This applies to England and Wales

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is a system made up of 29 hazards to help assist the local authority when carrying out a property risk assessment relating to health and safety at a property. They use the guidance to decide whether an enforcement notice needs to be issued to a landlord. 

Please see the link to the guidance below which identifies the 29 hazards

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/7853/safetyratingsystem.pdf

RH Environmental Ltd has been appointed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to carry out a two-year research project on their behalf. A review of the HHSRS will impact upon a wide range of stakeholders, including housing regulators and surveyors, landlords, other property professionals and residents.

The review and associated research will focus on the following:

  • Review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) Operating Guidance.
  • Development of an updated set of worked examples.
  • Reviewed HHSRS training for assessors and other stakeholders, including the introduction of a competency framework.
  • Development of a simpler means of banding HHSRS assessment results.
  • New recommended minimum standards.
  • Assessment into the amalgamation or removal of existing hazard profiles.
  • Review of HHSRS digital assessment tools.
  • Reviewed and updated HHSRS ‘Landlords Guidance’ and new ‘Tenants Guidance’.
  • Reviewed and updated HHSRS Enforcement Guidance.
  • Review of the fire safety hazard.

The link below is for the survey which we would encourage our clients to complete and put their views across.

EHPs, HHSRS Assessors and Other Housing Professionals Survey:

In November the Government had announced there would be a stay on evictions form 11 December 2020 to 11 January 2021.

As we are now in another lockdown throughout England at least until the 18 February 2021, the Government have issued The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Evictions) (England) Regulations 2021. The regulations prevent a writ or warrant being executed for possession of a property or delivering a notice of eviction at the property from the 11 January 2021 to 21 February 2021.

Although it is currently planned to end the 21 February, this means that by the time the tenant is given 14 days’ notice of eviction, the earliest an eviction will take place is 8 March.

There are a few circumstances where the court can be satisfied if there is a claim against an unknown person or trespassers in the property. Where there are grounds for anti-social behaviour, death of a tenant, domestic abuse, providing false statements, where you are satisfied the dwelling is unoccupied when you attend (abandonment of a property) or in substantial rent arrears exceeding six months then an eviction can continue during this period. The Christmas lockdown rules required nine months of rent arrears that accrued before the March lockdown. These new rules reduce the arrears to six months and they do not specify they have to have accrued before the March lock down.

You are still able to submit an application for possession of a property during this time.

Wales have said the eviction ban will stay in place till the end of March

Making improvements to the energy efficiency of rented properties is not only beneficial to the tenant but is also good for the planet, our children and generations beyond. In addition the Government has legislated to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Following a Call for Evidence in 2018 the Government has launched a new consultation to run until 30 December proposing, in a surprise move, that the increase to band D is skipped and that rented properties should achieve a C rating for new tenancies by 2025 with a three year transition period for existing tenancies.

Other than the benefits listed earlier, the one step process would be less disruptive and would cost landlords less in total, however, there is an obvious issue of affordability. So what’s it going to cost? The landlord of an F or G rated property currently has to pay up to the current cost cap of £3,500 including VAT per property on improvements from the list on the EPC. If having spent that amount the property is still below an E rating then an exemption can be registered.

The proposal is to raise that cost cap to £10,000 per property. This brings into scope the more expensive improvements such as solar; condensing boiler and even heat pumps. It appears that many, if not most, landlords will have to make improvements. Some of the housing stock is likely to be incapable of ever achieving a C rating and will require what improvements can be made to be made. Bear in mind too that anecdotally, some newly built properties do not achieve a C rating.

Fabric First

The consultation sensibly proposes that heat loss reduction is the first priority and can most easily be achieved through insulation, which is the most effective improvement, as well draught proofing, and efficient doors and windows. These improvements are the least expensive to install. Ground source heat pumps and other energy generation measures may currently stretch even the £10,000 proposed cap, but in the case of a new build property with a D rating they may be the only improvements available. Government estimates that the average property would cost a landlord around £4,700 to achieve a C rating.

Green Homes Grant

Whether this proposal moves forward or not, the direction of travel is clear. The Government has announced a Green Homes Grant scheme open until 31 March 2022, and available to landlords, where they will pay up to two thirds of the cost of relevant improvements to a maximum of £5,000. The work must be done before the deadline and by a TrustMark registered installer. If property is going to need money spent to improve the EPC rating this will be a very cost effect way to do it.

Other Proposals

Currently an EPC is only required when a property is marketed for sale or let. If its 10 year validity expires during the tenancy then a new EPC is not required until next marketing. It is proposed that a valid EPC will be required throughout the tenancy, as per the gas safety record. It is also proposed to increase the maximum penalty to £30,000 from the current combined maximum of £5,000 as well as giving tenants the right to request improvements and seek compensation for non-compliance.

Have your say at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-the-energy-performance-of-privately-rented-homes

The Government has launched a consultation proposing to extend regulations around smoke and carbon monoxide alarms which affect the private rented sector and social landlords. The consultation runs until 11 January 2021. If you have any comments to add to the PRSP response we would be obliged if you could send them by 15 December 2020.

Social landlords would be brought into the requirement to provide alarms and private landlords would be given a specific requirement to repair or replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms (not in the original regulations). There would not be a requirement on landlords to test alarms, the view is that the tenant should continue to do this. The proposals also suggest requiring carbon monoxide alarms in any room where there is a fuel burning appliance, other than a gas cooker. Currently they are only required for solid fuel burning appliances, so this would bring oil and gas burning appliances into the requirements.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 the notice rules for England have been changed.

From 29 August section 21 notices have to be at least six months long. These regulations also extend the period over which these longer notices are required until 31 March 2021.

Before Coronavirus section 8 notices had different lengths of notice for different reasons. Under the initial changes made by Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 these were originally standardised and lengthened so that all section 8 notices had to be three months. These new regulations re-establish different notice lengths for different grounds.

Most grounds, including rent arrears totalling less than six months of rent arrears, are extended to six months’ notice. Serious rent arrears, in excess of six months’ arrears, are reduced to four weeks’ notice (normally this would have been only two weeks’ notice).

Grounds 7A and 14, relating to anti-social behaviour, revert to their pre covid rules.

The Civil Procedure (Amendment No.2) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020, were brought into force on 25 June 2020. The 26 June is when the Government were hoping to open the courts for possession hearings. Though many restrictions began to ease, the courts remained closed until 21 September 2020.

To coincide with the courts opening on the 21 September further rules were made through The Civil Procedure (Amendment No.4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 and Practice Direction 55c Coronavirus:  Temporary Provision in relation to possession proceedings.

There are two different claims a “stayed claim” and a “new claim” A stayed claim is a claim that was made on or before 19 September including an appeal from a decision on a claim.

Any claim stayed on or before the 3 August needs a ‘reactivation notice’ and nothing will happen with that The courts in England and Wales reopened on 21 September 2020 for all possession claims. It is clear there will be a prioritisation of cases and notice periods will not revert back to the original timeframes

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