Here is a summary of the planned and possible changes for this year that landlords need to know about.
Latest on evictions
Currently, you can start the process to evict tenants, but in England and Wales, no-one can be evicted by bailiffs until 31st March 2021. If you haven’t yet issued a notice to leave, be aware the minimum notice period is now six months. If the tenant doesn’t leave after that, you would have to take them to court and, based on current lead times, it could take 12 months or more for you to regain possession.
In serious cases involving domestic violence, anti-social behaviour and, in England, rent arrears of more than six months, you may be able to evict your tenant more quickly.
The good news is at Leaders, having to evict a tenant is very rare.
The Government’s pilot mediation service
In view of the current issues around evicting tenants, the Government is introducing a pilot ‘mediation’ scheme.
This was launched on 1st Feb and is being provided by the Society of Mediators. It will be free for tenants and landlords who are considered suitable at ‘Review’. If all agree for the case to be referred, a mediator will get in touch with both parties. If a solution is reached, the landlord and tenant will sign an agreement and if not, the court case will go ahead as normal.
The pilot has been funded for six months and will help ‘test’ whether this is a better way to resolve some disputes than the full court process.
If you, or a tenant is interested, you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, however referrals will only be made once the tenant has had access to free legal advice through the Housing Courts Possession Duty Scheme (HPCDS) on the day of the Review.
Let with pets?
The issue of tenants with pets is often the subject of debate and that’s likely to continue throughout the year.
The first thing to know is that the government ‘model tenancy agreement’ has been adjusted, taking out the ability for landlords to issue a blanket ban on tenants with pets. At the moment, this is only applicable if a landlord uses the government agreement.
However, you also need to be aware that a new Bill to ban ‘no pet’ clauses in all tenancy agreements passed its first reading in October and is awaiting a date for its second reading.
So, although it’s currently down to you as the landlord whether you want to let your property to people with pets, this might change in the near future.
Electrical changes (England)
Despite requests to extend the deadline for all existing tenancies to have five-year electrical checks completed, that date of 1st April 2021 still stands. By then, all rented properties must have had a full electrical inspection within the last 5 years and the tenants must be given a copy of the written report, either when they move in or within 28 days of the inspection if they’re already living there.
If you haven’t secured your electrical inspection yet, get in touch with your local Leaders office to see if we can help.
Right to Rent checks post-Covid
The Government amended the Right to Rent rules so that tenant checks could be made remotely while pandemic restrictions are in force. At the moment, video interviews and electronic copies of documents are acceptable, however once the restrictions are lifted, tenants will have to be re-checked in person with their original documents within an 8-week timeframe.
Renters’ Reform Bill (England)
This Bill is primarily concerned with: getting rid of Section 21, allowing tenants to have a deposit that can move with them from one property to another and creating a public list of rogue landlords.
The introduction of the Bill has been delayed due to the pandemic, but the Government plans to move ahead with it once “there is a sensible and stable economic and social terrain”.
Given that the current Covid-19 emergency legislation requires a six-month eviction notice, Section 21 has already been effectively side-stepped so, when the Bill eventually goes through, it might be less harsh than the current rules.
HMO Regulation Bill
This Bill is mostly aimed at large HMOs. Among other things, it recommends the police have a say on planning applications and for tenants to have a 24/7 point of contact. There is also a request to increase penalties for landlords who don’t abide by the licence rules.
The Bill passed its first reading in September 2020, but is yet to be scheduled for a second reading, which is expected some time this year.
If you are an HMO landlord, as long as you are letting your property according to the national and local rules, it’s less likely this Bill will affect you.
Carbon Monoxide Consultation
This consultation has been seeking views on changes to the Carbon Monoxide rules and regulations. From a landlord’s perspective, the proposals are to require private landlords to install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation with a fixed combustion appliance – e.g. a boiler - although this excludes gas cookers.
Currently the rules state:
Private sector landlords are required to have….a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire or wood burning stove).
Carbon monoxide alarms aren’t expensive and, considering they could save someone’s life, it’s worth installing them, whatever the rules are now or in the future.
Renting in the 21st Century
Covid-19 has certainly affected the way we let and manage properties. In particular, the convenience and time-saving benefits of technology have been highlighted over the last year and we expect most of these changes to stay. Viewings are likely to continue to be carried out mostly online as restrictions lift, reducing the number of property visits and meaning less disturbance for existing tenants. Digital identity checks and signatures are likely to become more popular and robust, helping to automate paperwork and reducing the time it takes when letting a property.
Our Fully Managed service for landlords can give you peace of mind that your properties are adhering to all the latest legislation. You will also get access to our online landlord’s portal giving you regular updates on everything you need to be aware of when you’re a landlord. Get in touch with your local Leaders branch to find out more.