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News May 2021

The Government has made a series of welcome announcements this week around possession in the private rented sector.

The updates are wide ranging and generally positive for landlords as a measured and reasonable way to return to the norm without overstretching the courts.

These changes will be staggered, with the first coming on 1 June and a further change to rent arrears notices coming on 1 August.

After that, all notice periods are set to return to their pre-Covid levels from 1 October this year.

Notice periods

From 1 June, the minimum notice required for possession will reduce to four months in most cases, including any Section 21 notices that are served and most Section 8 notices. These changes are not backdated, so notices served up to and including 31 May will need to give a minimum of six months’ notice.

There are some exceptions to this four months’ notice period.

The shorter notices will still be available after 1 June. These are available where:

The Section 8 notice contains an anti-social behaviour ground. In these cases the notice will be either one month (ground 7a) or immediately after service (ground 14). You should seek legal advice before including either of these grounds however.
The rent arrears grounds (8,10, and 11) are included on the Section 8 notice, no other ground is included, and the rent arrears are considered to be serious. In these cases four weeks’ notice will be required. From 1 June, this shorter notice will be available if the tenant is in four months of arrears instead of six.
The fraudulent statement ground (17) is included and no other other grounds are included. In this case only two weeks’ notice is required.
In addition to these existing exceptions, a number of other grounds are being reduced in length over the next few months:

From 1 June, ground 7 will revert to a two month notice and ground 7b will require a two week notice where no other grounds are included.
From 1 August, the rent arrears grounds will only require two months notice, even if the arrears are less than four months.
All of this means landlords are not advised to serve notice in the next few weeks unless their tenants are currently in six months or more of arrears or serious anti-social behaviour is occurring.

Instead, landlords should consider making another attempt to sustain the tenancy in the next few weeks.

Working with the tenant or via a mediation service to find a suitable payment plan to reduce any rent arrears can avoid court or, at worst, show you have made every effort to avoid it.

New prescribed form

To go along with the new notice periods, new prescribed forms for Section 21 and 8 are being introduced from 1 June. These documents are expected to be available on the gov.uk website
The new forms include the updated notice periods. The new Section 8 notice also includes reference to the breathing space legislation that came into force on May 4 of this year.

As these are prescribed forms, landlords are legally required to use the most up-to-date version for the day on which the notice counts as served on the tenant.

As most notices count as served a couple of working days after being posted, landlords should avoid serving any notices in the days leading up to 1 June. Otherwise their notice may be invalid.

Reactivating the bailiffs

In addition to the change in notices, the Government has also announced that lockdown restrictions will end for bailiffs and they can begin operating again from 1 June 2021.

Landlords should be aware that there is likely to be a significant backlog after they do restart.

Due to the various national and local lockdowns in place since March last year, only 85 properties have been repossessed using a county court bailiff in England and Wales since the pandemic began. In comparison there were 20,000 of these appointments in 2019 across the social and private rented sectors.

Reactivating expired warrants

For the landlords who started possession proceedings before the pandemic, there was some other welcome news this week.

The Government has announced that any warrants of possession that have expired or are set to expire between March 17 2020 and August 31 2021 can be extended for free.

Normally this would cost between £100 and £255.

Previously this was only available to cases where a warrant had been issued on or after March 17 last year.

Warrants of possession only last for a year after being issued, so this change means the landlords who had bailiff appointments cancelled at the start of the pandemic will no longer have to pay an additional fee to apply again.

To apply for this free extension, landlords must send an N244 form to their court between 1 June-31 August so a district judge can consider their case. Further details are available on this fee waiver are available here.

Right to Rent

Changes to right to rent checks, introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic will now remain in place until June 21. Emergency measures, introduced in March last year to minimise face-to-face contact were due to end on Sunday – but the Government has announced it will be extending the time period to give landlords more time to adjust.

News  Dec 2020

While every new year brings with it changes to taxation and legislation, this coming year is likely to bring a bit more change than usual.

COVID-19 has cast a significant shadow over the property market, and of course, the economy as a whole. Many landlords have felt obliged to lower rents, while others have struggled to evict anti-social or non-paying tenants due to the ban on evictions (which was in place in England until September 2020).

On top of this, house prices are predicted to fall by more than 10 per cent in 2021.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite having to navigate COVID safety regulations and changing legislation, the rental market is still thriving. No matter what the future brings, our list of key dates for 2021 will help you stay one step ahead of the curve.

1. 1st  January: Brexit
In case you hadn’t heard, on 1 January, the UK will leave the European Union, so it’s vital that you do your homework about what to do and what to expect.

Brexit will naturally bring legislative changes for UK landlords – some of which are likely to be welcomed by UK landlords. For example, the end of the EU Mortgage Credit Directive, which should make it easier and cheaper for you to get a mortgage as a landlord. However, Brexit will also certainly have an impact on the housing market, and the economy as a whole. What will happen to interest rates for example? We’ll have to wait and see…

2. 27th January: National Landlord Investment Show (online)
After a hiatus in 2020 (for obvious reasons) the UK’s number one landlord and property investment exhibition is back at the end of January. The virtual event offers everything from seminars with industry experts to networking opportunities, as well as high quality content in areas such as mortgage and finance, investment, and tax.

3. 29th January: Second reading of the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accomodation and Protection) Bill
For landlords, the new year starts with the second reading of a proposed new law which would allow tenants to have a pet without their landlord’s approval. The Dogs and Domestic Animals Bill has been put forward by Conservative MP, Andrew Rosindell, and is being supported by a number of animal welfare charities including the RSPCA.

If passed, this would mean (as long as renters can prove they are responsible owners) tenants would have an assumed right to take a pet into any rented accommodation.

4. 31 January: Online tax return deadline
It may seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people miss the deadline for the online tax return. So, as boring as it sounds, 31 January is definitely one for the diary. Of course, once you’ve filed your return, you’ll need to pay what you owe by the same date.

5. February: New Scottish smoke alarm law
After the tragic Grenfell fire, a new law is being passed in Scotland next year to ensure all homeowners and renters are adequately protected from the threat of fire.

From February 2021, all Scottish homes must have a smoke alarm in living rooms, hallways and landings, heat alarms in kitchens, and carbon monoxide alarms near boilers or wood burners.

6. March: Changes to eviction legislation
Due to the pandemic, landlords are currently legally obliged to give tenants six months’ warning for all evictions.

While there are caveats for certain circumstances – domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour, and more than six months’ worth of rent arrears – this law has made eviction much harder and lengthier.

The good news for landlords is that this rule is set to end in March 2021.

7. 1st April: Stamp duty changes
From 1 April all non-UK residents purchasing property in this country will be liable to pay an additional two per cent stamp duty surcharge. However, if you pay the stamp duty surcharge and then go on to become a UK resident within 12 months, you may be eligible for a refund.

8. 1st April: Client money protection
The deadline for agents to comply with client money protection legislation has been pushed back twice over the past few years. However, with a firm deadline set for 2021, all agents will have to be compliant by 1 April.

9. April 2021: Deadline for electrical compliance
If you’re a landlord, you should have an electrical safety compliance certificate for every property you own.

The certificate proves that fixed electrical installations have been safety tested by a qualified electrician, ensuring the safety of your tenants. If you haven’t got one, the deadline is looming. Anyone without a certificate after 1 April will be breaking the law.

10. 30 June: Changes to Right to Rent
Currently in the UK, if you’re a landlord, you must check all tenants’ immigration status to find out whether they can legally rent their property. This applies to all tenants, irrespective of ethnicity or nationality.

With Brexit bringing in a points-based system from 1 January, landlords have been told to continue using passports and national ID cards as an interim measure until 30 June. What happens then? Wait and see.

11. No fixed date: Changes to planning regulations
In a bid to stop developers from building homes without enough space or natural lighting, the Government is planning new legislation for minimum space and light requirements.

The proposed law will target developers using PDR (permitted developers rights), a fast tracking process which currently allows developers to transform buildings into homes without applying for full planning permission.

12. No fixed date: Amendment to Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016
First proposed in February 2020, the amendment to the Renting Homes Act in Wales will see tenants being given a minimum of 12 months’ protection from eviction at the start of a new tenancy – provided they are not in contravention of their tenancy agreement.

Other amendments to the bill will include: an extension of the minimum notice period from two months to six months, a legal obligation for landlords to provide functioning smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and gas and electricity safety certificates to be in place for every property.

13. No fixed date: Deadline for landlords to implement MTD
If you’re a landlord with a turnover of more than £85,000, you should be using MTD (making tax digital). The system requires you, the landlord, to send HMRC quarterly updates of income and expenses via your digital tax account. This works out your tax as you go, so at the end of the year, rather than completing a tax return, you simply sign a declaration to say the numbers are accurate.

If you’re not using MTD but should be, the deadline is set for some time in 2021 – with an additional deadline of 2022 for all businesses to sign up, irrespective of turnover.

14. No fixed date: Abolition of Section 21
It looks like 2021 may be the year of the abolition of Section 21. Currently, Section 21 allows landlords to evict tenants with a notice period of six months either after a fixed-term tenancy ends, or during a tenancy with no fixed end date.

Part of the Government’s planned Renters’ Reform Bill, the abolition of Section 21 would essentially mean that all evictions would need to go through the courts.

15. No fixed date: Potential increase in capital gains tax
While there’s been widespread speculation that there would be an increase in capital gains tax (CGT) this year, Rishi Sunak made no mention of it in the November mini-budget. However, he did say that tax increases in 2021 were now ‘inescapable’, leading many to believe that the predicted rise in CTGT isn’t off the cards, rather postponed until next year.

So there you have it, some key dates for landlords in 2021. Although nobody can predict the future, being prepared will definitely help us all navigate and prepare for change. As the saying goes “I cant promise you anything but change…….and more of it”

News  March 2020

Government Announces Mandatory Electrical Checks

Much anticipated in 2019, the Government finally announced its proposed new regulations for electrical safety in the private rented sector in England.

The regulations are due to come into force from 1 July 2020 for new tenancies, and 1 April 2021 for existing tenancies.

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