The Government is on a mission to drive up standards in the private rented housing sector. More new rules and regulations apply from April 2018 with the introduction of new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), Banning Orders and the Rogue Landlord Database.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) – England and Wales
From 1 April 2018 it will be unlawful for a landlord to enter into a new letting (or extend or renew an existing letting) of a property with an F or G energy efficiency rating unless an exemption has been registered. From 1 April 2020, it will be unlawful to continue to let a residential property with an F or G-rating.
Landlords who let F or G-rated properties without having registered a valid exemption will be liable to financial penalties of up to £4,000 as well as “publication penalties”. A publication penalty means that the local authority will publish details of the landlord’s breach on a publicly accessible part of the National PRS Exemptions Register.
By now landlords should have taken steps to ensure that their properties are up to standard or, alternatively, have claimed an exemption. Detailed information can be found on the gov.uk website, here.
Banning Orders – England Only
Banning orders are to be introduced in England from 6 April 2018. They can be made against landlords, letting agents and property managers and will ban that person from letting property or engaging in letting agency or property management work for a period of at least 12 months.
Banning orders are intended to be used for landlords and agents who deliberately and persistently fail to comply with their legal obligations. Local authorities will be able to apply for a banning order against a person who has been convicted of one of the offences listed in The Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Banning Order Offences) Regulations 2018. The offences are, in summary:
- ● Using violence to secure entry (Criminal Law Act 1977)
- ● Eviction or harassment of occupiers (Protection from Eviction Act 1977)
- ● Failure to comply with an improvement notice or prohibition order (Housing Act 2004)
- ● Control or management of an unlicensed property under the HMO or selective licensing regimes (Housing Act 2004)
- ● Fire safety offences (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005)
- ● Gas safety offences (Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974)
- ● Landlord and agent offences under the Immigration Act 2014
- ● Various serious criminal offences committed by a landlord or agent against or in collusion with the tenant of the landlord’s property or committed at the property
A landlord who breaches a banning order may face a prison sentence of up to six months or a fine. As an alternative, the local authority may impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000.
Database of Rogue Landlords – England Only
Also on 6 April, a database of rogue landlords and property agents will be established. This will be maintained by local housing authorities in England. Only central government and local authorities will be able to access the database.
Local authorities must add to the database the details of any landlord or agent against whom a banning order has been made. The entry will be maintained while the banning order is in force and must then be removed.
Local authorities may also add the details of any person who has been convicted of a banning order offence (even if a banning order has not been made) or who has at least twice within a period of 12 months received a financial penalty in respect of a banning order offence. Government guidance will be issued in relation to these discretionary entries in the database.
Advice for Landlords
The residential tenancy sector is subject to ever greater levels of regulation. Whilst some of the new provisions, such as banning orders, are designed to catch the worst “rogue” operators, even “good” landlords and agents need to make sure they don’t inadvertently fall foul of the law. Sensible steps to take are:
- ● Keeping up to date with legislative changes
- ● Engaging with the local authority on matters such as licensing and health & safety
- ● Regularly reviewing your business: are there any issues with the properties, the tenants or your paperwork that need attention?
- ● Networking with other landlords and agents
- ● Taking professional advice from lawyers, surveyors, accountants and others as appropriate.