CEO Richard Lambert on how the NLA is influencing the latest regulation and consultations.
- The issue: Electrical safety requirements for landlords
An amendment in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 gave the UK government powers to regulate electrical safety standards in the private rented sector in England. The NLA was recently part of a working group looking at what this means for you and how any changes can be implemented.
We tried to ensure that the working group’s recommendations struck a balance between protecting tenants and not creating overly burdensome and unnecessary regulatory requirements. This included pushing back against additional portable appliance testing and suggestions that fixed wiring tests should be carried out at every change of tenancy, which the NLA believes represent burden without significantly improving safety.
By and large, we were happy with the recommendations. Many of these recommendations, such as five-year mandatory electrical installation checks, and visual checks of the electrical installation by landlords at a change of tenancy, align with what we regard as best practice, and we are now reasonably satisfied with what the government is taking forward.
- The issue: Will there be a new regulatory body for landlords?
At the Conservative Party Conference in October, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government Sajid Javid MP set out the government’s views on the future of the private rented sector. One of the points he highlighted was that landlords should be expected to provide independent redress for tenants’ complaints, in parallel with what has been in place for letting agents.
There are several ombudsman schemes covering the housing sector, and Sajid Javid questioned if we should in fact have a single ombudsman for the entire sector. A consultation is now open until mid-April looking at what form the regulation may take; if it should cover all landlords or only those who are self-managed; and the cost model that might be used. We’ve argued that the majority of landlords will never have a complaint raised against them, so a flat fee could be unreasonable.
The NLA is now considering how it can support landlords if this becomes an obligation by helping our members comply with the requirement quickly and easily. Much depends on whether the government decides on a single regulator or a separate ombudsman scheme for landlords.
Whatever the government decides, the NLA will ensure that its members are able to comply and benefit from day one.
- The issue: Clarification on Section 21 notices
The NLA has written to Heather Wheeler MP (parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) asking her to clarify an issue around the validity of Section 21 notices in certain circumstances. A recent court case in London ruled that a Section 21 notice was invalid, as the landlord hadn’t given the tenant the gas safety certificate before the beginning of the tenancy.
Since the Deregulation Act 2015 introduced a new duty to serve certain ‘prescribed information’, including the gas safety certificate where necessary, the courts have had to consider whether the landlord has met their other legal duties before determining whether a Section 21 notice has been validly served.
Because of the precise wording of the Act, this means that – even if the necessary gas safety checks have been carried out – if a landlord fails to provide a copy of the certificate before the tenancy begins, they will never be able to validly serve a Section 21 notice to end the tenancy.
The gas safety regulations have always stipulated this requirement. In fact failure to comply is a criminal offence; our concern is that the Act now not only makes it difficult for many landlords to issue a valid Section 21 notice, but it provides no means to rectify the situation, even if all other responsibilities in relation to gas safety have been met.
There are implications for other documentation too, such as EPCs or the How To Rent Guide, particularly if the new electrical safety checks come into force. We have pointed out to the minister that this wasn’t the intention of the regulation and it is a disproportionate sanction for what could be an administrative error. If the government decides to implement the recommendations for the electrical safety consultation, this should be seen as an opportunity to clarify the situation.
Do you need advice on any safety issues or regulation? The NLA’s Telephone Advice Line is staffed by our team of experienced landlords, who have a wealth of knowledge on landlord-related questions and issues.
The Advice Line is free for members, or associates can either upgrade to full membership or buy call credits to use the service. Find out more at www.landlords.org.uk/advice-line