At Belvoir, we like to keep our landlords and tenants up to date on all of the new rules and regulations that are getting put into place. In the past year, many new laws have either been passed or are in the pipeline to come into effect soon – with the pandemic making regulations even more tricky to navigate, we’ve put together a summary of where all of these new rules are at in this current period of time.
So let’s go through them all…
1. Evictions – are they still on hold?
As we know, all evictions were put on hold until after May 31 2021 as a result of the pandemic (except in special circumstances). However, even with the ban now officially lifted, the government is still keen to see landlords trying to resolve matters amicably with tenants.
Where action is taken, it is vital that landlords follow procedures carefully, ensuring that the correct type of notice is served, whether that be a section 8 notice (where the terms of the tenancy have been broken) or whether a section 21 notice has been served (for no-fault situations, where they need to take back possession of a property.)
2. Section 21 Notices – are they getting abolished this year?
For these section 21 notices – which allow landlords to regain possession of property at the end of a fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy, or one with no fixed end date – a longer notice period is currently needed. Landlords must use new paperwork which reflects the most recent changes in time limits, with an updated form 6A for a no-fault possession notice under section 21.
It appears that the government may abolish section 21 evictions completely later this year. The recent Queen’s Speech confirmed they would publish the consultation response on reforming tenancy law, to improve security for tenants in the private rented sector, while bolstering repossession grounds for landlords in cases where there is a valid reason.
3. Breathing Space – a new rule to protect tenants facing financial hardship
The Debt Respite Scheme also known as ‘Breathing Space’, came into force last month. Now, a debt advisor authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or a local authority can start what is known as a ‘breathing space moratorium’. This will provide someone who is experiencing financial hardship with legal protection from creditors – in this context the landlord will usually be the creditor and the tenant the debtor.
There are two different types of breathing space:
Standard breathing space
The standard breathing space is available to anyone with problem debt, giving legal protection from creditor action for up to 60 days.
Mental health breathing space
Those given breathing space while receiving mental health crisis treatment are given additional protection, with the breathing space lasting as long as the treatment, plus 30 days.
It is paramount that if you are told that a debt owed to you is in a breathing space, you must stop all action and put protection in place until the breathing space ends.
4. Electrical Safety Compliance Certificates – now in force
The Electrical Safety Standards Regulations in the Private Rented Sector applied to all new tenancies in England as of June 2020. All existing tenancies were required to comply by April this year.
There are few exceptions on residential tenancies, and landlords must ensure that electrical installations are checked by a qualified person to ensure they meet the standards set out in the 2018 Wiring Regulations.
After that, an Electrical Safety Condition Report (EICR) must be provided to existing tenants within 28 days and before a tenancy starts for new tenants. The electrical installation must be visually checked on a regular basis, and a full check undertaken by a qualified person at least every five years.
5. Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements
A review of carbon monoxide alarm requirements is expected later this year – with the outcome expected to be announced, too. Currently limited to solid fuel appliances in the private rented sector, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 may be extended to the installation of oil and gas boilers and to social housing.
6. Rules on Pets
The pandemic paved the way for an enormous increase in pet ownership and as such, being a pet-friendly landlord came another step closer, with the government amending its Model Tenancy Agreement (MTA) to make allowing pets the default position.
The MTA is, as it suggests, the recommended or ‘model’ contract for landlords to abide by. Under the new guidelines, landlords will no longer be able to impose a blanket ban on pets. Instead, they will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason for their objection. Tenants could still face restrictions, such as in smaller properties or flats where it may be impractical and would still be legally required to repair or cover the cost of any damage to the property caused by the pet.
7. Right To Rent Changes
There are further changes in validating prospective tenants under Right to Rentrules. Firstly, because of Brexit, since January the EU-Exit grace period has allowed EEA citizens to continue to use their passport or national identity card to demonstrate their right to rent in the UK, but this comes to an end on 30 June 2021. Also in June, there will be an end to the temporary relaxation of seeing original documents which were allowed during the pandemic, meaning landlords could check tenant documents over video calls or by receiving a scanned version.
From June 21 2021 landlords must revert to face-to-face and physical document checks.
8. Reporting Tax Digitally
All landlords with a turnover of more than £85,000 should already be reporting their VAT digitally, under HMRC’s MTD initiative.
From April 2022, MTD will apply to all UK VAT registered businesses, regardless of their turnover, and to certain business income tax records from April 2023. It means even micro businesses who may have registered voluntarily to obtain VAT refunds, will need to use compatible software to submit their VAT return.