Landlords: are you ready for 2020?
2020 is the year that sees three pieces of legislation affecting all residential tenancies come into force. Landlords need to be prepared to avoid exposing themselves to penalties.
From 20th March 2020, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 affects all residential tenancies regardless of when they started. It has been introduced to ensure that rented accommodation is fit for human habitation and strengthens the tenants’ means of redress when it is not. Tenants can take action against landlords via the courts without having to rely on Environmental Health officers to do so.
Actionable areas include damp and mould growth, excess cold or heat, lighting, noise, food safety and any hazards associated with electrical safety and potential falls in the bathroom, on unsafe levels to name but a few. The landlord’s liability will not start until they have been notified of the unfitness and the landlord has been given a reasonable period to rectify this. However, the landlord will be liable immediately for hazards and disrepair in common parts or on the exterior of the property.
On 1st April 2020, the Minimum Efficiency Standards Regulations (MEES) 2015 affect old and new tenancies alike.
The energy rating of a rental property must be an E or above. It will not be permitted to rent out a property or continue renting a property where the energy rating is below this unless an exemption applies. Listed buildings are not automatically exempt but one of the factors leading to an exemption may apply such as consent is required to carry out the works and that consent cannot be obtained.
A landlord is expected to carry works to the property up to a value of £3,500 to bring it up to at least an E energy rating.
Other exemption qualifications include where the works have been done and the rating is still not an E; an independent surveyor certifies that carrying out the works would result in a reduction in the market value of the property by more than 5%, and if an expert states that carrying out some measures would have a negative impact on the property this again will render the property exempt. The exemption will last for 5 years and it is the responsibility of the landlord to register that exemption.
On 1st June 2020, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 applies to all Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs).
There are permitted charges to a tenant and anything else is prohibited.
Permitted charges are:
- Refundable deposit of no more than 5 weeks where the rent is under £50,000 per annum,
- Refundable holding deposit of no more than 1 week’s rent,
- Payment due in the event of default (3% above the Bank of England base rate),
- Payment for utilities, council tax and TV licence,
A reasonable fee may be charged for variation of the contract or if the tenant wishes to terminate the tenancy early. A landlord would have to show that whatever fees are charged that they were reasonable and were payable by the landlord.
This means that there can be no demands for payment for professional cleaners at the end of a tenancy, nor for inventory fees or for referencing checks. You can, however, ask for the property to be returned cleaned to a professional standard.
Any clause requiring the tenant to make a prohibited payment will not be enforceable and must not be demanded or accepted from the tenant.
Breach of any of the above could result in a fine of between £5,000 and £30,000.
Landlords need to ensure that they do not ask for any payments they shouldn’t, keep the property in a good state of repair and carry out regular inspections.
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