Recent Changes..

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Since 11th March there has been the requirement that landlords must have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted. Smoke alarms must be fitted on each storey of any property that is used for residential accommodation as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in any room that contains a solid fuel appliance. However, there is no definition as to what constitutes an adequate alarm or what the minimum standard of such alarm must be.
Compliance will be through the Local Authority which must serve a compliance note on the landlord.
The Carbon Monoxide Alarm regulations are still in draft form but will impose further requirements on the installation of carbon monoxide alarms. These will be implemented in October 2015.

Serving Notice in Assured Tenancies
From 6th April 2015 there will be new prescribed forms when serving notice under Section 8 or Section 13 of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended).

Magistrates Court Fines
The maximum level fine in Magistrates Courts for a Level 5 offence (previously £5,000), such as a failure to comply with an improvement notice to ensure properties are safe has been abolished since 12th March 2015. The fine is now unlimited.

A landlord has a statutory duty to control any risk of exposure to legionella bacteria in a property and this essentially involves a risk assessment. We have had some enquiries from agents who have been told that an inspection and a certificate is necessary (along the lines of a Gas Safety Check presumably) – this is not the case. If you/the landlord wish to employ a specialist firm to undertake this assessment for you this may give you peace of mind but all that is necessary in most domestic properties is to follow the advice on the HSE website and to make sure that you give sensible advice to tenants.

Existing Legislation which has yet to be applied

Water Bills
Powers under the Water industry Act to make landlords responsible for tenant’s water bills in certain circumstances have been granted to Welsh water authorities (which cover parts of central western England). The powers to do so in England have not yet been enacted.

The requirement that landlords are responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants is currently being trialled in areas of the West Midlands. The intention is that it will be extended to other areas of England at unspecified times in 2015.

Forthcoming Legislation
The following changes are included in Bills currently going through Parliament. Until they are passed and receive Royal assent they are not applicable. Even when passed they will not necessarily take immediate effect.

Deregulation Bill
This is due to be passed on 30th March
The main provisions in this bill relating to residential letting are as follows:

Tenancy Deposits
The intention is to remove the anomalies in deposit protection raised by the Superstrike v Rodriguez case.
•Any deposit received before 6th April 2007 and when the tenancy became periodic on or after 6th April 2007 must be protected within 90 days

  • Any deposit received for a fixed term on or after 6th April 2007 and was properly protected (including the provision of prescribed information) will be treated as being fully protected when it becomes a statutory periodic. Therefore there is no need for further protection or provision of further prescribed information

•There are further details concerning tenancies that became contractual periodic as well as details concerning transitional provisions relating to existing claims.

Retaliatory Evictions
Tenants will be protected against the practice of retaliatory eviction if they have raised legitimate concerns about the condition of the property AND the Local Authority has issued a notice confirming that the repair needs to be carried out to avoid a risk to health and safety (Improvement Notice or Notice of Emergency Remedial Action).

Landlord failure to comply with certain obligations
A tenant cannot be evicted if the landlord has failed to comply with certain legal obligations such as the provision of Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety Certificates. The restriction on the service of an eviction notice would be lifted as soon as these documents are provided.

Tenant failure to comply with certain obligations
The eviction process will be more straightforward in situations where the tenant should be evicted because of, for example, non-payment of rent or anti-social behaviour. There will be a prescribed form notice to reduce errors and there will be no need for a landlord to specify the exact date a tenancy comes to an end (while retaining the requirement to give two months’ notice).

Serving of section 21 notice
No s21 notice can be served within the first four months of a shorthold tenancy. This will end the (not uncommon) practice of a landlord/agent serving a s21 notice at the time that the tenancy agreement is signed. It will also not be possible to start possession proceedings before six months from the start of the tenancy.

Landlord Licensing
It is proposed that from 1st April councils will require government approval before implementing a licensing scheme if they plan to license a large area or proportion of the market. This is likely to be above 20% of either the geographical area covered by the council or the local private rented sector.