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Stamp Duty holiday, unlicensed HMOs, pet-friendly rentals, and more property news

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It’s been several months – and seemed like an age – but the spring shoots of a reviving property market are more than showing themselves now.

Accompanying that re-awakening, of course, is a steadily growing chorus of new items – and, here, we bring you just a few of them.

Landlords welcome stamp duty cut

Landlords reacted favourably to the Stamp Duty holiday that was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Summer statement on the 8th of July.

Reporting the temporary lifting of Stamp Duty on purchases of property less than £500,000 until the end of next March, Landlord Today predicted that the move will kickstart the housing market and inject new vigour into a weakened economy.

In its coverage of the summer statement, the Radio Times calculated that buyers stand to save an average of £4,500 on the purchase of property, while some may save up to £15,000.

The Stamp Duty holiday applies – in England and Northern Ireland only – to the tax on purchases for first homes. If you are buying a second home or a landlord investing in a buy to let property, you must still pay the 3% Stamp Duty surcharge. If your buy to let property costs less than £500,000, for example, you still need to pay 3% in Stamp Duty.

After some doubt about whether they would follow suit, both Scotland and Wales also raised the threshold on which the equivalent of Stamp Duty would be raised – going up from the current £145,000 to £250,000 until the end of next March – according to a report by the Financial Reporter on the 15th of July.

£40,000 fines for unlicensed HMOs

The importance of obtaining a licence if you intend to operate a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) has been driven home once again by judgements against four landlords in South east London.

On the 9th of July, Letting Agent Today revealed that the four landlords, who were running unlicensed HMOs in the Greenwich area, have been prosecuted by the local council and each fined £10,000.

The offending properties include:

    • one two-bedroom HMO let to four individual tenants;
    • one five-bedroom HMO let to seven separate tenants; and
    • two three-bedroom HMOs let to multiple tenants.

The local council warns that it is actively tracking down landlords of unlicensed HMOs and taking the appropriate enforcement action, which includes the possibility of fines of up to £30,000.

Wales still facing restrictions relating to tenants and repairs

As in other areas of its response to the pandemic, Wales continues to follow slightly different guidelines on contacts and social distancing between landlords and tenants – especially when it comes to repairs and inspections of let property.

An article in Letting Agent Today recently, notes that although the situation in England has more or less returned to normal, landlords in Wales are still being encouraged to exercise care and “professional judgement” before conducting non-essential repairs or inspections.

The Welsh Government has reissued guidance on the ways in which landlords and their tenants may maintain social distancing and has urged landlords to discuss with their tenants whether proposed repairs are urgent or may be delayed until the health situation has become safer. No work should be done, for example, if tenants are self-isolating or are currently in a vulnerable, “shielded” group.

Pet-friendly rentals seeing a growth

The recent pandemic lockdown seems to have made many of us more appreciative than ever of our pets – if a story in Letting Agent Today on the 8th of July is anything to go by.

The article explains that one online listings agent has reported a huge leap in the number of prospective tenants searching for pet-friendly rental accommodation. In a comparison of statistics gathered in March compared with May, the search for pet-friendly lets has more than doubled.

As more people have been placed on furlough from their regular employment or have adjusted to working from home, so they have become accustomed to the company of a pet.

Buyers return to Covid-hit property market in June

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has expressed cautious optimism in the revival of the UK’s housing market post-Covid, according to a report by Reuters on the 8th of July.

RICS members report a marked surge in enquiries from new buyers – reversing a negative response in May to a significantly positive response in June.

Sounding a note of caution, however, RICS also noted that the number of properties currently listed by estate agents is at an all-time low and that the current spike in interest from buyers might be temporary. The resurgence is threatened by tighter lending criteria by mortgage lenders and a more than uncertain picture on the security of employment.