2019 is upon us and we are all looking forward to what the New Year has in store. The rental sector is one area set to undergo a series of changes, with landlords and tenants to be affected by a series of new legislation.
It is worth making sure you are up to date with the following:
Tenant Fees Bill 2017-19
The Tenant Fees Bill is getting a lot of attention and stands to shake up the rental market. Originally introduced in May 2018, the bill has progressed through the House of Commons and is currently going through the House of Lords on its journey to becoming a proper law.
The main features of the bill, after going through several rounds of amendments, are as follows:
- Security deposits may not exceed the equivalent of five weeks’ rent on any home where the total annual rent is under £50,000
- Holding deposits are capped at no more than one week’s rent, and a landlord or agent may only take one holding deposit from a tenant at a time
- The amount that can be charged for a change of tenancy is to be capped at £50
- ‘Default fees’ have been limited to instances where a tenant is late paying rent by at least two weeks or where a key or other security device has been lost
- A complete ban on all other tenant fees, for instance charges for viewings or applications
The Bill is expected to become law in the near future and it is hard to say for sure what the effects will be. There has been some speculation from ARLA Propertymark, a group which advocates for letting agents, that landlords will raise rents to cover the shortfall – however it is important to emphasise that this is only a prediction.
Whatever happens, it is likely that this legislation will simplify the process of letting and renting by removing fees and other hurdles; this is surely a good thing for everyone involved.
Government plans to introduce minimum three-year tenancies, with a six month break clause, are still largely up in the air, but it is important for landlords to bear this potential change in mind over the coming year.
Those pressing for the bill argue that longer tenancies will provide tenants with a greater degree of long-term security. Government figures show that 81% of tenants stay in their homes for at least four years, but 81% of them are on Assured Shorthold Tenancies. If tenants have no assurance over where they will be in six or 12 months they cannot plan for the future properly or contribute effectively to the wider community.
Some concerns have been raised by landlords regarding how this might affect evictions in the case of non-payment of rent or other factors, but on the whole this seems to be a positive idea. The proportion of bad tenants is tiny and the vast majority of tenants could benefit from the added stability.
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill
This has passed through Parliament and received royal assent, meaning it is the law of the land and all landlords should be aware of it. It is now a legal requirement that all social and private landlords (or agents acting on their behalf) must ensure a property is fit for human habitation at the beginning and for the duration of a tenancy.
The law comes into effect on 20th March 2019 and applies to all tenancies signed on or after this date. Factors including freedom from damp, ventilation, a working water supply, sanitary conveniences, facilities for storage and preparation of food and the state of repair the property is in will all be taken into account when deciding whether a home is fit for human habitation.
Heather Wheeler MP, the Minister for Housing, said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, regardless of whether you own your home or rent it. That’s why government has introduced a range of measures to help ensure that people who are renting have good quality and well-maintained properties to call home. This new law is a further step to ensure that tenants have the decent homes they deserve.”
Are you a landlord looking for advice on new or existing legislation? Get in touch with our lettings experts today for information and advice.