The Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has upended rules and regulations in every aspect of our lives - and letting legislation is no exception. The government has made several temporary changes to the laws and guidance that govern the private rented sector, which affect every stage of the rental process, from applications to property management to ending a tenancy. We’ve put together a guide on five key changes that landlords need to know about.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessments
Properties being let during the coronavirus pandemic still need to have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), with a minimum rating of “E” under the Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations. If a property being let does not have a valid EPC, an assessment will need to be completed by an accredited assessor before it can be let.
In the current circumstances, EPC assessments should only be conducted in accordance with current government advice on home moving (see below) and where the EPC assessment can be conducted safely. This means that if a property is currently occupied, both parties should try to reach an agreement on delaying the transaction, so the EPC assessment can take place after the coronavirus measures are lifted. If the move can’t be avoided, a delay schedule can’t be agreed, and the register doesn’t hold a valid EPC, the property may need to be assessed.
Right to rent checks
The process for carrying out right to rent checks has been temporarily adjusted. Normally, right to rent checks - which must be carried out before renting a property to anyone in England - must be carried out in person. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, tenants can provide scanned copies of photos of their documents, which the landlord or letting agent must follow up by a video call to check the tenant’s identity against the documents provided.
After the coronavirus measures end - the date for which has not yet been specified - in-person right to rent checks will need to be carried out retrospectively for tenants who either started their tenancy during this period or required a follow-up check during this period. Retrospective checks will need to be carried within eight weeks of the coronavirus measures ending.
Related: The Complete Legislative Guide For Buy-To-Let Landlords
Both homebuyers and renters are being advised to delay moving into a new home for as long as possible and the government is encouraging all parties to work together to arrange a new move-in date wherever possible, especially where properties are currently occupied.
However, the government has acknowledged that some house moves will still need to take place and it won’t be possible to agree to a new move-in date. In this instance, everyone who is involved in the move - including removals firms - must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus. If there’s anyone involved in the move who has symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding from the virus, they should follow medical advice and avoid being involved in the move wherever possible.
Repairs and maintenance
Landlords obligations when it comes to maintenance and repairs have not changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Routine inspections should be delayed until the coronavirus measures have been lifted, but urgent health and safety issues that affect a property’s fitness for human habitation should be fixed, and landlords and contractors can continue to visit properties in order to assess and fix these issues.
Urgent health and safety issues could include - but aren’t limited to - problems with the fabric of a building, the boiler, plumbing issues, problems with white goods, such as a broken fridge or washing machine, security-critical problems or problems with equipment that a disabled person relies on.Landlords should also make every effort to comply with both existing gas safety regulations and the new electrical safety regulations, which come into force on 1 July.
There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this, but they must be able to demonstrate that they’ve taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.
Related: Renting Out a Property for the First Time
The notice period has been temporarily extended from two to three months and landlords cannot apply to start the court process until after this period. This “extended buffer period” will apply to the end of September, however this period can be extended. The government has also suspended all ongoing housing possession action until at least mid-June, which means neither current cases or those about to go in the system will be able to progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. These measures have been brought forward in order to protect tenants from eviction during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s important to note that tenants are still liable for their rent during this time and they should continue to pay this as usual. If tenants are facing financial hardship and think they will have difficulty making a rental payment, they should speak to their landlord in the first instance or their letting agent if they are in charge of the rent collection. The government is encouraging tenants and landlords to work together to manage missed payments with a rent payment plan.
Portico Direct’s online letting services can help private landlords
If you are currently trying to let your property, we can help. We provide a range of online letting agent services, from a customisable tenancy agreement with secure digital signing, to tenant credit checks and referencing, which can be done online and without any contact. Or, if you’re interested in selling or letting your property, or even if you’re just curious, receive an instant up-to-date sales or rental valuation on your property from the comfort of your own home with our property valuation tool.