For those watching housing policy in 2021, the focus has been largely on the private rented sector and 2022 looks set to be no easier for lettings agents and landlords.
With a focus on elevating property standards and protection for tenants, professionals cannot help but notice the picture emerging is rather one-sided and despite the focus, bizarrely, the 2019 recommendations of the Regulation of Property Agents Working Group have been un-progressed for two years.
In England, the Renters’ Reform White Paper is due to be released in the first quarter of 2022, proposing the abolishment of Section 21; an enormous concern for the sector without an effective court process and tightened mandatory grounds for possession.
Scotland has ‘temporarily’ removed mandatory grounds as they extend their COVID measures, and in Wales, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act is due in the summer of 2022 replacing Section 21 with a no-fault ground for eviction of six months’ notice.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities has been playing catch-up, publishing its Private Tenancies Bill as well as consulting on potential extensions to Notice to Quit arrangements.
The energy efficiency of properties, especially those in the PRS, has been a priority conversation. In England and Wales, landlords will need to achieve an EPC Band C rating for all new tenancies by 2025 and all existing tenancies by 2028. We have stressed that these targets are unachievable, and although media reports hint these dates may be pushed back by 12 months, there has been no public announcements made.
In Scotland, we are likely to see energy efficiency measures in the proposed Housing Bill and in Northern Ireland, the Private Tenancies Bill, due to pass in May 2022, is also set to introduce energy efficiency obligations.
Rent and deposits
A cap on deposits to one month’s rent will also be introduced through the Private Tenancies Bill in Northern Ireland. Our concerns have been raised on the Assembly’s thorough scrutiny of the measures as there’s a risk of unintended consequences and investment in the private rented sector may not be sustained.
In Scotland, rent control is also on the horizon and will likely form as part of the Housing Bill due to be released next year to support Scottish Government’s intention to implement a national system of rent control by the end of 2025
In England, the Renters’ Reform White Paper also proposes to introduce a lifetime deposit, enabling a tenant to transfer a deposit made on one property onto another aiming to speed up and reduce the cost of moving for tenants.
Some areas have been plagued with exacerbated pressure for staycations such as Wales and Scotland with reports of locals finding it difficult to be able to move home due to the rise in second homeownership. But the sector is lacking data and a workable definition of a ‘second home’.
The Welsh Government announced its three-pronged approach where they consulted on local taxes for second homes and short term lets.
In Scotland, under new short-term let legislation, all local authorities will need to have a short-term licensing scheme in operation by October 2022. Existing short-term let operators have until 1 April 2023 to apply for a licence and all must be licensed by 1 July 2024.