What changes have been made to lettings during the pandemic?
It might surprise you to know that, in terms of laws, rules and guidelines affecting landlords, there have been around 50 individual changes or government proposals made since March 2020!
Of course, various legal, procedural and financial changes have had to be made over the past 16 months, due to the knock-on effects of the pandemic. What’s been especially challenging for landlords and agents is the way certain regulations have changed multiple times - often at relatively short notice – such as the rules on evicting tenants and shifts in health and safety requirements as the ‘levels’ changed.
The great news is that on 19th July, most of the restrictions that made letting and managing properties a bit more onerous, finally ended in England. Now that there’s no legal limit to the number of people that can meet indoors, conducting viewings and check-ins and meeting with landlords and tenants is much easier.
But be assured that at Your Move we’re continuing to follow government guidance, which includes taking all recommended hygiene measures, maintaining a reasonable distance indoors and wearing face coverings.
The latest changes to rules and regulations:
Evictions - England & Wales
On 1st August, the minimum notice for a Section 8 issued to a tenant in rent arrears of less than four months, dropped from four to two months. A reminder of the current notice periods:
- For a Section 21, the minimum notice is four months
- For a Section 8, the notice period varies, depending on the ground(s) under which you are seeking possession. These include:
Grounds 1 to 6 (no fault or breach by tenant): four months’ notice
Grounds 8, 10 and 11 (rent arrears):
- If arrears are less than four months: two months’ notice
- If arrears are four months or more: four weeks’ notice
Ground 14 (anti-social behaviour): no legal minimum notice period
No right to rent in the UK: two weeks’ notice
Evictions - Scotland
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 is currently in force until 30th September 2021, meaning landlords must give tenants at least 6 months’ notice.
In exceptional circumstances you can give 28 days’ notice, if the tenant:
- Has a relevant criminal conviction
- Has engaged in relevant antisocial behaviour
- Has spent time in the property with someone who has a relevant criminal conviction or has engaged in relevant antisocial behaviour
- Is no longer living there
Stamp Duty 'holiday' ending
The Stamp Duty nil rate threshold in England, which is currently £250,000, will be reverting to the ‘normal’ £125,000 threshold in October. So, if you complete on the purchase of a buy to let property before the end of September, you’ll only pay the 3% higher rate on the first £250,000, meaning you could save up to £2,500.
Right to rent checks - updated guidance 18 June 2021
The temporary change that allowed virtual interviews and copies of documents to be accepted for right to rent checks, was due to end on the 21st June 2021. But this has now been deferred to 5th April 2022 (inclusive). The government made the decision to defer the date following positive feedback about the ability to conduct checks remotely.
The Debt Respite Scheme
(Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020.
Just a reminder about these regulations, which came into force on 4th May 2021, allowing people in debt to obtain legal protections from their creditors. This means if you have a tenant who’s fallen into arrears during the pandemic and their rent debt has been included in a ‘breathing space’, you have to stop all action against them, i.e. you can’t pursue them for the money or issue them with a Section 8 notice until the breathing space officially ends.
Key changes since March 2020 - not relating to COVID-19
- April 2020: The minimum ‘E’ EPC energy rating came into force for all rented properties in England and Wales
- June 2020: The tenant fee ban was extended to all tenancies in England
- July 2020: The list of accepted documents required to make ‘right to rent’ checks was updated and simplified
- December 2020: In Wales, Land Transaction Tax for second homes and Buy to Let properties was increased by 1%
- January 2021: The Government amended their model tenancy agreement to prevent landlords from banning pets without a good reason
- March 2021: The Home Office announced that legislation will be brought in to allow landlords and managing agents of HMOs to be handed unlimited fines for breaching fire safety regulations
- April 2021: Mandatory 5-year electrical checks came into force for all rented properties in England
If you’ve got any queries about current regulations or you’d like our advice on how to make sure you and your tenants stay as safe as possible, do get in touch. You can contact us via our website or call into your local branch.