**NOTE – MEES REGULATIONS HAVE NOT BEEN EFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS**
The Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations set a minimum energy efficiency level for domestic private rented properties. Landlords with properties rated F or G must make improvements to gain a minimum E rating, or register an exemption.
The Regulations apply to all domestic private rented properties that are:
1. Is your property let on one of the following types of domestic tenancies:
2. Is your property legally required to have an EPC?
If the property you let has been marketed for sale or let, or modified, in the past 10 years then it will probably be legally required to have an EPC.
If you answered Yes to both these questions, and your property has an EPC rating of F or G, you must take appropriate steps to comply with the requirements of the MEES Regulations.
If a local authority believes a landlord has failed to fulfil their obligations under the MEES Regulations, they can serve the landlord with a compliance notice. If a breach is confirmed, the landlord may receive a financial penalty.
For further information see the gov.uk website; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-private-rented-property-minimum-energy-efficiency-standard-landlord-guidance
**NOTE, ELECTRONIC CHECKS MADE DURING THE TEMPORARY CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC WILL NEED A FOLLOW UP RETROSPECTIVE CHECK WITHIN 8 WEEKS OF THE COVID-19 MEASURES ENDING. READ MORE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE**
As of 30th March 2020, the Government has made temporary changes to ensure that checks can continue.
Checks will continue to be necessary and you must continue to check the prescribed documents in the code of practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation and right to rent document checks: a user guide. It remains an offence to knowingly lease premises to a person who is not lawfully in the UK.
Because of COVID-19 some individuals will be unable to evidence their right to rent. During this period, you must take extra care to ensure that no-one is discriminated against because they are struggling to evidence their right to rent. For more information, please see the code of practice for landlords: avoiding unlawful discrimination when conducting right to rent checks in the private rented residential sector.
Once you have submitted your request to the service, please do not try to contact them again. You will get an answer within 2 working days. You must keep their response to protect against a civil penalty.
The full information can be found on the gov.uk website;
We will let you know in advance when these measures will end. After that date you must to revert to the checking process set out in the code of practice on illegal immigrants and private rented accommodation and right to rent document checks: a user guide.
You should carry out retrospective checks on tenants who:
You should mark the retrospective check: “the individual’s tenancy agreement commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to rent check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”
The retrospective check must be carried out within 8 weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. Both checks should be kept for your records.
The Home Office will not take any enforcement action against you if you carried out the adjusted check set out in this guidance, or a check via the Home Office, and follow this up with the retrospective check.
If, at the point of carrying out the retrospective check, you find your tenant, who started their tenancy during this period, did not have a right to rent you must take steps to end the tenancy.
If you find a tenant who required a follow-up check during this period no longer has a right to rent, you must report this to the Home Office as soon as you have carried out the check.
If the check you have undertaken during this period was done with original documentation, you do not need to undertake a retrospective check.
The guidance provides advice to landlords and tenants on the provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020, and further advice for landlords, tenants and local authorities more broadly about their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
It provides non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors on:
Parties involved in home moving are urged to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes. There is no need to pull out of transactions, but everyone needs to ensure they are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times.
PLEASE VIEW UP TO DATE INFORMATION FROM THE GOV.UK LINK ABOVE, ALL INFORMATION IN THIS POST IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND UPDATES.
The Government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by Coronavirus. No renter will be forced out of their home.
INCREASED NOTICE PERIOD – From 26th March 2020, if a landlord intends to seek possession, a minimum notice period of 3 months must be given to to a tenant. This increased notice period will apply in law until 30th September 2020, however 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 eviction.
As a result of the change in law, the new Form 6a was published on 26th March 2020 and is to be used until 30 September 2020.
A new Form 3 was also published to be used when serving a Section 8 notice.
The Government makes it clear that tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. Government support is available for tenants who are facing financial hardship.
ONGOING POSSESSION CASES SUSPENDED – From 27th March 2020, court services have suspended all ongoing housing possession action. This means that neither cases that are currently in or about to go into the system can progress to the stage where someone can be evicted. This suspension will initially last for 90 days but can be extended if needed.
If you already had a possession claim in the court system, it will stay at the position it was in until the suspension is lifted, after which it will start again from the point it was at.
If you had already served notice prior to 26th March 2020 but have not yet completed the court paperwork, you can proceed the paperwork to court as normal but no further action by the court will be taken until the after the court suspension is lifted (minimum 90 days from 27th March, may be extended).
The government is committed to supporting landlords, and maintaining the positive partnership between tenants and landlords.
LANDLORD OBLIGATIONS – Landlords remain legally obligated to 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.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced, on 26th March, a new Self-employment Income Support Scheme for self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19;
For further information and eligibility, see the gov.uk information page ‘Business Support’ https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/
If tenants are struggling through this difficult time, please see the following guidance for landlords from SWLA;
The Government have confirmed that business rates relief has been extended to estate and letting agents. Offices that have closed due to the measured implemented to stop the spread of Coronavirus will be exempted from business rates in 2020-2021.
Eligible businesses will be re-billed by their local authority, the new bill will give a 100% discount. If payments have been made in the meantime, they will be refunded by the local authority.
The Government advice is for all queries to be directed to the local authority. Guidance for local authorities will be published by the Government in due course.
ALL INFORMATION IN THIS POST IS FROM GAS SAFE – HSE https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/covid-19-advice-and-guidance/landlords/
Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants. This is a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check. During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is a balance between ensuring people, including the vulnerable, are protected from possibly fatal risks arising from carbon monoxide exposure or gas explosion, while doing what we can to protect people from COVID-19.
Current guidance from HM Government states that work can be carried out in people’s homes provided that the GOV.UK guidance on social distancing and good hygiene is followed. See safer working – other people’s homes for guidance for engineers and their employers regarding working in peoples’ homes.
The law is flexible and where it is not possible to carry out a gas safety check, it will normally be enough to show that you took reasonable steps to do so. In the event you are unable to gain access to the property, e.g. refusal of access due to tenants self-isolating, or if you are unable to engage a registered gas engineer to carry out the work due to a shortage of available engineers, you will be expected to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to comply with the law. This should include records of communication with the tenant and details of your engineer’s attempts to gain access. You should seek to arrange the safety check as soon as all parties are available.
Landlords should not suspend all gas safety checks at this time as it will unnecessarily put tenants at increased risk, particularly as people are spending most, and in some cases all, of their time at home. Each property should be considered on a case-by-case basis, completing safety checks where tenants permit access and gas engineers are available. If you are unable to secure the services of your usual engineers, you must make reasonable attempts to obtain alternative services. Where you cannot and resource has to be prioritised you can do so, considering factors such as (this list is not exhaustive):
These example scenarios are to help landlords understand what may be considered reasonable steps to take, to demonstrate compliance with their duties to have appliances checked annually (under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations) during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. They are not exhaustive. Landlords will need to assess the risks for each situation on a case-by-case basis.
See also Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants.
Government advice is that people who are extremely clinically vulnerable people (shielded) should minimise all interaction between themselves and others.
If you have been advised by the government that you fall into this category, you should inform your landlord. Your landlord will need to consider the balance of risk presented by the gas system, with the risk to your health. This assessment will consider factors such as the age, type of appliance, previous maintenance/breakdown history and date of last gas safety check etc. In some situations, this assessment may indicate that the gas safety check should still go ahead to ensure your safety.
If you agree to allow a gas engineer into your home to carry out the safety checks, you should be aware that the engineer will follow the latest advice on Gov.uk, including guidance on safer working – other people’s homes
If you decline access to your home for the gas safety checks to be undertaken, the landlord must rearrange the gas safety check to take place as soon as possible after your isolation period has ended.
Your landlord can find out more about what is expected of them in respect of gas safety checks at this time on the Gas Safe Register website.
In an emergency:
If you smell gas, or if you have concerns about the safety of your appliances, you should call the gas emergency service provider on 0800 111 999, and switch off appliances until the gas emergency supplier, or a registered gas engineer, has attended and advised that the appliances are safe to use.
Latest advice from government is that work can be carried out in homes of the clinically vulnerable, this includes essential maintenance and repair work such as landlords gas safety checks.
Workers should be particularly vigilant in respect of social distancing and good hygiene when working in the homes of the clinically vulnerable. See working safely – other people’s homes for more guidance.
Gas engineers working in the homes of people who are self-isolating or vulnerable should follow the latest advice on Gov.uk, including guidance on working safely – other people’s homes and social distancing.
The link below to GOV.UK provides information on who is classed as an essential worker; please note that separate links within this page provide details for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested.
We still await official guidance from the Government for landlords and letting agents. In the meantime, ARLA/Propertymark have spoken with a senior civil servant who stated that letting agents are NOT ‘essential businesses’ under the new rules as part of social distancing measures announced by Boris Johnson on 23rd March 2020. Therefore all letting agent offices must close immediately. They also stated that there should not be any in-person viewings, routine inspections or house moves.
The British Association of Removers has issued communication (on the morning of 24th March) that moves will only take place if they are already underway. Moves that have not yet started should not go ahead.
It is expected that letting agents will continue to be able to be contacted by telephone or email by tenants to deal with any emergencies.
As soon as official Government guidance is published, we will update our news feed accordingly. Therefore, any information and guidance published by SWLA so far may be subject to change.
18th March 2020 – Government announces radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by Coronavirus.
We await further Government guidance for landlords.
18th March 2020. Boris Johnson confirms the government will bring forward legislation “to protect private renters from eviction” but will also avoid “pass[ing] on the problem” by “taking steps to protect other actors in the economy”.
No further details have yet been clarified.
Many people are going to see their jobs and incomes hit by the economic effects of Coronavirus.
For business and self employment support measures, see the Business Support Government website; https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/
Also see the new tool that determines what financial support your business is eligible for like loans, tax relief and cash grants; https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder
Many tenants who were working before the lockdown will have been furloughed and in receipt of at least 80% of their pay. For tenants who have seen a sudden drop in income, they may qualify for Universal Credit or an increase in Universal Credit. If your tenant is struggling to make rent payments, be sympathetic and work with them. They can contact Shelter, the Money Advice Service or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who will talk through options to access hardship funds, Universal Credit etc; https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/coronavirus
Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months. This may affect your future lending so it’s wise to get financial advice before making an application.
Our main advice in regards to rental income is for landlords to consider each tenants situation on a case by case basis. For a tenant who suddenly sees a drop in income, a landlord could consider a partial rent payment, the deficit to be paid at a later date. We recommend that landlords keep good records of the measures that they have implemented so it’s clear to see the request from the tenant, the reasons for the request and the solution provided by the landlord.
We have been advised by the Organisers of the Landlord Expo in Bristol on the 26th March, that due to the Coronavirus it has been postponed. They will advise us when this will be rescheduled.
Our Committee have taken the decision to postpone our General Meeting that was due to be held at the Future Inn on the 22nd April 2020, for the same reason. We will update you when this will be rescheduled.
The Teignbridge Landlord Open Evening at Newton Abbot Racecourse on 19th May has also been cancelled and will be rescheduled.
For up to date news and information see the gov.uk website; https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
And NHS website; https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Tenants may seek advice from their landlord, in which case they should be directed to the gov.uk and NHS website above. In the event that a tenant needs to self isolate, be sympathetic and reiterate the NHS advice.
23rd March 2020, all UK residents had to stay at home, only going outside for basic necessities/food, medical need/vulnerable person care, one form of exercise per day & essential work (staying 2 meters away from people). Hands to be washed as soon as residents return home.
From 13th May 2020, the social distancing measures changed somewhat and the housing market came of of complete lockdown. See https://www.landlordssouthwest.co.uk/wp-admin/post.php?post=2595&action=edit
From 13th June, ‘support bubbles’ were introduced for those who live alone. For full details of social distancing measures and changes, see; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do
Tenants income may be impacted thus increasing the risk of rent arrears. Discuss this with your tenant and be flexible where you can. Keep evidence of the tenants request (in writing) and your agreed solution (to be reviewed on a month by month basis), be clear that arrears payments will be negotiated at a later date. If your tenant falls into serious rent arrears which impacts your finances, keep your mortgage lender informed and they may be able to offer support to you, this will be on a case by case basis. The Government has introduced financial support packages for businesses and self-employed, there are also support measures in place for individuals experiencing financial hardship. See here for further information; https://www.landlordssouthwest.co.uk/2020/03/18/coronavirus-the-financial-impact-on-tenants-and-landlords/
You could call or email elderly or medically vulnerable tenants to check they have access to support should the need arise. If they do not have support, they can contact their local authority who can put emergency measures in place. If they are unable to do this, someone else can act on their behalf. https://www.landlordssouthwest.co.uk/2020/04/20/coronavirus-does-your-tenant-or-anyone-you-know-need-community-help-local-authority-helplines/
HMOs will have a higher risk of illness spreading. If a tenant reports symptoms or self isolation to you, other tenants within the property should read the NHS guidelines and follow hygiene guidance. You should also make tradespeople aware if they are visiting that property for emergency purposes.
Landlords remain legally obligated to to ensure properties meet the required standard. Urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made.
Non essential visits and repairs should be carried out in line with government guidance on visiting other people’s homes safely. Remember that your tenant may wish to decline a visit from a landlord or contractor. At least 24 hours notice must be given to your tenant and permission must be sought to enter the property; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes
Respect your tenant’s decisions to self isolate, remember that they have the right to exclude all others from their home. If you cannot meet your landlord obligations (i.e. gas safety check, electrical inspection etc) due to a tenant self isolating, keep evidence of the dialogue (ideally email/letter) and inform the Local Authority. After the self-isolation period, you should organise the inspection and or repairs when it’s convenient for your tenant.
On 28th March 2020 the Government released a non-statutory guidance document for landlords and tenants;
SWLA will support our members within office hours with telephone enquiries (please leave a message and we will return your call) and email enquiries. Our office is closed, however we are still working within the office to support our members. We will follow Government guidance and keep members up to date and answer any letting related queries that arise.
Many changes are afoot within the private rented sector, we met with Luke to discuss these changes and raise points for Luke to take forward.
Items on the agenda included;
SWLA are proud to be a voice for all of its landlord and agent members. We regularly meet with local MPs and councillors to ensure that good landlords are getting a fair deal. We look forward to meeting Luke again later in the year.
Steve Lees, chair of SWLA, was invited to attend a focus group meeting in Bristol on Monday 9th March 2020 hosted by the Private Rented Sector Division, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The aim of the focus group is to reform the database of rogue landlords and property agents.
The database of rogue landlords and property agents was introduced in April 2018. The database is targeted at only the most serious and prolific criminals, who are convicted of the limited range of banning order offences. The database is currently an enforcement tool available to local authorities, except in certain circumstances where anonymised, aggregated data can be requested by the public.
In October 2018, the Prime Minister committed to opening up access to information on the database of rogue landlords and property agents to tenants. A government consultation (now closed) was seeking views on widening access to the database to allow tenants and prospective tenants access to the database. To ensure that the database is a useful tool for local authorities and tenants, the government are seeking views on expanding the scope of offences and infractions which could lead to entries on the database.
The meeting in Bristol was a chance for landlords and PRS representatives to discuss changes to the database that would benefit tenants and good landlords alike.
On Tuesday 28th February South West Landlords Association completed the last of 4 Landlord/Agent Training days for Torbay Council. The one-day courses have been held at Paignton Library (1) and the Foyer Torbay (3). The courses covered all aspects of letting property in the Private Rented Sector, including tenants’ rights and landlords’ responsibilities. A total of 65 landlord/agents attended the courses with 61 applying for accreditation and 48 joining the SWLA, so enabling them to access information, documentation and further training.
SWLA would like to thank Mr Rob Kelly (Housing Standards and Environmental Protection Manager, Torbay Council) for his assistance in both funding and advertising these valuable educational courses.
The courses were well received with positive feedback, by all attendees.