The Covid-19 legislation deadlines that letting agents need to know in England, Scotland, and Wales
England, Scotland, and Wales each enacted legislation during Covid-19 to protect landlords and tenants, much of which is soon coming to an end - including the stamp duty holiday, evictions ban, and six-month notice periods. Here are the key dates that estate and letting agents and landlords need to know to stay compliant.
Much of the new lettings legislation relevant to the rental and property sector that was set out during the pandemic will end in the coming months. Here's a breakdown of the key legislative dates that estate and letting agents need to know in England, Scotland and Wales.
Key legislation dates for letting agents and landlords:
- Evictions ban (England, Scotland, Wales)
- Six-month notice periods (England, Scotland, Wales)
- Stamp duty holiday (England, Scotland, Wales)
- Temporary right to rent measures (England)
- Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme (England, Scotland, Wales)
- Rental sector financial loan schemes (Scotland, Wales)
1. Evictions ban (England, Scotland, Wales)
An evictions ban was introduced in England, Wales and Scotland in March 2020, meaning that rental property evictions couldn't be enforced by bailiffs. Courts will continue to prioritise the most serious cases, such as those involving fraud or anti-social behaviour. The government continues to encourage landlords and agents to understand tenants' financial situations and set out payment plans where necessary. It has also introduced the Housing Possession Mediation Service, to find an "acceptable resolution for all".
- The ban ended on 31 May 2021 in England.
- In Wales, the ban ended on on 30 June 2021.
- In Scotland, the ban will remain in place until March 2022, with the possibility to extend this further until September 2022 and a review of the measures every 2 months.
2. Six-month notice periods (England, Scotland, Wales)
In August 2020, the government introduced six-month notice periods in England, except in certain cases such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse. Similarly, in Wales, landlords had to give their tenants three months’ notice between 26 March and 23 July 2020, extended to six months' notice from 24 July 2020. In Scotland, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 meant that landlords serving notice on their tenants on or after 7 April 2020 would need to give most tenants six months' notice.
- In England, notice periods dropped to four months from 1 June 2021. This will then drop again to the pre-pandemic standard from 1 October 2021.
- In Wales, the six-month notice periods ended 24 March 2022.
- In Scotland, the Act has been extended to March 2022.
3. Stamp duty holiday (England, Scotland, Wales)
In 2020, a stamp duty holiday, or its equivalent, was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales to help house buyers that were financially affected during Covid-19 and boost the property market in lockdown.
In England, this meant that from July 2020 the level at which the tax should be paid rose from £125,000 to £500,000. In Wales, the first £250,000 of a residential property's price was made free from stamp duty under the Land Transaction Tax Break, up from £180,000, but not for second homes or buy-to-let properties. In Scotland, the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) threshold - its stamp duty equivalent - was raised from £145,000 to £250,000.
- The Scottish holiday ended in March 2021.
- In Wales, the holiday ended on 30 June 2021.
- In England, the holiday ended in September 2021.
4. Temporary right to rent measures (England)
Since 30 March 2020, temporary measures for the right to rent checks in England have been in place. These include conducting the checks over video call, accepting scans or photos of documents instead of original copies, and using the new online process for EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens, introduced on 2 November 2020.
- From 30 September 2022, landlords or agents will once again need to check the tenants' original documents, or use the online process to conduct the checks.
- Retrospective checks are no longer required for any "COVID-19 adjusted" checks made during this period.
5. Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme (England, Scotland, Wales)
Introduced in March 2020, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is one of the few pieces of Covid-19 legislation aligned across UK nations. It was set up to offer financial support to employers to help them continue to pay staff during the pandemic, rather than making them redundant. The end of this scheme may well have an impact on tenant referencing, with some agents currently choosing to apply extra caution in accepting applications from tenants on the furlough scheme.
In England, Scotland, and Wales, the scheme will ended on 30 September 2021.
6. Rental sector financial loan schemes (Scotland, Wales)
The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund in Scotland, introduced in December 2020, offers interest-free loans to tenants who are struggling with rent arrears due to Covid-19, and covers up to a maximum of nine months’ rent for arrears that arose since 1 January 2020. The Private Rent Sector Landlord (non-business) COVID-19 Loan Scheme offers landlords up to 100% of lost rental income for up to three properties.
The Tenancy Saver Loan Scheme (TSL) was launched in October 2020 in Wales, to serve a similar purpose, offering loans at the low interest rate of just one percent.
- In Wales, the scheme stopped accepting applications as of 1 July 2021.
- In Scotland, both the tenant and landlord funds remain open, past the original end date of 31 March, and will be reviewed every 21 days.
The Welsh government has also introduced a new Tenancy Hardship Grant, which launched in mid-July. The Scottish government have announced a similar grant, which is now available. Local authorities will be able to use their discretion to determine if a payment should be made.
In England, the government set up a "£65 million support package for vulnerable renters", and the Debt Respite Scheme was established in England and Wales, to support some tenants in need of a a "breathing space" to give them time to pay off debts, where relevant. You can download a free guide to the scheme here.
This article is intended as a guide only. For more information, see gov.uk.
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