How you can help your landlords navigate new and changing legislation

1 February 2021

Legislation is now one of the key drivers for landlords choosing to take up a letting agent's services. Showing how much you can do for landlords in this area could be the difference between bringing them on as let-only or fully managed, say agents in an extract from Goodlord's e-book "How to win new landlords in a challenging environment".

Helping landlords navigate new and changing lettings legislation is still one of the most important ways letting agents can support landlords. This year is again going to bring with it myriad legislation changes and will be a key lever letting agencies can pull to win more landlords in a challenging environment.  Most of the Covid-19 legislation changes and initiatives are set to end in the first half of the year, including six-month notice periods and changes to the possession process - better known as the furlough scheme - and the stamp duty holiday.

But that's only the beginning of the legislation changes ahead in 2021. From 1 April 2021, the Electrical Safety Standards will apply to all tenancies - both new and existing - from 1 April 2021, requiring landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is “qualified and competent”, at least every five years and provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants. Complying with this legislation will be a major undertaking for the private rented sector, with ARLA Propertymark pushing for a 12-month extension to the deadline.

On top of that, the end of June brings with it yet-to-be-confirmed changes to right to rent checks on EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens as a result of Brexit, while the Renters' Reform Bill - and with it the repeal of Section 21 - is still on the horizon. Work had begun on the bill before the pandemic and Landlord Action's Legal Director Tim Frome thinks the bill is likely to be a priority for the government next year: “It’s been pushed into the long grass a little bit, but I know it's still on the government's agenda.”

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It’s for this reason that Neil Baldock, Director of Charles David Casson in Chelmsford, believes the role of letting agents is, increasingly, to be compliance officers for landlords. “Our main job is to make sure that they are compliant so that they don't get fined and they can get possession of their property back when they want it,”  he says. “So the biggest thing we do to upsell landlords onto fully managed, is explain to them exactly what we're doing in the background that they can't necessarily see.”

He says they’re trying to ask landlords who say they want a let-only service more questions about why they’ve chosen it.  “We ask what experience they have in managing properties, and questions around legislation, for example 'Do you know what happens if you haven't served this document?' or, 'Do you know what the fine is if you don't do this?'” he says. “That's when you can demonstrate that property management isn't just about arranging a plumber or an electrician, because I think that's the belief that a lot of self-managed landlords have, and, many moons ago, that might have been the case.” At Goodlord, letting agents are provided with monthly email newsletter templates for their landlords that highlight legislation changes and demonstrate the actions they're taking on their landlords' behalf. 

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Ryan Woolfenden, Managing Director of Leader Fox in Poole, agrees: “I think as an industry, both in sales and lettings, we’re not very good at communicating what we do and, as a consequence, people think they can do it themselves. It’s not necessarily rocket science, but there is a lot of legislation now and if you do get something wrong, it can be costly to resolve,” he says.

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