Breaking news this morning following the leak last week – the government has published their Levelling Up White Paper – and the impact of matters contained within could shake up the private rented sector and have far reaching implications on landlords and tenants alike.

What is a White Paper?

A “White Paper” is a policy document published by the government which sets our their intentions for future legislation. White papers form the basis of discussion and consultation before the final bill(s) are put forward before government to be voted into law.

What is the purpose of the Levelling Up White Paper?

The purpose of this document is to bring about system change across both the Government and the country. The White Paper sets out the changes required, and how these will be implemented to “level up” the UK. The paper contains 12 national missions that are to be completed by 2030, and are quantifiable allowing them to be tested and measured.

How does this apply to landlords?

There are three main elements within the White Paper that will affect landlords: The introduction of a “Decent Homes Standard”, the introduction of a National Landlord Register and the abolition of the Section 21 Eviction Notice.

The Decent Homes Standard

Homes in the private rented sector will need a meet a mimumum standard known as the “Decent Homes Standard”. There is nothing new about this standard, and you can find information about it by clicking here. We are in support of this government move, as decent landlords will not be affected, only those who do not maintain their properties and protect their tenants.

The National Landlord Register

There is minimal information provided within the White Paper on this proposal so we will be tentatively waiting for further details to be released. There is likely to be a minimum standard or accreditation to join the register, or it may be that landlords can avoid registration by using a registered letting agent such as ourselves. If you would like more information about our services, please do get in touch.

The Abolition of the Section 21 Notice

The abolition of the Section 21 notice has been under discussion for a number of years, but its inclusion in the White Paper shows that the implementation is moving closer. The idea behind the abolition is to prevent landlords from evicting tenants with no formal reason – hence the Section 21 procedure is known as the “no fault eviction”.

Giving tenants more security should not be seen as a bad thing given the number of “rogue” landlords operating in the UK, however in our opinion, a sharp reform of the remaining eviction process “known as the “Section 8″ procedure” needs to be completed before the loss of the Section 21. At the very least, the process needs to be shortened and simplified, with additional grounds added and all grounds to be made mandatory. We simply cannot be placed in a position where landlords cannot regain possession of their property when there is a genuine requirement to do so.

What Happens Next?

According to Government officials, £4.8 billion has be commiteed to this project and its implementation although there are some doubts over the contents of the paper and the ambitiousness of the 12 national missions with regards to funding. The next step will be for the contents of the paper to be discussed and debated, until a draft bill is produced ready to be put forward before Government and eventually enacted into law.

If you don’t know what the Tenant Fees Act 2019, or the “Tenant Fee Ban” is – then I suggest you go to THIS POST first and a have a read through.

This piece of legislation came into force on 1st June 2019, and applied to all tenancies signed on or after that date.

However, included in the legislation was the provision that the requirements would be rolled out to ALL tenancies on 1st June 2020 – something that has now taken place.

Regardless of what is contained in your current tenancy agreement (and if created in the last 12 months, it should really be “fee ban” compliant, from last Monday (1st June 2020) landlords or agents are not allowed to charge tenants for anything other than the following:

Rent (but this must be kept at the same level, or higher, throughout the duration of the fixed term. If it is decreased, the additional amount during the months prior to the increase will be seen as a prohibited payment.

Security Deposit (This is now capped at 5 weeks rent, and not a penny over, regardless of circumstances i.e. pets. Deposit calculators are widely available online, and the the following calculation must be used: (Monthly rent x 12/52 x 5). This cap is increased to six weeks rent for properties with an annual rent of over £50,000.

Holding Deposit (there are many regulations around the acceptance of a holding deposit, which I may need to go into further detail on a separate post. However the main points are that it is capped at 1 weeks rent, and it must be returned to the tenant save for four explicitly stated sets of circumstances .)

Change of tenancy Charge (a charge can be made when the tenant requests a change to the tenancy, such as the addition of a permitted occupier, or the change of a rent date. This charge is capped at £50 including VAT).

Late Rent Charge (this is one is pretty laughable and likely not worth even thinking about. You cannot charge for late rents, chasing letters, visits. The only charge you can make is an interest charge of 3% over the BOE base rate, after the rent is more than 14 days late).

Replacement keys/security device (Self explanatory, but you can only charge the cost of the replacement key or device, not for your time.)

Early Termination (If the tenant would like to leave a contract early, you can charge to cover your costs. However, if you are not using an agent, you are not permitted to charge them for re-referencing the new replacement tenants. They are also expected to pay rent and utilities up until the day before a replacement tenant moves in).

Breach of tenancy (If the tenant breaches any part of the agreement, you can seek to recover your costs from them, either directly or through the security deposit).

If you would like help or advice on anything relating to the Tenant Fee Ban/Tenant Fees Act 2019, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

It has just been announced today, by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, that the threshold for stamp duty land tax will temporarily be raised to £500,000 from today until 31 March 2021.

This means that when buying a property up to and including £499,999 you will not pay any stamp duty, regardless of whether you are a first time buyer or not.

There are no changes to properties above £500,000 – you would still pay stamp duty of any portion above the new temporary threshold.

This is great news for buy to let investors and it will hopefully mean a surge in investment into the sector and a boost to the rebound in the housing market.

Overall, it is projected that 89% of sales will be exempt with an overall saving of £3.8 billion.

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