Tag: government landlord guidance

APRIL: Domestic private rented property: minimum energy efficiency standard – landlord guidance

APRIL: Domestic private rented property: minimum energy efficiency standard – landlord guidance

Guidance for landlords of domestic private rented property on how to comply with the 2018 ‘Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency’ standard (EPC band E).

This guidance provides information on the main aspects of the regulations. If your particular situation is not covered, we have more detailed guidance including case studies.

Find out if your property is covered by the Regulations

The Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations set a minimum energy efficiency level for domestic private rented properties.

The Regulations apply to all domestic private rented properties that are:

  • let on specific types of tenancy agreement
  • legally required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Answer these questions to find out whether your property is covered by the Regulations

1. Is your property let on one of the following types of domestic tenancies:

  • an assured tenancy?
  • a regulated tenancy?
  • a domestic agricultural tenancy?

2. Is your property legally required to have an EPC?

If the property you let has been marketed for sale or let, or modified, in the past 10 years then it will probably be legally required to have an EPC.

If you answered Yes to both these questions, and your property has an EPC rating of F or G, you must take appropriate steps to comply with the requirements of the MEES Regulations. We explain how to do this below.

If you answered No to one or both of these questions, your property is not covered by the Regulations, and you don’t need to take action to improve the property rating. You may let it with an EPC rating of F or G.

Find out how to get a rating on your property

Find out more about EPC requirements for homes

When you need to take action to improve your property to EPC E

Since 1 April 2020, landlords can no longer let or continue to let properties covered by the MEES Regulations if they have an EPC rating below E, unless they have a valid exemption in place.

If you are currently planning to let a property with an EPC rating of F or G, you need to improve the property’s rating to E, or register an exemption, before you enter into a new tenancy.

If you are currently letting a property with an EPC rating of F or G, and you haven’t already taken action, you must improve the property’s rating to E immediately, or register an exemption.

If your property is currently empty, and you are not planning to let it, you don’t need to take any action to improve its rating until you decide to let it again.

Funding improvements to your property

The cost cap: you will never be required to spend more than £3,500 (including VAT) on energy efficiency improvements.

If you cannot improve your property to EPC E for £3,500 or less, you should make all the improvements which can be made up to that amount, then register an ‘all improvements made’ exemption.

There are 3 ways to fund the improvements to your property:

Option 1: Third party funding

If you are able to secure third-party funding to cover the full cost of improving your property to EPC E, you can use this and you don’t need to invest your own funding:

  • the cost cap does not apply
  • you should make use of all the funding you secure to get your property to band E, or if possible higher. Funding can include:
  • Energy Company Obligation (ECO)
  • local authority grants
  • Green Deal finance

Find out more about funding opportunities for landlords

Option 2: Combination of third-party funding and self-funding

If you can secure third-party funding but it is:

  • less than £3,500, and
  • not enough to improve your property to EPC E

you may need to top up with your own funds to the value of the cost cap.

Please note

  • you can count any energy efficiency investment made to your property since 1 October 2017 within the cost cap
  • if your property can be improved to E for less than the cost cap, that is all you need to spend

Option 3: Self funding

If you are unable to secure any funding, you need to use your own funds to improve your property. You will never need to spend more than the cost cap.

You do not need to spend up to £3,500 if your property can be improved to EPC E for less. If you can improve your property to E for less than the cap, you will have met your obligation.

If it would cost more than £3,500 to improve your property to E, you should install all recommended measures that can be installed within that amount, then register an exemption.

If you have made any energy efficiency improvements to your property since 1 October 2017, you can include the cost of those improvements within the £3,500 cost cap.

Selecting energy efficiency measures

Your EPC report will include a list of recommendations detailing measures which should improve the energy efficiency of your property. It will include both a short list of top actions you can take, and a more detailed list further down setting out all recommended measures. The recommendations will help you choose which measure or combination of measures to install.

Sample table of recommendations from the EPC report

These measures will improve the energy performance of your dwelling. The performance ratings after improvements listed below are cumulative, that is, they assume the improvements have been installed in the order that they appear in the table.

Recommended measuresIndicative costTypical savings per yearRating after improvement
Room-in-roof insulation£1,500-£2,700£837E39
Internal or external wall insulation£4,000-£14,000£195E45
Solid floor insulation£4,000-£6,000£122E49
Increase hot water cylinder insulation£15-£30£142E54
Draught proofing£80-£120£18D55
Low energy lighting£20£21D56
High heat retention storage heaters / dual immersion cylinder£1,200-£1,800£319D67
Solar water heating£4,000-£6,000£57C69
Replace single glazed windows with low-E double glazed windows£3,300-£6,500£123C73
Solar photovoltaic panels£5,000-£8,000£287B83

The MEES Regulations refer to the concept of ‘relevant energy efficiency improvements’. This is a measure, or package of measures, recommended in your EPC report, which can be purchased and installed for £3,500 or less (including VAT) – the cost cap.

Other types of energy efficiency reports may contain the recommendations list from the EPC report, for example, a Green Deal Advice Report (GDAR), or reports produced by qualified surveyors.

If you have installed all ‘relevant energy efficiency improvements’ for your property, but your property’s EPC rating is still below E, you can register an exemption on the grounds that ‘all relevant improvements have been made and the property remains below an E’.

You are free to install any energy efficiency measure(s), but:

  • if your chosen improvements do not appear in the list of ‘recommended energy efficiency improvements’
  • and they fail to improve your property to EPC E

you will not be able to let the property or register an ‘all relevant improvements made’ exemption. You will then need to make further attempts to improve the rating to a minimum of E, in order to let the property.

Registering an exemption

There are various exemptions that apply to the prohibition on letting a property with an energy efficiency rating below E.

If your property meets the criteria for any of the exemptions, you will be able to let it once you have registered the exemption on the PRS Exemptions Register.

Information required for all exemptions

  • address of the property
  • type of exemption you are registering
  • copy of a valid EPC for the property

‘All relevant improvements made’ exemption

Register this exemption if the property is still below EPC E after improvements have been made up to the cost cap (£3,500 incl VAT), or there are none that can be made.

This exemption lasts 5 years. After that it will expire and you must try again to improve the property’s EPC rating to E. If it is still not possible, you may register a further exemption.

To register this exemption, you need to provide this additional information:

  • if you didn’t rely on your EPC report to select measures appropriate for your property, and instead opted for a report prepared by a surveyor for example, you must provide a copy of that report
  • details, including date of installation, of all recommended improvements you made at the property (unless none were recommended)

‘High cost’ exemption

Register this exemption if no improvement can be made because the cost of installing even the cheapest recommended measure would exceed £3,500 (including VAT).

This exemption lasts 5 years. After that it will expire and you must try again to improve the property’s EPC rating to E. If it is still not possible, you may register a further exemption.

To register this exemption, you need to provide this additional information:

  • 3 quotes from qualified installers for purchasing and installing the cheapest recommended measure, demonstrating that the cost would exceed £3,500 (including VAT)
  • written confirmation that you are satisfied that the measure exceeds £3,500 (including VAT)

Wall insulation exemption

Register this exemption if the only relevant improvements for your property are:

  • cavity wall insulation
  • external wall insulation
  • or internal wall insulation (for external walls)

AND

you have obtained written expert advice showing that these measures would negatively impact the fabric or structure of the property (or the building of which it is part).

This exemption lasts 5 years. After that it will expire and you must try again to improve the property’s EPC rating to E. If it is still not possible, you may register a further exemption.

To register this exemption, you need to provide this additional information:

  • a copy of the written opinion of a relevant expert stating that the property cannot be improved to an EPC E because a recommended wall insulation measure would have a negative impact on the property (or the building of which it is part)

Register this exemption if the relevant improvements for your property need consent from another party, such as a tenant, superior landlord, morgagee, freeholder or planning department, and despite your best efforts that consent cannot be obtained, or is given subject to conditions you could not reasonably comply with.

This exemption lasts:

  • 5 years
  • or, where lack of tenant consent was the issue, until the current tenancy ends or is assigned to a new tenant

In either case, once the exemption comes to an end, you need to try again to improve the EPC rating of the property, or register a further exemption.

To register this exemption, you need to provide this additional information:

  • copies of any correspondence and/or relevant documentation (such as a letter from your tenant, or a planning department decision notification) demonstrating that consent for the recommended measure was required and sought, and that this consent was refused, or was granted subject to a condition that you were not reasonably able to comply with

Property devaluation exemption

Register this exemption if you have evidence showing that making energy efficiency improvements to your property would devalue it by more than 5%. In order to register this exemption you will need a report from an independent surveyor. This surveyor needs:

  • to be on the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) register of valuers
  • to advise that the installation of the relevant improvement measures would reduce the market value of the property, or the building it forms part of, by more than 5%

This exemption lasts 5 years. After that it will expire and you must try again to improve the property’s EPC rating to E. If it is still not possible, you may register a further exemption.

To register this exemption, you need to provide this additional information:

  • a copy of the report prepared by an independent RICS surveyor that provides evidence that the installation of the recommended measures would devalue to property by more than 5%

Temporary exemption due to recently becoming a landlord

If you have recently become a landlord under certain circumstances (see section 4.1.6 in Chapter 4 of the full Guidance document for details of those circumstances) you will not be expected to take immediate action to improve your property to EPC E. You may claim a 6 months exemption from the date you became a landlord.

This exemption lasts 6 months from the date you became the landlord. After that it will expire and you must have either:

  • improved the property to EPC E
  • or registered another valid exemption, if one applies

To register this exemption, you need to provide this additional information:

  • the date on which you became the landlord for the property
  • the circumstances under which you became the landlord

How to register an exemption

  • create an account
  • enter the address of your property
  • state the type of exemption you want to register
  • upload all the required evidence, including a copy of a valid EPC for the property (the Register can accept pdf, png, jpg, jpeg, doc or docx files, with a maximum size of 4 MB per file)

Exemption data cannot be amended once the data has been submitted. Make sure you have checked everything carefully before submitting.

All exemptions apply from the point you register them.

If you improve an exempt property to E after having registered an exemption (or stop renting the property out) you can cancel the exemption by going to your account ‘dashboard’ page and selecting ‘View or manage my exemptions’.

Register an exemption

Assisted digital to register an exemption

If Assisted Digital support is required to register an exemption please get in touch by email PRSRegisterSupport@beis.gov.uk or call the digital helpline on 0333 234 3422.

The Assisted Digital service provides digital support in lodging an exemption on the register, but it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that their property meets the eligibility criteria for an exemption. The service is not able to provide advice on whether individual properties meet the criteria for an exemption.

Members of the public can:

Enforcement and penalties

The MEES Regulations are enforced by local authorities, who have a range of powers to check and ensure compliance.

The Regulations mean that, since 1 April 2018, private landlords may not let domestic properties on new tenancies to new or existing tenants if the Energy Efficiency Certificate (EPC) rating is F or G (unless an exemption applies).

From 1 April 2020 the prohibition on letting F and G properties will extend to all relevant properties, even where there has been no change in tenancy.

If a local authority believes a landlord has failed to fulfil their obligations under the MEES Regulations, they can serve the landlord with a compliance notice. If a breach is confirmed, the landlord may receive a financial penalty.

Non-compliance with the Regulations

Your local authority may check for different forms of non-compliance, including one or more of the following:

  • from 1 April 2018, you let your property in breach of the Regulations
  • from 1 April 2020, you continue to let your property in breach of the Regulations
  • you have registered any false or misleading information on the PRS Exemptions Register

Compliance notices

If a local authority believes a landlord may be in breach, they may serve a compliance notice requesting information to help them decide whether a breach has occurred. They may serve a compliance notice up to 12 months after a suspected breach occurred.

A compliance notice may request information on:

  • the EPC that was valid for the time when the property was let
  • the tenancy agreement used for letting the property
  • information on energy efficiency improvements made
  • any Energy Advice Report in relation to the property
  • any other relevant document

Penalties

If a local authority confirms that a property is (or has been) let in breach of the Regulations, they may serve a financial penalty up to 18 months after the breach and/or publish details of the breach for at least 12 months. Local authorities can decide on the level of the penalty, up to maximum limits set by the Regulations.

The maximum penalties amounts apply per property and per breach of the Regulations. They are:

  • up to £2,000 and/or publication penalty for renting out a non-compliant property for less than 3 months
  • up to £4,000 and/or publication penalty for renting out a non-compliant property for 3 months or more
  • up to £1,000 and/or publication for providing false or misleading information on the PRS Exemptions Register
  • up to £2,000 and/or publication for failure to comply with a compliance notice

The maximum amount you can be fined per property is £5,000 in total.

Right of review and right of appeal

If you do not agree with a penalty notice, you may ask your local authority to review its decision. They can withdraw the penalty notice if:

  • new evidence shows a breach has not occurred
  • a breach has occurred, but evidence shows the landlord took all reasonable steps to avoid the breach
  • they decide that because of the circumstances of the case, it was not appropriate to issue a penalty

If a local authority decides to uphold a penalty notice, a landlord may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal if they think that:

  • the penalty notice was based on an error of fact or an error of law
  • the penalty notice does not comply with a requirement imposed by the Regulations
  • it was inappropriate to serve a penalty notice on you in the particular circumstances

Full compliance and enforcement process

The Local Authority (LA) checks if a property is in breach of Regulations where:

a. from 1 April 2018 it as been privately let to new or existing tenant; or
b. from 1 April 2020 it is privately let; or
c. the landlord registered an exemption and provided false or misleading information

If the property appears to be in breach of the Regulations, the LA may serve compliance notice on the landlord requesting further information.

If the property is in compliance, no further action will be taken.

If satisfied that the landlord is in breach of the Regulations, the Local Authority may serve a penalty notice on the landlord and publish details of the breach:

a. either the landlord accepts the penalty notice and pays the penalty
b. or if the landlord disagrees with the notice, they can request a review of the penalty notice decision.

The LA reviews the decision:

a. either they find in the landlord’s favour and the penalty is quashed
b. or they uphold the penalty notice

If the penalty notice is upheld, the landlord can appeal the decision to the First-tier Tribunal which will review the decision:

a. either the Tribunal finds in the landlord’s favour and the penalty is quashed
b. or the Tribunal rejects the landlord’s appeal, and the penalty is affirmed

The landlord then:

a. either pays the penalty
b. or does not pay the penalty, in which case the enforcement authority may take debt recovery action

More detail and examples

To find the full detail and case studies, read:

Legal disclaimer

Please note that BEIS cannot provide legal advice or a definitive interpretation of the law, as this is a matter for the courts. If you have questions that aren’t covered here, you will need to seek independent legal advice.

Setting long-term energy performance standards

Government has committed to look at a long term trajectory to improve the energy performance standards of privately rented homes in England and Wales, with the aim for as many of them as possible to be upgraded to EPC Band C by 2030, where practical, cost-effective and affordable.

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.

Rent and coronavirus: What comes next for UK landlords and tenants affected by Covid-19?

The coronavirus crisis is now fast-approaching its fourth month and we’re only just starting to see the economic impact. The spectre of a severe recession, the likes of which, in the words of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, “we have not seen” looms large. His words are unambiguous: we are awaiting the biggest economic shock in recent history.

There is rightful concern from one demographic in particular: private renters. This is a group thought to contain about 20 million people who rely on private landlords to keep a roof over their heads. It has grown rapidly over the last decade or so because getting on the housing ladder has become increasingly unaffordable while social housing has been in increasingly short supply.

This pandemic has exposed the precariousness of Britain’s private rented sector for what it is: a national emergency. Before Covid-19 disrupted life as we knew it, renters were already worse off than homeowners, spending a higher proportion of their earnings on housing. Sixty three per cent of them had no savings and almost half of working renters were just one paycheck away from losing their home. Think of them as the “squeezed middle” Ed Miliband once tried to champion – they were already stretching themselves to cover the most essential cost of all: housing.

The Government clocked this would be a huge problem early on. In late March, they announced a three-month suspension of evictions and the restoration of Local Housing Allowance to the lowest third of market rents which renters could access by applying for Universal Credit. These measures went hand in hand with the Job Retention Scheme which, they hoped, would tide anyone whose job was at risk over.

Now, as furloughs are extended, business closures are prolonged and redundancies registered, the housing charity Shelter estimates that around 1.7 million renters expect to lose their job. Early tremors revealed by the latest Office for National Statistics employment data – a 69 per cent increase in people applying to Universal Credit – point to a storm ahead. Citizens Advice estimates that 2.6m renters are behind on rent or expect to be as a result of this pandemic.

As we approach the end of that three-month period, questions are being asked about what the plan is for renters now. Will the evictions suspension be extended or will we, as the London Councils Group has warned, see an “avalanche” of them when it is lifted? Will the increase to Local Housing Allowance continue?

Left-leaning social media accounts are awash with calls for a “rent strike”. Labour’s shadow housing secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, has published a five-point plan for renters which includes protecting them from bankruptcy as a result of any rent arrears. Meanwhile, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said the Government is still “thinking carefully” about what to do next and “developing a much more credible plan to protect renters and to help to shield them through this crisis.”

So where does that leave private renters who are, completely understandably, very worried?

What could happen with evictions and rent arrears?

As things stand, all evictions proceedings are suspended. This was initially done for a 90-day period and takes us up until the end of June. Last week Jenrick told Parliament a decision would be made on the future of the ban shortly before then. One of the suggestions in Labour’s five-point plan is extending it for six months.

Giles Peaker, an expert housing solicitor and partner at Anthony Gold explains: “The Government has increased the periods for notices seeking possession, and the courts have currently put all possession claims on hold until 25 June. But unless this is extended, or other measures are brought in by the Government, there is a real risk that people will face possession claims for rent arrears in a month or two, or possession claims after a section 21 notice. Tenants (and their guarantors) may also face money claims for arrears.”

One of the issues on the horizon, he adds, is that legally, as things stand, having been impacted by the crisis is not a defence for not paying rent for anyone challenging an eviction order in court.

It’s worth noting that, before Covid-19 took over every aspect of public life, we were expecting legislation to ban Section 21 evictions (also known as unfair or revenge evictions). It’s likely this will return to Parliament at some point. However, as Peaker notes, this wouldn’t protect those who haven’t been able to pay their rent.

What help can I get with rent because of coronavirus?

Back in March the Government announced that landlords could take a “mortgage holiday” if their tenants were unable to pay rent and encouraged them to be “compassionate” in such situations. Some didn’t feel this went far enough.

The Government also increased Local Housing Allowance (LHA) so that it covers the lowest third of market rents. This can be accessed by renters who find themselves unemployed because of this crisis via Universal Credit. However, not everyone will be eligible for this.

There is good news, though. When asked by i whether this change to LHA was permanent a spokesperson for the Treasury said: “This will apply for the 2020-21 financial year. There are no plans to reverse the increase.”

However, rents fluctuate. So, while the increase to LHA may be here to stay for now, if we saw rents rise, this wouldn’t stay in line with them and would continue to only cover the lowest third of market rents.

What ideas are being proposed to help renters pay their rent?

Labour’s plan to help renters was criticised by some because it proposed giving those who fall behind on rent a two-year period to pay back rent arrears which would leave them indebted to their landlord.

In Spain, a low-interest loan system has been introduced to help renters honour their payments. When Labour MP Clive Betts asked Jenrick if we would consider something similar, he didn’t dismiss the idea.

However, this would likely attract similar criticism to that thrown at Labour’s plan. Renters are already worse off than homeowners and saddling them with debt during an economic crisis will undoubtedly harm their prospects moving forward.

Caitlin Wilkinson, Policy Manager at Generation Rent, tells i that the rent strike being encouraged on social media by some is not the answer. “Suspending rents temporarily could put renters at risk of debt once the freeze is lifted,” she explains. “If we had a functional welfare system this wouldn’t be an issue, so fixing that should be our priority. Generation Rent is calling on the Government to remove the benefit caps, increase local housing allowance, and expand eligibility.”

So, what’s the alternative? Increasing the generosity of the housing benefits would be one place to start – this is something the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has already called for. JRF told i in April that the current increase to covering the lowest third of market rents just doesn’t go far enough and won’t break the fall of those who were already over-stretched. Shelter is calling for it to be increased further so that it covers “average rents” in any given area.

It’s really important that the Government comes up with an adequate plan to support renters who suffer financially in the coming months. As Peaker warns, a tenant not paying rent, regardless of the reason, could have serious implications. A tenancy agreement is a legal contract which means that “tenants are still obliged under their tenancy agreement to pay the rent, no matter what has changed in their circumstances.”

The Government, Peaker notes, have so far stopped short of telling landlords what to do. “While some landlords have agreed to waive rent, or reduce it, or for repayment plans in the future, there is currently no obligation on them to do this.”

Because so many people now rely on the private rented sector, an increase in the benefits available to renters is, in effect, going to result in a mammoth public bailout of private landlords on a scale never seen before. Building the social housing we’ve lost through Right to Buy is an obvious way out of this long-term but, in the short-term, renters can be reassured that the Local Housing Allowance increase isn’t going anywhere and wait for the Government’s next announcement.

Government support available for landlords and renters reflecting the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). With these in force, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home.

To ensure all renters are clear on the full package of support that is currently available to them, we are bringing this together into one place.

From today (26 March 2020) landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period.

This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the 3 month notice period can be extended if needed.

This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After 3 months if the tenant has not moved a landlord needs to apply to court in order to proceed.

From tomorrow (27 March 2020) following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellor’s agreement the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the system or any about to go in to it can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.

This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales.

Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme. However we have also put specific measures in place:

  • We are working with the Master of Rolls to strengthen the pre-action protocol requirement and also extend this to the private rented sector. This will help landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen.
  • We have already made £500 million available to fund households experiencing financial hardship.
  • As part of the workers’ support package, the Chancellor announced the government will pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, where workers are placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
  • Both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will increase and from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.

The government is also committed to supporting landlords, and maintaining the positive partnership between tenants and their landlords. That is why, in addition to the measures outlined above, we have also agreed with lenders that they will ensure support is available where it is needed for landlords. Landlords will also be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have a Buy to Let mortgages.

Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made.

An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords. Local authorities are also encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement.