On Thursday 22nd March 2018, Blaser Mills Law hosted a property breakfast briefing at their High Wycombe office.
Speakers Alex Wyatt, Shona Dunning and James Nelson addressed recent and upcoming developments in property law, including the New Electronic Telecommunications Code, Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards Regulations and fire safety and block management post Grenfell. Below is an overview of the topics covered.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards Regulations 2015 (“MEES”)
The MEES Regulations make the letting of both residential and commercial properties under an ‘E’ rating unlawful. Landlords will need to carry out improvement works in order to avoid costly penalties, such as six-figure fines and enforcement measures by local authorities.
The ‘silver lining’ for landlords is that there are particular exclusions and exemptions that can be relied upon to (potentially) circumvent the regulations. A ‘five step’ guide demonstrated that certain measures should be taken in order to ensure best practice compliance with the regulations, such as property energy assessments, reviewing existing leases and carrying out improvement works.
Fire Safety and Block Management Post Grenfell
Inevitably the Grenfell Tower tragedy raises many questions, such as who is responsible in the event of fires/catastrophes, how best to protect occupiers, and what works or services may be necessary to reduce fire risks in the future? Of course, there is also the highly contentious question of who should pay for any such works / services, in light of legislative regulation, but also recent case law relating to fire safety.
There are then practicalities to consider such as the viability of emergency systems (i.e. sprinklers, cladding and fire doors), the possible need for tenant co-operation for works crossing between landlord and tenant demises, and the consultation that landlords may need to go through, both L&T Act 1985 s20 consultation, consultation for improvements, as per Waaler v LB of Hounslow.
The New Electronic Telecommunications Code (“New Code”)
The introduction of the New Code is a clear sign of the UK government’s position regarding the importance of digital technology and communications infrastructure to the UK economy. The New Code is designed to support the roll-out of digital communications infrastructure and above all else, to try and deliver on the previous government’s policy to provide Britain with the “best super-fast broadband in the EU” by 2015.
Amongst the many changes that the legislation brings in, the new rules for valuing rent at telecoms sites and the termination and removal procedures under the New Code were stressed as the biggest changes, with landowners potentially now having to wait up to two years to remove operators from their land. Potential practice considerations were also addressed, including the impact on service charges and the uncertainty as to what form New Code agreements would take.
Fitness for Habitation Legislation
Current legislation (section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985) implies obligations into residential tenancies of under 7 years to keep properties in a state of repair, including structural repair and “utility”-based repairs. However, it does not require landlords to carry out improvement works to properties designed or built to a poor standard.
A new private members’ bill has been put to parliament, entitled the ‘Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill’. The bill is being considered by parliament (currently at Committee Stage) and may require landlords to improve properties to bring them up to a ‘minimum standard’ and to maintain that same standard. This may require landlords to undertake costly works, particularly related to complaints of damp and mould, such as adding ventilation, improving heating and enhancing heat insulation of buildings.
Proposed Leasehold Reform
A number of changes to leasehold regulation are being consulted on that may have an impact on block and estate management. This is largely in response to the number of major developers who are building new developments and selling new properties under leasehold rather than freehold. Developers have been doing this tactically, to maintain income streams from ground rent, the later sale of the freehold or by lease extension.
Possible changes that may be brought in could be a radical ban on the use of leasehold tenures for houses and the reintroduction of the commonhold tenure over the leasehold tenure.
If you would like to discuss any of the topics mentioned above in further detail or how they may apply to your business or client, please contact Commercial Property solicitor, Shona Dunning on firstname.lastname@example.org or Property Litigator, Alex Wyatt on email@example.com