22 April– World Earth Day – This day is observed every year on 22 April to mark the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. In the Universe Earth is the only planet where life is possible and so it is necessary to maintain this natural asset.
Hope that all is well and that this week has been enjoyable.
Team GPL have been busy integrating the new portfolio, with lots more administration to go through, luckily I enjoy the problem solving, learning about the history of the properties and all the new landlords and tenant as well as the whole process of putting the new properties onto the system!
I know, I need to read a good book, learn a language, pick up my guitar and have a better hobby! I fell down the rabbit hole on twitter of the Aldi Cuthbert the caterpillar and Marks and Spencer Colin the caterpillar social media/marketing battle. If you aren’t on twitter and enjoy excellent marketing with witty puns , the BBC have summerised it in this article, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56812445, but it seems Scotland’s other national drink has jumped on the band wagon….
Now to the serious stuff….
Covid-19 restrictions – Lifting of Covid-19 and eviction ban
The First Minister has confirmed that all of mainland Scotland and islands currently at level 4 of covid restrictions will move to level 3 on 26 April. For landlords and letting agents the move down to level 3 means that visits to tenanted properties to carry out non-essential maintenance and inspections can resume from this date.
Government guidance on the restrictions can be found here.
The First Minister also stated that from 17 May she hopes the whole of Scotland will be in level 2. The eviction ban, which prevents sheriff officers enforcing eviction orders issued by the tribunal, only applies in areas subject to level 3 and 4 restrictions so it is likely that evictions will be able to resume from 17 May.
Below is a list of key landlord/letting agent activities and how they are impacted.
Working from home
People should work from home wherever that is practicable. Organisations should make every reasonable effort to make working from home the default position as it has been throughout the pandemic. Where a worker can perform their work from home, they should continue to do so.
People are permitted to leave home for work if that work cannot be done from home, and also to undertake activities in connection with the maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that you own or are responsible for.
Home moves and viewings
People can move home but it is advisable to postpone viewings of properties and delay home moves, where this is possible.
Repairs & maintenance
Tradespeople should only go into a house to carry out or deliver essential work or services, for example:
- to carry out utility (electricity, gas, water, telephone, broadband) safety checks, repairs, maintenance and installations
- to carry out repairs and maintenance that would otherwise threaten the household’s health and safety
- to deliver, install or repair key household furniture and appliances such as washing machines, fridges and cookers
- to support a home move, for example furniture removal.
When carrying out essential work in someone’s house, tradespeople should stay 2 metres apart from the people who live there, wear a face covering and follow good hand and respiratory hygiene.
These should continue to take place to obtain safety certificates.
Routine inspections at tenanted properties are not essential and should be postponed until the area is removed from level 4 restrictions.
The Scottish Government’s guidance for landlords and letting agents can be found here and guidance on moving home can be found here.
For all other levels of restriction in Scotland (3 and lower) there are no changes to the guidance and all normal landlord/letting agent activities can take place.
A list of the restrictions each local authority area is subject to can be found here.
New tenants who plan to travel from England or other countries
The current travel ban between Scotland and other countries has a number of exemptions which can be found at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/344/schedule/7A and allows travel to “move home or undertake activities in connection with the maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that the person owns or is otherwise responsible for”. Although it is advisable to postpone house moves in level 4 areas if possible, they can still take place if necessary and new tenants can still move to Scotland from other nations for the purposes of a house move.
Covid-19 changes to eviction procedures
Ban on enforcing eviction orders
In December 2020 the Scottish Government announced a ban on landlords enforcing eviction orders issued by the tribunal. The ban applies in level 3 and 4 areas only so evictions can take place in areas which move into lower levels of restrictions. A list of which level each local authority area is in can be found here. The list will be updated as restrictions ease.
Eviction orders issued for illegal occupation, antisocial behaviour, and criminal behaviour including domestic abuse are exempt from the eviction ban so tenants engaging in these activities can still be evicted once an order has been issued by the tribunal.
There is provision for the ban to continue until 30 September, although the government has committed to regularly reviewing the legislation.
Whilst the introduction of a ban on evictions is disappointing news, landlords in Scotland had until December been in a stronger position to evict tenants than their counterparts in England where a ban on evictions has been in place since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. A similar ban is now in place in all nations of the UK.
This ban emphasises the need for the Scottish Government to take further action to help tenants pay their rent in these unprecedented times. SAL will continue to lobby for more financial assistance for landlords and tenants, as well as further exemptions to the eviction ban to cover cases where landlords have a pressing need to move into the property themselves as well as cases where there are significant rent arrears.
The government had delayed the launch of the Energy Efficiency (Domestic Private Rented Property) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, which were due to come into force on 1 April 2020. The work on improving energy efficiency in private rented housing has now been resumed – see requirements here.
Lockdown legionnaires’ risk
With lockdown meaning that many rental properties are sitting unoccupied, there is a risk of legionnaires’ bacteria growing in water systems. This can cause legionnaires’ disease which is a type of pneumonia caused by water droplets containing legionnella bacteria getting into the lungs
Managing rent arrears during Covid-19
Under the terms of the tenancy agreement the rent is still due as normal unless the landlord agrees to a rent reduction or for tenants to pay what is due over a longer period. For guidance on how to deal with rent arrears that arise due to Covid-19 plus sources of financial help for tenants including the tenant hardship loan fund.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King.
Pests and vermin
I wont be offended if you stop reading at this point, it is not a comfortable subject and some people do get a bit squeamish thinking about it.
Rats carry disease, can chew through electrical wiring and are extremely clever – so they are difficult to get rid of once they take hold. Prevention is the best way to avoid pests in your rented accommodation, and if you have never had an issue with rodents before, there is usually a reason behind rats moving into a property.
There could be building works going on nearby, which has caused rats to look for somewhere else to live
- • Flooding may have forced rats to flee the sewers and drains near your property
- • Demolition of a nearby building
- • A broken airbrick or a missing slate
- • A new food source near the property. This could be windfall apples in the garden, overflowing bins in the street, snails and slugs, birdseed or even dog poo.
Lockdown has had a lot to do with the increase in the rat population. With restaurants and cafes closed, commercial food waste is no longer easily available, and so rats have been forced towards residential properties. Rats in the Edinburgh area have increased by 25 per cent, with residents and council workers reporting sightings in the open streets. This is a clear indication of an increase in numbers, as rats are generally shy and stay out of sight. Cold weather can force the rats into homes.
Your home may be uninhabitable if it is infested by pests and vermin such as cockroaches or rats. A tenant may be able to deal with infestations, but for more serious outbreaks, it is advised to contact the council’s environmental health department or a local pest control firm.
What kinds of pests invade homes?
No matter how clean your home, disrepair or poor building design may result in infestation by cockroaches, ants, mites, silverfish, bedbugs, fleas, rats or mice. Pests and vermin can:
- spread diseases
- damage your home and belongings
- sting or bite
- aggravate asthma, eczema and other allergies.
A severe infestation problem could make your home uninhabitable.
How do I deal with common pests?
Here’s a guide to dealing with the most common household invaders. If you’re using poisons or insecticides, make sure you always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep them out of the reach of children and pets.
You should be able to get advice and help in tackling pests from your local council’s environmental health department – you can find details on your council’s website.
Ants don’t pose a significant health risk, but that doesn’t mean you want them swarming into your home. If you discover ants (particularly winged ants) in your home, you can try simply vacuuming them up, or you can tackle them using an ant spray or powder, which you can buy in any DIY store. Treat the nest if you can find it – you may be able to locate it by following the trail of ants. If the nest is inaccessible, treat all entry points to your home (doors, windows, drains, etc), and the ants should carry the insecticide back to the nest.
Bats – I did not know this information about bats.
Bats are not rodents, and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation. Bats do not build nests and therefore do not bring bedding material into the roost; neither do they bring their insect prey into the roost. Most bats are seasonal visitors to buildings – they are unlikely to live in the same building all year round, although they are loyal to their roosts and so usually return to the same roosts year after year. Bats are protected as are their roosts – seek advice if you are planning building work that could disturb them. The Bat Conservation Trust helpline is 0345 1300 228 and Scottish Natural Heritage are also a useful organisation to contact 01463 725 165.
Bees and wasps
Bees and wasps only become a problem if they build nests in the eaves of your home. If disturbed, they can swarm, and may attack. If you discover a nest, don’t go near it. Call the council, who can send round an expert to deal with the problem.
Bedbugs are almost a centimetre long. They feed on blood and leave nasty bite marks. If a tenant thinks that they may have bedbugs, we advise to wash all bedding at 60°C, then use an insecticide on the mattress, headboard and any other areas they could be hiding. If this doesn’t work, you may need to call in the council.
These large, beetle-like insects lurk in warm, dark, humid places such as the areas around pipe ducts in kitchens and bathrooms or under the cooker. They can cause food poisoning and other health problems, such as dermatitis and asthma. Don’t attempt to tackle cockroaches yourself – you’ll need to call in an expert.
Dust mites live in mattresses and bedding, feeding off the sweat and skin cells we shed while sleeping. If you suffer from eczema, asthma or any other respiratory disease, dust mites can make your condition worse. To keep them under control:
- wash your bedding regularly at 60°C
- wrap mattresses and pillows in dust-proof covers
- remove any carpets from your bedroom
- keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated, as mites prefer warm, humid environments.
You can get more tips at Allergy UK.
Pet cats and dogs are usually responsible for bringing fleas into the home. Fleas don’t spread disease but their bites are itchy and unsightly. To combat them:
- treat your pet with a spray, powder or ‘spot on’ product – you can buy these in pet shops, but it’s best to get advice from your vet first
- spray carpets, sofas and bedding with flea spray, paying particular attention to anywhere your pet sleeps
- wash all bedding in a hot wash
- vacuum thoroughly and regularly.
Hide beetles are a problem in central Scotland but are uncommon in the Borders or the North. Up to a centimetre long, they hide under the cooker or fridge and feed on food scraps. Although they don’t pose much of a health risk, they can cause structural damage by boring holes in plaster or wood. You can deal with them by cleaning infected areas thoroughly and treating them with a residual insecticide (an insecticide which keeps on working for a long time).
Mice and rats
Mice and rats spread disease through their urine and droppings. They also cause a lot of damage to your home and furnishings, and can chew through electrical wires, increasing the risk of fire and electrocution.
Mice are very common in old buildings, particularly during the wintertime. However, you can keep them under control yourself using traps (you could also use humane traps) or poison, which you can buy in most DIY stores. A cat is also an effective deterrent.
If you find evidence of rats in your home, you should call in the council or a pest control firm to deal with them immediately.
These long, silver, slimy, wingless insects thrive in damp conditions. They don’t pose a serious health risk but can swarm if they’re not dealt with. Use an insecticide from a DIY store to kill them, and keep kitchen and bathroom cupboards clean and dry to prevent their return.
Squirrels can cause problems if they take up residence in your loft or roof spaces. They can tear away insulation, damage pipes and items stored in the loft and chew through cables and wires, causing a risk of fire and electrocution. To prevent them getting in, block any holes with wire mesh and make sure any missing bricks or roof tiles are replaced. Crushed up mothballs placed around the loft may also act as a deterrent.
If they have already got in, you’ll need to scare them away by making lots of noise before blocking up their access routes. If they have young, you’ll have to wait until they are old enough to leave the nest before you can do this. If the problem is particularly bad, you may need to call in the council or a pest control company. Find out more at www.squirrels.info.
How can I prevent an infestation?
To keep creepy crawlies out of your home, there are several simple precautions you can take:
- Make sure your home is always clean, especially in the kitchen. Wipe down kitchen surfaces and sweep or vacuum floors regularly to remove any trace of food.
- Store food in sealed containers.
- Don’t leave uncovered food out in warm weather as it attracts flies, ants and wasps.
- Clear up any water spillages or leaks, as these can encourage cockroaches and silverfish.
- Keep the kitchen bin closed and empty it regularly.
- Put rubbish out in properly sealed bags or bins.
- If you have a garden or yard, don’t let it become overgrown, as this provides a good home for mice and rats.
- Don’t dump old furniture, mattresses or other rubbish in the garden or yard, for the same reason. Call the council if you need old furniture uplifted, or take it to the tip yourself.
- If you feed garden birds, don’t put food out in the evening and always use a bird table. Don’t put bird food on the ground as this can attract rats.
- If you have a compost heap, don’t put cooked food on it. Again, this attracts rats.
- Block up any holes in the brickwork, roof, skirting board and floorboards, to prevent rats, mice and squirrels getting into your home. If you rent your home, you can ask your landlord to do this for you.
How do I deal with more serious infestations?
If a tenant can’t deal with the pests help can be obtained from the council’s environmental health department. Most councils charge for pest control, but it’s likely that this will still be a cheaper option than calling in a private firm. Get a few estimates if you’re unsure.
Is it the landlord’s responsibility to deal with pests?
If the problem is caused by disrepair, for example, if mice or rats are coming in through holes in the walls or leaking plumbing is causing damp conditions which encourage to cockroaches, this is the landlords responsibility to make good. The advise tenants are given is to report this to your landlord as soon as possible.
If the problem is serious and a landlord refuses to take action, the tenant can contact the council’s environmental health department, who can carry out an inspection of your home and give an abatement notice, forcing the landlord to deal with the problem.
What if the problem can’t be solved?
If the infestation cannot be controlled, the tenant may have no option but to move out. In this case the landlord cannot expect the tenant to stay until the lease is up, because the property is no longer habitable due to the risk of disease.
If the problem is particularly severe, the tenant may be entitled to compensation.
What if the pests are coming from next door?
The neighbours may be responsible for attracting pests into the area, because, for example, they have a lot of rubbish piled up in their garden or yard. In this case, the first step a tenant should take is to talk with the neighbours and ask them to deal with the problem. The page on dealing with antisocial behaviour has useful information on dealing with difficult neighbours.
If this doesn’t work, the council’s environmental health department, who can serve a notice on the neighbours ordering them to clear up the infestation and carry out any repair or cleaning work necessary to prevent further problems. If they don’t comply with the notice, the council can deal with the problem itself, and charge the neighbours for the work.
What if the council won’t help?
If the environmental health department refuses to take action, you may be able to raise an action in the sheriff court . Taking court action can be complicated and sometimes slow. It can also be expensive, unless you are entitled to legal aid to help pay your legal costs.
You may also be able to make a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
What if I have bats in my home?
Bats can sometimes take up residence in the eaves and roof spaces of your home, but unlike mice, cockroaches or other household intruders, they are not pests. They do not cause damage to the fabric of your home and incidences of bats passing diseases onto humans are extremely rare.
Bats and their roosts are protected by law: it’s illegal to kill, injure or capture a bat or to deliberately disturb its roost. If you have bats in your home, you must get in touch with your nearest Scottish Natural Heritage office before doing anything which may disturb their roost, such as carrying out repairs or improvements to your roof or loft.
You can find out more about bats and what to do if you find them in your home at the Bat Conservation Trust website.
We shall be sending an email to the tenants with similar information regarding pests.
Unless there are some major changes and information to send out, next weeks email is going to be about the Scottish private rented tenancy agreement which became the mandatory lease agreement from the 1st December 2017 and how it changed the letting landscape, especially during the pandemic.
That is of course unless I get caught up in some other marketing campaign that is lighthearted and a bit different. 😊
Take care and stay safe
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