Letting a property in England, Scotland, and Wales: the key legislative differences your agency needs to know

26 July 2021

Lettings laws and regulations vary across the borders for agents, landlords, and tenants in England, Scotland, and Wales. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know.

The rights and responsibilities of letting and estate agents, landlords, and tenants in the private rented sector across England, Scotland, and Wales vary as they can be decided at the level of each devolved government - and therefore the legislation and regulations differ too across Great Britain. So what should your agency consider when renting out your landlords' properties?

Registering and licensing landlords and agencies

Registration and licensing aim to protect tenants from "rogue" landlords and agents.

Repairs

The property that your landlords rent to your tenants should meet certain criteria to ensure they're fit to be rented out.

  • In England, landlords must ensure that their rental properties, including common areas, are fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout its duration, in line with the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. Landlords are responsible for repairs when the tenancy has a fixed term of less than seven years. Download a guide for your Landlords' obligations under the Fitness for Human Habitation Act.
  • In Scotland, landlords must adhere to the Tolerable Standard as minimum for a rental property, to ensure it's fit to live in. Landlords must also follow the Repairing Standard - including checks before a tenant moves in, and throughout their tenancy.
  • Landlords with properties in Wales can apply for a loan from Houses into Homes to help get a property fit to let.

Rent control

Although rent controls used to exist historically, this changed with the Housing Act 1988 which deregulated rents in England and Wales.

  • Rent can be increased at the end of a fixed term for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), with a Section 13 notice, or according to any rent increase clause in the contract in England and Wales.
  • In Scotland, ASTs were replaced with Private Residential Tenancies (PRTs) in 2017, which have no tenancy end date and must give tenants at least three months’ notice to increase rent. Local rent caps can be introduced if rents in an area are rising too quickly.

Eviction

Your agency and landlord must follow strict guidelines to evict a tenant - hinging on many factors, including when you provide the relevant property documents. Although there have been temporary measures in place during Covid-19 to help protect tenants, but there are standard processes to follow to ask tenants to leave a property.

  • In England, Section 21 notices can be served on an AST to evict a tenant with two months' notice after a fixed term ends - known as a no fault eviction - or a Section 8 notice can be served to evict a tenant before the end of the fixed term, if a tenant has breached their contract or fallen into rent arrears. The Renters' Reform Bill aims to abolish Section 21, while strengthening Section 8. A government white paper is expected to outline the full plan in Autumn 2021. Download your free guide to the Renters' Reform Bill.
  • Sections 21 and 8 also exist in Wales. However, rather than through the Renters' Reform Bill, the Welsh government plans to extend the minimum notice period from two months to six months and to restrict the issuing of such a notice until six months after the start date of the contract, rather than the four months it is currently, through the Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill.
  • The PRT in Scotland means that contracts have no set end date and, as long as tenants abide by their tenancy agreements, it's very difficult to evict them. There are eight mandatory grounds for eviction and the tenant would have to meet at least one to be considered for eviction, with varying notice periods.

Property documents to serve tenants

When you or your landlord welcome a new tenant into a property, there are documents that you must share with your tenant at set points in the process.

  • Tenants in England must be provided with the "How to Rent" guide, a gas safety certificate, Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR), and an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which should also be displayed in any advertising. For any deposits protected in a government-approved deposit protection scheme, the prescribed information about the scheme must be shared with the tenants within 30 days. 
  • With PRTs in Scotland, tenants have to receive the written tenancy terms and certain statutory terms. If the landlord uses the government's model tenancy agreement, they should also receive the Easy Read Notes, explaining the contract in simple terms, while if the landlord creates their own agreement, they'll have to share the Statutory terms supporting notes. As with English tenancies, the EPC certificate must be displayed in advertising for the property.
  • Landlords with properties in Wales have to give or link tenants to the "A Home in the Private Rented Sector – A Guide for Tenants". As in England, they should also provide a gas safety certificate, deposit protection scheme information, EICR, and EPC certificate.

Tenant and landlord fees

Tenant fees are banned in one form or another in all three nations, but the details differ.

  • The Tenant Fees Act is applicable in England, and limits the fees that agents and landlords can charge their tenants. Holding deposits are limited to one week's rent, and security deposits at five week's rent for properties with an annual rent of below £50,000. For changes to the tenancy agreement requested by the tenant, agents or landlords can still charge an admin fee of up to £50, and can charge for the replacement of a lost key or other security device to give access to the housing, or late payment of rent. Download your free guide to the English Tenant Fees Act.
  • In Wales, the lettings fee ban has some differences to the one imposed in England. There is no limit on security deposits, but the holding deposit is limited to no more than 1 week's rent, and tenants aren't required to pay administration fees or inspection fees when they move out.
  • In Scotland, the fees ban is more stringent. Tenants only have to pay rent and the deposit - the landlord must pay all other fees.

This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. Learn how Goodlord can help your agency with compliance in the lettings process.

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