We wanted to give you an update regarding the latest changes that have been in respect of the law. Some of these if not most of them will affect you so it is worth reading the summaries that we have listed below to try and help you through the ever increasing red tape. We include the fire safety bill, EICR’s and more.
Fire safety bill gets passed in the commons.
On the 19th March 2020 the home office introduced the new fire safety bill. This bill was introduced to try and improve fire safety in buildings in England and Wales. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of the bill is that people who have cladding that is not part of the government fund will now be responsible for the cost of it. We will come onto more detail on it later. There was a move by various groups to try and exclude this from the bill including the house of lords. However, it has now been passed through.
What is the fire safety bill?
The fire safety bill is designed to ensure people feel safer in their homes considering the Grenfell tragedy. The government has now outlined clarification of who is accountable for the fire risk assessments. Including multiple occupied and residential buildings. It means that if you manage a building, you are responsible for the fire risk of;
The structure of the external walls of the building (cladding, balconies, and windows). Entrance doors or entry into the communal areas.
The fire risk assessment for a building premises will therefore be covered by the person managing the building. The new bill is also designed to provide for secondary legalisation based on the recommendations made by the Grenfell tower.
What does it mean for landlords?
It means that if you are managing a building yourself or own a property then you are responsible for the fire risk assessment in this regard. It is more important than it has been in the past to ensure that you are up to date with all the fire regulations for your property including whether it requires a fire risk assessment. There are no time limits on this but is has been accepted that these should really take place every 5 years.
Multi-occupied domestic residential properties, which includes blocks of flats are normally covered under the fire safety order 2005. The responsible personal duty holder will be required to consider the following factors as they aim to reduce and manage the risk of fire in properties such as, outlined before the external walls / the entrance door to the flats. It clarifies that building owners are now held responsible for complying with the necessary fire regulations by the local fire and risk authority. They now will have enforcement powers.
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Changes to the Corona virus Act.
The Act was bought into deal with every scenario in respect of various aspects of the property law and specifically notice to quits. The government has extended the notice to quits at this moment in time so that all landlords must give a minimum of 6 months’ notice. This is due for a review on the 31st May 2021. There has been very little guidance from the government. Whether they will extend the period. Our understanding is that it will be likely. They have not yet confirmed exactly when it will take place but from previous experience, they normally give details out a couple of days beforehand. Given an indication earlier; they are looking to reduce the notice period.
This may be that they will reduce this from either 6 month to 4 or 3 but at this moment in time nobody knows. This can be an enormous inconvenience to landlords. You do not know whether you must give tenants notice to quit and whether it is 4 months or 6 and whether the government will then extend it again. We can only watch and wait to see what they will do.
Renters reform bill.
This is still going through parliament and we have already done a previous article on it here. However, the provisions of the act itself have not yet been outlined in detail by the government. There are so far only various guidelines as we have outlined before and that we believe that this bill due to the parliamentary time will eventfully be cut back. It will be interesting to see in the queen’s speech whether it will be included. Our understanding is that they will still wish to carry out some form of bill, but it may only end up dealing with Section 8 and Section 21 notices.
A section 21 notice is where you give your tenant notice to quit the property without having to confirm the reason why. A section 8 notice lays out why you require the property back and within it gives certain grounds in which to serve it. We suspect that this will be the only part of the renter’s reform bill that will be able to stay in place due to parliamentary times. The government have made it clear that they wish to scrap the section 21 notice the landlord gives to remove their tenants. They have made it a priority. We suspect that this bill will eventually only include the removal of a section 21. To include a alternative with the section 8 but again full details have not yet been laid out.
You are probably not aware but there is a recent court case which is now going to the highest court in the land to adjudicate on.
The main facts of the case are as follows.
- A landlord served the prescribed information via his estate agents but his agents where a company not an individual and they served prescribed information.
- A section 8 notice (for arrears of rent) was served on the tenants by the agent but again signed on behalf of the landlord. The landlord was a company.
The tenant has claimed that as the agent signed both the prescribed information form and the section 8 notice that they are incorrect. The agent signed them without a witness signature. Under the companies act all deeds that are signed by the director of a company need to be witnessed.
The court found that the section 8 notice could be signed by an agent on behalf of a company landlord. Not needing to be witnessed. However, on the prescribed information the court found that as the property was owned by a company. This should have had a witness signature on it as well as director.
This has been hugely confusing for all parties concerned and we await the outcome of the court’s findings.
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Electrical safety standards.
Have you complied with your electrical safety standards? Have the electrical installations in your properties been inspected and tested. This needs to be done by a qualified and competent person every 5 years. Please see our previous article here. They are called electrical installation condition reports or commonly known as EICR’s. They should include the results of the inspection, the test, and the date of the next inspection. You must provide a copy to your tenants. When asked you must provide a copy for the local authority. New tenants should be provided with a copy of the report before they move in. You must supply a copy of the report to each existing tenant at the property. This has to be within 28 days of the inspection and test. Prospective tenants can make a request in writing for the report, and you must supply a copy within 28 days.
You must also carry out any remedial works. These are now all in place not only for new tenancies but also renewals. We understand that some local authorities have already started writing to landlords requesting copies of these documents. This is with a view to imposing fines. You can be fined up to £30,000.00. However, there is a more of a concern.
There is a likelihood that tenants could suggest that they are not liable to pay any rent at all until such time as the completed report, being satisfactory, has been served on them. In the time that they did not have a report they are not liable. This has not yet been tested but our understanding from our own solicitors is that the courts may find that this is correct. It is important therefore as a landlord that you comply with the law. Carrying out all the relevant reports and serve them on your tenants. You should ensure that your tenant at least acknowledges it if not signs it.
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