2020: A year of lettings disruption and resilience

16 December 2020

2020 has been a year of unpredictable change in the lettings industry. Disruption to the day-to-day management of properties, with imposed safety measures and new legislation to protect tenants, has had a far-reaching impact. Estate and letting agents have shown immense adaptability - highlighting just how valuable they are to landlords in this context.

From a consultation on the abolition of Section 21 and the introduction of the new Electrical Safety Standards Regulations to the Renter’s Reform Bill, many new regulations were passed or announced in recent times to pave the way for a “fairer and more affordable private rented sector that provides security and stability for both tenants and landlords.”

Things took a turn for the unexpected in 2020. The fast-changing, reactive environment saw changes being made and taking effect in minimal time frames. Modern agents must now be prepared to not only meet planned legislation on the horizon, but also the unpredictable measures taken in the wake of unpredictable events - something which the industry has shown it's fully capable of achieving.

Much legislation can now be reframed in the context of the pandemic and the ensuing revisions to compliance for letting professionals. New measures were implemented to ensure the continued protection of vulnerable tenants, with an evictions ban and extended notice periods. Constant clarification has been required for different aspects of the lettings process and landlord and agent responsibilities, such as right to rent checks, electrical and gas safety checks, and repairs.

Even planned legislation that took effect during the pandemic was not immune to the changing situation. ARLA Propertymark has highlighted, for example, that the limited access to properties during the pandemic for safety reasons has exacerbated the tight timelines to complete the Electrical Safety Standards requirements on existing tenancies by April 2021. The professional body has requested an extension of 12 months on this legislation.

The future

The spectre of Brexit had receded in the summer as other more pressing issues came to the fore - only 2% of those surveyed in Goodlord’s State of the Industry Report, Vol II 2020 stated Brexit as their primary concern.

At the end of the transition period with no deal currently on the table at the time of publication of this article, Brexit has reared its head again. Right to rent checks and anti-money laundering legislation, for example, may yet see alterations.

Jonathan Werth, Managing Director at LiFE Residential, feels Brexit will impact the regions differently across the UK. "I think there will be no impact, at the moment, but don't forget, I'm just London based. When you're nationwide based, you've got properties nationwide, I think that may be affecting markets a little bit differently," he says.

All of these uncertainties only serve to highlight the importance for agents of keeping abreast of the legislative knowledge needed to stay compliant in an increasingly demanding sector.

"The lettings industry is very adaptable and very resilient," says Ellie Donaghy, Head of Lettings at Andrews. "We've shown that throughout Covid-19. Legislation change after change after change, and we adapt and we make it work."

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