Last month we reported that Hamilton Fraser, parent company of the Property Redress Scheme (PRS), mydeposits, and Client Money Protect (CMP), had launched a new helpline for letting agents, HF Assist.

In our new ‘Day in the life of HF Assist’ posts, each week the HF Assist team will highlight questions from customers and share their answers with us.

In our first Q&A, we discuss the upcoming tenant fee ban transition deadline, Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) renewals, and tenancy agreement charges.

Q1: The tenant fee ban deadline of 31 May 2020 will soon come round. I am working through our tenancies and making sure we have returned all surplus deposits over the 5 (or 6) week cap.  Is there anything else I need to be aware of?

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Answer:

It’s always good to get ahead of the game.  As well as checking which deposits are over the cap, be sure to check the history of the tenancy too.

Landlords and letting agents are not obliged to immediately refund part of a tenancy deposit that is above the cap but which was paid before 1 June 2019. If a tenant signed a tenancy agreement before 1 June 2019 (and that tenancy is continuing or is a statutory periodic agreement) then the tenant will be bound by the terms of that contract until it is either renewed or terminated.

This means that you will be required to refund the deposit at the end of the tenancy in the usual way and any new tenancy agreed after this will need to comply with the tenancy deposit cap.

Did you know?

HF Assist Premium subscribers can download a free template for assured shorthold tenancy agreements. Find out more here.

HF Assist and mydeposits have both received calls from landlords and letting agents confused about whether they need to return deposits for ongoing tenancies signed before 1 June 2019. We clarify the situation in our previous post here. mydeposits’ deposit calculator can help landlords to comply with the Tenant Fees Act.

Q2: I have a tenancy where the exiting EPC has expired. Do I need to renew it? The tenant is likely to stay in the property for some time yet.

Answer:

An EPC is valid for 10 years after an energy survey is carried out on a property. It can be used multiple times during this period.

EPCs have been required by law since 2008 in England and Wales. Since 1 April 2018, all new lets and renewal tenancies must have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate. These regulations will come into effect for all existing tenancies on 1 April 2020.

For your current tenant:

  • There’s no need to renew the EPC before 1 April 2020 unless you are going to extend or renew the tenancy
  • Come 1 April 2020 you will need to renew the EPC in any event
  • If you do start looking for new tenants, an EPC needs to be made available to prospective tenants as soon as you begin marketing the property

Failure to provide an EPC when required can result in a £200 fine per dwelling.

Did you know?

The MEES regulation deadline is soon approaching, giving landlords until the 1 April 2020 to bring their properties to a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of grade E.

Find out more about the new Energy Performance Certificate: Keeping your property green. And in a previous LandordZONE post we look at MEES regulations: What you can do to prepare for the legislation deadline.

Q3: We have a tenant who is on benefits and as a result their landlord’s insurance premiums increased by £200 per year.  The landlord told me last week that he wants me to make the tenant pay him £200 to continue living at the property. He has told me that this is allowed because the Tenant Fees Act allows him to change the tenancy agreement (and charge another £50!).

Answer:

The legislation allows a charge to be made for changing the tenancy agreement, but only where the reason for making the change is reasonable. Requiring the tenant to pay an amount of money to continue living at the property is prohibited under the Act and not, therefore, a reasonable change.

Requesting a prohibited payment is a breach of the Tenant Fees Act 2019. A breach of the legislation will usually be a civil offence with a financial penalty of up to £5,000, but if a further breach is committed within 5 years of the imposition of a financial penalty or conviction for a previous breach this will be a criminal offence. The penalty for the criminal offence, which is a banning order offence under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, is an unlimited fine.

Did you know?

HF Assist can offer expert advice on tenancy agreement processes and what you can and can’t charge fees for.

The HF Assist helpline provides expert guidance and information from call handlers who have both legal and lettings experience. The service can be accessed by phone, email, and live chat during business hours. Upgrading to a HF Assist Premium subscription provides a 24/7 legal helpline covering all types of legal issues related to a letting agent’s business plus other useful extras.


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