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Social Housing White Paper Released

Posted on November 27th, 2020 -

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936098/The_charter_for_social_housing_residents_-_social_housing_white_paper.pdf

The government released its Social Housing White Paper – ‘The Charter for Social Housing Residents’. The White Paper sets out reforms to ‘provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing’ in England.

The proposals in the White Paper reflect responses to the social housing green paper published in 2018, in which residents from across the country were asked for their views on social housing. Almost 1,000 tenants shared their views with ministers at 14 events across the country, with over 7,000 submitting evidence online. The social housing green paper consultation response and response to the call for evidence on the review of regulation have been published.

The White Paper proposes the following policy measures:

Guaranteeing building safety

•Legislate to strengthen the Regulator of Social Housing’s consumer regulation objectives to explicitly include safety.

•Legislate to require social landlords to identify a nominated person responsible for complying with their health and safety requirements.

•Expect the Regulator of Social Housing to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding with the Health and Safety Executive to ensure effective sharing of information with the Building Safety Regulator.

•Launch a consultation on requiring smoke alarms in social housing and introducing new expectations for carbon monoxide alarms.

•Consult on measures to ensure that social housing residents are protected from harm caused by poor electrical safety.

•Continue to work with the Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group and the Building Safety Regulator to ensure resident voices are heard.

Encouraging good landlord performance

•Create a set of tenant satisfaction measures for landlords on things that matter to tenants.

•Introduce a new access to information scheme for social housing tenants of housing associations and other private registered providers of social housing, so that information relating to landlords is easily available.

•Ensure landlords provide a clear breakdown of how their income is being spent.

•Require landlords to identify a senior person in their organisation who is responsible for ensuring they comply with the consumer standards set by the Regulator of Social Housing.

Improving the handling of complaints

•Provide residents with consistency across landlord complaint handling by ensuring landlords self-assess against the Housing Ombudsman’s.

•Complaint Handling Code by 31 December 2020.

•Ensure tenants know how to raise complaints and have confidence in the system by launching a communications campaign. The Government will expect landlords, the Housing Ombudsman and the Building Safety Regulator to ensure residents have clear and up to date information on how to complain.

•Legislate to ensure clear co-operation between the Housing Ombudsman and the Regulator of Social Housing to hold landlords to account more effectively when things go wrong.

•Make landlords more accountable for their actions by publicising the details of cases determined and published by the Housing Ombudsman.

Holding landlords to account

•Transform the consumer regulation role of the Regulator of Social Housing (‘the regulator’) so it proactively monitors and drives landlords’ compliance with improved consumer standards.

•Remove the ‘serious detriment test’ and introduce routine inspections for the largest landlords (those with over 1,000 homes) every four years.

•Change the regulator’s objectives to explicitly cover safety and transparency, and work with it to review its consumer standards to ensure they are up to date and deliver its revised objectives.

•Give the regulator the power to publish a Code of Practice on the consumer standards to be clear what landlords are required to deliver.

•Strengthen the regulator’s enforcement powers to tackle failing landlords and to respond to new challenges facing the sector.

•Hold local authorities to account as landlords, including how they manage Arms-Length Management Organisations and Tenant Management Organisations, to make sure they deliver a good service to tenants.

•Require the regulator to set up an Advisory Committee to provide independent and unbiased advice on discharging its functions.

Strengthening resident engagement

•Expect the regulator to require landlords to seek out best practice and consider how they can continually improve the way they engage with social housing tenants.

•Deliver a new opportunities and empowerment programme for social housing residents, to support more effective engagement between landlords and residents, and to give residents tools to influence their landlords and hold them to account.

•Review professional training and development to ensure residents receive a high standard of customer service.

Ensuring good quality homes and neighbourhoods

•Review the Decent Homes Standard, including access to and the quality of green spaces.

•Tackle anti-social behaviour by enabling tenants to know who is responsible for action and who can support and assist them if they are faced with antisocial behaviour.

•Consider the results of the allocations evidence collection exercise findings to ensure that housing is allocated in the fairest way possible and achieves the best outcomes for local places and communities.

Supporting home ownership

•Investing £11.5 billion to build up to 180,000 affordable homes. Around half of these new homes will be for affordable home ownership.

•Implementing a new, fairer and more accessible model for Shared Ownership.

•Implementing a new Right to Shared Ownership for tenants of housing associations and other private registered providers who live in new grant funded homes for rent.

•Emphasising through a new National Design Guide the importance of building beautiful and well-designed social homes.

•Introducing a new Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme.

•Encouraging local authorities to take advantage of the removal of the borrowing cap to build more council homes.


Consultation Announced; Improving the Energy Performance of Privately Rented Homes

Posted on November 26th, 2020 -

The government are seeking views on proposals around raising energy performance standards for the domestic private rented sector in England and Wales.

This consultation closes at 11:45pm on 30 December 2020.

Consultation description

The government has committed to upgrade as many private rented sector homes as possible to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030, where practical, cost-effective and affordable.

This consultation sets out a suite of policy proposals towards achieving this. These proposals will bring significant benefits to landlords, tenants and our environment including:

  • reducing energy bills and increased comfort for tenants and supporting delivery of our statutory fuel poverty target of EPC C by 2030
  • potential property value improvements for landlords
  • delivering carbon emission savings over Carbon Budgets 4 and 5, making progress towards our net zero target

To respond please see the gov.uk website; https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-the-energy-performance-of-privately-rented-homes


Consultation Announced for Improving Energy Performance for Homes Through Lenders

Posted on November 26th, 2020 -

The government are seeking views on how mortgage lenders can help householders to improve the energy performance of their homes.

This consultation closes at

To respond please see; https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-home-energy-performance-through-lenders

Lenders could have a role in building a market for energy performance improvements. The government has been engaging with lenders, their engagement organisations, and other financial stakeholders to better understand how government can encourage lenders to innovate.

The consultation sets out a range of proposals that could improve the energy performance of mortgaged properties, and deliver substantial emissions reductions.

The consultation is open to all.


Mayor of London Launches Licence Checker

Posted on November 26th, 2020 -

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched a licence checker online tool which aims to protect the ‘wellbeing of London’s private renters’ to help them discover if their landlord has properly licensed their home.

Property licensing is a tool that boroughs in London can use to enforce decent standards in the private rented sector. Some privately rented homes in London need a property licence and the landlord of that property is responsible for obtaining it. Holding the correct property licence is a legal requirement and demonstrates that the property is suitable for occupation and managed to an acceptable standard.

Enforcement action

If a landlord does not hold the correct property licence, they may be subject to enforcement action from their local council, but the implications for renters are also significant: Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices are invalidated and they may be entitled to a Rent Repayment Order requiring a landlord to pay back up to 12 months’ rent. The current average rent in London is around £1,425 per month, meaning a year’s worth of repaid rent would come to more than £17,000.

The online tool

The Checker hopes to empower renters and also provide intelligence to help boroughs target their enforcement against rogue landlords – especially those who have failed to register licences for larger houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), where some of the poorest property conditions are found in London.

Article abridged from ARLA/PropertyMark


Right to Rent Checks – New Government Guidance & New Digital Checks

Posted on November 26th, 2020 -

New government guidance has been released to advise landlords and letting agents about how to conduct a right to rent check when letting privately rented accommodation. The guidance sets out the specific actions they can take to prevent liability for a civil penalty.

You must conduct a right to rent check before you rent to a prospective tenant to ensure they have a legal status in the UK and are therefore allowed to rent. This includes everyone over the age of 18, including British citizens, who will use the property as their only or main home, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement and regardless of whether the tenancy agreement is written, oral or implied.

Changes from the last version of right to rent guidance

The most significant updates in this new guidance document relate to:

• the introduction of the Home Office online checking service

• the use of the combination of a passport, plus proof of travel within the preceding six months (for example a physical or electronic plane/boat/train ticket or boarding pass) for nationals visiting the UK from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA to demonstrate a right to rent

• an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to include Home Office documents issued to third-country family members of EEA nationals, which show the length of leave granted to such persons (both time-limited and indefinite)

• an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to remove the requirement that a UK birth or adoption certificate must be the full (long) certificate. A short or a long birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland are now acceptable documents to demonstrate a right to rent

• further minor amendments and technical changes to the presentation of the lists of acceptable documents making it simpler for landlords to conduct the initial and follow-up checks

Lockdown checks

Please remember that where checks have been made virtually during the coronavirus period (since 30 March 2020), you should carry out retrospective checks (once the coronavirus period is over) on tenants who:

  • started their tenancy during this period
  • required a follow-up check during this period

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.

New digital checks

From 25 November 2020, you will be able to conduct a right to rent check using the Home Office online checking service, for those eligible to use the service. This check can be carried out via live video link and as the information is provided in real-time, directly from Home Office systems there is no requirement to see documents.

If you conduct a check using the online checking service or a standard document-based ‘in person’ check as set out in the code of practice, it will not be necessary to conduct a retrospective check.


Pressure Continues on UK Government for Further Financial Support on Rent Arrears

Posted on November 26th, 2020 -

SWLA have been writing to all South West MPs to advise them of the difficulties that many landlords are facing when tenants can’t pay their rent due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis. When there are large amounts of arrears, landlords often have no choice but to serve tenants’ notice. Landlords are faced with a long wait for possession whilst rent arrears accumulates. Despite many MPs replying to our lobbying, we are yet to receive a response from Ministers, however, we are working hard in voicing the struggles that landlords are facing.

SWLA have a newly formed ‘MP Panel’ made up of SWLA members from each constituency. The panel member simply forwards SWLA letters to their MP so that our member’s voices are heard across the region. It has been a great success so far and we would like to thank those members who are members of the panel. If you are interested in joining the panel, please contact the SWLA office.

Many other leading professional landlord/letting bodies, charities and building societies, are urging the UK Government to provide financial help to private renters who have been thrust into rent arears during the economic impact of Coronavirus.

As the financial fallout continues, the need to sustain tenancies wherever possible is paramount. The best way to ensure this happens is to make sure that tenants are able to pay their rent. A financial package should include boosting emergency funding to councils for interest free grants to support those in receipt of benefits and Government-guaranteed hardship loans for tenants, like the schemes developed in Wales and Scotland.


Local Restriction Tiers: what you need to know

Posted on November 26th, 2020 -

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know

Sets out the local restriction tier system that will be in place from Wednesday 2 December, including what you can and cannot do in each tier.

Remember, ‘Hands. Face. Space’:

  • hands – wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds
  • face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
  • space – stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings)

When meeting people you do not live with, it is important to do so outdoors where possible, or to make sure that any indoor venue has good ventilation (for example by opening windows so that fresh air can enter).

Why the government is introducing tiers

It is right to apply tighter restrictions where prevalence is highest. In September and October, the virus spread rapidly in all parts of the country. The government responded with new national restrictions. These have brought transmission back under control.

The government will replace them on 2 December with a regionally-differentiated approach, where different tiers of restrictions apply in different parts of the country.

These tiers will be strengthened compared to the previous tiers in order to prevent a return to growing infections. We know that social contact spreads the virus. We need to impose these restrictions and it is right to target the toughest measures only in the areas where the virus is most prevalent or where we are seeing sharper increases in the rate of infection.

The government is committed to ensuring the right levels of intervention in the right places to manage outbreaks, suppress the virus and keep R below 1.

There are 3 tiers for local restrictions:

On Thursday 26 November the government will announce which areas are in which tier. You will be able to use the postcode checker to find out the restrictions in your area or an area you plan to visit. The NHS COVID-19 app will be updated on 2 December.

The new rules will come into effect from the beginning of Wednesday 2 December.

What tiers mean

This guidance sets out what you can and cannot do in each tier.

There is separate guidance for households with a possible or confirmed coronavirus infection and additional advice at each tier will be provided shortly for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.

There is also separate guidance for support and childcare bubbles, which apply across all tiers.

Support bubbles have been expanded. From 2 December you can form a support bubble with another household if any of the following apply to you:

  • you are the only adult in your household (any other members of the household having been under 18 on 12 June 2020) or are the only adult who does not have a disability that needs continuous care
  • you have a child under 1
  • you live with a child under 5 with a disability that needs continuous care

The government will announce the arrangements that will be in place over the Christmas period shortly.

All tiers

Across all tiers, everyone:

  • must wear a face covering in most indoor public settings, unless they have an exemption
  • should follow the rules on meeting others safely
  • should attend school or college as normal, unless they are self-isolating. Schools, universities, colleges and early years settings remain open in all tiers
  • should walk or cycle where possible, plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes when travelling
  • must follow the gathering limits at their tier except for in specific settings and circumstances. These exemptions are detailed at the end of this guidance

Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, and window visits. Regular testing will be offered to up to 2 family members or friends per resident by Christmas, which – when combined with other infection-control measures such as PPE – will support indoor visits with physical contact. Detailed guidance will be published shortly.

All businesses and venues that are open are expected to follow COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers. In all tiers, the following businesses and venues can remain open:

  • essential and non-essential retail, including indoor and outdoor markets and car boot sales
  • certain leisure and sporting facilities such as gyms, sports courts and facilities, leisure centres, fitness and dance studios, golf courses, swimming pools, riding centres, outdoor playgrounds – subject to relevant social contact rules in each tier. Indoor group activities and classes should not take place at tier 3
  • personal care and close contact services such as hairdressers and barbers, beauty salons, tattoo parlours, nail salons, spas and beauty services, massage parlours and tanning salons
  • public buildings, such as libraries, community centres and halls. They should not host events for private hire, such as birthday parties or most other social activities in tier 3
  • allotments, recycling and waste centres, public toilets, car parks
  • essential public services such as the NHS and medical services, courts, and jobcentre plus sites
  • places of worship – communal worship can now resume, subject to relevant social contact rules in each tier

Everyone who can work from home should do so. Where people cannot do so – including, but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing – they should continue to travel to their workplace. Public-sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary

Tier 1: Medium alert

In tier 1:

  • you must not socialise in groups larger than 6 people, indoors or outdoors, other than where a legal exemption applies.  This is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • businesses and venues can remain open, in a COVID secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
  • hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:
    • provide table service only, for premises that serve alcohol
    • close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, on transport services and in motorway service areas are exempt)
    • stop taking orders after 10pm
  • hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
  • early closure (11pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm
  • public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 4,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 4,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • places of worship remain open, but you must not attend or socialise in groups of more than 6 people while there, unless a legal exemption applies
  • weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events
  • organised outdoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue
  • organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue to take place, if the rule of 6 is followed. There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing
  • if you live in a tier 1 area and travel to an area in a higher tier you should follow the rules for that area while you are there. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a tier 3 area as part of a longer journey
  • for international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list

Tier 2: High alert

This is for areas with a higher or rapidly rising level of  infections, where some additional restrictions need to be in place.

In tier 2:

  • you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
  • pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals
  • hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:
    • provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol
    • close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt)
    • stop taking orders after 10pm
  • hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
  • early closure (11pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances  that start before 10pm
  • public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • places of worship remain open but you must not socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies
  • weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes  or stonesettings.
  • organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue
  • organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing
  • you can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
  • if you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.You can travel through a tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey
  • for international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list

Tier 3: Very High alert

This is for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections, where tighter restrictions are in place.

In tier 3:

  • you must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble, this includes in any private garden or at most outdoor venues
  • you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in some other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha venues), pubs, cafes and restaurants are closed – they are permitted to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.
  • accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close. There are several exemptions, such as for those who use these venues as their main residence, and those requiring the venues where it is reasonably necessary for work or education and training 
  • indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close. This includes:
    • indoor play centres and areas, including trampolining parks and soft play
    • casinos
    • bingo halls
    • bowling alleys
    • skating rinks
    • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
    • laser quests and escape rooms
    • cinemas, theatres and concert halls
    • snooker halls
  • indoor attractions at mostly outdoor entertainment venues must also close (indoor shops, through-ways and public toilets at such attractions can remain open). This includes indoor attractions within:
    • zoos, safari parks, and wildlife reserves
    • aquariums, visitor attractions at farms, and other animal attractions
    • model villages
    • museums, galleries and sculpture parks
    • botanical gardens, biomes or greenhouses
    • theme parks, circuses, fairgrounds and funfairs
    • visitor attractions at film studios, heritage sites such as castles and stately homes
    • landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms
  • leisure and sports facilities may continue to stay open, but group exercise classes (including fitness and dance) should not go ahead. Saunas and steam rooms should close
  • there should be no public attendance at spectator sport or indoor performances and large business events should not be taking place. Elite sport events may continue to take place without spectators
  • large outdoor events (performances and shows) should not take place, with the exception of drive-in events
  • places of worship remain open, but you must not attend with or socialise with  anyone outside of your household or support bubble while you are there, unless a legal exemption applies
  • weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions are not allowed, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, 15 people can attend linked commemorative events
  • organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue, however higher-risk contact activity should not take place
  • organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes cannot take place indoors. There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s
  • you can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
  • avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey
  • for international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list

Exemptions from gatherings limits in all tiers

  • as part of a single household, or a support bubble
  • for work or providing voluntary or charitable services, including in other people’s homes
  • for childcare, education or training – meaning education and training provided as part of a formal curriculum
  • for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), groups and activities for under 18s, and children’s playgroups
  • for formal support groups, and parent and child groups – up to 15 people aged 5 and older
  • to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
  • for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
  • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
  • for birth partners
  • to attend a funeral – with no more than 30 people present – or a commemorative event such as a wake for someone who has died – with no more than 15 people present
  • to see someone who is terminally ill or at the end of life
  • to attend a wedding or civil partnership – with no more than 15 people present
  • to provide emergency assistance
  • to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
  • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
  • to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable or to provide respite for a carer
  • to facilitate moving home


FREE TRAINING WEBINAR FOR SWLA MEMBERS

Posted on November 25th, 2020 -

Tuesday 1st December 2020

Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations (England) 2020 Roundup with NAPIT (via Zoom)

Log on for a prompt 12.30pm start. Expected to finish by 1.30pm.

NAPIT speaker Charlotte Lee will also answer questions from the ‘chat box’ at the end of the talk.

The Zoom code has been sent to all of our members, please contact the office if you have not received the code and would like to attend.


Green Homes Grants: Government Extends Scheme

Posted on November 20th, 2020 -

The Green Homes Grant Scheme, under which landlords can apply for a grant of up to £5000 to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, has been extended by a year.

Launched in September 2020, the scheme was due to end on 31st March 2021. As part of a new plan for a green industrial revolution unveiled by the Government this week, the scheme will now be extended until March 2022.

What the extension means in practice

As part of the Green Homes Grants scheme, landlords can apply for grants which are issued as vouchers, and cover up to two-thirds of costs, available for specific measures.

The extension means the vouchers will be valid for three months from the date they are issued or until 31 March 2022 (whichever is earlier). Vouchers must be redeemed before the validity period ends. An extension of the voucher can be requested at any time before your voucher has expired, unless the scheme has been closed.

Higher energy efficiency targets for landlords

As of this year all rental properties that are legally required to have an EPC (other than those with valid exemptions) must have an EPC rating of E or higher to be legally rented out.

Coinciding with the launch of the Green Homes Grant scheme in the summer, the Government also announced plans to raise the minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes to C grade or higher from April 2025 for new tenancies, (unless they have a valid exemption).

The Government is currently consulting on the proposals, with the cost cap proposed for landlords £10,000 – much higher than the current £3,500 level. Under the proposals all landlords will need to hit the targets by 2028 (unless they have a valid exemption).

For more information on the Green Homes Grant scheme, see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-green-homes-grant-scheme

Article abridged from NRLA


TradePoint Black Friday Deals Now Live

Posted on November 20th, 2020 -

https://www.trade-point.co.uk/

SWLA TradePoint members get an extra 10% off all deals.


Further Information on the Suspension of Enforcement of Possession (in most cases) Until 11th January 2021

Posted on November 18th, 2020 -

The Government has issued a statutory instrument under emergency procedures to prevent, except in specified circumstances, bailiffs and High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) attending at a dwelling house to execute a writ or warrant of possession, execute a writ or warrant of restitution or deliver a notice of eviction.

The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 were laid yesterday just days after the Ministry of Justice was threatened with a judicial review challenge over an ongoing refusal by bailiffs and HCEOs to enforce warrants and writs. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1290/contents/made

The regulations came into force 17th November and apply to England.

The specified circumstances in the regulations allowing attendance are “where the court is satisfied that the claim is against trespassers who are persons unknown or where it was made wholly or partly on the grounds of anti-social behaviour, nuisance, false statements, substantial rent arrears that predate 23rd March 2020 or, in cases where the person attending is satisfied that the dwelling house is unoccupied at the time of attendance, death of the occupant”.

A case is said to involve substantial rent arrears “if the amount of unpaid rent arrears outstanding at the date on which the order for possession is granted is at least an amount equivalent to 9 months’ rent”. Any unpaid rent arrears accrued after 23rd March 2020 must be disregarded for this purpose.

The regulations also prevent use of the procedure set out in Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (c. 15) to take control of goods located inside a dwelling house.

The Explanatory Memorandum acknowledged that since 20 September, the Lord Chancellor had asked bailiffs not to enforce evictions in areas subject to local lockdown regulations which place restrictions on gatherings in residential properties. Following the introduction of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local Covid-19 Alert Level) Regulations 2020, bailiffs were asked not to enforce evictions in areas designated as Local Alert Level High (2) or Local Alert Level Very High (3).

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.4) Regulations 2020 (“the national health protection regulations”) introduced a national lockdown in England from 5th November until 2nd December 2020.

The Secretary of State for Justice issued The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 45C(1), (2), (3)(c) and 45P of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984(1).

“These Regulations are made in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in England,” the statutory instrument says.

“The Secretary of State considers that the restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve, which is a public health response to that threat.

The Explanatory Memorandum states that the aim is to ensure protection for tenants from being evicted both during the period while the national health protection regulations are in force and the subsequent mid-winter holiday period.

“During this time, public services and businesses may be closed or running at a reduced capacity and securing alternative accommodation may present increased practical difficulties; the Government therefore believes it is right to prevent the enforcement of evictions, in order to reduce the risk of virus transmission and avoid placing additional burdens on the NHS and hindering local authorities in their public health response at a time when pressure on services is most acute.”

Regulation 2 – Residential Tenancies (Protection from Eviction) – expires on 11 January 2021. Regulation 3 – Taking Control of Goods – expires on expiry of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1200).

Article abridged from ‘Local Government Lawyer’


Government Inquiry into the Impact of COVID-19 on the PRS – Landlord Responses Required

Posted on November 18th, 2020 -

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has launched an inquiry into the immediate and long-term impact that Covid-19 is having on the homeless, rough sleepers and those in the private rented sector. “It will consider both the immediate and long-term impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the homeless, rough sleepers and those in the private rented sector.”

The deadline for submissions is 27 November 2020.

https://committees.parliament.uk/work/271/impact-of-covid19-coronavirus-on-homelessness-and-the-private-rented-sector/


SWLA Attend Private Rented Sector Partnership Meeting Hosted by Plymouth City Council

Posted on November 17th, 2020 -

On Tuesday 17th November , Gillian Kerr and Linda Johns attended the meeting along with various representatives from the PRS in Plymouth.

Many items were discussed including; actions taken by each party during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Climate Emergency and possible new funding opportunity, Legislation & Policy Updates, HHSRS and issues as we enter the winter.


North Somerset Landlords – Do you have a vacant property?

Posted on November 10th, 2020 -

A message from North Somerset Council;

Would you like to do more to help vulnerable refugee families escaping persecution?

Well, this is your chance to do just that! We have been given great news that the vulnerable persons refugee scheme is back on and we are eager to find privately rented housing to help vulnerable families settle into the UK.

We are looking for properties in North Somerset, including Portishead, Clevedon, Nailsea and Weston-Super-Mare. Accommodation needs to be at least two bedrooms. We can offer void payments on the property whilst we prepare and get them ready for a family to occupy. We work with a team of amazing volunteers who will help to decorate and furnish the property too.

Rent can be paid directly to you the landlord at the local housing rate and in some areas, there is discretion to pay up to rental market rates. We also offer landlords a grant of up to £1000 and an interest free loan up to £5000 toward property renovation and improvements.

Families are supported by a Family Support Worker with regular visits to the property.

Above all, this is a chance to provide much needed help to those who are vulnerable and in need of a safe place to live. If you are interested, please telephone or email: Caroline Crossley, Project Officer for the Refugee Resettlement Team at North Somerset Council on 07824085818, caroline.crossley@n-somerset.gov.uk


Gov.uk Press Release – New protections for renters over duration of national restrictions

Posted on November 10th, 2020 -

Renters will be protected during the national restrictions, with no bailiff enforcement action.

  • Evictions will not be enforced whilst national restrictions are in place
  • Evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs until 11 January 2021 at the earliest, except for the most egregious cases such as anti-social behaviour
  • Six month notice periods still in place until at least the end of March 2021, except for most serious cases

Renters will be protected during the national restrictions, with no bailiff enforcement action, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced today (5 November 2020).

Measures, including the pause on evictions starting in December, mean evictions will not be enforced until the 11 January 2021 at the earliest, supporting individuals and families who have found themselves in financial difficulty through no fault of their own. 

The only exceptions to this will be the most egregious cases, including where tenants have demonstrated anti-social behaviour or are the perpetrator of domestic abuse in social housing, and the landlord rightly would like to re-let their property to another tenant. 

This builds on protections announced earlier this year, including 6 month notice periods meaning renters now served notice can stay in their homes until May 2021, with time to find alternative support or accommodation.

Courts will remain open through the new national restrictions. Court rules and procedures introduced in September will ensure protections for both tenants and landlords. These include the strict prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes. 

These protections are on top of the unprecedented package the government has put in place to help communities through the pandemic, including support for businesses to pay staff salaries and strengthening the welfare safety-net with an over £9 billion boost to the welfare system.

Housing Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

We have already taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic including introducing a 6 month notice period and financial support to help those struggling to pay their rent.

We are now going further by protecting renters from eviction during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period – with a pause on bailiff activity other than in the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.

Striking the right balance between helping tenants in need while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases.

For those renters who require additional support, there is an existing £180 million of government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments for councils to distribute to support renters with housing costs.

Whilst national restrictions apply, the only circumstances where these protections do not apply are illegal occupation, fraud, anti-social behaviour, eviction of domestic abuse perpetrators in social housing; where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant. We also intend to introduce an exemption for extreme pre-Covid rent arrears.

Information from gov.uk; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-protections-for-renters-over-duration-of-national-restrictions


Coronavirus – 5th November Lockdown – Possession

Posted on November 6th, 2020 -

The Lord Chancellor has issued guidance to the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) relating to the enforcement of writs of control and writs of possession during the national lockdown in England that started on 5th November 2020.

The courts will remain open during the national lockdown.

Writs of control

He says that enforcement visits may continue during the national lockdown, provided that enforcement agents continue to adhere to the Covid-secure guidance and that they do not enter residential properties during this period.

This is the same guidance that was issued for enforcement visits during tier 2 and tier 3 local lockdowns.

Enforcement visits to commercial premises are unchanged and the enforcement agent may enter the premises.

Writs of possession

During the national lockdown, enforcement agents are not to attend residential premises to serve notice of eviction or to enforce a writ of possession. This is to protect both public health and struggling households in the private and social rented sector.

There are a number of exceptions where evictions at residential premises can take part. These are in the following circumstances:

  • Illegal trespass or squatting by persons unknown (all types of premises and land)
  • Nuisance or antisocial behaviour
  • Domestic abuse
  • Fraud or deception
  • Unoccupied properties following the death of the defendant

Extreme levels of rent arrears

The Lord Chancellor also intends to allow evictions where there are “extreme” levels of pre-Covid rent arrears. We await finalised and published details on this.

Article by David Asker, The Sheriff’s Office

https://thesheriffsoffice.com/


Right to Rent Checks – New Government Guidance

Posted on November 6th, 2020 -

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/931765/Landlords_guide_to_right_to_rent_checks.pdf

This guidance advises a landlord, letting agent or homeowner how to conduct a right to rent check when letting privately rented accommodation. The guidance sets out the specific actions they can take to prevent liability for a civil penalty.

Changes from the last version of right to rent guidance
The most significant updates in this new guidance document relate to:
• the introduction of the Home Office online checking service
• the use of the combination of a passport, plus proof of travel within the
preceding six months (for example a physical or electronic plane/boat/train
ticket or boarding pass) for nationals visiting the UK from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA to demonstrate a right to rent
• an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to include Home Office documents issued to third-country family members of EEA nationals, which show the length of leave granted to such persons (both time-limited and indefinite)
• an amendment to the lists of acceptable documents set out in the Schedule to remove the requirement that a UK birth or adoption certificate must be the full (long) certificate. A short or a long birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland are now acceptable documents to demonstrate a right to rent
• further minor amendments and technical changes to the presentation of the lists of acceptable documents making it simpler for landlords to conduct the initial and follow-up checks


Coronavirus – Furlough Scheme Extended Until 31 March 2021

Posted on November 6th, 2020 -

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended.

The furlough scheme would continue to contribute 80 per cent of employees wages up to £2,500 per month for the duration of the extension. However, the Job Retention Bonus, which included a £1,000 payment for businesses that brought back furloughed staff for a minimum period, will now be cancelled.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant will also be extended and will cover 80 per cent of expected trading profits between November to January.


Property Sector Exemption Within Lockdown Regulations

Posted on November 4th, 2020 -

The Public Health Regulations which will underpin the second national lockdown in England, have been laid and will be voted on in Parliament today.

Subject to approval, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 specifically states that activities relating to the sector are allowed to continue under Exceptions to leaving home:

to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property —

(i) visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;

(ii) viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or to rent;

(iii) preparing a residential property to move in;

(iv) moving house;

(v) visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property;

Article from; https://www.arla.co.uk/news/november-2020/property-sector-exemption-within-lockdown-regulations/



National Lockdown Thursday 5th November – Wednesday 2nd December

Posted on November 4th, 2020 -

National lockdown announced by Government

These new national lockdown restrictions mean that from 5 November: 

  • People will be required to stay at home and are only allowed to leave home for specific reasons including education, work if you cannot work from home, for exercise and outdoor recreation with your household or on your own with one person from another household, for medical reasons appointments and to escape injury or harm, to shop for food and essentials and to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer 
  • Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be required to close –though click and collect services can continue and essential shops will remain open 
  • Workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home – for example in the construction or manufacturing sectors. 
  • Single adult households can still form exclusive support bubbles with one other household, and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated 

For full lockdown information; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november

Furlough scheme extended and additional Covid-19 Economic Support measures announced

In Saturday’s announcement, the Prime Minister announced additional financial support in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This package of support includes: 

  • An extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) also known as the furlough scheme. This will now remain open until December with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. Under the extended scheme the cost for employers of retaining workers will be reduced. Businesses will have flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time, and will only be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pensions contributions which, for the average claim, accounting for just 5% of total employment costs. 
  • Mortgage Holidays – Mortgage payment holidays have been extended. Borrowers who have been impacted by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded in their credit file. 
  • Business grants – businesses required to close in England due to national restrictions will be eligible for business grants. For further information, contact your local authority.
  • Self Employed Income Support Scheme – If you are self-employed and your business has been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, you may be able to benefit from the extension of SEISS. An extra six months have been added to the scheme in two three-month periods; 01 November 2020 to 31 January 2021 and again between 01 February 2021 through to 30 April 2021. You will be able to claim 40% of your average monthly profits up to £3,750 per three-month period.
  • Bounce Back Loan Scheme – Available for small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. There will be no interest to pay for the first 12 months of the loans. Applications close on 30 November 2020.

For full financial support information; https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/worker-support


Latest Lockdown Information

Posted on November 2nd, 2020 -

I am sure by now you are all aware of the latest Government lockdown update, announced on Saturday 31st October 2020.

As news and information becomes available from the Government website, regarding all things that may affect landlords, courts, the housing market and tenants, we will update our Website Newsfeed to keep you informed of any changes moving forward.


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