Electrical Safety Standards Regulations 2020
You will be aware that the first part of this legislation came into force from 1st July 2020 requiring that for any new tenancy or renewing tenancy the tenants are provided with satisfactory EICR (Electrical Installation Condition Report) for the property. Tenants starting a new tenancy on or after 1 July 2020 should have been given a copy of a valid EICR prior to the start of their tenancy. If they were not, this matter must be rectified without delay, and it may affect your ability to regain vacant possession in the event of tenancy breach by your tenant.
We are now fast approaching the second deadline when on the 1st April 2021 all private rented properties will need a satisfactory EICR in place i.e. including those will long-standing tenants under multi-year agreement and those with statutory periodic tenancies.
Juliet, Kate and I have been working hard to ensure all of our landlords’ properties are compliant and we are now in the final push to get these completed. There has also been some uncertainty as to whether EICR’s that pre-date 2019 would comply given the 18th Edition Wiring Regulations BS7671: 2018 (5) was only introduced in January 2019. Having sought advice via NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) that ‘satisfactory’ rated certificates remain valid for the 5 years issued regardless of when they were completed.
Oxford HMO Additional Licensing Scheme
The council additional licensing scheme for HMO’s will re-start on 10 June 2021 and will last for 5 years. The scheme covers properties with 3 or more occupants and Section 257 HMO’s i.e. a building: which has been converted into and consists of self-contained flats where the conversion work did not comply with the appropriate building standards.
If an HMO has expired or expires up to and including 9 June 2021 a new licence will be required. Where a licence expires on or after 10 June 2021 a renewal licence will be required.
One, two and five year licences continue as was the case for the previous scheme.
New conditions related to waste management are included. Accreditation schemes that will be accepted include NRLA, ARLA, Safeagent and UKALA. Where a licence for 5 years is issued that term will remain regardless of the end date of the licensing scheme
Oxford Selective Licensing
The council has decided that it will progress its plans for selective licensing of all private rented properties. The decision requires Government review and approval and the council plans to submit plans for that purpose in the Summer.
The plan will offer licence fee discounts for landlords who are accredited with the council and the same accreditation schemes will be accepted as for the HMO additional licensing.
This will be a major change across the whole of Oxford private rented sector and we encourage landlords to apply for accredited status early to avoid the inevitable rush and to benefit from discounted licence fees when the scheme is introduced.
Possession policy and rent arrears
Following the announcement that the furlough scheme will be extended to September 2021, the government has announced that all Covid legislation relating to possession of rented property and the eviction of tenants will be extended until 31 May 2021. This includes for properties where possession was granted by the courts, but where bailiffs have been prevented from attending. As things stand the earliest date that bailiffs will be able to attend will be 15 June 2021
The government is planning some form of tapering of the Covid legislation, but has not yet provided any details. However, it would make sense that the current 6 month notice will be progressively reduced perhaps monthly back to the previous 2-month level in relation to Section 21 notices.
Some exemptions still apply so please call us if you require any clarification on the exemptions and what is expected of you.
The government has also announced a debt respite scheme which will allow tenants with rent arrears and/or other debts to have 60 days breathing space from being chased for payment. The scheme will be triggered by a debt councillor or local authority and will include a respite from being chased for rent payments. The tenant will remain liable for rent arrears.
To date rent arrears across our landlords’ properties has increased, but overall, less than was forecast by some commentators. Our policy of seeking evidence of hardship has worked well, and the extension of the furlough scheme may mean any peak in arrears will be lower. However, there remains a danger that job losses will result from the termination of the furlough scheme, and we continue to advise landlords to purchase rent protection insurance to mitigate the risk of income loss.
Cladding in relation to Consumer Protection Regulations
There is now an obligation to advise any potential tenants of a property that cladding is present so that they are able to make an informed decision as to whether to proceed with renting. We believe there are only a small number of properties amongst those under our management (in Oxford, Thame, Kidlington and Bicester) that may be affected but would be grateful if you would inform us if you believe this may be an issue with your property.
Most but not all affected properties are purpose-built bock of flats with an appointed block manager. Where that is the case we will contact the block manager on behalf of our managed landlords to determine if there is any cladding present. However, it is not always obvious from visual inspection, so please do call us if you feel your property may be affected.
Future Energy Efficiency Legislation
30 years on from signing the Kyoto Protocol requiring carbon emissions to be reduced by 80% by 2050 the UK government now must drive new standards and make significant and lasting change to meet its obligations. Housing is recognised as a critical sector for improvement, and particularly the rented sector which lags the performance of the owner-occupied sector.
The government has now set out their draft plan for energy efficiency in rented properties and is proposing that all properties in the private rented sector will need to achieve an EPC rating of C or higher. It is proposed that the new standards will be introduced between 2025 and 2028.
Government grants are available for works completed before March 2022 up to £5,000 or two-thirds of the cost of works. On applying for scheme vouchers Landlords will be expected to provide proof that their property meets the current minimum EPC rating of E or above and/or proof of an exemption from that standard.
We will monitor the progress of this legislation and keep you informed as and when more details emerge. Details of the Green Homes Grants are on Green Homes Grant: make energy improvements to your home - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
and we encourage you to commence works before next March to ensure you benefit from the grant available.
Many of our Oxford landlords are already familiar with our maintenance reporting software Fixflo, however, I felt this was a good time to sing its praises and ask you to fully embrace it for maintenance and repairs. It will be introduced for use by tenants of managed properties in Thame later this year.
Fixflo allows us and you to keep in one place and track of all reported maintenance. It allows contractors and tenants to deal directly with each other to discuss works and arrange access. This allows your tenants t to ask questions and it reduces lead times for work to be completed.
Fixflo also automates some aspects of the administration associated with works approval and end of year reconciliation of contractor invoices.
I know the words ‘our new software’ may fill you with dread, but I promise Fixflo is easy to use and is saving landlords time and money where it is being fully embraced.