Chris Norris, NLA Director of Policy and Practice

 

If a week is a long time in politics the last four will have seemed like an eternity for anyone following the news throughout March and April. With good reason the headlines have been dominated by Brexit negotiations, backstops, indicative votes, and extensions, leaving very little time for any of the domestic issues government and their oppositions normally debate ad nauseum – including housing.  

Although after the House of Commons’ roof developed a fairly serious leak this week, disrupting debate, the authorities may suddenly feel more sympathy for landlords trying to keep the weather at bay as explored in our recent blog. Nevertheless, the world outside of Brexit continues to turn, and this month saw some long-anticipated issues reach their zenith.

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act

On 20 March, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force meaning that private and social tenants in England may take their landlord to court if they fail to maintain property to a decent minimum standard. This should have very little bearing on most private landlords, but the NLA has produced guidance and a handy checklist, which members are encouraged to read.

Client Money Protection

On 1 April CMP (client money protection) insurance became mandatory for all letting agents in England. CMP schemes safeguards landlords and tenants because it prevents their money from being stolen or misused by unscrupulous agents and ensures that both parties can regain their funds if an agent goes into administration. When selecting an agent landlords should ask to which government approved scheme the company belongs, a full list and guidance is available here. 

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards

Likewise 1 April saw the MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards) cost cap come into force, meaning landlords wishing to obtain an exemption from the ban on letting properties which fail to reach an EPC E rating or above will have to demonstrate that they have invested no less than £3,500 attempting to meet the standard (unless another exemption applies). For more on this and guidance click here.

Welsh Tenant Fees Ban

Not to be left out, the National Assembly in Wales also voted in favour of introducing its own tenant fee ban, following in the footsteps of Scotland and England. The Bill will make it unlawful for landlords or letting agents to charge tenants fees that have not been specified as a ‘permitted payment’ and it is expected to come into effect in the autumn subject to Royal Assent.

Of course developments in the PRS were not limited solely to legislation during the last few weeks. In expectation that nobody knows who will be in government in the coming weeks and months, colleagues and I met with John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Communities to discuss his policies and what landlords need from future housing policy. We also continued to meet with the Government over the ongoing review of the Courts Service, and ruminations concerning longer tenancies – although to say that they are frustrated by the inability to do anything non-Brexit related would be an understatement.  

Away from politics and towards the practical we also continued to push an issue which a number of members have raised over the last 12 months following the change to gas safety inspection rules last April. Having lobbied hard for this change for a number of years we have been disappointed to hear from landlords that many engineers are either unaware of, or unwilling to accept the changes. Consequently we have been speaking with the Gas Safe Register’s CEO who has committed to work with us to make sure the message hits home with registered engineers.

 

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