On 27th June, the Government announced its latest plans for the housing market, following last year’s consultations on a number of different proposals. (You can read the full response on the government website)\n\nThis is the latest in a series of moves by the government to ensure ‘decent and fair housing’ for those who need it and a big area of focus this time around has been on leasehold - getting rid of unfair leasehold practices and improving the leasehold\/freehold relationship.\n\nHere is our summary of the plans that were announced:\n\n\nAxing leasehold for all new-build houses\n\nYou’ve probably seen in the media reports of numerous new-build homeowners that have found themselves trapped in houses they are struggling to sell. That’s because some new homes were sold as leasehold, with the leases containing clauses that demand hikes in ground rent payments as the years go on.\n\nTo tackle this – and to help both owners of existing leasehold houses and flats, which will remain leasehold - the Government is proposing a number of changes:\n\n\n\tAll new-build houses are to be sold as freehold in the future\n\t \n\tHelp to Buy scheme contracts to be renegotiated with developers, to rule out the building and selling of any new leasehold homes under the scheme. The Communities Secretary has already instructed Homes England to move forward with this\n\t \n\tIf a buyer is incorrectly sold a leasehold house, they will be able to gain the freehold at no cost, including free legals\n\t \n\tGround rents for any new leases – including on flats – is to be reduced to zero\n\t \n\tAny freeholder found to be charging ground rent unscrupulously can be fined up to £5,000 per property\n\t \n\tWhen existing leaseholders want to sell their property, freeholders & managing agents will have 15 days to provide required information. They will not be able to charge any more than £200 for supplying this.\n\n\nIf these proposals become law, freeholders will no longer be able to hold leaseholders to ransom by hiking up costs or imposing unfair restrictions that make houses too expensive to own and hard or impossible to sell.\n\n\nNew Homes Ombudsman on the way\n\nCurrently, while estate agents have to belong to an Ombudsman, there’s no such requirement for developers. As a result, when people have problems with new build homes and don’t get anywhere dealing directly with the developers, they often don’t know where to turn to complain to get some kind of recourse.\n\nAs the Government presses on with its commitment to deliver 300,000 homes a year by 2025, it’s keen to make sure building standards remain high and homebuyers get the quality of home they expect. As such, they’re planning to establish a New Homes Ombudsman, which would:\n\n\n\twork with the industry, consumer groups and government to help ensure improvements and standards are delivered quickly and correctly\n\t \n\tprotect buyers’ rights and give them a clear way to hold developers to account through a redress scheme\n\t \n\trequire all new-build developers to belong to the scheme\n\n\nThis is great news for consumers, who now have the opportunity to input into the shaping of this Ombudsman. A consultation has already been launched, seeking views on mattering including: what powers the Ombudsman should have, how it should be funded and whether there should be a legal Code of Practice for developers.\n\nHave your say: Consultation on the New Homes Ombudsman, open until 22nd August.\n\n\nDeposit ‘passporting’ scheme\n\nAs it stands currently, the government believes some tenants are put under too much financial pressure when they want or need to move rented homes, because they have to find the funds for a deposit on their new property before they’ve had their previous one returned. On occasion they have to go into debt to cover the cost and some tenants can feel ‘trapped’ in a property because they simply can’t afford to move.\n\nSo, to make it easier for renters to move the government is looking at ways in which deposits could be transferred directly between landlords. Plans for what’s being called a ‘national passporting scheme’ for tenancy deposits were revealed at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference in Manchester at the end of June.\n\nThe main issue to be resolved is dilapidations, as the total amount a tenant might owe a landlord usually can’t be established until after they’ve moved out – and into a new property. \n\nHave your say: Consultation on tenancy deposit reform, open until 5th September.\n\n\nSpotlight on Wales\n\nTwo key things for landlords in Wales to know about this month:\n\nTenancies may become a minimum 12-month contract\n\nAt the moment, the law is in Wales is essentially the same as in England: a landlord can’t make a ‘no-fault’ eviction within the first 6 months and cannot issue a two-month notice to leave until the end of the fourth month – i.e. it’s a 6-month minimum contract.\n\nThe proposal, announced by the Welsh housing minister Julie James AM, is to:\n\n\n\tincrease the initial period during which a landlord cannot give notice, from 4 to 6 months, and\n\t \n\textend the subsequent notice period from 2 to 6 months\n\n\nEffectively, this will result in tenancies becoming a 12-month minimum contract by default.\n\nBan on tenant fees from 1st September\n\nThe Bill on banning tenant fees gained Royal Assent in May and is due to come into force in September. This will bring Wales in line with England, meaning tenants can only be asked to pay:\n\n\n\tRent\n\t \n\tHolding deposits – capped at the equivalent of one week’s rent\n\t \n\tSecurity deposits\n\t \n\tCharges for defaults, breaches and replacement items (such as door keys)\n\t \n\tCouncil tax, utilities, TV licence and communication services.\n\n\nLandlords won’t be able to charge tenants for things such as paperwork, viewings or tenancy renewals and it’s estimated this change will save tenants almost £200.\n\nThe government has also been given the power to limit the level of security deposits in the future.\n\n\nUpcoming EPC changes in Scotland\n\nBe aware of the upcoming change to legislation surrounding energy performance certificates: from 1st April 2020, any new tenancy will require the property to be rated at least ‘E’. So, if the EPC for your property currently has a rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’, you’ll need to make some improvements to bring it up to standard. If you’re found to be violating the new law, you could be fined up to £4,000.\n\nExisting tenancies must be up to standard by the end of March 2022 and the Scottish Government has also set deadlines for raising the minimum requirement to a ‘D’ rating. Here’s the proposed timescale for all the changes:\n\n\n\t‘E’ rating on EPC \n\tFrom 1st April 2020, for a change in tenancy \n\tBy 31st March 2022, for all tenancies \n\t \n\t‘D’ rating on EPC \n\tFrom 1st April 2022, for a change in tenancy\n\tBy 31st March 2025, for all tenancies. \n\n\nYou can search for an EPC assessor via the Energy Saving Trust website or simply contact your local Your Move branch if you’d like any advice on improving your property’s rating.