6 things your agency needs to know in September 2022

5 September 2022

The temporary right to rent checks are ending while energy bills are increasing - and agents need to keep an eye on industry fraud and HMO licensing trends to ensure they're not caught out.

The end of September will bring with it the end of the Covid-adjusted, temporary right to rent checks, so agents will need to ensure they continue to follow government guidelines to stay compliant. Energy prices will also jump once again, while reports of fines for non-compliance with HMO licensing are on the rise - but there's some good news, with new technologies proving their mettle in combatting fraud in the referencing process, and a consultation on the Decent Homes Standard now underway, where letting agents and landlords can have their say.

What you need to know in September 2022

What you needed to know in previous months

End of the temporary Covid-adjusted right to rent checks

The temporary Covid-adjusted right to rent measures will come to an end on 30 September. This means that checks for British and Irish citizens can now revert back to a manual check of the relevant documents, or can be checked through an approved IDVT provider.

Your applicants with a biometric residence card or permit, with settled or pre-settled status, or those that have applied for a visa and used the ‘"UK Immigration: ID Check" app will still be able to provide landlords or agents with a share code to complete their checks, as before.

Consultation into the Decent Homes Standard launched

The government has launched its consultation into the implementation and the enforcement of the Decent Homes Standard in the private rented sector in England, running until 14 October 2022.

The consultation highlights that bringing all homes in line with the standards will require investment, but that an estimated 79% of all properties in the sector already meet the standard.

Questions in the consultation aim to uncover views on penalties, exemptions, where responsibility lies to make the improvements, and connecting the standard to the proposed Property Portal, among other topics. You can read more about the Decent Homes Standard in our guide.

Energy price cap to increase by 80% on average per household from October

On 1 October 2022, the energy price cap for dual fuel will increase to £3,549 per year for the average UK household - an 80% increase on the current cap of £1,971. A typical bill for those on prepayment meters will jump to £3,608.

You can listen to this podcast episode with Rik Smith, Goodlord's Director of Tenancy Services, to learn more about what these changes mean for your agency, landlords, and tenants.

You can also share an overview of the financial support available with your tenants to help them prepare for this increase, and share a list of FAQs on what the energy crisis means for them, to keep them in the know.

The debate continues around renters' pet insurance

The inclusion of pet insurance in the "A Fairer Private Rented Sector" white paper still needs to be fully defined.

One solution proposed by the CEO of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme is to consider changing the Tenant Fees Act to allow an additional pet deposit, rather than including insurance as a permitted payment - which may result in a delayed repayment to landlords for any damages.

The industry waits to hear how the final bill will ensure a fair solution for both tenants and landlords that want to protect their investment.

The importance of getting HMO licensing right

HMO licensing - or rather reports of non-compliant landlords - have featured prominently in industry news in recent months.

Landlords need a licence for each HMO that they run, and the licences expire after a maximum of five years - with a risk of unlimited fines for those renting out an unlicensed HMO. You can read more in our guide to HMO licensing.

Anti-fraud tech helping landlords save money

Technology in the referencing process can help filter out any fraudulent references - and Goodlord data shows that its technologies - such as AI, open banking, and identify verification - helped landlords save £1 million between 2021 and 2022, based on average rental costs and minimum contract lengths.

The most common types of fraud centre around tenants providing false or doctored ID, right to rent, income, or references - and, if you're looking for some tips on how to combat tenancy fraud, check out these top tips from our Managing Director of Referencing, Blake Richmond.

Things to know from August 2022

New material information guidance published

National Trading Standards has published new guidance for Part A of the three-phase process for improving material information in property listings. Part A was introduced in May 2022, with Parts B and C to follow.

Under these rules, agents and landlords need to include details of the rent amount, council tax band, and the holding and security deposits for a property, to avoid being liable for making “a misleading omission” in their listings.

You can read more about the information that you should be including in your listings in our guide.

New guidance on the extended carbon monoxide and smoke alarm rules for rented properties published

New smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations are expected to come into play on 1 October 2022 in England, and the government has published guidance to support these changes.

For private landlords, this enhances the requirements for carbon monoxide alarms, which will need to be installed in any room used as living accommodation with a fixed combustion appliance - excluding gas cookers.

You can read our guide for a breakdown of the new guidance, or learn more about how to prepare with our seven top tips from Robert Bolwell, Senior Partner at Dutton Gregory. 

Energy price cap increase amount to be confirmed

The price cap increase amount will be announced on 26 August. Ofgem has previously estimated that the next energy price cap from 1 October 2022 will increase annual household energy costs by £800, to £2,800 on average.

However, Cornwall Insights has predicted that it could in fact leap to £3,244 a year, bearing in mind the impact of the "global political and economic uncertainty" on the energy market. This will of course further intensify the cost of living crisis.

You can share a questionnaire with your tenants before then to better understand their financial circumstances - and share a list of financial support that they may be able to access as prices rise.

New Prime Minister to be named

Conservative party members will have the summer to consider who they wish to nominate as the next leader of the party and, therefore, the next Prime Minister - either Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Although Eddie Hughes, Levelling Up Under Secretary, recently shared that he and the candidates for Prime Minister were all committed to delivering the Renters' Reform Bill reforms, according to Sean Hooker's recent blog, agents and landlords should remain vigilant in case of any unexpected changes to the planned changes.

Party members will vote on 2 September, with the results announced on 5 September. You can read more about what Boris Johnson's resignation could mean for the Renters' Reform Bill in our blog, listen to the podcast, or watch the webinar.

Regulations for short-term and holiday lets in England may be on the horizon

The government has launched a consultation into the possibility of a register for short-term lets, with a call for evidence on the key points such as:

  • The size of the sector
  • The main benefit of the short-term and holiday letting
  • Levels of compliance for health and safety legislation
  • the impact of short-lets on rental housing supply

Closing on 21 September 2022, the results will define the level of policy involvement from the government, whether doing nothing or introducing a register with varying degrees of enforcement.

You can find out more about what may be introduced in our guide.

Things to know from July 2022

"A Fairer Private Rented Sector" white paper published

The big news of June was the publication of the Renters' Reform Bill white paper. This detailed some previously announced proposals, including abolishing section 21, strengthening section 8, applying the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector, and introducing a new property portal and Private Renters' Ombudsman.

However, there were some surprises thrown in too: the plan to transition all tenancies to periodic; doubling the notice periods for rent reviews; outlawing blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits; and making it easier for tenants to have pets in rented properties.

You can find out more about the changes in these Renters' Reform Bill resources:

 

EPC changes and the financial schemes available

The white paper also made passing mention of its plans to increase the minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector.

Although not yet legislated, this comment shows that the changes are still on the government's agenda, and agents will need to start advising landlords on the best way and the best time to start making those changes.

Any energy upgrades made to your landlords' properties will also help tenants save on energy bills during the cost of living crisis, so it's a win-win. Your landlords will stay compliant, tenants will see the property as more attractive, and future buyers will likely consider the energy efficient property a more viable investment.

You can find a list of financial schemes that your landlords may be able to access to help them with their EPC upgrades in our guide.

Saving time and winning landlords will be the key to a successful summer 2022

Time saving and winning landlords go hand in hand. Finding new landlords takes effort so you'll need to ensure that you and your team aren't wasting time on jobs that could be done much more effectively.

Any spare time that you have should be dedicated to your customers and potential customers to ensure you can get new landlords on board, while maintaining your current portfolio.

You can find some top time-saving, revenue generating, and landlord winning tips in our resources, outlined below:

Ways to retain your agency's staff need to be front of mind

As well as a focus on winning landlords, you need to make sure that your team members feel valued and invested in your agency's success - especially during the busy months when they may feel more pressure to perform at their best.

From investing in individual training and setting goals so everyone knows what they're working towards, to rewarding the team and recognising their achievements, John Paul, CEO of the Castledene Group, has outlined eight of his top tips that you can implement in your agency.

Plus, if you're going through the hassle of recruiting so that you're at full capacity during the busy summer months, here are his top tips on how to build the best team at your agency.

Things to know from June 2022

A 21 June deadline for the Renters' Reform Bill white paper?

Now that the Queen's Speech has put the Renters' Reform Bill back on the government's agenda, the next step is for the government to publish the white paper. The paper was promised in the spring, and 21 June is the last day before summer begins - so the clock is ticking.

When published, this should give more clarity on what the new process for regaining possession of a property will look like, on the proposed property portal and new Ombudsman, and how the Decent Homes Standard may be applied to the Private Rented Sector.

With a lot expected to change, agents can read, watch, or listen to this full Renters' Reform Bill Q&A with Sean Hooker to understand what it all means.

"Price on application" and material information

Material information rules are changing, with the first of three stages to improve the information provided to tenants upfront now underway in property listings.

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team has confirmed that marketing a property with a "price on application" may be a criminal offence going forwards, due to its misleading nature - something extra for your agency to consider as you get to grips with the new requirements to stay compliant.

Sean Hooker has shared some advice on how you can start to prepare for all three stages of the new material information rules in this blog and podcast.

Carbon monoxide and smoke alarms draft legislation published

The extended regulations around carbon monoxide and smoke alarms have now been published in draft format - with a provisional deadline of 1 October 2022 for when it comes into force.

From that date, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 will be amended to also apply to social housing - rather than simply the Private Rented Sector.

A carbon monoxide alarm will be required in any lived-in room with a fixed combustion appliance, excluding gas cookers, and a smoke alarm will need to be installed on each storey of a domestic property with "living accommodation".

Landlords and agents will also need to ensure they replace or repair any alarms within a reasonable time period, once their tenants let them know there's an issue.

You can read more about the extended rules in our guide.

Fire Safety Act 2021 commencement announced

The government has also announced the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021, which amends the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO).

This primarily clarifies where the FSO applies. In buildings containing more than one home, the "responsible person" will need to organise a risk assessment of the structure of the property, its external walls, and all doors between the domestic areas and the shared parts.

You can read more about the amendment in our guide.

A cost of living crisis update

Ofgem has released its estimate on how much the energy prices will rise in October 2022 - and it's another big jump of £800 per year per household on average. The government reacted by releasing further financial support, for low income households in particular.

You should consider communicating this new information to your tenants and landlords. You can also download our fact sheet about the support available to share directly with your tenants.

Goodlord's energy expert and Head of Tenancy Services, Rik Smith, says that the support announced is "much more generous than expected". However, he highlights that it "does nothing to solve the underlying problem of the UK housing stock being generally poorly insulated and in need of an upgrade."

For a more long-term solution - and to keep up to date with advancing Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards - you should consider advising your landlords on what energy improvements could be made to their properties. As well as appealing to more tenants, this may well also help make the property more attractive to investors in the future.

Renting Homes Wales Act 2016 delayed

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 has been pushed back to 1 December 2022.

This aims to give agents and landlords more time to prepare for the changes, "in the light of the unprecedented pressures they face, including Covid recovery and supporting those who are fleeing the war in Ukraine."

Agents and landlords will therefore now have more time to create and share the relevant contracts with their tenants, as well as preparing for new rules around the condition of properties, including electrical safety testing and ensuring working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted.

The act will extend notice periods for a no-fault eviction to six months in most cases. Tenants on periodic contracts will also be protected from no-fault evictions for the first six months of their tenancy.

Read our guide to the changes.

New tax rules on second homes

The government has shared plans to grant local authorities the power to double the council tax charged on second homes left empty for more than a year - rather than two years, as it currently stands. The changes are outlined in the proposed Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

This aims to help with the stock issues - and Propertymark has already shared its support of the changes. "Our member agents continue to see historically low numbers of homes coming onto the market for sale or rent in the face of rising demand, so when this Bill becomes law we hope councils do not hesitate to act," says Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns.

This is on top of the new rules which will close a loophole around the criteria for receiving business rate relief on second homes, coming into play from April 2023.

You can read our guide for the full details.

Things to know from May 2022

The Queen's Speech on 10 May 2022

Agents and landlords should keep an eye on what's announced as the Queen's Speech 2022 will outline the programme of legislation of what the government aims to achieve in the coming parliamentary session.

A former advisor to number ten, Nikki da Costa, says that the speech will "herald the last major legislating session of this parliamentary term". She highlighted one of the "likely new bills" to be introduced this session is a Private Rented Sector Bill, covering the Decent Homes Standard in the Private Rented Sector, a National Landlord Register, abolishing Section 21, and so on.

However, she also highlights that the programme to cover this session is packed, which may cause the government to "wield the red pen" in what's carried over or newly proposed. Da Costa also highlights that, because the Renters' Reform Bill white paper is yet to be released, this makes legislation on the topic this parliamentary session "ambitious".

You can read our guides for the full set of changes proposed in the Renters' Reform Bill and the Levelling Up White Paper.

Material information rules to be implemented

The recently announced changes to material information should be in place across all property portals come the end of May 2022, helping tenants to make more informed decisions when renting a property.

The National Trading Standards launched the project to bring more clarity and a more defined list of basic material information included in property listings. 

The first step of the project is Part A, which covers the "unavoidable costs" for the tenant or house buyer: the tenure information (for a sales listing), council tax band, and price of the property or the rent, including any deposits.

Parts B and C will soon follow, covering other information available for all properties - such as utilities - and additional information which is established on a more case-by-case basis - such as flood risk.

Agents and landlords should see the Part A fields in property portals by the end of the month. Adding this information won't be mandatory for agents and landlords until all three parts of the new material disclosure rules are completed - and the government has said that it will legislate on the guidance "if necessary".

Read our guide to the new material information rules in full.

Agents and landlords need to prepare for the Renting Homes Wales Act 2016

The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 will come into effect from 15 July 2022.

With a new occupation contract for tenants replacing assured shorthold tenancies, much is changing for letting agents and their customers.

The act will extend notice periods for a no-fault eviction to six months in most cases. Tenants on periodic contracts will also be protected from no-fault evictions for the first six months of their tenancy.

Landlords and agents will also need to follow new rules around the condition of properties, including electrical safety testing and ensuring working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted.

Terminology will change too - from "tenant" to "contract holder", "property" to "dwelling", and more - meaning that many of the documents currently used will need to be updated in line with this new phrasing.

With so many considerations, agents will need to consider the implications in relation to the needs of their entire customer base. Whether an accidental landlord with one property, or a portfolio landlord or investor with multiple properties, all will need to be kept in the loop in the next two months to ensure everyone stays compliant.

Read our guide to the changes, and download the free email templates to inform your tenants and landlords of how your agency will handle the necessary updates.

Things to know from April 2022

"Homes for Ukraine" scheme underway

The government has announced details of how its "Homes for Ukraine" scheme will work, with sponsors able to welcome refugees into their homes or other properties that they own, rent-free.

Although the scheme is initially only for people that have a "named individual" to sponsor, the government is expected to release more details soon on how anyone with an appropriate space to offer can get involved.

Your landlords and tenants may come to you with questions around how this works. You should read up on what the scheme involves so you can be prepared to answer those questions, if any of your customers were to wish to become sponsors.

Zero-rate VAT on the installation of energy efficient materials

The biggest takeaway for agents and landlords from the Spring Statement 2022 is that zero-rate VAT comes into play this month on the installation of certain energy saving materials in homes, including solar panels and ground pumps, with wind and water turbines also reinstated on the list of applicable technologies.

With the new energy price cap now in effect, energy efficient properties are becoming ever more popular, something that agents and landlords should consider when deciding on how to best navigate the proposed increase to energy efficiency standards and EPC ratings.

New support measures in the Spring Statement 2022

Alongside the energy efficiency announcement came a recognition from the government of the impact of the rising cost of living in the Chancellor's Spring Statement 2022. As such, the funding available for councils to support vulnerable households will double.

Plus, fuel duty on petrol and diesel will be cut by 5p per litre until March 2023. These new measures sit alongside those already announced to support households. Agents need to be aware of the government support available and share details with their landlords and relevant tenants.

Changes to right to rent checks for Biometric Residence Cards and Permits

From 6 April, landlords and agents in England will no longer be able to check biometric residence cards or permits to prove an applicant's right to rent.

Your applicants will need to provide you with a share code and their date of birth, which you can then check via the online checking service to verify their right to rent.

However, the original deadline for the temporary Covid-19 right to rent measures has been extended until 30 September 2022, to give agents extra time to get set up with a relevant IDVT provider and offer your British and Irish tenants the chance to prove their right to rent online.

Read this Q&A with David Smith, JMW Solicitors, for answers to your questions on the upcoming changes to right to rent.

Consultation to close on "A New Deal for Tenants" in Scotland

Covering everything from rent controls to a new Housing Standard, the draft of "A New Deal for Tenants" in Scotland aims to "improve accessibility, affordability choices and standards across the whole rented sector".

“Landlords and letting agents in Scotland have for a number of years been calling for certainty and strategic direction for the Scottish private rented sector," says John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords. "We welcome any move towards that."

The consultation comes to a close on 15 April, and the final strategy is expected to be ready for publication by the end of 2022.

Things to know from March 2022

Temporary right to rent measures extended

This is the biggest update in February which will affect landlords and agents in the immediate future. The government has decided to extend the temporary right to rent Covid adjusted checks until 30 September 2022.

This is mainly to give landlords and agents more time to prepare for the new rules and cost implications around using Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) providers to conduct the checks, which will come into play from 6 April 2022.

The extension doesn't mean that you should sit back and wait for the new deadline. Your agency and landlords should be starting to consider how these new rules will affect your processes, and research the best ways to implement them to make them as effective as possible in the long term.

Making Tax Digital becomes mandatory for all VAT-registered businesses from 1 April

Up until now, only VAT-registered businesses with an annual turnover above the £85,000 threshold have had to file their VAT returns through Making Tax Digital - but this will expand to cover all VAT-registered businesses from 1 April 2022.

If this includes your agency, you've only got a few weeks left to ensure you are using the right software and that you understand all the details that you'll need to submit digitally. If your landlords manage a portfolio through a VAT-registered business, you should make sure they're aware of these changes too, so they aren't caught out. 

Inflation and the energy price cap increase will affect the cost of living

In February, the government announced that the energy price cap will increase by 54 percent from 1 April 2022. Rent and other everyday costs are increasing with inflation, and the price cap announcement simply confirms that this is not going to be over any time soon as the energy crisis continues.

You've therefore got less than a month to share with your tenants - and landlords - any relevant information about the financial support available and answer other key questions about the energy crisis, using our free resources, before their energy costs jump - to help them avoid falling into rent arrears.

Watch all our on-demand webinars to stay up to date on the latest in lettings

Low housing stock continues to impact the market

TwentyEA's research has shown that property stock available to let is down nearly 32% versus January 2019 - to lowest levels seen in 13 years.

Tenants looking for a flat may have more luck than renters looking for a house, as there are proportionately more flats available now than in 2019, presumably as a result of renters looking for more space post-pandemic.

This of course all means that rents are still reaching lofty heights, but may lead to fewer landlords available for agents - and homes for their tenants - or more effort needed to get landlords to consider your agency.

Agents will need to factor this into their strategies, look for alternate sources of revenue to bolster any dip in landlord instructions, and take a closer look at their conversations to make sure they're getting the most out of each and every one.

This shouldn't be left for the future. You need to be having those conversations and taking those actions now, as this problem doesn't have a short-term solution.

New material information rules announced for property listings

Agents will soon find new fields appearing in their property portals between now and May 2022, to share the property's price or rental amount, tenure, and council tax band in listings.

These changes to material information rules are only step one of three announced by the National Trading Standards, so agents should expect more updates in the near future.

Once all three steps are completed, with portals updated accordingly, that's when the guidance is expected to become mandatory. Before then, any of the new fields that agents leave blank will be flagged on the page for the tenant or home buyer.

However, once the new fields start to appear, you should ensure you provide this information each time as best practise, to get into the habit when it becomes a requirement.

The Levelling Up White Paper expands upon what's expected in the spring Renters' Reform Bill white paper

The Levelling Up White Paper is another step towards the Renters' Reform Bill becoming a reality, announcing further details of what will be debated and included in a further white paper in the spring.

A national landlord register, stronger redress for tenants, and abolishing Section 21 have all been confirmed - while proposals for new standards in the private rented sector will also be debated and outlined in the future white paper.

Spring's only a few weeks away. Your agency needs to start considering the implications of these changes and advising your landlords now so they understand how the new rules will affect them.

The debate around rent controls advances

Rent controls haven't been confirmed in England, Scotland, or Wales, but the debate is moving, slowly but surely, towards a definitive response on whether they will be implemented in the near future.

In England, calls for rent controls are cropping up regionally, with Sadiq Khan renewing his appeals for London and with new demands from Bristol.

In Scotland, a national consultation is currently underway to determine if rent controls are the right way to boost affordability while, in Wales, a white paper has been promised through a new cross-party collaboration between the current Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

The Scottish consultation is still accepting responses until 15 April 2022. If you're an agent in Scotland, now is the time to share your thoughts, and on the other proposals outlined in "A New Deal for Tenants".

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Further reading