anticipates difficulties in gaining access as the Coronavirus situation progresses, they have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date. Landlords can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check. 

 

You should therefore arrange your annual gas safety checks as early as possible, as a contingency against tenants being in self-isolation for a period of 14-days (in line with current guidelines), or gas engineers being unavailable due to illness. 

 

In the event that a property is inaccessible, e.g. persistent refusal of access due to vulnerable tenants self-isolating, agents and landlords will be expected to be able to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to comply with the law. This will need to include records of communication with the tenant and details of their engineers attempts to gain access.

 

Should you wish to read more details around this topic please visit the Gas Safe Register's website by clicking here.  

 

If you are struggling and aren't sure of your obligations, please do not hesitate to contact us. As always, we are here to help!

 

Sarah