Important changes in the law

There are some changes to the law that landlords need to be aware of. 

Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

From 1st October 2018, the rules about which HMOs need to be licensed will be changed – this may mean that HMOs that have not needed a license before will need one now.

Since 2006, any HMO which is 3 or more floors (including occupied basements and attics) and let to 5 or more separate tenants who are not in the same family group, must be licensed by the Council. From October, the condition about the number of floors will not apply which means that generally any accommodation which is let to 5 or more people in two or more households, will need a licence even if it is only on one or two floors.

You can find more information about what you need to do if you think an HMO will now need a license on our HMO pages. Do I need a HMO licence.

Changes in the way that Housing Benefit is paid

The Government is replacing a number of means tested benefits, including Housing Benefit, with a single benefit called Universal Credit. Universal Credit went live in the Bradford district in November 2015 but so far has only been claimed by a small number of single people. However, from June 2018 Universal Credit will be opened up to many more people. People who make a new claim for Universal Credit will generally be unable to claim Housing Benefit - the replacement for Housing Benefit is the housing costs element of Universal Credit. 

Generally this housing costs element will not be paid direct to landlords, and claimants will be responsible for making sure their rent is paid to their landlord. Universal Credit is also paid calendar monthly.  We know that some landlords require rent payments every 4 weeks (13 times a year) rather than monthly (12 times a year) - or more frequently than that - and to tie in with the monthly payments of Universal Credit, you might want to agree changing the rent period to calendar monthly.  

There are two ways that people who are claiming Housing Benefit at the moment will be moved onto Universal Credit from June 2018. Either they will have to claim Universal Credit if they have a change in circumstances - for example someone who was out of work and claiming Job Seekers Allowance may start work - or they will be asked to claim Universal Credit sometime between July 2019 and March 2022. This means that by April 2022 no one of working age will be receiving Housing Benefit although it is important to be aware that Universal Credit can only be claimed by working age people so pensioners will continue to claim Housing Benefit as they do now. People living in supported accommodation will also continue to claim Housing Benefit even if they have been awarded Universal Credit, but this exception is only expected to last until March 2019.

You can find more information about Universal Credit and how it will affect your tenants on Gov.UK.  We also have more information about all the changes to benefits.

Tackling rogue landlords

New rules have come in to force to help crackdown on rogue landlords. Councils are now able to impose fines of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences and can apply for rent repayment orders in a wider range of situations.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 has given councils the power to issue civil penalties, instead of prosecution, for certain offences, which are:

  • Failure to comply with an improvement notice
  • Failure to license a Houses in Multiple Occupation which is subject to mandatory licensing
  • Failure to license under Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004, which relates to licensing schemes
  • Failure to comply with an overcrowding notice
  • Breach of management regulations in respect of an HMO

The Housing and Planning Act also extends the use of Rent Repayment Orders which means that the First Tier Tribunal can order a landlord to repay a specified amount of rent.  The Council will normally consider applying for a rent repayment order where a landlord has been convicted a relevant offence or a Civil Penalty notice has been issued for housing offences.

You can also find more information about these new powers on Gov.UK.

In Bradford, the Council’s Executive has approved a new policy for the use of civil penalties for housing offences.  This policy is an appendix to our Enforcement Policy (376kb) which has also been changed to reflect the new powers that the Council has.

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard

On 1 April new rules came into force which means that generally a new tenancy must not be let for any property where the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating is lower than E - an EPC of E is the minimum acceptable standard and a rating of F and G is below standard. An EPC sets out the energy efficiency of a property and gives a score between A (the most energy efficient) and G (least energy efficient). An EPC also gives recommendations for improving energy efficiency.

This new rule will be extended to all tenancies from April 2020.

You can find more information about the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard, the exemptions that apply and where you can get advice and assistance to improve energy efficiency in the Government’s guidance – the Domestic Private Rented Property Minimum Standard

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Contact details

Housing Standards Team
8th Floor,
Margaret McMillan Tower,
Princes Way,
Bradford
BD1 1NN

Phone : 01274 434520
Email : CHPenquiries@bradford.gov.uk

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