This month Pilgrims Managing Director, James Griffin asses Coronavirus impact

News at Pilgrims Sales & Lettings | 22/02/2021

This month Pilgrims Managing Director, James Griffin assesses the Coronavirus impact on the legal statute in the Private Rental Sector and looks ahead to what in the pipeline for Landlords and Tenants

The past year has seen societal changes that none of us could ever have foreseen, including some major legislation in the Private Rental Sector. It is difficult to stay current when writing this blog as the goal posts are moving almost daily.

This month I want to focus on some of the implemented changes that affect Landlords and Tenants the most in the last year, and to look at what is ahead in the coming months.

Eviction Ban in England due to end

As widely reported, enforcement of possession claims in England by bailiffs was banned until February 14th 2021 and last week the Government extended this ban until March 31st 2021. Although the ban excludes exceptional circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or ‘substantial’ levels of rent arrears (over 6 months), the backlog in available County Court dates makes all possessions effectively stayed. Will this be extended again? Rumour has it that it is more than likely to be “yes”, but the next extension (if implemented) will likely to be the last.

Extended notice periods for Section 8 and Section 21 possession claims end

In August 2020 the Government Increased the minimum notice period for most possession claims to six months. This excluded a number of grounds for possession under Section 8, namely those based on the occupier’s antisocial behaviour and substantial rent arrears as mentioned above. The temporary measure will expire on 31st March 2021, unless of course extended. My view is an extension is highly likely and we may never return to the previously legislated statute for shorter notice periods.

Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020

A reminder to all Landlords that the 1st April 2021 is the deadline to ensure that all their private rented properties (both new and existing tenancies) provide their Tenants (one copy to each Tenant) with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). If you have not organised this yet, my advice is not to leave it until the last minute. Electricians are backed up with compliance work and may not have last minute availability.

The importance of EICR April deadline cannot be stressed enough. Non-compliance will likely render notices invalid and potentially have a detrimental effect on the Housing Act status of a Tenancy. Local authorities also have the power to levy fines of up to £30,000 for any Landlords who fail to comply.

Government Debt Respite Scheme

The Government recently announced the Debt Respite Scheme will come into effect from May this year. Also known as ‘Breathing Space’, the legislation gives those in debt the right not to be pursued by creditors for up to 60 days by freezing enforcement action. It must be accessed through an approved debt adviser registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, or via a local authority which is approved to offer debt advice.

Watch this space!

Carbon monoxide alarms - After a Government consultation in November 2020, there will be an extension of regulations on domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. These are likely to require Landlords to install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where a fixed combustion appliance is used (excluding gas cookers).

The removal of Section 21 – The ‘Renters’ Reform Bill’ is almost certain to become statute in the next 12 months. Whilst there is much scaremongering on this topic, it is likely the abolition of Section 21 will incorporate an overhaul of Section 8, allowing for improved and clearer grounds for possession. A transparent streamlining of procedures is certainly welcomed from all sector professionals!

Changes to EPC regulations – A timeline for minimum ‘C’ rating on all rented property. This may sound alarm bells to thousands of Landlords, but this will likely make provision to include ‘green government grants’ availability.

In conclusion, there is a lot going on behind the scenes and 2021 will reshape the future of the Private Rental Sector. Beneath the headlines, my view is that we are moving in the right direction, with a better balance of Landlord and Tenant rights. There is a clear message to the Government, and their legislators, from us all to take appropriate time, link regulation, and most of all, give the industry time to catch its breath. Tenants and Landlords alike need time to dust themselves down and recover from such a difficult and challenging time.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for information only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any related questions to any part of this article, please contact a qualified professional to give such legal advice.