Welcome to this week’s Newsround.
One of the jobs that landlords have to do is arrange for gas safety inspections to be carried out every 12 months and give the certificate to tenants.
New obligations are also shortly to come on board with the new electricity regulations (the subject of our Landlord Law Training webinar yesterday) which are scheduled to come into force from 1 June with landlords needing to have carried out inspections for all new tenancies by 1 July.
However many landlords are finding it difficult. A survey by the National Residential Landlords Association in March showed that 38 per cent of landlords are struggling to source maintenance contractors to undertake required work and just over a third are having difficulties undertaking work in their properties because either themselves or their tenants, are self-isolating
In view of this, the NRLA has called for a six-month extension to the validity of all gas and electrical safety certificate. Ben Beadle, CEO of the NRLA saying:
Whilst landlords should ensure that urgent work to ensure properties are safe for tenants is carried out, routine maintenance and checks need to be delayed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Extending the life of gas and electrical safety certificates will protect landlords and tenants from unnecessary contact and provide landlords with legal protection from enforcement action where they are simply unable to get such work undertaken through no fault of their own.
We shall have to see if the government agree to this.
The Right to Rent Scheme Appeal
The Court of Appeal has allowed the Governments appeal against the High Court ruling last year that the controversial Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights and causes discrimination against non-UK nationals, as well as British ethnic minorities. (You can see the judgment here).
The ruling found that discrimination as a result of the scheme “whilst quite possibly foreseeable, was clearly not inevitable.”
It accepted that landlords discriminate against those who do not have British passports as a result of “administrative convenience and a fear of the consequences of letting to an irregular immigrant.”
But it concluded that this was not due to the design of the scheme and stated it was up to the Government to enforce both Right to Rent and Equality Act obligations.
The ruling also added that most landlords are compliant and said the process requires the checking and copying of at most, two identity documents, estimated to take 20 minutes, which is something employers also manage to do.
It said: “If the discrimination is greater than Parliament envisaged when enacting the provisions, , then that is a matter for Parliament.”
This decision going to be an unpopular decision with almost everyone apart from the government and maybe companies who carry out the testing.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants who brought the initial claim jointly with the Residential Landlords Association have already announced that they will be bringing an appeal to the Supreme Court, saying
Right to Rent turns landlords into untrained border guards. If they rent a property to someone without the right paperwork, they face huge fines or even imprisonment.
But there is effectively no consequence for taking the ‘low-risk’ option, opting for white people with British passports.
The result is that the Court of Appeal thought it could take black people, ethnic minorities and migrants up to twice as long to find a property to rent as a white British person.
The Government should be doing everything in its power to stamp out discrimination – instead, it is still arguing it should be allowed to cause it.
Note that we will be doing another Landlord Law Legal Cases webinar shortly with Justin Bates, one of the barristers in the case.
I wrote last week about the insurers who were refusing to honour business interruption policies taken out by letting agents. It seems that agents are not alone in finding this.
This article in the Guardian looks at similar problems being experienced by pubs and nightclubs who are now joining together to bring legal proceedings against insurer Hiscox. Maybe letting agents should join in?
In the meantime, Propertymark-approved insurance broker Gallagher who was responsible for selling many of the Hiscox policies to agents has told the Negotiator that it wants to ‘help affected agents’ saying
As you would expect we are doing everything we reasonably can to support affected clients and we are in ongoing discussions with them currently.
Bermuda-based Hiscox, which generates revenues of nearly £3 billion a year, has issued a statement saying:
Like others in the industry, Hiscox UK’s core small commercial package policies do not provide cover for business interruption as a result of the general measures taken by the UK government in response to a pandemic.
There have also been warnings that agents could face increased business insurance premiums due to the coronavirus pandemic. Happy days …
MPs to examine the effect of coronavirus on the rental sector
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee have issued a call for evidence to examine the effect of the pandemic and Government support for tenants as well as those who are homeless, saying:
The Government has … introduced a number of schemes intended to support people in the private rented sector, including halting evictions for three months and raising the Local Housing Allowance rate.
However, there are concerns about the short and long-term impact of these strategies, including the quality of accommodation and access to amenities, such as for homeless people in temporary accommodation and the exit strategy when social distancing measures are reduced.
There are also concerns about people in the private rented sector who may build up rent arrears over the coming months and still face eviction when the three-month ban expires.
The inquiry will examine how effective the Government support has been in supporting individuals in the private rented sector or who are homeless.
It will also look at what long term strategies will need to be put in place to support both groups in the long-term, once current measures expire.
- A report on the RLA March Survey of its members on the effect coronavirus pandemic
- How one agency is still securing tenancies despite lockdown
- Mayor calls for ‘Triple Lock’ protection for London’s private renters
- Estate agency and its landlords work together to help NHS nurses
- Nearly Legal learns of a challenge to Practice Direction 51Z (the one which stayed possession claims)
- Chestertons does thousands of virtual viewings and agrees hundreds of new tenancies
- Housing minister says estate agents are NOT key workers
- Billionaire landlord tells tenants to use lunch and holiday savings to pay full rent
Newsround will be back next week