New Breathing Space Legislation

In force from Tuesday 4th May 2021

‘Breathing Space’ (known as a moratorium) will pause most enforcement action, creditor contact, and interest and charges on a person’s qualifying debts for up to 60 days.

The purpose of the Scheme is to provide a temporary period of respite from the action of a creditor (e.g. a landlord or letting agent) to help people in problem debt (e.g. a tenant) consider their options and engage with professional debt advice.

A Breathing Space is not a payment holiday and rent is considered an ‘ongoing liability’. There is also an alternative way into the scheme for people receiving mental health crisis treatment. A mental health crisis moratorium has some stronger protections and lasts as long as a person’s mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days. A Breathing Space can only be started by a debt advice provider who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer debt counselling.

Once a Breathing Space has started, no enforcement action can take place against the debtor or anyone who is jointly liable with them for a Breathing Space debt. This includes serving a notice to take possession of a property let to the debtor on the grounds of rent arrears due up to the start of the Breathing Space; or take possession of a property let to the debtor having served such a notice prior to the start of the Breathing Space. Creditors identified by the debt adviser will receive a notification when someone enters a moratorium. Once notified about a Breathing Space the creditor must stop the debtor having to pay certain interest, fees, penalties, or charges for that debt during the Breathing Space, stop any enforcement or recovery action to recover that debt and not contact the debtor to request repayment of that debt.

The Tenancy Agreement

The most common type of tenancy agreement is an Assured Shorthand Tenancy which is protected by The Housing Act 1988 (as amended).  In order to have an AST the following criteria must be reached:

  • The tenant is an individual (not a company)
  • The property is the tenant’s only or main home
  • The landlord is not a resident landlord (living in the property)
  • The rent does not exceed £100,000 per annum

Other tenancies are available if you do not meet all criteria, such as a non-housing act tenancy.  If an AST is granted, it is allowed to continue at the end of the tenancy, e.g. on a month to month basis, when it becomes a periodic tenancy.  Legislation requires the tenant to allow the landlord or the landlord’s agent to have access to make repairs to the property throughout the tenancy term.  For the landlord, common law expects the landlord to give the tenant what is known as ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property, which means that the landlord cannot interfere with the tenant’s occupation by frequently visiting and certainly not letting themselves in, without the tenant’s permission.  The legislation also requires the landlord to maintain and repair the structure of the property, the utilities and heating systems in a timely manner, when notified of issues.

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Safety Obligations

Letting agents have a responsibility to ensure that the property they are letting out is safe.  The safety issues relate to:

  • fire
  • gas
  • carbon monoxide
  • electricity
  • energy efficiency
  • water systems
  • asbestos
  • furniture & furnishings

The Inventory

It is Northfields procedure to insist that our landlords employ the services of a qualified APIP OR AIIC inventory clerk to arrange the make of an inventory and schedule of condition at the outset of the tenancy, which will be checked at a ‘check-in’ appointment on the first day of the tenancy.  This document will then form part of the tenancy agreement and will be used to conduct the ‘check-out’ appointment at the end of the tenancy.  The clerk will then prepare a report detailing any dilapidations or repairs to be paid for by the tenant from the security deposit held.  It is usual practice for the landlord to settle the cost of the inventory make, schedule of condition and check-in and check-out reports.

Security Deposit

The security deposit is usually equivalent to 5 week’s rent and, since 6th April 2007, amendments to the Housing Act state that all deposits held against Assured Shorthold Tenancies must be forwarded to an approved scheme to be held for the term of the tenancy.  Within 30 days of the deposit being paid, a document named ‘the tenancy prescribed information’ must be given to the tenant to explain where the money is being held, and the process for its return at the end of the tenancy, or what happens if there is a dispute over amounts to be retained. 

Paying Rent

Rent is negotiated at the offer stage and will be due in advance for every period of the tenancy, payable (usually monthly) into the landlord or the agent’s bank account by transfer or standing order mandate.  If rent is late a procedure will be followed and there are specific timings before court action for arrears can commence.  For more information please speak to our property management team on 020 8799 4362 or email propertymanagement@northfields.co.uk.

Property Maintenance

It is normal for details of repairing responsibilities of both parties to be included in the tenancy agreement. Most of the repair responsibilities fall on the landlord, nevertheless, the tenant needs to notify of any repairs required and must take care of the property in a ‘tenant like manner’ (which means that they must do jobs like changing light bulbs, unblocking a sink, clearing the leaves from the gutters etc). The landlord has the responsibility to repair the main structure of the property, the supply of services to the property (eg water, gas, electricity) and to keep the heating in working order. The landlord CAN NEVER pass this responsibility onto the tenant.