Housing and Planning Act 2016
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 in relation to the private rental sector empowers local authorities to tackle rogue landlords and letting agencies by giving them powers to identify, ban and fine repeat offenders, as well as seize or control their property. It also introduces mandatory electrical safety checks to protect tenants through the provisions of s122 of Part 5 of the 2016 Act (electrical safety standards for properties let by private landlords) whereby 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 Blog.
The Act also introduces measures to protect client’s monies and 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.