The end of coronavirus legislation - and the as-yet-unknown impact this will have on lettings, with extended notice periods and furlough set to end - is just one of the dates letting agents and landlords should be marking in their calendars this year. The deadlines for Electrical Safety Regulations and client money protection are fast approaching while the mid-year changes to right to rent as a result of Brexit are yet to be confirmed. Plus, the Renters' Reform Bill and Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) are likely to come back onto the agenda as the pandemic is brought under control. In short, it's going to be another busy year and landlords are going to need letting agents' guidance more than ever when it comes to compliance.
11 January 2021: Consultation ends on proposals to extend regulations on domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in England
The proposals to extend the smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations include requiring social landlords to ensure at least one smoke alarm is installed on each storey of a building where any rooms are used as living accommodation; requiring carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted alongside the installation of fixed combustion appliances of any fuel type; and requiring private and social landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms in any room used as living accommodation where a fixed combustion appliance is used. The consultation will be open until 11 January 2021.
29 January 2021: Second reading of the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill
At the start of 2020, the government announced plans to update model tenancy contracts, to remove restrictions on well-behaved pets. This bill is intended to make it easier for landlords and letting agents in the UK to offer responsible pet owners the chance to keep pets in rented accommodation.
31 March 2021: Six-month notice periods and stamp duty holiday set to end
The emergency legislation which increased minimum notice periods to six months in England except in the most egregious cases is set to end on 31 March 2021. The stamp duty holiday in England and Northern Ireland is also scheduled to end on the same date, however the UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - better known as the furlough scheme - has been increased by another month.
1 April 2021: Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020; stamp duty changes; client money protection
The beginning of April brings with it multiple legislation changes. The new Electrical Safety Standards will apply to all tenancies in England - 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. 1 April is also the deadline for agents in England to comply with client money protection legislation, a date which has already been pushed back twice and so is unlikely to change. Finally, all non-UK residents purchasing property in this country will have to pay an additional two per cent stamp duty surcharge from 1 April - though they will be eligible for a refund if they become a UK resident within 12 months of the purchase.
30 June 2021: Changes to right to rent checks for EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens
The government confirmed that right to rent checks for renting residential properties in England will not change for citizens of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein until 30 June 2021, but is yet to confirm what the process will look like after this date.
Renters' Reform Bill and the end of Section 21
Prior to the pandemic, work had already begun on the Renters' Reform Bill, which set out the government's plans to abolish Section 21 and so-called "no fault" evictions in England and Wales, while improving the grounds for landlords to regain possession of their properties under Section 8. 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.”
Increase to capital gains tax
A review commissioned by Rishi Sunak recommended increasing capital gains tax (CGT) in the UK to help fill the fiscal hole caused by Covid-19. An increase to CGT could adversely affect "wealthy individuals who hold second homes or assets outside tax-favoured vehicles, such as individual savings accounts," according to the Financial Times, in addition to "owner-directors of small companies who often hold cash within their businesses for use as a pension when they retire."
Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA)
There are still no dates in place for the introduction of the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA), but leading lettings professionals are urging agents to start preparing nonetheless. "You don't want to leave it to the last minute," says Darshan Sunger. "I will certainly be looking as a working practitioner to get on that path now."
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