Category: In The Spotlight

Covid-19 & Pre-Tenancy Care

Covid-19 & Pre-Tenancy Care

Making sure the check-in process for tenants is carried out in a smooth manner is more important than ever, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions are tightening across the country again as Britain prepares itself for a fully fledged second wave, and while a second national lockdown seems unlikely, there could be further curbs on everyday freedoms as the weather worsens and the annual flu season begins to rear its head.

But what can you do to ensure the pre-tenancy process is as seamless as possible? Here, we outline some top tips for agents eager to impress clients more than ever this winter.

Communicate effectively

During normal times, good communication is vital when it comes to ensuring a smooth, successful tenancy, but this even more so the case at present, when many people are uncertain and confused about what they can and can’t do.

From viewing protocols to playing by the rules on in-branch appointments, to ensuring all your landlords and tenants know where they stand with regards to tenancy agreements, inventories, fees and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), it’s vital that communication is clear and consistent throughout.

Make sure you know the preferred method of communication for your landlords and would-be tenants, so you can contact them via a medium which they are likely to check on a regular basis and respond to. For many, this will still be a call, text or email, but for an increasing number it might be via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime or other social media platforms.

Emphasise the importance of the tenancy agreement

This is the contract signed between your landlords and tenants, setting out the legal terms and conditions of a tenancy and the rules and regulations tenants must abide by – for example, whether they can have a pet, redecorate or smoke indoors. The tenancy agreement can be written down or be a spoken oral agreement. It is, though, far more preferable for it to be written down somewhere, so there is an evidence trail to follow should any disputes occur at a later date. Tenancy Agreements provided by TLA.co.uk – Visit the Landlord InterACTIVE™ service on the homepage.

The tenancy agreement is something tenants should read carefully before they commit to renting a home, to limit the chances of any issues further down the line. If, for example, a landlord has made it explicitly clear that sub-letting is not allowed and late-night parties are a breach of the tenancy agreement, and a tenant goes ahead and does this anyway, the potential for serious disputes goes up.

Tenancy documents – such as tenancy contracts and tenancy agreements – can be signed electronically with digital or e-signatures holding the same weight as physical ones. In these Covid times, where face-to-face interaction is advised against, and remote solutions are being encouraged, you may want to arrange for landlords and tenants to sign in this manner, as well as prioritising digital deposit registration, digital offers and digital referencing.

Make it digital

In days gone by, tenants would likely have come into the office to complete the application process for a new home and sign their tenancy agreement – as well as potentially stopping by for keys and any other queries.

Even before Covid, the trend for people visiting agent branches in-person had been on the decline, but this has been supercharged by the pandemic, with the government actively encouraging appointment-only visits to branches and pushing for remote solutions wherever possible.

This includes remote viewings in the first instance, to ensure that a tenant is serious about a property before visiting it in person.

On the viewing itself, there are a wide range of protocols that all parties – agent, landlord and tenant – must abide by, from face coverings and social distancing to a limit on the number of people in a property at any one time and no mixing of households.  

If something can be managed digitally at present, this is preferable given the restrictions at play – which are also much stricter in certain parts of the country deemed more at risk of virus spread.

Some of the tenancy process was slowly moving online even before January this year, but the desire for digital solutions – streamlined, simplified and highly effective – has gone up a couple of notches since Covid-19 became a part of our lives.

Too much of the current process is bogged down with paperwork and inefficient systems, but agents using fast, streamlined systems can really stand out from the crowd.

Tenancy admin, and the tenant referencing process, can be cumbersome and time-consuming if you don’t have the right kind of procedures in place to speed these up. Again, this is where digital solutions come into their own.

Know the Covid rules

To ensure a smooth pre-tenancy process, it’s vital that letting agents and landlords adhere to the guidance given by government on how to safely let property during the coronavirus pandemic.

Landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, while any visits to a property must be made in accordance with the government’s guidelines on working in other people’s homes and social distancing.

The government also advises letting agents and landlords to take steps to ensure any properties are ready for new tenants, including cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the virus in line with government advice.

Additionally, it’s recommended that letting agents and landlords consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies, ‘taking care to follow government advice on social distancing and public health advice’ to minimise the spread of infection. Right to Rent checks can, at present, be conducted remotely due to Covid-19.

The government also suggests that agents and landlords look for ways to ensure that in-person payments, referencing or checks can be conducted remotely instead, taking further legal or professional advice if required to implement these properly.

We know that effortless rental transactions are more crucial than ever at present, and here at Propoly we are doing our bit to make that a reality.

We help your landlords and tenants to get to the move-in-date faster by inviting tenants to submit digital offers, pay holding fees, sign ASTs and pay move-in monies all online with minimal manual effort from your side. You can also generate a deal on behalf of landlords by using details provided by tenants digitally, and generate the tenancy agreement instantly by selecting custom options.

Our software also automatically provides your landlords and tenants with instant updates on every step of the process, from viewing feedback, tenancy documents and status updates throughout the tenancy progression process for landlords, while tenants can see status updates for themselves and co-tenants, and complete their references, signing and paying monies online.

General Landlord Survey Q4 2020

General Landlord Survey Q4 2020

This Survey Takes <2 Mins With 6 Questions. Results Will Be Published On 18th November 2020.

SEPTEMBER: Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020: letter to local authorities

SEPTEMBER: Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020: letter to local authorities

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 was laid on 28 August 2020 and came into force on 29 August 2020

The regulations amend Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 to require residential landlords to give tenants 6 months’ notice of their intention to seek possession, except in the most serious cases. These regulations will only apply in England.

The department wrote to chief executives of local authorities, chief housing officers and chief officers of children’s services in England about the amending regulations on 7 September 2020.

Tenant Fees Act

Tenant Fees Act

Documents related to the Tenant Fees Act, which sets out the government’s approach to banning letting fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector.

The Tenant Fees Act bans most letting fees and caps tenancy deposits paid by tenants in the private rented sector in England.

The ban on tenant fees applies to new or renewed tenancy agreements signed on or after 1 June 2019.

The government guidance on the Act for tenants, landlords and letting agents helps explain how this legislation affects them. You might also find the ‘How to Rent’ and ‘How to Let’ guides useful.

The aim of the Act is to reduce the costs that tenants can face at the outset, and throughout, a tenancy. Tenants will be able to see, at a glance, what a given property will cost them in the advertised rent with no hidden costs.

The party that contracts the service – the landlord – will be responsible for paying for that service, helping ensure the fees charged reflect the real economic value of the services provided and sharpen letting agents’ incentive to compete for landlords’ business.

Local enforcement authorities have primary responsibility for enforcing this legislation. The Tenant Fees Act created an independent lead enforcement authority to provide advice and information to local authorities on the Act. Bristol city council has been appointed as the lead enforcement authority for lettings.

From 1 June 2019, the only payments that landlords or letting agents can charge to tenants in relation to new contracts are:

  • rent
  • a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than 5 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
  • a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than 1 week’s rent
  • payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
  • payments capped at £50 (or reasonably incurred costs, if higher) for the variation, assignment or novation of a tenancy
  • payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and Council Tax
  • a default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement

Tenant Fees Act Guidance

CP12’s & Gas Safety Regulations

CP12’s & Gas Safety Regulations

What are your landlord responsibilities for gas safety?

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 outline your duties as a landlord to make sure all gas appliances, fittings, chimneys and flues are safe and working efficiently. If you’re letting a property with gas appliances installed, you’ve got three main legal responsibilities:

1. Gas safety checks

To ensure your tenants’ safety, all gas appliances and flues need to undergo an annual gas safety check – and always by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Once this has been done, you’ll be given a Landlord Gas Safety Record or Gas Safety certificate with details of all the checks that were carried out. It can also be referred to as a CP12 certificate.

You can arrange for a gas safety check to be carried out any time from 10-12 months after the last check, without affecting the original check expiry date. If it’s less than 10 or more than 12 months after the last check, you’ll end up with a new deadline date – 12 months from the most recent check.

Appliances owned by your tenants aren’t your responsibility – although it’s still up to you to ensure the safety of any connecting flues, unless they’re solely connected to the tenants’ appliance.

2. Gas Safety Record

Following the annual gas safety check and receipt of your Landlord Gas Safety Record, you’ll need to provide a record of this check to your tenants. By law, a copy of your Landlord Gas Safety Record should be given to your current tenants within 28 days of the gas safety check – and for new tenants, you’ll need to provide this at the start of their tenancy.

For rental periods of less than 28 days, just make sure you’ve clearly displayed a copy of your record within the property. You’ll need to keep copies of this gas safety check record until a further two checks have been carried out..

3. Maintenance

You’ll need to make sure that all gas pipework, appliances, chimneys and flues are kept in safe condition. Check the gas appliances’ manufacturer guidelines to find out how often a service is recommended. If you haven’t got access to these, we’d recommend an annual service – unless your Gas Safe registered engineer suggests otherwise.

Installation pipework isn’t covered by the annual gas safety check, but both we and the HSE recommend that when you request a safety check, you ask your Gas Safe registered engineer to:

  • Test for tightness on the whole gas system, including installation pipework
  • Visually examine the pipework (so far as is reasonably practicable)

There are no formal requirements for you to keep maintenance records, but you’ll need to be able to show that you have regularly maintained the pipework, appliances and flues and completed required repairs.

How much does a Landlord Gas Safety check cost?

The cost of your Landlord Gas Safety check will depend on the Gas Safe registered business who carries out your annual gas safety check. We recommend getting at least three quotes from companies before arranging for the check to be carried out. You can find a registered business in your local area on our Check The Register page. 

Additional information

It’s always a good idea to ensure your tenants know where and how to turn the gas off and what to do in the event of a gas emergency.

In Scotland, a private landlord must provide a carbon monoxide (CO) detector where there is fixed combustion appliance, but this does not apply to appliances solely used for cooking.  In Northern Ireland, a CO detector is required when a new or replacement combustion appliance is installed.

Last but not least, make sure it’s always a Gas Safe registered and qualified engineer that’s carrying out gas work or a gas safety check. Landlords are legally required to make sure this is the case – and it’s the most important step to ensuring your tenants’ safety.

Any issues?

We understand that some relationships between landlords and tenants can become problematic. The tenancy agreement should allow access for maintenance or safety checks, but if your tenant refuses to grant access you must show you’ve taken all ‘reasonable steps’ to comply with the law. This includes repeating attempts to carry out the checks and writing to the tenant to explaining that safety checks are a legal requirement in place for their own safety. Keep a record of any action you take; you may need this at a later date.

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations don’t give powers to ‘force disconnection’ of the gas supply in these circumstances and you may need to seek legal advice.

London Landlords Look Set To Lose £65M A Month Because Of Covid-19

London Landlords Look Set To Lose £65M A Month Because Of Covid-19

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The ongoing pandemic is causing travel restrictions and broader health implications for universities. In fact, it’s predicted that the number of students heading to London this term will drop by as much as -24%.

That’s a loss of over £65m a month for the London student rental sector.

London lettings and estate agent, Benham and Reeves, has revealed the best boroughs for student rental demand, despite predictions of a rental market decline due to a lower level of students heading to the capital.

London’s higher education providers accommodate 16% of the UK’s university students each year, and as many as 32% of the capital’s students come from overseas.

The average London student pays £702 a month in rent, meaning those on a three-year course will pay out £8,424 a year, totalling more than £25,000 throughout their course.

This means the capital’s student body brings in nearly £271m to London’s rental market in rent each month, with international students accounting for £85.6m of it.

However, despite this prediction, many areas of London are still experiencing extremely high levels of demand for student accommodation, something that will be welcome news to student landlords across the capital.

According to the research by Benham and Reeves, the number of student-specific rental properties that have already been snapped up by students sits at 22% of all student-specific properties listed on the rental market.

In Merton, for example, this ratio is far higher, with 80% of all student accommodation already let agreed.

Bromley (75%), Bexley (61%), Barking and Dagenham (60%), Hounslow (53%), Harrow (53%) and Redbridge (50%) are also seeing high levels of current student demand for rental properties.

Even in more expensive markets such as Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington and Camden, student rental demand is sitting at 19% to 25%.

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented:

“There is currently an evident decline in the level of rental demand from students than we might otherwise expect at this time of year. This has, of course, been driven by a lower number of international students looking for properties due to the travel restrictions and other hurdles that the current pandemic has presented.

“However, while predictions of student rental market losses are rather eye-watering, to say the least, we don’t believe this will be an issue that plagues the market for long.

“Many current students are beginning their studies in a virtual capacity until such time they can make a move to London, and once they do, we should see a further influx of demand for suitable student lets.

“University is very much about the life experience you gain from actually moving to a new city or country. With London still offering some of the best standards of higher education you can find worldwide it’s unlikely students will refrain from this first-hand experience unless absolutely necessary.

“Like many areas of life this year, we may see a slow start to the university year. But as life develops to deal with COVID-19, greater degrees of normality will prevail, and this is no different in the rental market student or otherwise.

“The very promising signs are that currently, many boroughs are experiencing massive demand for student rental properties, and this bodes very well for the academic year ahead. Foreign student demand, in particular, can bring very favourable levels of rent for buy-to-let landlords. We regularly have students from China and other areas of Asia renting at well above the average in their chosen areas to ensure they secure the best property they can while studying.”

The average London student pays £702 a month in rent, meaning those on a three-year course will pay out £8,424 a year, totalling more than £25,000 throughout their course.

This means the capital’s student body brings in nearly £271m to London’s rental market in rent each month, with international students accounting for £85.6m of it.

However, despite this prediction, many areas of London are still experiencing extremely high levels of demand for student accommodation, something that will be welcome news to student landlords across the capital.

According to the research by Benham and Reeves, the number of student-specific rental properties that have already been snapped up by students sits at 22% of all student-specific properties listed on the rental market.

In Merton, for example, this ratio is far higher, with 80% of all student accommodation already let agreed.

Bromley (75%), Bexley (61%), Barking and Dagenham (60%), Hounslow (53%), Harrow (53%) and Redbridge (50%) are also seeing high levels of current student demand for rental properties.

Even in more expensive markets such as Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington and Camden, student rental demand is sitting at 19% to 25%.

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented:

“There is currently an evident decline in the level of rental demand from students than we might otherwise expect at this time of year. This has, of course, been driven by a lower number of international students looking for properties due to the travel restrictions and other hurdles that the current pandemic has presented.

“However, while predictions of student rental market losses are rather eye-watering, to say the least, we don’t believe this will be an issue that plagues the market for long.

“Many current students are beginning their studies in a virtual capacity until such time they can make a move to London, and once they do, we should see a further influx of demand for suitable student lets.

“University is very much about the life experience you gain from actually moving to a new city or country. With London still offering some of the best standards of higher education you can find worldwide it’s unlikely students will refrain from this first-hand experience unless absolutely necessary.

“Like many areas of life this year, we may see a slow start to the university year. But as life develops to deal with COVID-19, greater degrees of normality will prevail, and this is no different in the rental market student or otherwise.

“The very promising signs are that currently, many boroughs are experiencing massive demand for student rental properties, and this bodes very well for the academic year ahead. Foreign student demand, in particular, can bring very favourable levels of rent for buy-to-let landlords. We regularly have students from China and other areas of Asia renting at well above the average in their chosen areas to ensure they secure the best property they can while studying.”

JULY: Safety Checks On Electrical Appliances Become Mandatory

JULY: Safety Checks On Electrical Appliances Become Mandatory

Landlords are already required to make sure that the wiring and appliances in their properties are safe, but from July it will be a legal requirement for private landlords to have their electrical installations inspected every five years and provide safety certificates to tenants and their local authority.

The regulations will apply to all new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.  If serious problems are identified, these will have to be remedied quickly. Local authorities will have a duty to take action if landlords do not comply with the requirements and will be able to issue fines if necessary.

JUNE: Tenant Fees Acts (EXTENTION)

JUNE: Tenant Fees Acts (EXTENTION)

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 came into force in England last year on 1 June 2019. The Act bans landlords and agents from charging fees to tenants other than those expressly permitted by the Act. It also places a cap on the amount of security deposit a landlord or agent can collect and codifies a procedure for dealing with holding deposits. The ban applies to assured shorthold tenancies granted by private landlords, licence agreements and tenancies of student accommodation (referred to collectively as “tenancies” for the purposes of the Act).

Since 1 June 2019 the Act has applied to all new agreements actively granted on or after this date including renewal agreements. In accordance with the Act’s transitional provisions, the ban has not applied to tenancies entered into before 1 June 2019 or to statutory periodic tenancies that arose at the end of fixed-term ASTs that commenced before 1 June 2019. The transitional period has now come to an end and from 1 June 2020 the Act applies to all relevant tenancies in existence. However, there will still be some differences in how the various rules apply depending on when the tenancy was granted and when the payment was taken.

This is part 1 of a 3-part series exploring how the TFA provisions will apply to tenancies from 1 June 2020. This blogpost will explore how the prohibited payment provisions work and why compliance is important.The second blogpost will look at tenancy deposits and how the cap applies to different tenancies. The final blogpost will examine the holding deposit provisions.

How does the TFA apply from 1 June 2020?

The various scenarios are set out below:

New tenancy granted on or after 1 June 2019 including first tenancies and renewal tenancies

As is the case now, the Act applies so no prohibited payment can be taken. Any term in the agreement that requires a prohibited payment is not binding. This applies equally to the first tenancies and renewal tenancies. This is the most straightforward scenario as no payment taken in connection with that new tenancy will be lawful if it is not a permitted payment under the Act. Requesting a prohibited payment will be a breach of the Act.

Statutory Periodic Tenancy that arose before, on or after 1 June 2019

The Act will now apply to these tenancies as the transitional provisions have come to an end. Any term in the agreement that requires a prohibited payment ceases to be binding on the tenant from 1 June 2020. If a landlord/agent accepts a payment by mistake they have 28 days to return it to the tenant otherwise it is a prohibited payment and they will be in breach of the Act.  However, any payment taken before this date (i.e. up to 31 May 2020) will still be lawful as it will have been taken during the transitional period when the TFA restrictions did not apply.

With these tenancies that span the transitional period some payments may have been taken lawfully while later payments may not be lawful. For example, reference fees and inventory fees may have been taken lawfully at the commencement of a tenancy and default fees collected lawfully throughout the tenancy. However, a check-out fee due to be charged at the end of the tenancy will be unlawful if taken on or after 1 June 2020. Difficulties may arise if payments were taken from tenants ‘on account’ at the start of their tenancies when the fee was still allowed but the charge is only actually incurred at the end of the tenancy, for example, to cover a check-out inspection. That fee is likely to be prohibited even if collected before the ban applied and the money should be returned to the tenant.

Tenancies granted before 1 June 2019 including contractual periodic tenancies and tenancies still within their original fixed term

The Act will also now apply to these tenancies as the transitional provisions have come to an end. There is no exemption for tenancies that have a longer fixed-term period or have been contractual periodic tenancies from the outset. The ban applies retrospectively to these tenancies. Again, from 1 June 2020 any term in the tenancy requiring such a payment will cease to have effect and if a payment is accepted it must be returned within 28 days of receipt otherwise it is a prohibited payment and the landlord or agent will be in breach of the Act.

Why is this important? What are the sanctions for non-compliance?

Compliance with the TFA is important because there are serious consequences for breaching the Act. Local authorities and the lead enforcement authority can issue penalties of up to £5000 for each breach of the Act and repeated non-compliance can result in prosecution or a financial penalty of up to £30,000, banning orders and an entry on the Rogue Landlord Database and/or the Mayor of London’s Rogue Landlord Checker. Tenants can also bring claims against the landlord to recover fees charged unlawfully. You can read more about enforcement of the Act here.

One of the biggest deterrents to non-compliance is the restriction on recovering possession from assured shorthold tenants. A landlord in breach of the Act is not able to serve a valid section 21 notice until any prohibited fee has been returned to the tenant or, with the tenant’s consent, credited to their rent account or deposit (if that does not take the deposit above the cap).

Tenant advisers will have updated their section 21 checklists to check compliance with Act and the Court’s N5B Claim Form for seeking possession using the accelerated procedure has now been amended to include a number of questions relating to the Act. There is no doubt that tenant representatives will be analysing payments carefully to check that any fee taken was permitted. If it was not this could provide the tenant with a complete defence to a section 21 possession claim. However, as illustrated above, this will not always be straightforward and will involve checking when the tenancy was granted, the date when the payment was taken (and potentially when the charge was actually incurred) and, if applicable, the date the payment was repaid to the tenant. Some fees will have been taken lawfully at the time, even if they are now prohibited. Landlords/agents and their advisers will also need to ensure that they have scrutinised any payments so that they can demonstrate compliance and, if necessary any prohibited payments are repaid prior to serving a section 21 notice.

More Links, Content, Supporting Documentation & Solutions To Follow October 2020. TLA.

Coronavirus Act 2020 – How It Effects Landlords & Tenants

Coronavirus Act 2020 – How It Effects Landlords & Tenants

This note sets out how the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”) affects both business and residential tenancies taking into account the Governmental advisory guidance to help understand the implications of the Act.

As the situation is subject to change, the Government urges all landlords and tenants to abide by the latest Government guidance on COVID-19, which can be found here.

Business Tenancies

Landlords cannot evict business tenants on the grounds of non-payment of rent whilst the Coronavirus emergency continues. This currently applies from 26 March to 30 June 2020 (“the relevant period”) unless subsequently extended.

Forfeiture for non-payment of rent

During the relevant period the landlord cannot enforce a right of re-entry for non-payment of rent (the definition of rent includes service charge and insurance premium), whether by peaceable re-entry or in court proceedings. To protect the landlord’s position, the right of re-entry can only be waived during the relevant period by an express waiver in writing. These provisions do not apply to any other type of breach of covenant.

Where forfeiture proceedings for non-payment of rent are already on foot, the court cannot make an order for possession which expires before the end of the relevant period. In some cases the court will have made an order for possession which only takes effect if the tenant fails to do something (e.g. pay the arrears or instalments) by a certain date. In the High Court, if the tenant applies to vary the order the court must ensure that the tenant does not have to give possession before the end of the relevant period. In the County Court, the period during which the tenant has to pay cannot be before the last day of the relevant period (as in force at the date of the order). For existing orders, the period within which the tenant must pay the arrears is automatically extended to the end of the relevant period.

Opposing the grant of a new tenancy on the grounds of persistent delay in paying rent

Where a landlord opposes the grant of a new tenancy on the ground of persistent delay in paying rent, any failure to pay rent during the relevant period is to be disregarded.

Residential Tenancies

The Government has brought in several restrictions in relation to residential possession. Firstly, the Act lengthens the notice period required during the relevant period. For residential tenancies, the “relevant period” set out in the Act is from 26 March to 30 September 2020; unless subsequently extended.

Section 8 Notices

Possession proceedings under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 have always required the service of a notice of intention to bring proceedings for possession. The minimum period of the notice depended on the particular ground for possession relied on – from immediately, in the case of an occupier who has committed an indictable offence, to two months in the case of a former owner-occupier who wants his home back. During the relevant period, all notice periods are extended to three months. The court retains its power to dispense with service of a notice or to abridge the time.

Section 21 Notices

The Act extends the minimum notice period under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (no fault eviction) from two months to three months.

Other Private Sector Tenancies

No amendments have been made to the law affecting private sector tenancies which do not fall within the Rent Acts or the Housing Act – essentially tenancies at a very low rent (less than £1,000 pa in Greater London, £250 elsewhere) or a very high rent (in excess of £100,000 pa).

Possession claims suspended

From 27 March 2020 for a period of 90 days (i.e. up to 25 June 2020) there is a suspension of housing possession cases in the Court. This affects new or existing claims, so effectively they cannot be progressed during this period. This is in line with current public health advice to stop all non-essential movement. The Government’s strong advice to landlords is not to commence new notices seeking possession during the current time without a “very good reason” for doing so.

Maintenance and safety

Landlords should still carry out essential and urgent work to ensure that rented properties are safe. Examples given in the Governmental guidance include testing the fire alarm, roof repairs where there is a leak, boiler and plumbing repairs, broken white goods and security problems e.g. a broken window or door. Landlords should take a “pragmatic, common sense approach” to resolving issues. Where COVID-19 restrictions prevent landlords from meeting routine obligations they should not be unfairly penalised. However, the guidance specifically refers to landlords making every effort to abide by existing gas safety and electrical safety regulations (the latter comes into effect for new tenancies from 1 July 2020). Landlords must demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. If landlords are not able to engage a contractor or gain access to the property due to COVID-19 restrictions they should document their attempts and any responses. The relevant legislation already contains provisions where the landlord will not have breached his duty if he has taken all reasonable steps.

General governmental guidance

The general message is that the landlord and tenant relationship should continue as normal as far as is possible i.e. the tenant should continue to pay rent and adhere to all other terms in the tenancy agreement. Landlords should continue to comply with their obligations as well. Where the tenant is unable to pay rent due to Coronavirus related difficulties, the tenant should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity. Landlords are requested to be flexible and offer support and understanding to their tenants as part of the national effort during this national emergency. Both parties are encouraged to agree a sensible way forward including for example, to agree a lower rent and a payment plan going forward.

Where there are financial difficulties for the landlord where the tenant is not able to pay rent due to Coronavirus related difficulties, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to three months including for buy-to-let mortgages.

The future

There may well be further changes depending on how the situation develops. The Government has the power to alter the notice period required by substituting a period of up to six months. They may well also extend the suspension period on possession claims.

TLA: Choosing The Best Energy Supplier For Your Rental Property

TLA: Choosing The Best Energy Supplier For Your Rental Property

If, like many tenants, your rental package is not bills inclusive, it will fall upon you to pick your own energy supplier. But how can you go about picking the best one, with the best value for money and the biggest impact on lowering your carbon footprint?

Below, we outline some top tips on the key things you need to be considering when choosing an energy supplier…

Use comparison sites to shop around

For better or worse, the adverts for these sites are now ingrained in our collective consciousness, but they do actually have a use – particularly when it comes to comparing things like the best energy deals on the market.

Picking the right gas and electricity deal could save you considerable amounts of money each year (hundreds of pounds off your energy bills, in many cases), so it’s worth doing your research and shopping around for the best possible package before you commit yourself to a particular provider.

Sites such as Compare The Market and moneysupermarket.com allow you to compare fuel tariffs, while Which? Switch and uSwitch also allow you to compare a range of tariffs in your area.

Which tariff should you choose?

There are a number of things you should bear in mind when choosing your energy supplier. Do you want a fixed, variable or green energy deal? Do you want to combine your gas and electricity in a dual fuel package?

Do you want to be on a ‘time of use’ deal, which lowers rates for your electricity in off-peak hours – usually between midnight and 7am? If you use most of your energy during these hours, time of use is something you may want to consider. In most cases peak energy use will be outside these hours, but for some it might represent the right deal.

Meanwhile, in a similar way to mortgages, a fixed energy deal is often cheaper and more secure than a variable one – with prices fixed for the length of the contract, or fixed at different rates, at separate stages of the contract.

However, on a fixed deal, if energy rates go down, your rate will not be reduced. What’s more, while fixed deals are often the cheapest, they don’t tend to offer much flexibility in terms of switching. If you choose to change deals more than 42 days before the end of your contract, you are liable to pay a fee to do so.

A greener approach – Visit Our Green partners, WorldofRenewables.com

With the growth in renewable energy and greater awareness about climate change, many consumers are keen to take a greener approach to many aspects of life. This includes energy deals, where green energy tariffs are an option. These tariffs use more renewable energy than standard gas or electricity deals.

This could cost you more than other tariffs, but there are certain green suppliers – including OVO Energy, Green Network Energy, Green Star Energy and Ecotricity – who offer cheaper green energy deals.

With BP recently suggesting that renewable energy will be the world’s main power source by 2040, greener energy is likely to be more popular than ever in the coming years and is something you may want consider now to help the environment and, in many cases, secure lower bills.

Check out our Going Green section on the homepage.

Switching tariffs or providers

If you’re already on one tariff, and want to switch to a cheaper one to save money on your energy bills, you can ask your supplier to move you to a cheaper tariff. Or, alternatively, you can switch to a totally new provider.

Switching can save you money and can also allow you to source a more energy efficient tariff and enable you to switch more easily at a future juncture.

Assuming you are not in debt to your current supplier, you can switch by phone or online. You can use the sites mentioned above to search for deals by postcode and compare tariffs, inputting your energy usage to ensure you get the most accurate results possible.

If you have a smart meter, information on your energy usage will be provided – or you could simply look at your latest bill.

Once you’ve found the right deal, you can confirm your switch by providing your new supplier with full bank and address details. It should take around three weeks for the switch to take place, and you may have to pay a small cancellation fee (typically £25 to £30 for each service) to your existing supplier, especially if you’re on a fixed deal.

The Big Six – who are they?

When the topic of energy suppliers in the UK is raised, you’ll often hear about the Big Six – the companies responsible for providing approximately 95% of the country’s energy. But who are these firms?

  • British Gas
  • npower
  • ScottishPower
  • SSE
  • EDF Energy
  • E.ON UK

While these companies provide the vast majority of UK homes with gas and electricity, there are a whole host of smaller suppliers on the market who may offer better deals, including local and green providers.

Often, these smaller companies have higher levels of customer satisfaction as they can offer a more personal service.

What’s more, fears about issues being caused by a small supplier going out of business suddenly are misguided, with energy regulator Ofgem recently introducing measures to protect consumers from losing their energy supply if a small supplier goes bust.

Despite the possible benefits of switching suppliers, many are put off by the time, cost and hassle they perceive to be involved. As a result, less than half of the UK’s population has ever switched their energy supplier, even with regular calls from MPs for people to browse around for better deals.

Paying for your energy

In some cases, people opt for a prepayment tariff, whereby you top up your energy using a prepayment meter. This means you pay for your energy in advance and swerve the prospect of monthly and quarterly bills, offering more flexibility and an effective pay as you go approach to energy.

While this ensures you are more likely to only pay for the energy you need, a prepayment meter typically makes gas and electricity more expensive.

If you don’t have a prepayment meter, you can pay your energy bill on a quarterly basis (by cheque, direct debit or BACS transfer), or via a monthly direct debit. The latter option is very often the cheapest, with most suppliers providing discounts for those paying by direct debit.

One other option is to make regular payments via a credit or debit card, which can be done weekly, every two weeks or every month.

Splitting the bill

If you are part of a house share or living in a student property with your friends while at university, you will want to find a way of splitting the bills you owe fairly and easily.

Sites such as Glide simplify bills for students by combining all utilities into an equal monthly split for each tenant, reducing the possibility of disagreements over who owes what and who paid what when. It also means chasing housemates for money becomes less of an issue.

However you do it, you should decide on a system and stick to it. If one or two people use much more energy than others, they may be willing to contribute more to the monthly energy costs. Work things out fairly and remain consistent with this thereafter.

As you can see, there is quite a lot to get your head around when it comes to choosing the right energy supplier for your rental property. But there is plenty of help out there to help you pick the right package and provider, and you may want to seek advice from your landlord, friends or parents on which energy supplier they would recommend.

Remember, too, switching isn’t as hard as you probably think it is, so it’s worth regularly reviewing your energy package to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.

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