Property Update – February 2022

The government has issued more Right to Rent guidance for landlords, which comes into force in just a few weeks.

The Home Office has updated an online code of practice to avoid unlawful discrimination against tenants.

The latest orders from Whitehall apply to new and renewing tenancies starting on or after April 6.- just six weeks away.

The guidance explains different ways a landlord can discriminate against tenants, from indirect actions to unlawful harassment.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The purpose of this code of practice is to ensure that landlords do not unlawfully discriminate contrary to the Equality Act 2010 when carrying out right to rent checks. It provides practical guidance for landlords on what they should or should not do to avoid unlawful discrimination when complying with their obligations under the Immigration Act.”

The latest Right to Rent user guide is also due for updating as digital checks will end on April 5.

Right to rent checks are only made in England.

House prices at the fastest rate for four years

monopoloy houses on top of British pound coins

Homeowners made an extra £27,000 last year thanks to rising house prices, according to the latest official data.

Average house prices for 2021 reached a record of £293,000 in England, £205,000 in Wales, and £180,000 in Scotland, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Across the UK, house prices increased by an average of 10.8 per cent last year.

House prices increased the most in the South West (13.6 per cent) and the South East (12.8 per cent). London homes saw the lowest price rise of 5.5 per cent. The North-East lagged slightly behind the capital with a 5.9 per cent increase.

Buy to let rents throw off shackles

Close-up gavel and handcuffs representing buy to let unshackled

A shortage of homes to rent and a rising number of tenants looking for somewhere to live have combined to see buy to let rent go up at the fastest rate for four years.

The Office for National Statistics confirmed tenants are spending 2 per cent more a month than they were a year ago.

The last time rents showed an annual 2 per cent increase was in February 2017. Since then, the figure has dipped as low as 0.9 per cent between August and October 2018, averaging around 1.3 per cent.

Rents rose fastest in the East Midlands to the end of January, up 3.6 per cent. The South West was next with a 3.5 per cent rise.

Landlords in London had the lowest yearly rent rise in the country, pulling up just 0.9 per cent, followed by the North East at 2.2 per cent.

On the level: Gove’s plan for landlords

Houses of Parliament representing the governments decision and how it affects landlords

Housing Secretary Michael Gove made a big deal about publishing the government’s flagship levelling up policies but behind the razzamatazz is a rehash of housing policies that have lain around gathering dust for some time.

The four-point plan for the private rented sector seems based on reviving the government assault on rogue landlords.

Almost overlooked in the 250-page white paper, Gove has this to say about landlords:

  • Section 21 no-fault evictions are definitely going to be scrapped
  • Rogue landlords will face more enforcement action and fines
  • A decent homes standard is on the way for the private rental sector for the first time
  • Gove wants to test opinions about a national landlord database for England

The secretary pledges to give his proposals more teeth by making them the law, which probably means the long-awaited Rent Reform Bill will flesh out the policies.

Gove said: “Not everyone shares equally in the UK’s success. For decades, too many communities have been overlooked and undervalued. As some areas have flourished, others have been left in a cycle of decline. The UK has been like a jet firing on only one engine.

“Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historical injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery.”

Find out more about the Levelling Up Campaign and read the white paper

Should landlords register for data protection?

Padlock representing landlords data protection

Warning letters from data protection watchdogs are on the way to tens of thousands of property letting businesses.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) wants to explain that every property rental business processing personal information pays a £55 data protection fee every year unless they have a legal excuse for not doing so.

Around 2.5 million landlords let 4.5 million homes, but few are registered with ICO.

Landlords sign up and pay the fee if they process personal data to produce tenancy agreements, make credit checks or obtain references.

Landlords that have letting agents managing tenant data for them don’t have to register.

Personal information is:

  • Names and addresses
  • Birth dates and national insurance numbers
  • Driving licence details
  • Passports and visas for Right-to-Rent checks
  • Financial records like wage slips and bank statements

Processing data is requesting, storing and using the information.

Register as a landlord with ICO

Watchdog cracks down on lettings portals

Dog looking over a fence

Trading standards officers are warning online property portals must follow new listing laws by the end of May.

The laws cover internet giants like Rightmove and Zoopla and letting agent websites and other listings.

Agents must include basic information in their adverts like the property’s rent, council tax band and deposits required. Other rules cover homes for sale.

National Trading Standards says later phases of the rules will include data about utilities, flood risk, and non-standard features.

Theresa Wallace, chair of The Lettings Industry Council, said: “The material information project is a crucial piece of work to ensure that consumers looking at buying or renting property can make an informed decision earlier in the process. The objective is to provide consumers with more information before viewing a property.”

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