Much of the new 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.
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".
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 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.
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, introduced on 2 November 2020.
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 end on 30 September 2021. However, the level of grant available to employers under the scheme will reduce after 30 June 2021 in increments, with employers required to top up employee salaries to 80 percent:
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.
Although no equivalent loan scheme in England was set up during the pandemic, the Debt Respite Scheme has been established in England and Wales to support some tenants with a "breathing space", giving them time to find a way 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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