Property Law Updates Estate Agents Need to Know

Every year that passes comes with new updates and amendments to property legislation and guidance. 2021 is no different and with the tumultuous past year that the world has experienced, it’s unsurprising that the property market has been affected in several ways. As we start to navigate the new normal as the pandemic slowly starts to ease, these are some of the changes and updates to the housing market that estate agents should stay aware of.

Changes to pet ruling

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

Earlier this year, the government updated the Model Tenancy Agreement which includes a clause that landlords are no longer able to reject a tenant’s request to keep pets in the property unless there’s a valid reason for doing so, such as the size of the property. However, something that estate agents need to be aware of when responding to client requests is that the law does not state that landlords are legally required to permit pets in their properties.

There’s a distinction between the terms guidance and law, and the agreement falls under guidance. This means that there are no legal obligations for landlords to allow pets – landlords and letting agents are only entitled to operate a no pet policy providing there’s no increase to the deposit past the five week’s rent maximum and that, in regards to service dogs, there’s no breach to the equality laws.

Updates to the leasehold reform

One of the biggest changes that was announced in 2021 was the Leasehold Reform, which the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced in early January. Under the new legislation, house and flat leaseholders can extend their lease to a new standard of 990 years without any ground rent. The new rules offer a great opportunity for significant savings for clients, of thousands of pounds in some cases, and it’s a huge change to the sector that was first raised back in 2017.

Right to rent

Since mid-June, the regulations have changed for proving a tenant’s right to rent in the UK. It’s now required that you meet anyone taking on a property face to face, while they are having their documents checked. And tenants need to provide evidence that they have the right to rent in the UK, given that we’re no longer part of the EU. Letting agencies can’t grant a tenancy to anyone who cannot provide evidence that they are legally allowed to stay in the UK.

There are two categories of tenants who have the right to rent – unlimited rights and those with time-limited rights. Unlimited right to rent includes British citizens, people who have the right to live in the UK and those who have been given indefinite leave to remain or have no time limit on their stay. However, this doesn’t include EU citizens, EEA nationals or Swiss nationals anymore. Time-limited right to rent applies to anyone falling outside the previously mentioned categories who can stay in the UK for a set period of time, such as people who are permitted to remain in the UK as a result of Acts of Parliament, EU treaties and immigration regulation.

Distancing guidelines remain

With each phase of the easing of COVID restrictions comes a wave of relief and feeling like life is returning to normal, but we’ve not passed the finish line just yet, so there are still guidelines to bear in mind when carrying out viewings and property inspections. The changes for agents, therefore, will be minimal and professionals in this sector should continue to adhere to safety guidelines for the protection of themselves, their colleagues and clients.

Agents should ensure that people visiting office sites have made an appointment, to avoid overcrowding and to ensure distancing is maintained as much as possible, and that Test and Trace codes are in place to track contact with others. Masks should still be worn to keep everyone safe and, where possible, offering virtual viewings will help to maintain social distancing. In instances where in-person viewings are required or preferred, opening windows and doors to allow ventilation and providing hand sanitiser can help to minimise the spread of the virus.

In summary

Property law is always changing and with the pandemic, Brexit and governmental updates to consider, there are plenty of amendments to how estate agents need to operate throughout the remainder of 2021 and beyond. Staying up to date with the trends and demands of the market, as well as the legalities for compliance, will ensure that you’re always equipped with the latest knowledge to answer client queries and provide the best advice to tenants and property purchasers.

How to Create a Low Maintenance Rental Property

About our guest blogger:
Based in Worthing, Lucy studied Economics, Finance and Management before turning her focus towards the property market.  She’s a specialist short/long stay holiday rentals and has written for a number of major industry blogs.

For most landlords, the goal of a rental property is to make money. But maintaining a property can be expensive, especially when tenants are moving in and out. One way to ease the financial burden of this process is to create a durable, low maintenance property that will stand up to wear and tear more effectively.

Here are a few ways you can save money as a landlord while also providing a comfortable and attractive property for your tenants.

Avoid matte white paint

There’s a temptation to paint the entire property white to give the illusion of freshness and space. But white shows up marks and stains far more than a darker shade, meaning that it requires repainting more often. Instead, you can choose a neutral colour such as a light grey or beige which still opens up each room but masks wear and tear more efficiently.

You should also choose a paint that is hard-wearing and will stand the test of time for longer. This is particularly key in areas where spillages are likely, such as the kitchen.

Keep the colour palette consistent

Painting each room a different colour creates a lot of visual interest in your property, but it’s more costly and more difficult to maintain. It can also be off-putting for some tenants, as you might choose colours that aren’t to everyone’s taste.

It’s a good idea to keep the colour of the walls and trims simple and neutral to appeal to a broader audience and to use the same colour throughout all of your investment properties. This will keep upkeep costs down and will also make it easier to touch up chips or marks quickly if you need to get a property ready for new tenants.

Stick with laminate worktops

The kitchen is an area of the home that’s subjected to a lot of wear and tear, and if you’re not careful with the materials you choose, you could find yourself replacing fixtures regularly as a result. Wooden worktops might look great, but they’re not a great investment in a rental property, especially around sinks as tenants might not be vigilant about keeping them dry and well-cared for.

Plastic laminates are easier to maintain and are an affordable solution for rental properties. “Laminate worktops work best for busy and messy households since they require less maintenance” explain worktop retailers House of Worktops, “they’re easy to clean and don’t need additional treatments”.

Choose large tiles

Dainty details like mosaic tiles might look aesthetically pleasing in a kitchen or bathroom, but they can be a burden to repair or replace if they become damaged. Larger tiles minimise the amount of grouting required, which can become mouldy if it’s not maintained properly, plus they’re neutral so they’ll withstand passing trends without looking dated.

If possible, choose a darker grout that will stay looking cleaner for longer, unlike white grout which can look drab fairly quickly.

Pick plain cupboards

Grooves and details on kitchen cupboards can become a haven for dirt and grime if they’re not cleaned regularly. Plain cupboard doors are a low maintenance alternative that won’t look dated and can be cleaned or repainted easily if need be. They’re also usually a cheaper option so they’re ideal if you’re looking for a budget-friendly style.

Skip the carpets

Carpets are comfortable underfoot but they show stains and dirt quickly and can be expensive to replace – particularly if you have several investment properties to maintain.

Similarly, if you’re allowing pets in the property, carpets won’t last very long and will need vacuuming often to look clean and tidy, so they’re not a good investment.

Hard flooring materials, like tiling or laminate flooring, are far more durable and won’t need refinishing, so they’re more cost-effective for landlords too and easier to maintain for tenants living in the property too.

Final thoughts

When furnishing a rental home, make sure that you’re considering longevity with every choice. It’s tempting to choose the cheapest option, but this can be a false economy, as you’ll wind up replacing or repairing things more frequently.

Instead, opt for materials or fixtures that are built to last and can stand up to wear and tear, however long your tenants are living in the property. Not only will these options make for an easy property for landlords to maintain but they will also help tenants to keep their home clean and tidy too.