Updates in the Private Rented Sector

The Private Rented Sector has generated many talking points in 2015 and this will continue throughout 2016 and beyond.  New laws and proposals implemented by the Government look set to alter the way letting agents and landlords in the housing sector operate.

Right to rent checks roll out nationally

In 2015, the Government trialled a new immigration law that forces landlords to take responsibility for checking whether their prospective tenants are eligible to live in the UK.  The pilot was held in the West Midlands and though the results were inconclusive, the Government has decided to roll it out nationally.  

From the 1 February 2016, landlords across the country are required to have performed right to rent checks for any new tenancies starting after this date.  

The Home Office has provided guidance for landlords on how to administer right to rent checks, and the documents that prospective tenants must provide. These can be found on www.gov.uk.

Taxation changes

Along with changes to tax relief on wear and tear and on buy-to-let mortgages, the government is also looking to increase tax revenues by introducing a three percent Stamp Duty Land Tax surcharge on purchases of second homes. This includes buy-to-let residences, with exceptions proposed for investors buying multiple properties. 

The tax will be applied to all eligible second home purchases from 1 April 2016 and many commentators have said this could affect the PRS and home-buyers’ market, with some suggesting there will be a rush to buy property before the April deadline. Others expect the buy-to-let market to remain buoyant despite increased purchase costs. 

It’s not just about what’s being introduced by the Government, but what’s not  

Many people were shocked by the Government’s withdrawal of an amendment to the Housing Bill currently going through Parliament, which would’ve enforced mandatory Client Money Protection for letting agents.  

With many senior industry voices and letting agents calling for the change, it was disappointing that the amendment was removed. We believe along with others that this would have improved standards in the PRS.  

We were also disappointed to see the Government reject a proposal for rented properties to be fit for human habitation. Rogue landlords who disregard tenant safety have a negative impact on the reputation of the industry and most landlords and agents believe that more can be done to weed them out.  

Many of you responded to our survey about rogue landlords, allowing us to present a collective industry view to the Government consultation on the subject in late 2015. The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has now issued their response to the consultation, displaying strong support for the following measures:

> A blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents
> The introduction of Rent Repayment Orders
> Additional criteria in the fit and proper person test for licences
> The introduction of civil penalties
> New procedures for tackling abandonment
> An agreement for data held by deposit protection schemes to be made available to local authorities.

The government's response to the consultation discusses each of these proposals and the next steps they plan to take.  You can view the full response on the Government website, www.gov.uk.