Ministers have made important concessions about how repossession cases in the rental market will be handled from 20th September.
It follows extensive lobbying by the National Residential Landlords Association after the Government U-turned on its plan for such cases to be heard again from 23rd August.
Regulations published Friday 28th August which came into force on Saturday 29th August mean landlords only need to give tenants who have committed anti-social behaviour four weeks’ notice of their intention to repossess a property. Those who have committed acts of domestic violence will only need to be given two weeks’ notice.
In cases of tenant rent arrears, landlords will now only be required to give four weeks’ notice where a tenant has built six months of arrears. This will ensure action can start to be taken now against tenants whose arrears had been built up before the COVID lockdown. Last week the Government had said the courts would only prioritise cases where tenants were in a year or more’s worth of arrears.
Whilst the NRLA is welcoming today’s announcements, it is warning that it will be mean nothing without a cast iron guarantee that the courts will begin to hear cases on 20th September. It is further disappointed that the six-month notice period will remain in cases where landlords need to regain possession of a property in order to live in it. This will continue to penalise those, such as service men and women in the military, renting their homes out whilst working away.
The announcement fails also to provide the financial package of hardship loans needed to cover COVID-related rent arrears which are vital to sustaining tenancies.
On Friday 28th August, Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association said:
“Today’s announcement provides welcome clarity about how possession cases will be handled. However, it will mean nothing without a complete guarantee that the courts will hear cases from 20th September.
“It is disappointing that the Government has so far failed to heed the warnings of the NRLA and others that a financial package is needed to pay-off rent arrears built due to COVID. In the end this is the best way to sustain tenancies. We will continue to campaign hard for this important measure.”
From today (29th August 2020), regulations come in requiring landlords and agents to give 6 months notice (in most cases) before regaining possession in England. New forms have been published on the gov.uk website (Form 3, form 6a and the notes to form 6a have been changed in line with new requirements on notice periods); https://www.gov.uk/guidance/assured-tenancy-forms
The new forms must be used from today (29th August 2020). The new regulations will not be applied retrospectively for any possession notices served on or before 28th August 2020. The new regulations will be in force until 31 March 2021.
IMPORTANT – The government have made concessions for landlords who need to serve notice to tenants who have committed anti social behaviour or have over 6 month rent arrears. These are:
Please read the gov.uk announcement below in full; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-has-changed-the-law-so-most-renters-have-a-6-month-notice-period
The government is continuing to help renters with an unprecedented package of support measures.
Legislation has now been introduced, so landlords must now give tenants 6 months’ notice before they can evict until March 2021, except in the most serious of cases, such as incidents of anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators.
The stay on possession proceedings has been extended until 20 September, meaning that in total no tenant can have been legally evicted for 6 months at the height of the pandemic.
The package of support for renters includes the extension of notice periods and the extension to the stay on possession proceedings. For the most egregious cases, notice periods have returned to their pre-coronavirus levels, and landlords will be able to progress serious rent arrears cases more quickly.
These changes mean that from 29 August, landlords must provide at least 6 months’ notice period prior to seeking possession through the courts in most cases, including section 21 evictions and rent arrears under 6 months.
Notices served on and before 28 August are not affected by these changes, and must be at least 3 months.
The government is also helping landlords affected by the worst cases to seek possession; these are:
In addition, new court rules have been agreed, which will come into force on 20 September meaning landlords will need to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings.
Secretary of State for Housing, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
We have developed a package of support for renters to ensure they continue to be protected over winter. I have changed the law so that renters are protected by a 6 month notice period until March 2021.
No tenant will have been legally evicted for 6 months at the height of the pandemic as the stay on possession proceedings has been extended until 20 September. For the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, notice periods have returned to their normal level, and landlords will be able to progress serious rent arrears cases more quickly.
These changes will support landlords to progress the priority cases while keeping the public safe over winter. We will keep these measures under review and decisions will continue to be guided by the latest public health advice.
The new legislation applies to both the private and social rented sectors in England, and to all new notices in relation to assured, assured shorthold, secure, flexible, introductory and demoted tenancies and those under the Rent Act 1977, but not to any notices issued before the legislation comes into force.
Courts will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, including anti-social behaviour, fraud, and domestic abuse, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.
If a landlord made a claim to the court before 3 August, they must notify the Court and their tenant that they still intend to seek repossession before the case will proceed, including in section 21 cases.
More detailed guidance on using the courts and the new arrangements will be made available in advance of possession proceedings starting again.
We are conscious of the pressure on landlords during this difficult time and do not want to exacerbate this. Of course, it is important that tenants who are able to do so must continue to pay their rent.
The government has put in place an unprecedented support package to support tenants to pay their living costs, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, £9.3 billion of additional support through the welfare system, and increasing the Local Housing Allowance rate to the 30th percentile.
We are committed to bringing forward the Renters Reform Bill to abolish section 21 and deliver a fairer and more effective rented sector in due course. However, such legislation must balance greater security of tenure with an assurance that landlords are able to recover their properties where they have valid reasons to do so.
We have been working closely with the judiciary through a Master of the Rolls led Working Group to finalise the arrangements on the prioritisation of cases, for when the stay on possession proceedings lifts from 20 September.
29 August, landlords must provide at least 6 months’ notice period prior to seeking possession through the courts in most cases, including section 21 evictions and rent arrears under 6 months. We have also extended the validity of a section 21 notice from 6 to 10 months to accommodate this change.
SWLA will be updating members stationery and forms in due course. If you are serving notice before then, please download the possession notice form straight from the gov.uk website.
The regulations can be read here; https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/914/contents/made
See the Trade Point website for this deal and other offers.
We eagerly await details from the government on how to apply for the Green Homes Grant vouchers which are due to go live at the end of September 2020. Here is what we know so far;
The available measures are split into “primary” and “secondary” categories.
Households will need to install at least one of the primary measures below to qualify for funding.
Insulation: Solid wall, cavity wall, under-floor, loft, flat roof, room in roof, park home.
Low carbon heat: Air source heat pump, ground source heat pump, solar thermal
“Top ups” are allowed (e.g. additional loft insulation up to the recommended level, solid wall insulation for other walls where a wall has been previously insulated), but replacements are not included.
So long as there is at least one primary measure in the package of works, households will also be able to install secondary measures. Secondary measures can only be subsidised up to the amount of subsidy provided for primary measures. (e.g. if a household receives £1,000 for primary measures, they can only receive a maximum of £1,000 towards secondary measures).
• Draught proofing
• Windows and doors: Double/triple glazing (where replacing single glazing), secondary glazing (in addition to single glazing), upgrading to energy efficient doors (where replacing doors installed prior to 2002).
• Heating controls and insulation: appliance thermostats, hot water tank thermostats, hot water tank insulation, smart heating controls, zone controls, delayed start thermostat, thermostatic radiator valves
For low-carbon heating to be installed, households will need to have adequate insulation (e.g. wall and loft, where applicable). These can be installed as part of a package – they do not have to already be in situ.
For the general scheme, the following properties are eligible:
• All owner-occupied homes (including long-leaseholders, shared ownership)
• Landlords of private rented sector domestic properties
• Landlords of social sector domestic properties (including LA owned homes)
• Park home owners (for residential sites including Gypsy and Traveller sites)
New-build domestic properties and non-domestic properties are not eligible.
For the low-income scheme, only owner-occupied properties and park homes are eligible.
Households receiving income-based or disability benefits would be eligible for a fully funded package of measures.
Eligibility for low-income scheme
You qualify for the Green Home Grants low-income scheme if you receive at least one of the following benefits:
• Income based Jobseekers allowance (JSA)
• Income based Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)
• Income Support (IS)
• Pension Guarantee Credit
• Working Tax Credit (WTC)
• Child Tax Credits (CTC)
• Universal Credit (UC)
• Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
• Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
• Attendance Allowance
• Carer’s Allowance
• Severe Disablement Allowance
• Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
• Contribution based Jobseekers allowance (JSA)
• Contribution based Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)
• Housing benefit
Read the following Which? article for further information; https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/08/green-homes-grant-details-revealed-could-you-get-up-to-5000-home-insulation-vouchers/
Renters affected by coronavirus will continue to be protected after the government extended the ban on evictions for another 4 weeks, meaning in total no legal evictions will have taken place for 6 months, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced today (21 August 2020).
The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.
The government will keep these measures under review with decisions guided by the latest public health advice.
When courts do resume eviction hearings they will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been evicted since the start.
As a result, according to independent research, 87% of tenants have continued to pay full rent since the start of the pandemic, with a further 8% agreeing reduced fees with their landlords.
The vast majority of landlords have shown understanding and leadership, taking action to support tenants.
With coronavirus still posing an ongoing risk to public health, the government will continue to take action where necessary to further protect households in both the private and social rented sector are supported over winter, helping to keep them safe.
Today’s extension to the stay and 6 month notice periods will ensure those most at risk are protected. If tenants are unable to afford their rent we encourage them to speak to their landlord to agree a solution, and some households may decide to consider moving.
Government will continue to work with the judiciary and stakeholders to ensure that the courts are prepared for eviction cases to be heard safely.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:
I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of COVID-19. That is why today I am announcing a further 4 week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for 6 months.
I am also increasing protections for renters – 6 month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.
Case listing, including prioritisation, is a judicial function and we are working with the judiciary through the Master of the Rolls’ Working Group on possession to consider the categories of serious cases that would be prioritised when hearings resume. Further detail on those categories will be set out in due course and we will engage with key stakeholders on this.
Independent polling for the National Residential Landlords Association recently found that 87% of private tenants have paid their rent as normal throughout the pandemic so far. An additional 8% said that they had agreed a reduced rent, a rent-free period or made some other agreement with their landlord or letting agent.
The extension to the ban on evictions and prioritisation of the most serious case applies to courts in England and Wales
The intention to extend notice periods to 6 month applies to England only.
On 5 June the government announced that the suspension of housing possession cases in the courts had been extended by a further 2 months.
To support those on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit in the private rented sector, Local Housing Allowance rates have been set to the 30th percentile of rents in each area. For those who require additional support Discretionary Housing Payments are available.
As announced at the spending round for 2020/21 there is already £180 million in Discretionary Housing Payments for Local authorities to distribute for supporting renters with housing costs in the private and social rented sectors.
We remain committed to bringing forward reforms to provide greater security to tenants, but it is only right that this is balanced with an assurance that landlords are able to recover their properties where they have valid reasons to do so. This is vital to ensuring the future supply of good quality housing in the rented sector.
We will bring forward legislation in due course, once the urgencies of responding to the pandemic have passed, to deliver a better deal for renters and a fairer more effective rental market.
SWLA will await the changing legislation and will update our members once it’s announced.
Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) (Sole Traders and Individual Partners)
Second and Final Grant – Are you still eligible?
From 17 August 2020 the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will open for claims for the second and final grant. If you applied for the first grant, then HMRC may email you regarding the second grant. (The email will be sent from: email@example.com)
You will be able to claim from 17 August 2020 until the scheme ends on 19 October 2020. The eligibility criteria remain the same as for the first grant. However, you will be asked to complete a declaration confirming that your business has been adversely affected by Covid-19 at any time since 14 July 2020. This typically means that your business has experienced extremely reduced income and/or much higher costs because of Covid-19 at any time since 14 July 2020. If you make a claim and your business has not meet this criteria then the claim could be deemed to have been made fraudulently.
HMRC expect you to make an honest assessment about whether your business has been adversely affected. You will need to keep a record of evidence of how your business has been adversely affected and be able to justify this if HMRC call for your records. The second taxable grant is worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits. This will be based on three months’ worth of profits and will be capped at a maximum of £6,570.
How to claim:
On or after 17 August 2020 go to www.gov.uk and in the search box enter: ‘Self-Employment Income Support Scheme’. Please do not try and claim early as the online portal will not be available before 17 August 2020.
What you will need (the same information as was needed to make the first claim):
o National insurance number
o Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number
o Government gateway user ID and password
o Bank account number and sort code (we recommend you use the account which you usually use for business transactions)
o The address the bank account is registered to. This is probably your trading address or possibly your home address. If you are unsure, we would suggest you check your bank statements.
Once HMRC approve your claim, they will authorise payment direct to your bank account and funds should reach you within six working days.
If you do not have access to an internet connection, then you can make your claim over the telephone. The Covid-19 support number is 0800 024 1222 (Mon – Fri 8am to 4pm). This telephone line is expected to be extremely busy and we would recommend that you only contact HMRC if you are unable to claim online.
SEISS & Tax
The SEISS Grant is taxable income and it must be recorded within your business books and records. You should therefore keep a record of any grants received, as this information will be needed when deal with your tax affairs. If you are VAT registered, then the SEISS grant is outside the scope of VAT and does not need to be reported on any VAT returns.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
The CJRS scheme is still available to assist employers, however, please be sure you are aware of the changes effective over the next couple of months.
o 1 August 2020
The government will pay 80% of wages, capped at £2,500 per month. Employers will pay the employer’s national insurance and pension contributions.
o 1 September 2020
The government will pay 70% of wages, capped at £2,187.50 per month. Employers will pay the employer’s national insurance and pension contributions, as well as and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500.
o 1 October 2020
The government will pay 60% of wages, capped at £1,875 per month. Employers will pay the employer’s national insurance and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500.
HMRC Fraud Scams
There has been an increase in scam emails, calls and texts. If you are contacted by text, phone or email claiming to be from HMRC, stating that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund please be mindful that this may be a scam. Do not click on any links or provide any bank account details or personal details over the phone.
This information is designed to assist understanding and does not cover all aspects applicable. We would strongly recommend that you refer to the governments published information, as this may change on a daily basis. Further information is available from: www.gov.uk
We have not forgotten about training, we are working in the background to bring back courses as soon as it is practical and safe to do so.
We do not want to book courses too early and then have to cancel, but be rest assured that we are aiming to have courses up and running again later this year.
If your accreditation has expired during the covid period or about to expire, give us a call and we will book you on the first available accreditation course.
This training will focus on an examination of the landlord’s repairing obligations, both in relation to disrepair claims and in relation to the new Homes(Fitness for Human Habitation) Act provisions. In addition they talk through the plans to reform residential lettings, with a focus on how landlords can obtain possession as and when Section 21 changes.
You will also receive information from the Councils Private Rented Sector Housing Officers about the new registration scheme, details of how to sign up and a certificate of attendance.
This training will be delivered in a webinar format:
Date: Wednesday 12th August 2020
Plymouth City Council is aware the majority of landlords working within the Private Rented Sector wish to provide safe, affordable and compliant properties, the Council thank them for their diligence and hard work. The legislative framework continues to change and grow, for example the introduction of electrical safety standards regulations, the Council will continue to improve standards by working with landlords.
There are occasions when enforcement needs to be undertaken, most recently additional powers have been provided to enable the use of civil penalties, (typically up to £30,000) for a range of offences. Community Connections issued its first civil penalty on 5th April 2019. Since then they have issued 38 civil penalties, amounting to approx £120.000. If you receive any penalty warning the first port of call would be the Council, contact them to discuss this issue further. An appeal can also be made through the court tribunal system, a more accessible, less formal, and more affordable way than the traditional prosecution hearing.
If you have any queries, or just wish to read more, information is available on Plymouth City Councils website, search for landlords.