HOUSING AND PLANNING ACT 2016
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 has given councils new powers to deal with ‘rogue landlords‘ after stating that it will continue to drive up safety and standards in the private rented sector. They define such landlords as ‘a landlord who knowingly flouts their obligations by renting out unsafe and substandard accommodation to tenants’.
The Act includes:
- Allowing local authorities to apply for a banning order to prevent a particular landlord/letting agent from continuing to operate where they have committed certain housing offences and so removing them from the sector;
- Creating a national database of rogue landlords/letting agents, which will be maintained by local authorities which was previously announced in 2015 when the (then) Prime Minister David Cameron announced a new licensing scheme to crack down on unscrupulous landlords. We now have a ‘rogue landlord’ database which lists half of all landlord prosecution under the Housing Act 2004 between 2006 and 2014.
- Allowing tenants or local authorities to apply for a rent repayment order where a landlord has committed certain offences (for example continuing to operate while subject to a banning order or ignoring an improvement notice). If successful the tenant (or the authority if the tenant was receiving universal credit) may be repaid up to a maximum of 12 months’ rent.
- Enable local councils to issue fines as well as prosecute.
Electrical Safety Testing
The provisions in s122 of Part 5 of the Act (electrical safety standards for properties let by private landlords) requiring mandatory electrical safety testing by landlords were expected to come into force in October 2017 but have yet to do so. Under the provisions the Secretary of State may (by secondary legislation) pass regulations placing a positive obligation on Landlords to make sure that electrical safety standards are met during any tenancy term. These ‘electrical safety standards’ relate to the installation of the electrical supply and the electrical fixtures and fittings or appliances that the Landlord may have supplied. In order for this to be satisfied landlords will be required to instruct an expert (an electrician?) to make sure that the ‘electrical safety standards’ are met. These tests may be required annually and may bind the landlord to give a copy of the expert’s certificate to the tenant. However, until the Secretary of State has passed the regulation, the extent of the obligations remain unknown. Landlords who fail to comply with the ‘electrical safety standards’ could face a financial penalty and with the consent of the tenant, the local authority may enter the rented property and remedy any electrical safety failure. The Act may also make fixed wiring and PAT tests a legal requirement for landlords.
Note: The above information on the new legislation was sourced from the Painsmith Landlord and Tenant Blog.
DEREGULATION ACT 2015
The Deregulation Act 2015 means that there are 2 different regimes in operation for the serving of s21 notices under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Which one is actually used depends on whether the AST commenced before or after the 1st October 2015. An overview of the two regimes can be read here.
The Act also provides new protections for tenants under what has become known as retaliatory evictions, more of which can be read here.
SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2015
On 1st Oct 2015 the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force. From that date, private rented sector landlords are required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of their properties on which there is a room. This is regardless of whether it is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and this includes a bathroom or toilet. Guidance issued by Government is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and that they should usually be fitted to the ceiling in a circulation space – i.e. on a landing or in a hallway.
Smoke alarms must be checked regularly, both by landlords ensuring that the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy (with potential penalties of up to £5,000 if they don’t comply) and tenants during the tenancy.
The Act also requires carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in all rooms where solid fuel is used i.e. coal or wood-burning stoves.
IMMIGRATION ACT 2014
The Immigration Act 2014 requires private sector landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants under the Right to Rent Scheme. The scheme went nationwide on February 1st 2016 after being trialed in the North of England from 1st December 2014 in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.
The aim of the scheme is to prevent those with no rights to be in the UK from accessing PRS housing. An overview of tenant immigration checks can be read here.
LOCALISM ACT 2011
Under the Localism Act 2011 tenancies created on or after 6th April 2012 will require the landlord to not only return the tenancy deposit to the tenant but pay the tenant one to three times the deposit amount in compensation if the deposit has not been protected. If the landlord does not do this then the tenant can sue for up to 6 years for the deposit and up to three times the deposit value.
HOUSING (TENANCY DEPOSITS) (PRESCRIBED INFORMATION) ORDER 2007
This Act requires the landlord to supply the tenant with prescribed information regarding any tenancy deposit that is required to be dealt with under either a) the custodial or b) the insurance backed tenancy deposit schemes, both of which can be found here.
Key parts of the Act are:
- The operation of the provisions contained in s212 (tenancy deposit schemes);
- s213 (requirements relating to tenancy deposits) and s214 (proceedings relating to tenancy deposits);
- s215 (sanctions for non-compliance);
- Schedule 10 of the 2004 Act (provisions relating to tenancy deposit schemes).
This must also be accompanied by a copy of the Scheme’s Tenant’s Leaflet and a copy of the Deposit Protection Certificate (which must be signed by the Landlord/Agent) which gives most (but not all) of the prescribed information and which must be signed by the landlord/agent.
HOUSING ACT 2004
The standard of rental properties is governed by the overarching legislation of Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, specifically under the Housing Health and Safety Ratings System. This is an ‘evidence-based risk assessment’ approach to housing and is actively targeted at the PRS because of the number of rental properties that would be judged unacceptable under it’s criteria. More on this can be read here.
The Act also gives protection for those tenants who give a tenancy deposit to the landlord under s213 (requirements relating to tenancy deposits).
Landlords must be able to provide proof that the tenancy deposit has been protected in one of the three government-approved deposit protection schemes (2 insurance-based and 1 custodial-based which can be found here.
HOUSING ACT 1996
Under the revisions made to the Housing Act 1988 by the Housing Act 1996, during the first 6 months of a tenancy, if the tenant feels the rent is too high, they have the right to apply to a Rent Assessment Committee to apply for a rent assessment.
This an independent committee and can change the rent if they consider it unfair by lowering it, raising it, or making no change by agreeing with it.
Note: Before 28th February 1997, this used to be allowed at any time throughout the tenancy.
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT (SAFETY) REGULATIONS) 1994
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 requires that all appropriate electrical equipment supplied in a property must be safe to use. Unlike the Gas Safety Regulations, there is no mandatory requirement for the equipment to be checked nor are there any stipulations as to how often the electrical supply might need to be checked, but the duty of care remains the same. If landlords or agents should be found guilty of non-compliance with these regulations, the penalties are severe in monetary terms and include possible imprisonment.
GENERAL PRODUCTS SAFETY REGULATIONS 1994
The General Product Safety Regulations 1994 require landlords to ensure that products supplied in their property are not only safe but that they provide the tenant with instruction manuals and information sheets. These Regulations act as secondary legislation to the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and relate to any business which supplies plugs, sockets, adapters or fuses intended for domestic use, (with a working voltage of not less than 200 volts), correctly fitted with a fused and approved UK three-pin plug (BS 1363) or approved “conversion plug”. The conversion plug is a device which may be used with a conforming socket and which is designed to enable a non-UK plug to be used with it. All this also applies to any appliances with a plug fitted that may be supplied.
FURNITURE AND FURNISHINGS (FIRE) (SAFETY) REGULATIONS 1988
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended by the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) 1989 and the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) 1993) was introduced to improve safety by requiring all furniture and furnishings in rented properties to meet the match test or cigarette test.
New furniture is usually marked with a display label (a triangle with a smoking cigarette) to show that it complies with this regulation. There should also be a permanent and non-detachable label stating compliance. Bed bases and mattresses are not required to bear a permanent label but compliance will be indicated if the item has a label stating that it meets BS7177 which is the ‘specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, divans and bed bases”.
The regulations apply to all upholstery and upholstered furniture and loose fittings, permanent or loose covers including: beds, mattresses, pillows, armchairs and scatter cushions.
Non-conforming items are required to be replaced but carpets and curtains were excluded from the regulations.
HOUSING ACT 1988
The Assured Tenancy was introduced under Part 1 of the Housing Act 1988 and between January 1989 and February 1997, nearly all new private lettings (whether by a private landlord or a Registered Social Landlord) were classed as such. The protections under the Rent Act 1977 were removed, controlled tenancies were converted into regulated tenancies, and rent controls were removed for property let after 1988. Unless any alternative agreement at the start of the tenancy were made then they automatically defaulted to an Assured Tenancy.
Under s21 of the same Act (recovery of possession on expiry or termination of an assured shorthold tenancy) landlords were also allowed to get their properties back by serving a 2 month notice under what was known as accelerated possession. No explanation by the landlord to the tenant was required and no breach of the tenancy agreement had to have been committed by the tenant. Or the landlord for that matter.
Under Schedule 8 of the same Act (grounds for possession of dwelling houses under an Assured Tenancy) landlords were also provided a number of grounds which they could use to evict the tenant if they had committed a breach of the tenancy agreement.
LANDLORD AND TENANT ACT 1985
Landlord repairing obligations under short leases (under7 years) come under s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
PROTECTION FROM EVICTION ACT 1977
Harassment is defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as two separate offences: 1) acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property and 2) persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises.
RENT ACT 1977
Most tenancies created before 1989 were regulated by the first of two statutory codes, the first being that set up by the Rent Act 1977. This Act consolidated all the Rent Acts that had been passed since the first (temporary) Rent Act passed in 1915. Such tenancies are known as protected tenancies and they changed the underlying common law in three main ways:
- By introducing rent regulation, which meant the landlord had to not only charge a fair rent but couldn’t increase it unless it was in accordance with complex statutory legislation;
- By introducing long-term security of tenure;
- By introducing ‘rules of succession’ which denoted what happened to the tenancy after the death of the tenant.
TORTS INTERFERENCE WITH GOODS ACT 1977
The Torts (Interference With Goods) Act 1977) sets out how to avoid repercussions when any goods are left behind by a tenant so that the property can be re-let as soon as possible. These goods still belong to that tenant, regardless of whether a possession order is obtained by the landlord or the tenant surrenders the tenancy.