Legislative Changes

Legislative Changes

Legislative Changes

23 Apr 2020

As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak there have been many legislative changes to the Private Rental Sector. 

A quick summary of legislation changes in the private rented sector due to the Coronavirus pandemic can be found below.

Move-ins Tenants should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new property while emergency measures are in place to fight Coronavirus. If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on maintaining social distancing to minimise the spread of Coronavirus
Maintenance and repairs    Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed.

 Access to a property is only recommended for serious and urgent issues.

Where reasonable and safe, and in line with other Government guidance, landlords should make every effort to review and address issues brought to their attention by tenants and keep records of their efforts.
Gas Safety Certificates and inspections Landlords should make every effort to follow existing gas safety regulations.

Where a landlord cannot carry out their obligations, they must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply.

Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 No impact from COVID-19. The rules are still scheduled to come into force for new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and all existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.

Where landlords can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the regulations, they will not be in breach of the rules - this includes a duty to comply with a remedial notice. 

Where agents are unable to gain access to a property, agents should document both their efforts to do so and all communication with tenants. Attempts to carry out the work should then start again once social distancing and self-isolation measures have been lifted.

Right to Rent Checks As of 30 March 2020, the UK Government made temporary changes to ensure that Right to Rent checks continue in line with the Code of Practice - it remains an offence to knowingly rent premises to a person who is not lawfully in the UK.

Checks can be carried out as video calls. 

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

 Agents should use the Home Office Landlord’s Checking Service where a tenant cannot provide documents.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) The UK Government has released information confirming that the legal requirement to obtain an EPC when letting a property remains in place, but EPC assessments should only be conducted where they can be done in line with the safety guidance relating to Coronavirus.

Where possible delay the EPC assessment until the stay at home measures to fight Coronavirus is no longer in place. 

If it is not possible to delay the assessment, and a valid EPC is not available from the EPC Register, an assessment may need to be carried out.

Where an EPC assessment needs to be carried out, the UK Government’s social distancing measures and guidance for carrying out work in people’s homes must be adhered to.

EPC assessments can continue where a property is empty.

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards The rules were not impacted by COVID-19 and the remaining provisions came into force on 1 April 2020. Since 1 April 2020, the ban on letting properties with an EPC rating of F and G was extended to cover all existing tenancies.
Prescribed Forms The UK Government has changed Form 6A Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy to reflect the change in law under the Coronavirus Act 2020 The Form 6A should be used by landlords in England up to 30 September 2020.
Evictions Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, from 26 March 2020 until 30 September landlords will have to give all renters three months’ notice if they intend to seek possession of the property When using either Section 8 or Section 21 notices to quit, landlords must give at least three months’ notice before they can apply to the court for possession. This applies regardless of which ground is used for Section 8.
Courts As well as the provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 all housing possession cases in the courts have been suspended.

All new or existing claims for possession are suspended for a 90-day period from 27 March 2020.

The legislation covering notice periods is in force until 30 September 2020. It is subject to review and may be extended.

Accessing property, repairs and inspections All emergency situations will need to be dealt with but postpone any inspections until it is safe to carry them out.

Always get permission before entering a tenanted property and inform any other tenants in the property or anyone who will need to access the building if any of the occupants is sick or self-isolating. 

If you are unable to get work done, try to think of anything else you can do to make the situation better for the tenant.

Mortgages The Chancellor announced that mortgage lenders will offer at least a three-month holiday for Buy to Let mortgages. Landlords should contact their lender.
Universal Credit An increase in Local Housing Allowance rates from 1 April will provide additional financial support for private tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit

Anyone experiencing difficulties paying their rent can get help with their housing costs by applying for Universal Credit online - housing costs are paid directly to landlords. 

 Anyone who has lost their job and who signs on to Universal Credit can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to have their full rent paid for 13 weeks.

Rent payments Tenants have been advised to continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability

Landlords should offer support and understanding to tenants who may start to see their income fluctuate.

An early conversation between landlord and tenant can help both parties to agree a plan if tenants are struggling to pay their rent—this can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period of time and instead accept a lower level of rent, or agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date.

Deposits No change to how the schemes operate and rules apply. Check with your scheme provider.