Suspend electricity checks, postpone licensing, aid renters – ARLA demands

ARLA Propertymark has made a series of demands on the government in the light of the Coronavirus crisis.

In a formal written response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s Inquiry into the impact of Coronavirus on the private rented sector, ARLA makes a series of demands for action.

The aim of the inquiry, which closed its deadline for written submissions on Tuesday, is to examine how effective the government has been in supporting individuals in the private rented sector.

In a statement on its submission, Propertymark says it highlighted the positive steps the government had taken so far such as extending business rates relief and including commission in furloughed pay.

However it also wanted government to:

Improve renters’ knowledge of support: “There is lots of government support available that should allow tenants to continue to pay their rent and landlords to have an income if rent payments do stop. However, not enough is being done to explain and highlight these policies. In order that rent payments continue to be paid and the government keep the rent flowing, renters and their landlords need to take full advantage of the government schemes available during this difficult period.”

Suspend the introduction of mandatory electrical checks: “With the added complications of Coronavirus, the supply chain capacity issues have got significantly worse, and therefore, the government should suspend the introduction until such time as it is possible for the industry to practically implement the legislation.”

Review and update guidance on maintenance and safety checks: Some 70 per cent of agents who Propertymark surveyed said that the government’s guidance on what to do for compliance checks during the outbreak is clear and helpful. However, agents are facing problems getting routine maintenance and safety checks at the properties they manage completed. Agents and landlords want to do the best by their tenants and are understandably nervous about falling foul of regulations and therefore, we ask the Government to review and update the guidance already issued.

Provide more support on rent payments: “Survey results from Propertymark members show that nearly all have said that up to a quarter of their tenants have missed a rental payment since the Coronavirus outbreak. Consequently, three things need to happen to further assist renters. Firstly, more needs to be done to explain the support available from the government. Secondly, the government must suspend the five weeks Universal Credit payment period with all payments made in full and paid directly to the letting agent or landlord. Thirdly, for those tenants who fall through the gaps in the government’s current provisions should be able to apply for their rent to be paid via Universal Credit.”

Postpone the introduction of all licensing schemes: ARLA Propertymark says its members “are alarmed that a number of councils are ignoring guidance issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which says that where local authorities are in the process of introducing non-mandatory licensing schemes, but these are not yet in force, they should consider pausing these at an appropriate point, in line with the advice on proactive and reactive work. The government must ensure local authorities postpone the introduction of all licensing schemes until the market can recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Separate rent arrears before and during the pandemic: “Propertymark’s survey figures from members show that for the majority (78 per cent) the passing of legislation to delay eviction proceedings has impacted on up to ten tenancies they manage and between ten and 20 tenancies for 13 per cent of agents. Members are concerned about the speed in which cases will be able to be heard in the courts and the backlog of cases from before the Coronavirus Act was passed and those cases lodged during the outbreak and after the restrictions are lifted.”

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