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By Stuart Armstrong

Copywriter, Fixflo


OTHER FEATURES

PRS policy chat - what's next for agents and landlords?

Earlier this month, Fixflo held a webinar with David Cox, legal and compliance director of Rightmove, to discuss key government policies affecting the private rented sector.

The webinar focused on five key topic areas: electrical safety standards, new rules on possession claims, the Debt Respite Scheme, energy policies and future developments.

Electrical safety standards

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David reminded attendees of the April 1 deadline in England for all private rented properties to have an electrical safety inspection. He thought that a deadline extension is unlikely at this point, considering agents have had 12 months to prepare for the requirements.

He noted that if a tenant is not allowing entry to a property, this must be documented and followed up at reasonable intervals - about once a month to see if the tenant is still objecting.

There is a lack of supply for EICRs as businesses are rushing to get inspections for their properties done before the deadline. If you struggle to meet the deadline, you are more likely to be able to claim an exemption if you can prove that you have taken steps to try and be compliant, for example, by having inspections booked as soon as possible after 1 April.

New rules on possession

In England, the eviction ban, the bailiff ban and the six-month notice period requirement for possession claims have all been extended until May 31. David noted that once the bailiff ban is lifted, an additional 14-day notice period is required before an eviction, which means evictions will likely not begin until June 15 at the earliest.

The government’s handling of possession claims during the pandemic can be seen as a prelude to the eventual abolition of Section 21 notices.

David suggested that, as the Renters’ Reform Bill is yet to be introduced, there would be a period between the end of the pandemic and the abolition of Section 21 where notice periods and possession claims would go ‘back to normal’.

Debt Respite Scheme

The standard breathing space available under the government’s Debt Respite Scheme in England and Wales gives legal protection from creditors for up to 60 days.

David emphasised that it does not pause ongoing liabilities, so a tenant in rent arrears would still have to continue paying rent for the duration of the protection period. We can expect further guidance from the government on this as the date that the scheme comes into force, May 4, draws closer.

Energy policies

The government has indicated it would like to reduce carbon emissions in the private rented sector by 2025 by requiring an EPC rating of ‘C’ or above for new tenancies in England and Wales. This rule will be extended to all existing tenancies in 2028.

He observed that energy-efficient properties are trending slightly higher in both rental and sales value.

Future developments

The government’s recently-announced Budget for 2021 came under the microscope. David observed that following the government’s announcement of the stamp duty holiday being extended to June 30, the use of Rightmove’s online mortgage calculator jumped by 85% in the first hour.

However, he noted that the Budget did not include many tax policies, raising the question of how the government will be able to support its policy goals and whether tax increases can be expected later on down the line once the country has started to recover from the pandemic.

On the Renters’ Reform Bill and the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) framework, David described both as ‘inevitable’ with the Renters Reform Bill expected to come first.

He explained how both had been delayed due to the government’s focus on the pandemic when it comes to housing, with both measures expected to require at least nine months to be reviewed and approved by Parliament.

To hear the discussion in full, including the speaker’s thoughts on other topics such as pets in rental properties legislation, GDPR, and more, watch our on-demand webinar, PRS Policy Chat: What's Next for Agents and Landlords.

*Stuart Armstrong is a Digital Copywriter for Fixflo, the market-leading repairs and maintenance management software provider.

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