A comprehensive overview of the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants is available on the Gov.uk website.
The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations
The minimum level of energy efficiency for domestic private rented property in England and Wales is Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band E. The energy efficiency of a property can be found on the Domestic Energy Performance Certificate Register.
Since 1 April 2018, landlords of domestic properties have not been permitted to grant a new tenancy, or renew an existing tenancy, for a property rated EPC F or G (unless an exemption applies). The landlord must improve the rating to minimum of EPC E (or register an exemption, if one applies) before letting.
From 1 April 2020, the minimum level of energy efficiency will apply to all domestic privately rented properties covered by the Regulations, even if there has been no change in tenancy. So, from 1 April 2020, landlords may not continue to let properties with an EPC rating of F or G, even to an existing tenant (unless an exemption applies). Landlords are encouraged to take action as soon as possible to ensure their properties meet or exceed EPC E by April 2020.
If an exemption applies, landlords must register this on the Private Rented Sector (PRS) Exemptions Register (guidance). Full details of exemptions are set out in the updated Domestic Landlord Guidance.
The 2019 amending Regulations introduce a financial contribution component for landlords of EPC F- and G-rated homes in the private rented sector, capped at £3,500 (inc. VAT) per property.
Other key changes include the introduction of a new 'high cost' exemption, which landlords will be able to register (if they meet the criteria) on the Private Rented Sector (PRS) Exemptions Register from 1 April 2019. Furthermore, the previously available 'no cost to the landlord' exemption will no longer be available (and will no longer appear on the Exemptions Register as of 1 April 2019). Existing 'no cost to the landlord' exemptions will be curtailed so that they end on 31 March 2020, instead of after 5 years. All affected landlords will be contacted directly at the start of April. Finally, the 'consent exemption' will no longer be available to landlords in cases where a sitting tenant has withheld consent to a Green Deal finance plan.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) intends to publish a series of quick guides during April to help landlords understand their obligations under the amended Regulations.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force on 20 March 2019. In brief this new law:
- requires landlords to ensure that their homes are free from serious hazards.
- gives tenants have the right to take court action if the property is unfit for human habitation.
- provides the legal powers for a court to force the landlord to reduce or remove the hazard, or award damages.
More broadly, landlords must ensure that their property, including any common parts of the building, is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. To achieve that, landlords will need to ensure that their property is free of hazards which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition. Where a landlord fails to do so, the tenant has the right to take action in the courts for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation. The remedies available to the tenant are an order by the court requiring the landlord to take action to reduce or remove the hazard, and / or damages to compensate them for having to live in a property which was not fit for human habitation.
For practical advice on this area, you may wish to contact the following local advice agencies: