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Private sector housing advice and enforcement


The aim of this page is to provide some background information so that private sector landlords and managing agents will be aware of the relevant content of the legislation relating to private rented properties, in addition to the Housing Act 2004.

The Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act 2018 came into force on 20 March 2019. The Act amends Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require all landlords to ensure that their properties, including common parts, are fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.

The obligations imposed by the Act apply to:

  • Tenancies of less than 7 years granted on or after 20 March 2019
  • New secure, assured and introductory tenancies granted on or after 20 March 2019
  • Tenancies renewed for a fixed term on or after 20 March 2019
  • From 20 March 2020 - all periodic tenancies (including those that commenced before 20 March 2019).

The provisions defining what is, and is not, fit for human habitation are contained in the amended s10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. In addition, if the property is subject to any of the 29 ‘hazards’ set out in Schedule 1 of the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005, it will be deemed unfit for human habitation.

The Act does, however, list a number of exceptional circumstances where a landlord will not be liable for the lack of fitness for human habitation of premises.

In the event that a Court finds a landlord in breach of the Act, the landlord can be ordered to pay compensation to the tenant and/or to undertake works, including improvement works, to the premises. There is currently no prescribed limit on the compensation that a landlord can be ordered to pay.

A further consequence of being found in breach of the Act is that landlords of assured shorthold tenants will not be able to avail themselves of the section 21 “no fault” possession procedure, provisions which effectively run alongside the protections already in place for such tenants from retaliatory evictions under the Deregulation Act 2014.

Landlords are liable to effect repairs to remedy a hazard within “…a reasonable amount of time…” of being made aware of the existence of the defect by the tenant, although there is no notice requirement in relation to the common parts of a building, in which case a landlord will be deemed to be impliedly on notice.

The Act makes clear that a landlord should, upon being notified of a defect, ensure that it is taking active steps to remedy the defect and ensure that the premises are put back into a habitable condition, failing which the tenant can issue proceedings seeking damages and an order compelling the landlord to undertake the necessary works.

 

The provisions defining what is, and is not, fit for human habitation are contained in the amended s10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and include:

  • Where the building is neglected and in bad condition
  • Where the building is unstable
  • Serious damp problems
  • Unsafe layout
  • Insufficient natural light
  • Insufficient ventilation
  • Problems with the supply of hot and cold water
  • Problems with drainage or lavatories
  • Difficulty in preparing and cooking food or washing up.

In addition, if the property is subject to any of the 29 ‘hazards’ set out in Schedule 1 of the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005, it will be deemed unfit for human habitation. Those hazards include:

  • Exposure to house dust mites, damp, mould or fungal growths (Paragraph 1 of Schedule 1)
  • Exposure to low or high temperatures (Paragraphs 2 and 3)
  • A lack of adequate space for living and sleeping (Paragraph 11)
  • A lack of adequate lighting (Paragraph 13)
  • Exposure to noise (Paragraph 14)
  • Electrical hazards/exposure to electricity (Paragraph 23).

 

The Act does, however, list a number of exceptional circumstances where a landlord will not be liable for the lack of fitness for human habitation of premises, including:

  • Where the problem is caused by the behaviour of the tenant
  • Where the problem is caused by acts of God
  • Where the problem is caused by the tenants’ own possessions
  • Where the landlord has not been able to obtain consent for any necessary works (for example planning permission or permission from freeholders to undertake works). In these circumstances, the landlord must be able to provide evidence of its reasonable efforts to gain the necessary permission
  • Where the tenant is not an individual, eg lettings to other landlords. 

 

In the event that a Court finds a landlord in breach of the Act, the landlord can be ordered to pay compensation to the tenant and/or to undertake works, including improvement works, to the premises. There is currently no prescribed limit on the compensation that a landlord can be ordered to pay. The lack of clarity in this respect should act as a further incentive to landlords to ensure that they are not in breach of the new legislation.

A further consequence of being found in breach of the Act is that landlords of assured shorthold tenants will not be able to avail themselves of the section 21 “no fault” possession procedure, provisions which effectively run alongside the protections already in place for such tenants from retaliatory evictions under the Deregulation Act 2014.

 

Landlords are liable to effect repairs to remedy a hazard within “…a reasonable amount of time…” of being made aware of the existence of the defect by the tenant, although there is no notice requirement in relation to the common parts of a building, in which case a landlord will be deemed to be impliedly on notice.

As with disrepair under section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, what is a “reasonable amount of time” is not specifically defined by the legislation and will depend on all the relevant circumstances. The Act makes clear that a landlord should, upon being notified of a defect, ensure that it is taking active steps to remedy the defect and ensure that the premises are put back into a habitable condition, failing which the tenant can issue proceedings seeking damages and an order compelling the landlord to undertake the necessary works.

 

Landlords should ensure that:

as of 20 March 2019, any properties let under a new tenancy are fully compliant with the Act, and are not subject to any relevant defects - as this may risk enforcement action being taken against them.

  • during the next 12 months, premises which were let prior to 20 March 2019 are made compliant with the Act. Failure to do so could risk an influx of claims at the end of the transitional period on 20 March 2020.
  • they are fully acquainted with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Guidance for Landlords.
  • policies and procedures are updated to manage the risk of tenant solicitors and claims management seeking to pursue claims against landlords, when as the Act come in to force.

On 1 October 2014, legislation came into force making it a requirement for all lettings agents and property managers in England to belong to one of three Government approved redress schemes. The schemes are designed to provide a free, independent service for resolving disputes between letting agents/property managers and their customers.

Letting agency work is described as things done by any person in the course of a business in response to instructions received from:

  • a private rented sector landlord who wants to find a tenant; or
  • a tenant who wants to find a property in the private rented sector.

It does not include where a person only advertises the property for rent and arranges contact between tenants and prospective landlords.

Property management work means things done by a person in the course of business in response to instructions from another person who wants to arrange services, repair, maintenance, improvement, or insurance or to deal with any other aspect of the management of a residential property.

There are two redress schemes:

The government and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, with mutual agreement from Ombudsman Services, withdrew the Ombudsman Services: Property’s approval as a redress scheme from 6 August 2018.
The council can impose a penalty charge notice of up to £5,000 where a lettings agent or property manager who should have joined a scheme has not done so.

Further information on the requirement for lettings agents and property managers in England to belong to a government-approved redress scheme can be found on the GOV.UK website.

 

From 1 June 2019, the Tenant Fees Act came into force which prohibits landlords and agents from charging any fees to tenants, other than those 'permitted' by the Act and caps tenancy deposits paid by tenants. Any new or renewed tenancy agreement that is signed on or after 1 June 2019 must adhere to the new regulations. More information on the Tenants Act can be found at GOV.UK, the Tenant Fees Act.

The Consumer Rights 2015 makes it a requirement for all letting agents to publicise their relevant fees.

The fees be must displayed at each of their offices and in a place which can be easily seen by their clients. Ideally, someone walking into an agent’s office should be able to see the list of fees without having to ask for it. The fees must also be published on the agent's website if they have one.

If the letting agent is required to be a member of a redress scheme for dealing with complaints, there is also a requirement for them to display or publish, with the list of fees, a statement that:

  • indicates that the agent is a member of a redress scheme, and
  • gives the name of the scheme.

Enforcement of the regulations is the responsibility of the council and a penalty charge notice of up to £5,000 can be issued to letting agents who fail to comply.

Further information about the regulations can be found on the government's legislation website.

 

The Penalty Charge shall be set at £1,000 for the first offence but this will be reduced to £750 if paid within a 14 day period.

Should the Landlord not comply with future Remedial Notices then the fine shall be set according to the table below :

Offence Fine Offence Fine
Second £2000 Third £3000
Fourth £4000 Fifth or more £5000

No discount will be given for prompt payment after the first occasion.

 

The local housing authority may recover the penalty charge as laid out in the Regulations.

 

The landlord can request in writing, in a period that must not be less than 28 days beginning with the day on which the penalty notice was served, that the local housing authority review the penalty charge notice.

The local housing authority must consider any representation and decide whether to confirm, vary or withdraw the penalty charge notice. A landlord who is served with a notice confirming or varying a penalty charge notice may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against the local housing authority’s decision.

 

To allow you to complain to an independent person about the service you've received if you're:

  • a tenant or landlord with agents in the private rented sector
  • a leaseholder or freeholder dealing with property managers in the residential sector

Ultimately the requirement to belong to a redress scheme will help weed out bad agents and property managers and drive up standards.

This now means that tenants, prospective tenants, landlords dealing with lettings agents in the private rented sector; as well as leaseholders and freeholders dealing with property managers in the residential sector can complain to an independent person about the service received. This will make it easier for tenants and landlords to complain about bad service and prevent disputes escalating.

 

We can impose a penalty of up to £5,000 where an agent or property manager should have joined a scheme but has not done so.

Further information

Find more information on GOV.UK

 

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide 

Legislation from 1 October 2015 dictates that all rented properties must have smoke detectors on each floor and carbon monoxide monitors are installed in any room which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

Since the 1 October 2015, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations (England) 2015 have made it compulsory for landlords to fit a smoke alarm on every floor of their rented property, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in every room containing a solid fuel burning appliance, for example, a coal fire or wood burning stove.

Landlords are required to check that alarms are working at the start of every new tenancy however it is the tenant's responsibility for the ongoing regular testing to ensure they are in working order and to notify the landlord if they identify any problems.

The government has produced a question and answer guide for tenants and landlords, see Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: explanatory booklet.

Enforcement of the regulations is the responsibility of the council and a remedial notice can be issued requiring the landlord to fit the alarms and a civil penalty charge of up to £5000 can be issued to a landlord who fails to comply. A Statement of Principles outlining the council's civil penalty structure is available.

Statement of Principles (PDF, 2 pages, 85kb)

 

Where the Local Housing Authority has reasonable grounds to believe that there are no or insufficient number of smoke alarms or

  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors in the property as required by the regulations or; The Smoke Alarms or
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors were not working at the start of a tenancy or licence.

Then the Authority shall serve on the Landlord in a method prescribed by the Regulations, a Remedial Notice detailing the actions the landlord must take to comply with the Regulations.

If after 28 days the Landlord has not complied with the Remedial Notice. a Penalty Charge shall be levied through a penalty charge notice.

 

The Authority considers that a lesser penalty will be merited on the occasion of a first offence and that prompt payment of the penalty on that first occasion should attract a reduced penalty in recognition of early admission of liability and savings in administration costs.

The level of penalty should, however, as a minimum, cover the cost of all works in default, officer time, recovery costs, an administration fee and a fine.

Repeated offences should attract a progressively higher penalty in view of continuing disregard for legal requirements and tenant safety.

If, following the service of a first penalty charge notice, a notice (or notices) is (are) served in respect of a further offence (or offences), but the further offence(s) arose prior to the service of the first notice, the penalty charge in respect of each notice shall be treated as a first offence penalty charge. Subsequent offences will, however, be treated cumulatively.

 

The Penalty Charge shall be set at £1,000 for the first offence but this will be reduced to £750 if paid within a 14 day period.

Should the Landlord not comply with future Remedial Notices then the fine shall be set according to the table below :

Offence Fine Offence Fine
Second £2000 Third £3000
Fourth £4000 Fifth or more £5000

No discount will be given for prompt payment after the first occasion.

 

The local housing authority may recover the penalty charge as laid out in the Regulations.

Appeals in relation to a penalty charge notice

The landlord can request in writing, in a period that must not be less than 28 days beginning with the day on which the penalty notice was served, that the local housing authority review the penalty charge notice.

The local housing authority must consider any representation and decide whether to confirm, vary or withdraw the penalty charge notice. A landlord who is served with a notice confirming or varying a penalty charge notice may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against the local housing authority’s decision.

 

Energy Performance Certificates

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rates the energy efficiency and environmental impact of your property. It is rated on a scale from A to G (where A is the most efficient and G the least efficient).

Current running costs for heating, hot water and lighting and a list of recommended energy saving improvements are shown on the certificate.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are required for all 'self-contained' dwellings in the private rented sector. This refers to houses where all the rooms (including kitchen, bathroom and toilet) are behind a single door which only that household can use.

The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 establish a minimum level of energy efficiency for privately rented property in England and Wales.

An EPC is required for nearly all privately rented residential accommodation. The exception is in cases where individual tenants of a shared house have separate tenancy agreements. These properties do not require an EPC.

An EPC will offer you the opportunity to differentiate your property from your competitors and gain a distinct marketing advantage.

Guide to Energy Performance Certificates (PDF, 21 pages, 310kb)

 

Minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES)

From 1 April 2018, landlords of privately rented properties must ensure their properties have an EPC rating of at least 'E' before granting a new tenancy to new or existing tenants.

From 1 April 2020, these requirements will apply to all privately rented properties in England and Wales (even when the tenancy started before 1 April 2018).

The government has issued guidance to private landlords on complying with the minimum level of energy efficiency standards.

Landlords must carry out relevant works of up to £3,500 to bring rented properties up to standard if they don't meet the minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES). Relevant works are those recommended in the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

If the standard cannot be met within the £3,500 cap, landlords must carry out relevant works up to that value before registering an exemption.

National PRS Exemptions Register

Landlords must register an exemption on the National PRS Exemptions Register if they believe an 'F' or 'G' EPC rated property they let out qualifies for this.

The National PRS Exemptions Register is open to anyone who wishes to search for details of exempt properties.

 

Financial penalties

If a landlord lets a sub-standard property in breach of regulations, we may impose a penalty of between £2,000 to £4,000.

We may also impose a penalty of up to £1,000 on any landlord who is found to have entered false and misleading information on the National PRS Exemptions Register.

Publication of penalties

We may also publish details of landlords breaching regulations by letting sub-standard properties on a publicly accessible part of the National PRS Exemptions Register.

 

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1st June 2020. These regulations apply in England only to:

  • all new specified tenancies from 1st July 2020 and
  • all existing specified tenancies from 1st April 2021.

These regulations impose duties on private landlords of residential premises in England in respect of electrical safety standards. The duties do not apply to landlords of social housing. The regulations require local housing authorities to enforce the duties and include a power to arrange remedial action.

Further information about the how the Electrical Safety Standard Regulations affect landlords can be found on the GOV.UK website at Guidance on the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020.

 

Energy Saving Trust provides impartial information on home energy efficiency and can advise you on any grants and offers that may be available to help you with the costs of installing measures.

Call 0800 512 012
They are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Yes Energy Solutions
Call 01422 888100
They are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

These regulations are designed to tackle the least energy-efficient properties in England and Wales – those rated F or G on their Energy performance Certificate (EPC). The Regulations establish a minimum standard for both domestic and non-domestic privately rented property, effecting new tenancies from 1 April 2018.

The current domestic regulation are based on a principle of ‘no cost to the landlord’, this means that landlords of F & G rated homes will only be required to make improvements to these properties where they can do so entirely using third party finance from one or more sources.

However, the Government now proposed to amend these regulations by removing the ‘no cost to the landlord’ and introducing a ‘landlord funding contribution’ component where a landlord is unable to obtain suitable ‘no cost’ funding. To protect landlords from excessive costs, Government is intending to introduce a cost cap of £2 500 per property. A consultation is currently underway regarding the above, further information can be found at GOV.UK.

The Private Rented Property minimum standard – landlord guidance documents.

The PRS Exemptions Register is for properties which are legally required to have an EPC, and which are let on a relevant tenancy type, but which cannot be improved to meet the minimum standard of EPC band E for one of the reasons set out below in guidance.

Register an exemption.

 

Contact us


Ryedale District Council
Ryedale House
Old Malton Road
Malton, North Yorkshire
YO17 7HH

Email: Contact the Council

Phone: 01653 600666

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