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Gas Safety Checks & Property Maintenance
Landlords must make sure that their rented property is ’fit for human habitation’, ensuring that it is safe, healthy and free from things that could cause you or anyone else in your household serious harm. If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical safety checks should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. If this is not possible and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit. If due to a tenant being unwell or self-isolating the works are unable to be carried out this should be full documented and recorded by the landlord with the works arranged as soon as safe to do so.
Useful website (Gas Safe)
Electrical Safety Checks
From 1st June 2020, private landlords will be required to have the electrical installation in their rental properties checked by a qualified electrician to ensure that they are safe. This means that electrical installations must be inspected prior to the start of a new tenancy from the 1st July 2020 and any existing tenancy by 1st April 2021. These checks must then be carried out in future on a five yearly basis.
Without exception we are all experiencing unprecedented times as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic which is affecting all of our daily lives. However, despite this, landlords should not forget about their responsibilities including the remaining provision of the minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) which come into force on 1st April 2020.
The MEES legislation forms just one element of a Landlords responsibility when letting a property, none of which can be ignored. Despite the Coronavirus outbreak landlords are still expected to try and gain access to the property to enable an assessor to complete the report, and where this is not possible due to a tenant self-isolating, then their efforts should be fully documented.
Read our recent article for additional information - Changes to MEES regulations for landlords
Useful website (ARLA)
The guidance advises all routine property inspections and visits should be postponed until such time as the restrictions allow. In the interim, Landlords may wish to consider a verbal inspection, telephoning tenants to discuss their tenancy or alternatively using arranging a video call to enable the tenant to provide a virtual inspection.
The current crisis is no doubt going to effect some tenants ability to fulfil the obligations of their tenancy to pay the rent. In some cases a landlord may be able to assist in deferring or reducing rental payments on a temporary basis however, this is not to be confused with a rent free period and it should be explained to a tenant in these cases that the full amount will need to be paid at a later date.
Landlord: “I am reducing my tenant’s rent – can I claim this from the deposit when the tenancy ends?”
Communication and clarity is key. Landlords should ensure that when offering reductions in rent it is clear that the rent still falls due in the period, but that the landlord has agreed to defer part of the payment to a defined time in the future.
It is important that the tenant fully understands that the deferring the rent means that it is still due and it is not being cancelled or that the tenant does not ever need to pay it.
Tenant: “Can I use my deposit to pay the rent?”
Read our recent article - Can I use my deposit...
Useful link - TDS
A law passed because of Coronavirus means that from 26 March 2020 landlords will have to give all tenants three months’ notice if they intend to seek possession. In addition, this also means that the landlord cannot apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the endpoint, and the three-month notice period can be extended if needed.
This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After three months, if the tenant has not moved, a landlord needs to apply to the court in order to proceed.
Landlords with empty properties are no doubt keen to have their property occupied and an income coming in as soon as possible. Although no new moves can take place while current Government restrictions are in place a property can be marketed, advertised and a let agreed for a future move once, the restrictions allow. Through virtual tours and video calls landlords and tenants can have the opportunity to ‘see’ the property and ‘meet’ allowing an opportunity to pose those all important questions.