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What a difference a year makes!

 
04/01/2021

I will begin by wishing you all a Happy New Year and a hope that 2021 is the year when we can begin to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.


Sitting down to write this I had a quick look at last years ‘New Year’ blog and had a chuckle when I read the last line “What’s next we wonder?”. Little did we know then what the year had in store for us.


I don’t know about you but whilst Coronavirus defined the year for all of us, these last 10 months have really opened my eyes to the importance of taking a step back from our normally busy lives to consider the value of our physical health as well as our emotional and mental wellbeing, remembering that there are few things more important than looking after ourselves and each other.


Like many of you I’m sure, when we went into Lockdown 1.0, I spent many hours late at night and into the early morning worrying about the likely financial impact it would have, with differing scenarios of the months ahead playing out in my sleep deprived, but annoyingly alert mind. In retrospect what I didn’t factor in was the ability of people to adapt quickly to the challenges that we collectively faced and the kindness and compassion that we have shown each other.


In our Industry I have been warmed by the many landlords and tenants that have worked together to limit the hardship that the pandemic has caused. As we enter Lockdown 3.0 I feel certain that this kindness to each other will continue.


Here is a good juncture to reflect on the changes in the Private Rented Sector that we saw during the year. Of course, there were many Covid related regulations introduced including the extension of notice periods. This is currently in place until the 31st March 2021 and it would be a brave person to bet on these returning to the pre-crisis position.


One of the major changes that occurred during the year was the introduction of the long anticipated requirement for electrical safety checks. Whilst it was coming down the road for a long time, the journey to the finish line happened swiftly with an announcement at the beginning of the year and the introduction of the Regulations at the beginning of June. The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on the 1st June and, rather confusingly, meant that any tenancies starting on the 1st July required a Landlord to have a test and report carried out on their property.


In April, the second part of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards came into force. The nuts and bolts of this mean that landlords who have an EPC with a rating of F and below can not grant a tenancy without carrying out improvement measures to increase the rating to an E or above. Or register an exemption.


Energy Efficiency is often disregarded by landlords but they do so at their own peril as this is becoming a hot topic. There is currently a consultation to increase the Minimum rating to a C by 2025.


The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force for all tenancies and amended the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Essentially this means that tenants can now take direct action against landlords for providing unfit accommodation rather than having to use the Local Authority in the first place. Hopefully this is not a concern for those landlords reading this.


At the time of writing there are no major pieces of legislation coming our way for the year ahead but if last year taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. I would wager that there will be pressure to bring in to law the Renter Reform Bill which proposes to abolish Section 21 notices and reform the grounds for possession thereby in effect making Assured Shorthold tenancies a thing of the past and all tenancies Assured.


Before I sign off I suppose I should just reference Brexit and the impact on the Immigration Act 2014 (known to you and I as the Right to Rent Checks). EU citizens currently living in England have until the 30th June 2021 to apply for settled status. Any EU tenants you plan to rent to from the 1st January can still use their EU passports or Biometric visas to show a valid right to rent but after the end of June you will need to ensure you are establishing their time limited right to remain. We’ll post some news on this closer to the time.


In the meanwhile, stay safe, look after each other and keep your fingers crossed that this time next year we will all be looking forward to returning to normal life. Having said that, I truly intend to keep in mind what is important.


 


 


Please note the date this article was published as the law may have changed since it was posted. You should always seek independent legal advice if you are intending to rely on any of the contents.


 

 
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