You should be given a copy of the most recent electrical safety condition report or EICR, along with the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); a copy (or pdf if you agree to receive the information digitally) of the government’s ‘How to rent‘ booklet; a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate for your address (if there is a gas supply) dated within the last 12 months; and a receipt confirming the value of any deposit you have paid. Then, within 30 days of the start of your tenancy, you should also be given details from the deposit protection scheme where your deposit is registered. Please keep all this documentation carefully, together in one place, in case you need it later.
If you don’t move home, the property owner is responsible for ensuring that electrical safety checks are carried out on your existing tenancy before 1st April 2021. To compile the EICR, the consumer unit (or fuseboard), wiring, electrical sockets and light fittings are all thoroughly tested for faults or any deviation from Wiring Standards, to confirm
- The adequacy of the earthing and bonding
- Devices for protection against fire and electric shock
- Any damage or wear and tear that might affect the safety of inhabitants or visitors to your home
- Any damaged electrical fittings and accessories
- Any exposed live wires that could cause a fire or injury.
So, this in-depth inspection of the electrical systems is highly-skilled work that must be carried out by competent, qualified electricians.
Normally, the EICR is valid for five years. But if you are affected by something which could have affected the wiring in your home—a leak through the ceiling from the flat above, for example—you should request a new EICR.
How long will you be able to stay if the stay on evictions ends?
Although there is still time to announce a further extension, today, as far as we know, the stay on evictions looks set to end on 23 August. This is not what we wanted to happen next. We know that very many renters have lost income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We know that even the increased LHA rate leaves many London renters with a shortfall between their housing benefit entitlement and the actual rent demanded. We know that very many landlords have agreed to defer a portion of rent payment (and we know that very few have agreed to reduce rents during this difficult time).
We know, too, that if eviction under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (so-called ‘no fault eviction’) recommences, landlords can use that law, and claim the whole of your deposit towards any rent arrears accrued during the pandemic. You cannot be evicted under section 21 during the fixed term of your tenancy, though. Until at least 30 September , you would be entitled to the longer, three month notice period.
But if yours is now a periodic or rolling contract and you have accrued rent arrears, the landlord could start the eviction process under section 21 and use your deposit money to cover five weeks worth of arrears. And if your arrears are higher than that, you’d still be liable to pay the rest.
Even if the notice is valid, you do not have to leave your home on the date mentioned on the notice, though. The notice is just the start of the eviction process. Once the notice has expired, the landlord must then apply to the Court for a possession order to actually evict you. After five months in which Courts were not sitting as usual, there is likely to be a massive backlog of cases in the system. No-one can know how long new possession proceedings might take to be heard under the circumstances. But it won’t be fast. In the past, Renters’ Rights London has not suggested staying in situ and after receiving a Section 21 notice, except for renters who need to prove to a local authority that they have been made homeless. But now, unless you are actually happy to move away, why not wait and have your day in Court?
If you need more time in your home, for whatever reason, when you receive a set of papers from the Court, you should complete the paperwork to say so and return the papers to the Court. Do this as quickly as possible. You are entitled to help with this, free of charge, from your local Law Centre, advice clinic or from a solicitor who handles housing matters.
Because most renters just move out after receiving a notice seeking possession, no-one actually knows how widely Section 21 is used. At the State Opening of Parliament in December 2019, government promised abolition of so-called ‘no fault eviction’ under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, through the Renters’ Reform Bill. But there’s still no date set for that legislation. If government were actually aware of the scale of this problem – the average length of tenancy is now said to be 20 months – they might move faster to bring about the change we all need, in time for the start of your next tenancy.
People who share their home with the landlord have even less protection from eviction than assured shorthold tenants. Lodger Landlord Association is conducting a survey into the impact of Covid-19 on lodgers. If you live with your landlord, do please submit your response
Life without Wifi
Some of our most regular correspondents have not been in touch at all since the start of ‘lockdown’. While public libraries are closed, they are among at least 2.73 million people across UK who have no internet access whatsoever. Some of those 2.73 million people prefer it that way but for many, this is not through choice.
A further 14.2 million people have very limited internet access. These people would no doubt prefer to be able to get online more often or for longer. But their circumstances mean that’s not possible.
With schools shut and kitchen tables turned into workspaces, daytime internet use has more than doubled since lockdown, according to one service provider. And those of us who go out to work still maintain our social lives online. As more traditional social spaces are likely to be the last places to re-open, this matters. The current coronavirus pandemic has given new weight to the case for wifi access as a necessity.
Operation Wifi is calling on government and partners to end digital exclusion with an open, free to use wireless network, at least for the duration, as a first step. The campaign looks most unlikely to be won by petition alone but today, all of us who can read this email will surely understand why we should show our support. Please sign and share this petition