Well, what a year it’s been! For obvious reasons 2020 will not be a year that we’ll remember fondly – but there are always some positives to come out of adversity.
I am immensely proud of the way we have been able to keep going as a business through the pandemic and continue to help people move home and move forwards with their lives.
That said, the contribution we have made pales into insignificance compared to the heroic efforts of the NHS. From everyone at Douglas Allen we’d like to offer a huge and heartfelt thank you to all NHS Staff and Key Workers.
As Christmas nears, it’s often seen as a time for reflection, but quite frankly I’d rather look forward to 2021 and with the positive news of the vaccination programme hopefully making the new normal a bit more like the old normal, the signs are looking good for a buoyant property market.
Much has changed over this year with regards to lettings legislation, some of it permanent and some of it ‘earmarked’ at least as temporary in reaction to the impact of Covid-19. As such, I think it’s appropriate to cover some of the key areas where we’re likely to see changes.
How To Rent Guide – Updated
Firstly, something the Government has just snuck into 2020 on the 10 December is an updated version of the ‘How To Rent Guide’. Nothing too exciting in there really, other than updated content around electrical safety requirements following The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 coming into force in June this year.
Perhaps the biggest change referenced in the updated guide is the Government’s commitment to removing Section 21 notices and with it the ‘no fault’ eviction process. This will mean a big change to the PRS, but it’s also likely to mean a big change to the current fault based eviction process. One thing is for sure, it’s a hot topic that all landlords will want to keep up to date with, and as yet there is no known timeframe for its removal.
Back to the ‘How to Rent Guide’ changes – why is this important? Well, landlords have an obligation to provide the most recent version of the guide to their tenants when a new tenancy starts and also on renewal of tenancy if the guide has been updated since it was last given to the tenants. We have sent a copy to all of the tenants we look after on our managed or part-managed service cover all bases. If you manage your own tenancy or have properties with other agents, keep in mind that a section 21 notice (while it still exists!) won’t be valid if the correct paperwork hasn’t been served on the tenants – including this updated ‘How to Rent Guide’.
As mentioned already, The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 became law in June 2020. This means that all new tenancies, renewed tenancies or tenancies that became Periodic Tenancies (continued past the end of a fixed term without an official renewal) are required to have had an Electrical Safety Inspection completed and any remedial work identified completed within 28 days.
Having been in place now for almost six months, a large number of tenancies have had to comply with the new regulations, which has been a challenge in itself thanks to Covid-19. But that still leaves a sizeable amount that will need to be compliant before the backstop date of 1 April 2021, when all tenancies must meet the new regulations. Whilst there are calls to extend this deadline and for common sense to prevail (given the scarce availability of electricians), there are no signs of the deadline changing at the moment.
Legislation changes are a bit like busses sometimes and the same is true for the end dates for the temporary changes we have seen brought in during the Pandemic. The day before the backstop date for Electrical Safety we have the end, or possibly more accurately, a review date for two other things:
Stamp Duty Holiday
Due to end on the 31 March 2021, but with an entire industry appealing to the government to keep the holiday in place, this is a date you need to be focused on if you’re buying or selling a property at the moment. Fail to complete a purchase on or before this date and it could cost you a significant sum.
One of the most significant changes over the pandemic has been to the notice periods required for a landlord to end a tenancy. There are more complexities, but as a general rule of thumb they changed from 2 to 3 months, then from 3 to 6 months. The 31 March 2021 is also the review date on this – it’s impossible to say what will happen, but its quite possible that the notice period will be reduced once more – if this happens it will give some landlords interesting scenarios where they will have already served notice on their tenants giving 6 months and they may be able to serve notice again to end the tenancy sooner!
Last month I mentioned the open consultation on Energy Efficiency In Rental properties, which closes at the end of December – you can still have your say here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-the-energy-performance-of-privately-rented-homes
Change will come from this and the likely outcome will be a raised lowest EPC rating from E to D or C that all rental properties will need to meet (or obtain a valid exemption from). This will mean landlords having to spend money to improve the energy efficiency of their properties – so its definitely worth taking advantage of the Green Home Grant scheme https://www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/pages/green-homes-grant
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Another consultation which is likely to take the form of new legislation in 2021. This is primarily aimed at social housing, but is looking to fill in some gaps to improve safety in both private rental and in owner occupied properties.
These changes are likely to be that Carbon Monoxide alarms will be required in rooms where there are fixed combustion appliances (except gas cookers). The consultation also looks to clarify the correct placement of alarms, as well as the minimum standards for Carbon Monoxide alarms.
You can read more and have your say here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/domestic-smoke-and-carbon-monoxide-alarms/domestic-smoke-and-carbon-monoxide-alarms-proposals-to-extend-regulations
There is only one more thing to mention with regard to next year and it’s like the elephant in the room – the ‘B’ word – Brexit. It’s impossible to ignore and impossible to tell what impact it will have on the property market, but rest assured we will be on hand to help you, whatever your situation, however we can and as much as we can.
From everyone at Douglas Allen we would like to wish you and your families a safe and Happy Christmas and New Year.