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Coronavirus – Government Advice on Home Buying and Selling and Moving

Posted on March 27th, 2020 -

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Parties involved in home moving are urged to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes. There is no need to pull out of transactions, but everyone needs to ensure they are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times.

Advice to the public

What does this mean for my property move which is scheduled whilst the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COIVD-19) apply?

  • Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
  • If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
  • In line with Government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.

PLEASE VIEW UP TO DATE INFORMATION FROM THE GOV.UK LINK ABOVE, ALL INFORMATION IN THIS POST IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND UPDATES.



Coronavirus – 26/03/2020 Landlords Notice Increased to 3 Months (New Form 6a). 27/03/2020 All Existing Possession Cases Suspended

Posted on March 27th, 2020 -

The Government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by Coronavirus. No renter will be forced out of their home.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-support-available-for-landlords-and-renters-reflecting-the-current-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

INCREASED NOTICE PERIOD – From 26th March 2020, if a landlord intends to seek possession, a minimum notice period of 3 months must be given to to a tenant. This increased notice period will apply in law until 30th September 2020, however both the end point and the 3 month notice period can be extended if needed. This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of eviction.

As a result of the change in law, the new Form 6a was published on 26th March 2020 and is to be used until 30 September 2020.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/876162/200324_Form_6A.pdf

The Government makes it clear that tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. Government support is available for tenants who are facing financial hardship.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said ‘The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.’

ONGOING POSSESSION CASES SUSPENDED – From 27th March 2020, court services have suspended all ongoing housing possession action. This means that neither cases that are currently in or about to go into the system can progress to the stage where someone can be evicted. This suspension will initially last for 90 days but can be extended if needed.

The government is committed to supporting landlords, and maintaining the positive partnership between tenants and landlords.

LANDLORD OBLIGATIONS – Landlords remain legally obligated to to ensure properties meet the required standard. Urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made.

An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords. Local authorities are also encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement.


Coronavirus – Financial Support for Self-employed

Posted on March 27th, 2020 -

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced, on 26th March, a new Self-employment Income Support Scheme for self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19;

  • scheme aims to be available from beginning on June 2020
  • taxable grant of 80% of average profit over last 3 years (capped at £2,500 per month)
  • scheme open for 3 months and possibly extended if needed
  • limited to those with trading profit of up to £50,000 per annum
  • only those with a tax return for 2019 can apply (4 week window from 26/03/2020 to get one in if one wasn’t filed)
  • tax payments can be deferred until next year

For further information and eligibility, see the gov.uk information page ‘Business Support’ https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

If tenants are struggling through this difficult time, please see the following guidance for landlords from SWLA;


Coronavirus – Business Rate Relief Extended to Letting Agents

Posted on March 25th, 2020 -

The Government have confirmed that business rates relief has been extended to estate and letting agents. Offices that have closed due to the measured implemented to stop the spread of Coronavirus will be exempted from business rates in 2020-2021.

Eligible businesses will be re-billed by their local authority, the new bill will give a 100% discount. If payments have been made in the meantime, they will be refunded by the local authority.

The Government advice is for all queries to be directed to the local authority. Guidance for local authorities will be published by the Government in due course.


Coronavirus – Gas Safety

Posted on March 24th, 2020 -

HSE/Gas Safe has issued the following information;

The HSE is currently seeking guidance from Cabinet Office on what gas engineering services and scenarios are considered essential for the next 3 weeks. As soon as more definitive guidance is available it will be published.

We are aware that the new restrictions announced by the UK Prime Minister (on 23rd March) on leaving your own home and avoidance of any social contact will reduce the ability for landlords to arrange annual safety checks. We are working with the HSE to provide new guidance specific to this 3-week period.

Landlords have a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check.  

If you anticipate difficulties in gaining access as the COVID-19 situation progresses, you have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date. Landlords can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.    

You are encouraged to arrange your annual gas safety checks as early as possible, as a contingency against tenants being in self-isolation for a period of 14-days (in line with current guidelines), or gas engineers being unavailable due to illness. The two-month period to carry out annual gas safety checks should provide adequate resilience in most situations. 

In the event you are unable to gain access to the property, e.g. persistent refusal of access due to vulnerable tenants self-isolating, you will be expected to be able to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to comply with the law. This will need to include records of communication with the tenant and details of your engineers attempts to gain access.  

For the full update please see the following link;

https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/covid-19-advice-and-guidance/?utm_campaign=11421887_ARLA%20gas%20safety%20checks&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dotmailer&dm_i=Z6K,6ST6N,OLRUHN,R7UIN,1

If a gas safety inspection cannot go ahead due to self isolation of a household, please follow the advice above and inform the Local Authority. We still await official guidance from the Government.


Coronavirus – Guidance for Letting Agents – Offices to Close

Posted on March 24th, 2020 -

We still await official guidance from the Government for landlords and letting agents. In the meantime, ARLA/Propertymark have spoken with a senior civil servant who stated that letting agents are NOT ‘essential businesses’ under the new rules as part of social distancing measures announced by Boris Johnson on 23rd March 2020. Therefore all letting agent offices must close immediately. They also stated that there should not be any in-person viewings, routine inspections or house moves.

The British Association of Removers has issued communication (on the morning of 24th March) that moves will only take place if they are already underway. Moves that have not yet started should not go ahead.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874732/230320_-_Revised_guidance_note_-_finalVF.pdf

It is expected that letting agents will continue to be able to be contacted by telephone or email by tenants to deal with any emergencies.

As soon as official Government guidance is published, we will update our news feed accordingly. Therefore, any information and guidance published by SWLA so far may be subject to change.


Coronavirus – Ban on Evictions & Mortgage Payment Holiday Extended to Landlords

Posted on March 19th, 2020 -

18th March 2020 – Government announces radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by Coronavirus.

  • Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
  • No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis
  • Landlords will also be protected as 3 month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters?utm_source=22d9b39c-647f-4aa9-b61c-7ba4733dc6f8&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=daily

We await further Government guidance for landlords.



Coronavirus; Boris Johnson Announces That Renters are to be Protected from Eviction

Posted on March 18th, 2020 -

18th March 2020. Boris Johnson confirms the government will bring forward legislation “to protect private renters from eviction” but will also avoid “pass[ing] on the problem” by “taking steps to protect other actors in the economy”.

No further details have yet been clarified.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51939634


Coronavirus; The Financial Help for Tenants and Landlords

Posted on March 18th, 2020 -

Many people are going to see their jobs and incomes hit by the economic effects of Coronavirus. SWLA are awaiting official guidance from the Government for the Private Rented Sector (PRS) and will update our members regularly.

The Chancellor has already set out a package of measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption. He said he would take further action as the situation evolved. For business and self employment support measures, see the Business Support Government website; https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

For tenants who do not qualify for the Business Support measures, they can apply for Universal Credit; https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months.

Our current advice is for landlords to consider each tenants situation on a case by case basis. For a tenant who suddenly sees a drop in income, a landlord could consider a partial rent payment, the deficit to be paid at a later date. We recommend that landlords keep good records of the measures that they have implemented so it’s clear to see the request from the tenant, the reasons for the request and the solution provided by the landlord.


Cancellation of Meetings

Posted on March 16th, 2020 -

We have been advised by the Organisers of the Landlord Expo in Bristol on the 26th March, that due to the Coronavirus it has been postponed. They will advise us when this will be rescheduled.

Our Committee have taken the decision to postpone our General Meeting that was due to be held at the Future Inn on the 22nd April 2020, for the same reason. We will update you when this will be rescheduled.

The Teignbridge Landlord Open Evening at Newton Abbot Racecourse on 19th May has also been cancelled and will be rescheduled.


Coronavirus – Advice for Landlords

Posted on March 13th, 2020 -

For up to date news and information see the gov.uk website; https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

And NHS website; https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Tenants may seek advice from their landlord, in which case they should be directed to the gov.uk and NHS website above. In the event that a tenant needs to self isolate, be sympathetic and reiterate the NHS advice.

As of 23rd March 2020, all UK residents must stay at home, only going outside for basic necessities/food, medical need/vulnerable person care, one form of exercise per day & essential work (staying 2 meters away from people). Hands to be washed as soon as residents return home.

Tenants income may be impacted thus increasing the risk of rent arrears. Discuss this with your tenant and be flexible where you can. Keep evidence of the tenants request (in writing) and your agreed solution (to be reviewed on a month by month basis), be clear that arrears payments will be negotiated at a later date. If your tenant falls into serious rent arrears which impacts your finances, keep your mortgage lender informed and they may be able to offer support to you, this will be on a case by case basis. The Government has introduced financial support packages for businesses and self-employed, all support package information can be found here; https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

You could call or email elderly or medically vulnerable tenants to check they have access to support should the need arise. If they do not have support, they can contact their local authority who can put emergency measures in place. If they are unable to do this, landlords could call on their behalf.

HMOs will have a higher risk of illness spreading. If a tenant reports symptoms or self isolation to you, you should advise other tenants within the property to read the NHS guidelines and follow hygiene guidance. You should also make tradespeople aware if they are visiting that property for emergency purposes.

Landlords remain legally obligated to to ensure properties meet the required standard. Urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made.

You should delay all non essential visits/repairs, documenting them and agreeing with your tenant to address them at a later date.

Respect your tenant’s decisions to self isolate, remember that they have the right to exclude all others from their home. If you cannot meet your landlord obligations (i.e. gas safety check, electrical inspection etc) due to a tenant self isolating, keep evidence of the dialogue (ideally email/letter) and inform the Local Authority. After the self-isolation period, you should organise the inspection and or repairs when it’s convenient for your tenant.

We are currently awaiting Government Guidance for Landlords to be published, therefore SWLA’s advice is subject to change.

SWLA will support our members within office hours with telephone enquiries (please leave a message and we will return your call) and email enquiries. Our office is closed, however we are still working to support our members. We will follow Government guidance and keep members up to date and answer any letting related queries that arise.


SWLA Meet With Luke Pollard MP

Posted on March 13th, 2020 -

Many changes are afoot within the private rented sector, we met with Luke to discuss these changes and raise points for Luke to take forward.

Items on the agenda included;

  • Renters Reform Bill (new housing court, abolition of Section 21 and it’s potential consequences and the strengthening of Section 8)
  • Rogue Landlord Database (low numbers on this database, increase in listings and access improved for it to be effective)
  • Oversupply of purpose built student housing
  • Housing Benefit (lifting of the cap)
  • Covid-19 and the effect this may have for landlords and tenants

SWLA are proud to be a voice for all of its landlord and agent members. We regularly meet with local MPs and councillors to ensure that good landlords are getting a fair deal. We look forward to meeting Luke again later in the year.


SWLA Attend ‘Rogue Landlord Database’ Focus Group

Posted on March 11th, 2020 -

Steve Lees, chair of SWLA, was invited to attend a focus group meeting in Bristol on Monday 9th March 2020 hosted by the Private Rented Sector Division, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The aim of the focus group is to reform the database of rogue landlords and property agents.

The database of rogue landlords and property agents was introduced in April 2018. The database is targeted at only the most serious and prolific criminals, who are convicted of the limited range of banning order offences. The database is currently an enforcement tool available to local authorities, except in certain circumstances where anonymised, aggregated data can be requested by the public.

In October 2018, the Prime Minister committed to opening up access to information on the database of rogue landlords and property agents to tenants. A government consultation (now closed) was seeking views on widening access to the database to allow tenants and prospective tenants access to the database. To ensure that the database is a useful tool for local authorities and tenants, the government are seeking views on expanding the scope of offences and infractions which could lead to entries on the database.

The meeting in Bristol was a chance for landlords and PRS representatives to discuss changes to the database that would benefit tenants and good landlords alike.


Torbay Landlord Courses

Posted on March 6th, 2020 -

On Tuesday 28th February South West Landlords Association completed the last of 4 Landlord/Agent Training days for Torbay Council.  The one-day courses have been held at Paignton Library (1) and the Foyer Torbay (3).  The courses covered all aspects of letting property in the Private Rented Sector, including tenants’ rights and landlords’ responsibilities.  A total of 65 landlord/agents attended the courses with 61 applying for accreditation and 48 joining the SWLA, so enabling them to access information, documentation and further training.

SWLA would like to thank Mr Rob Kelly (Housing Standards and Environmental Protection Manager, Torbay Council) for his assistance in both funding and advertising these valuable educational courses.

The courses were well received with positive feedback, by all attendees.

Torbay Landlord Course 2020


Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards – Is your rental property ready.

Posted on February 20th, 2020 -

Is your rental property ready for 1st April 2020? Read the landlords guide to Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (see link below – if the link doesn’t open for you please type the below into your search engine)

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/788145/domestic-private-rented-property-minimum-standard-guidance-landlords-las.pdf


Compare Letting Agent Fees

Posted on February 14th, 2020 -

Landlords- you can now compare local Letting Agent fees on one website FREE OF CHARGE.

Letting Agents- you can add your company information and fees FREE OF CHARGE to the website.

The comparison site will reveal how much local letting agents charge for ‘full property management’, ‘rent collection’ and ‘tenant find only’ services.

4 simple steps

  • Select your available property area.
  • Compare and review Letting Agent prices.
  • Select your preferred agent.
  • Enter your available property and contact details to request a valuation and deal with the agent direct.

For further information: www.comparelettingagentfees.co.uk


SWLA Attend Private Rented Sector Partnership Meeting Hosted by Plymouth City Council

Posted on February 6th, 2020 -

Wednesday 5th February, Anna Lord (SWLA Senior Administrator) attended the meeting along with various representatives from the PRS in Plymouth. The aim of the group is to drive up housing conditions.

Many items were discussed including; changes in HMO licencing in line with mandatory licencing, the costings of HMO licencing, PATH tenancy training programs, the climate emergency and what the PRS can do to help.

SWLA are proud to be part of this group; helping to drive up housing conditions for tenants whilst ensuring members and course attendees are aware of their landlord obligations.


REMINDER Midnight 31st January, final deadline for landlords to complete & submit self assessment tax returns online and pay tax owed.

Posted on January 31st, 2020 -

Those who fail to submit a return before the deadline could face an initial fixed penalty of £100.00 as well as further penalties dependant on the length of delay.

If you are unsure about any aspect of your self-assessment tax return, it is important that you seek specialist advice at the earliest opportunity.

For further information ; https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns/deadlines


Date Set; New Electrical Safety Rules for Landlords

Posted on January 16th, 2020 -

Five-year safety checks will be mandatory for landlords for all new tenancies from 01 July 2020. This will be rolled out to all existing tenancies from 01 April 2021. The new regulations were tabled by the Government on Monday 13th January 2020, requiring pre-tenancy and five yearly checks of all fixed appliances and wiring.

Landlords failing to comply with the new rules will face fines of up to £30,000.

Once the electrical installation has been tested, the landlord needs to receive a written report from the inspector, with the results and next inspection date. They must then;
– Give a copy of the report to tenants within 28 days
– Give a copy to the local authority, if it asks for one, within seven day
– Keep a copy and give it to the person carrying out the next inspection.

For new tenancies, the landlord must:
– Give the tenant a copy of the most recent report before they move in
– Give a copy of the most recent report to any prospective new tenant who asks for it in writing, within 28 days

For further information http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2020/9780111191934

Article Abridged from RLA


GDPR – ICO chasing companies who have not registered and paid their Data Protection Fee.

Posted on January 16th, 2020 -

GDPR came into force on 25th May 2018. Most businesses that process personal information (private landlords included) need to register with the Information Commissioners Office and pay the yearly Data Protection Fee. If you haven’t registered – make this a priority! To check if you need to pay visit; ico.org.uk/fee-checker

The ICO have launched a postal campaign to remind all registered companies of their legal obligation. The fee is £40.00 or £60.00 per year for most small companies (dependant on turnover). A Direct Debit can be set up for automatic yearly payments.

There are a range of services and support that the ICO provide to help you comply with the law and give your tenants/clients confidence in the way you process personal information.

For more information see the ICO website;

https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/news-and-blogs/2019/12/the-data-protection-fee-does-your-company-need-to-pay/



SWLA Meet with Councillor Penberthy and Matt Garrett PCC

Posted on January 10th, 2020 -

9th January 2020, Steve Lees (SWLA Chair) and Iain Maitland (SWLA Vice Chair) met with Matt and Councillor Penberthy.

Topics for discussion included the Government’s plans to axe Section 21 and MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards) in the Private Rented Sector.

SWLA continue to be a voice for landlords and work with local authorities to get the most positive outcomes for tenants and landlords alike.

REMINDER!! If your rented property is covered under the MEES Regulations, your EPC rating needs to be E or above in order for you to let the property (unless you have a valid exemption). For more information and cut off dates; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-private-rented-property-minimum-energy-efficiency-standard-landlord-guidance#find-out-if-your-property-is-covered-by-the-regulations


Letting Agents, if you let out a property with a rent of £10k euros (or equivalent) per month or more –

Posted on January 10th, 2020 -

From today, 10 January 2020, all letting agents who manage properties which, individually, yield an income of 10,000 Euros per month (or equivalent) or more, must now comply with regulations set out in in the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

All letting agents across the UK will have 12 months to register with HMRC if they meet the requirements. However, HMRC’s online registration system for letting agents won’t be operational until May 2020.

Compliance

All letting agents in the regulated sector for AML will need to comply with the Regulations, despite not being able to register. Customer due diligence (CDD) checks will need to be carried out on any new tenants and landlords on or from 10 January 2020. Also, if an existing tenancy is renewed after this date, letting agents will need to carry out appropriate checks at that point on both parties.

Estate and letting business

Any letting agent who carries out sales and is already registered with HMRC for AML supervision and fall within the scope of the Regulations, they will need to inform HMRC that they carry out lettings activity. This can be done once the online applications process is up and running.

Customer Due Diligence (CDD)

CDD must be carried out on both the tenant and landlord for any tenancy agreement with a monthly rent of 10,000 Euros (or equivalent amount) or more before establishing a business relationship. This means identifying and verifying the customer, obtaining information on the nature of the business relationship and details of any beneficial owners.

Propertymark believes it is best practice for all letting agents, regardless of whether they fall under the definition of businesses with HMRC for AML supervision to carry out CDD on all their customers. This is because committing an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 applies to everyone and criminalise any involvement in the proceeds of any crime if the person knows or suspects that the property is criminal property.

Information from David Cox at ARLA Propertymark