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Queen’s Speech: How proposed laws may help or hinder estate agents

The Queen’s Speech has unveiled proposed overhauls on planning, consumer and economic crime laws that could all have an effect on how estate agents operate.

Prince Charles stood in for the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament this morning where he outlined 38 laws that the government wishes to focus on in the coming year.

Some of the more headline-grabbing new laws include an overhaul of renters rights and eviction reforms, which have been outlined on Letting Agent Today.

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Here are some of the proposed bits of legislation that could impact estate agents.

Levelling up and Regeneration Bill 

During the short speech, Prince Charles said the planning system will be reformed to give residents more involvement in local development.

But rather than an overhaul of the planning system, the background briefing for the Queen’s Speech shows reforms have been lumped into the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to level up the UK, grow the economy in the places that need it most and regenerate towns and cities.

This includes “improving the planning system to give communities a louder voice, making sure developments are beautiful, green and accompanied by new infrastructure and affordable housing.”

The main elements of the Bill include:

-    Placing a duty on the government to set levelling up missions and produce an annual report updating the country on delivery of these missions.
-    Creating a new model of combined authority: the ‘County Deal’ which will provide local leaders with powers to enhance local accountability, join up services and provide transparent decision making to rejuvenate their communities, increase their ability to reflect local preferences in arrangements including directly elected leaders’ titles.
-    Unlocking new powers for local authorities to bring empty premises back into use and instigate rental auctions of vacant commercial properties in town centres and on high streets. 
-    Giving residents more of a say over changing street names and ensuring everyone can continue to benefit from al fresco dining. 
-    Strengthening neighbourhood planning and digitalising the system to make local plans easier to find, understand and engage with; by making it easier for local authorities to get local plans in place, we will limit speculative development.

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill

A Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill could benefit agents in the fight against fake online reviews.

These proposals were first revealed last month but there have already been calls for them to go further.

The law would “update consumer law to prohibit commissioning fake reviews, offering to provide fake reviews, or hosting consumer reviews without taking reasonable steps to ensure reviews are genuine.”

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill 

The aim of this proposed Bill is to strengthen powers to tackle illicit finance and could help agents when conducting anti-money laundering checks if it is unclear who is buying a property.

The main elements of the Bill include:  

- Broadening the Registrar of Companies’ powers so that they become a more active gatekeeper over company creation and custodian of more reliable data, including new powers to check, remove or decline information submitted to, or already on, the Company Register.
-Introducing identity verification for people who manage, own and control companies and other UK registered entities. This will improve the accuracy of Companies House data, to support business decisions and law enforcement investigations. 
- Providing Companies House with more effective investigation and enforcement powers and introducing better cross-checking of data with other public and private sector bodies. 
-Tackling the abuse of limited partnerships (including Scottish Limited Partnerships), by strengthening transparency requirements and enabling them to be properly wound up. 
- Enabling businesses in the financial sector to share information more effectively to prevent and detect economic crime.

Non-Domestic Rating Bill

Agents who pay business rates for their high street offices may benefit from reforms to how the bills are calculate.

The Bill aims to: 

-    Shorten the business rates revaluation cycle from five to three years from 2023. 
-    Improve the valuation accuracy and timeliness in a shorter revaluation cycle through new duties on ratepayers, with measures to support compliance. 
-    Create a power for the Valuation Office Agency to provide ratepayers with information on the calculation of their rateable value. 
-    Tighten appeals against rates on the basis of changing circumstances.
-    Introduce new 12-month rates relief on increases to rateable value arising from improvements made to a property, and a new 100% rates relief for lowcarbon heat networks that are assessed as separate entities for business rates.

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