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
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.
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.