Another week in the lockdown. What news do we have for you?
Right to rent checks
A lot of landlords and agents have been asking what they should do about right to rent checks where a face to face meeting is required.
We now have some government guidance on the this which provides that:
- 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 Landlord’s Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the existing documents
The guidance goes on to say
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.
And then warns about discrimination.
So under the new rules landlords and agents should:
- Ask the tenant to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app.
- Arrange a video call with the tenant – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents.
- Record the date you made the check and mark it as “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.
Nothing about the rules being cancelled after the challenge brought in the Courts. We are still waiting for the decision in the appeal hearing.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES)
These came fully into force in England and Wales on 1 April. Before that, they had just applied to new and renewed tenancies. Now they also apply to existing tenancies as well.
So if you are a landlord with a tenant in place in a property in which has an EPC rating below an E you are committing an offence and subject to a fine. Unless you are entitled to claim an exemption and have registered this on the government website.
The government has now issued some guidance. This provides that
- The rules on EPCs continue in full effect
- But an EPC assessor should not be visiting any property unless it is vacant
- If it is necessary to do an EPC because a sale is going ahead and the parties cannot agree a delay then an EPC can be conducted but social distancing measures must be enacted
- Agents, landlords, and vendors that they must use all reasonable efforts to obtain an EPC within seven days of a property going on the market
- If that is not possible (such as at the moment) then there is a further permissible extension of 21 days. After which an offence is being committed.
The guidance makes it clear that no extensions of time are on offer and no relaxation of the EPC regime is available or being contemplated.
It is clear that this is really another way of the government stating that properties should not be being put up for sale or rent just now and house moves should not be happening. Clearly they see any relaxation of the EPC regime as something that would undermine that position and lead people to try to find a way around the restrictions.
While the message is clear, and sensible, it will keep piling pressure on an agency sector which is in danger of being fatally weakened. For landlords hoping that this will mean a relaxation of the MEES regime, it doesn’t!
David Cox Chief Executive, ARLA Propertymark said
Although we have asked the Government to postpone these regulations in England, it’s unlikely they will do so. This is because the law was passed in 2014, meaning landlords and letting agents have had several years to meet this deadline.
This, however, is very different to the electrical safety regulations which were passed last week and come into force in July, which we are lobbying the Government to postpone, as landlords and letting agents haven’t had as much time to meet these requirements.
We shall have to see if they are successful in that.
The Residential Landlords and National Landlords Associations are now merged
Congratulations on the RLA and NLA for finally effecting what I am sure must have been a difficult operation and finally merging into one big new National Residential Landlords Association.
Ben Beadle is their chief executive and their new Chair is Jodi Berg OBE, taking over from Adrian Jeakings at the NLA and Alan Ward at the RLA, who remain on the NRLA board.
Ben Beadle will be speaking at the Landlord Law Virtual Conference on 13 May.
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