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Landlord legislation changes in 2021

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Every year brings its share of new legislation or amendments to the existing rules and regulations governing the relationship between landlords and their tenants.

If you are a landlord and you overlook or simply fail to keep up with these changes, you do so at your peril – ignorance of the law is no defence and there are frequently severe penalties imposed on landlords who are in breach of some aspect or other of the legislation.

With that in mind, what are some of the legislation changes and issues which you should look out for during 2021? (Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and different regulations may apply depending on where in the UK your let property is).

Eviction notices

Coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions have caused widespread uncertainty across the whole of the UK, of course, and landlords have not escaped their fair share of the disruption.

An article in Which? magazine earlier this month explained how the rules have been amended during the current period of lockdowns – with slightly different requirements in the separate nations of the UK:

  • in England and Wales, at least until the end of this March, landlords must give at least six months’ notice of any intention to evict a tenant – unless the tenant is guilty of serious anti-social behaviour, has committed fraud to secure the tenancy, or is more than six months in arrears with the rent;
  • in Scotland, the standard period of notice is also six months, but this might be reduced to three months’ notice if the property is required by the landlord or his family to live in – and tenants who have engaged in anti-social behaviour only need to be given 28 days’ notice;
  • in Northern Ireland, landlords are required to give 12 weeks’ notice of any eviction – unless the court is given reasons why the eviction is “absolutely unavoidable”.

Pets

The 26th of January could prove a landmark date for those of your tenants yearning to keep a pet in their rented accommodation.

This is the day scheduled for the second reading in Parliament of the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill 2019-21, which would give all tenants the right to keep a pet in their rented dwelling, even in the absence of the landlord’s permission. The Bill is supported by several charities, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

Taxes

The prospect of pets in your let accommodation is likely to be the least of your worries if you miss the next critical date in the landlord’s calendar – the annual deadline for submission of your online tax declaration by the 31st of January.

Client money protection

Implementation of the client money protection scheme in England has been delayed several times since the beginning of the pandemic, but the 1st of April is now broadcast as the definite date after which lettings and management agents in the private rented sector must become members of an approved “client money protection scheme”.

The scheme is designed to ensure that landlords and tenants have access to adequate compensation if a lettings or management agent goes broke. It is different to and quite separate from the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme.

Agents who have not signed up to an approved scheme after the 1st of April face the risk of fines of up to £30,000. Agents in Scotland and Wales must follow similar rules, but there are no such regulations in place in Northern Ireland.

Renters’ Reform Bill

It has been under discussion for longer than a year now – but time and again delayed through the pressures of the pandemic – but the Renters’ Reform Bill could mark one of the most significant pieces of legislation for landlords.

The reason for that is because the Bill includes contentious proposals for the abolition of Section 21 of the Housing Act of 1988 – which gives landlords the right of so-called “no-fault” evictions in the case of assured shorthold tenancies.

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has branded any such abolition of landlords’ rights to repossess their property as “another attack against the landlords who actually house the nation”.

Electrical safety

With effect from the 1st of April, every property in the private rented sector in England must have had its electrical installation checked and certified as safe by a qualified electrician. Electrical safety condition reports (EICRs) must then be obtained at least once every five years.

Clearly, that deadline is looming and if you do not have an EICR for your let property after the 1st of April you are technically breaking the law. During the continuing periods of lockdown and social distancing required by the pandemic, however, some leeway has been granted and the authorities recognise that it may be unsafe to enter the homes of vulnerable tenants. In those cases, landlords may simply need to show that they have arranged an electrical safety inspection at a later date.