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March’s News Hour with David Cox (2021 Budget, Pets, EICRs, Section 44, Evictions)

Webinar recorded live on

Rightmove’s Legal & Compliance Director David Cox provided an update on the latest news and regulations affecting agents and answered dozens of your questions from the audience. This was a special extended session, allowing an additional 15 minutes to discuss the March 2021 Budget implications.

Watch the full recording above, available from the afternoon of Tuesday 9th March, of the full extended session.

Here’s a summary of the points covered in the session (excluding the Q&A responses).

Budget 2021 highlights affecting agents

Stamp Duty:

  • The stamp duty holiday, for properties up to £500,000, has been extended to 30 June 2021 – giving buyers savings of up to £15,000.
  • From July until the end of September 2021 the stamp duty holiday will be on properties up to £250,000; saving each buyer up to £2,500.
  • Applies to all residential homes – so second homes – but they’ll still have to pay 3% surcharge.
  • It will return to £125,000 as standard on 1 October 2021, with first time buyers continuing to not pay stamp duty on properties up to £300,000.

Mortgage Guarantee Scheme:

  • Only 8 mortgage products available nationwide in January 2021 at LTV of 95%, compared to 386 products available in December 2019.
  • Scheme is for first time buyers or current homeowners looking to buy a house of up to £600k.
  • All lenders under the scheme will also offer mortgages fixed for at least five years as part of their range of products, providing options for consumers with smaller deposits who want the security and predictability of a mortgage with a fixed rate over a longer term.

Other measures of interest (but not directly related to the property industry):

  • Job Retention Scheme extended to 30 September 2021. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.
  • Working parents can be furloughed if they need to look after their children and can ask their employer for this.
  • Women will not lose Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if their roles have been furloughed.
  • Small and medium-sized employers will continue to be able to reclaim up to two weeks of eligible Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs per employee from the Government. This will give further support to individuals who have to self-isolate, extending £500 Test and Trace support payments in England until the summer.
  • Extension of the apprenticeship hiring incentive to September 2021 and an increase of payment to £3,000.
  • Once the existing COVID-19 business loan schemes close at the end of March, having supported £73bn worth of lending to date, the Government will launch the new Recovery Loan Scheme. This maintains a generous 80% guarantee to lenders to ensure they have the confidence to continue to lend to viable companies trading in the UK.
  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been extended until 30 September 2021 with a fourth and fifth grant. More than 600,000 people, many of whom became self-employed in 2019-20, may now be able to claim direct cash grants under SEISS.
  • The Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week is being extended for another six months, and those on Working Tax Credit will receive an equivalent one-off payment of £500.

Evictions/Covid restrictions

  • No major updates this month – same rules apply.
  • Ban on evictions to be in place until the end of 31 March and will be kept under review. Given that 14 days’ notice is required before an eviction can take place, no evictions are expected before 14 April except in the most serious circumstances.
  • 6-month notice is also until 31 March. Notice period will then revert back to 2 months from current 6 months if nothing changes.
  • Lockdown Guidance updated yesterday says its still fine to move home. No reference to renting.
  • Please note that there is still time to change the law if the Government wants to.


Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill

  • Introduced by Andrew Rosindell on 14 October 2020. No date yet for Second Reading.
  • People have right to pets in all properties.
  • But have to have a certificate of “responsible animal guardianship”.
  • As well as “the person has taken measures necessary for the welfare of the animal for which they are responsible” and (iii) “that animal is healthy and, where appropriate, well-trained”;
  • Landlords will be able to refuse (a) because the landlord or another tenant has a religious or medical reason to not come into contact with a dog or domestic animal, or (b) because the accommodation is unsuitable for a dog or domestic animal.

The model agreement for a shorthold assured tenancy and accompanying guidance (click to view) states:
“A Tenant must seek the prior written consent of the Landlord should they wish to keep pets or other animals at the Property. A Landlord must not unreasonably withhold or delay a written request from a Tenant without considering the request on its own merits. The Landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the Tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept. Consent is deemed to be granted unless the written request is turned down by a Landlord with good reason in writing within 28 days of receiving the request. A Landlord is prohibited from charging a fee to a Tenant who wishes to keep pets or other animals at the Property. Permission may be given on the condition that the Tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit, but the deposit must not breach the deposit cap requirements under the Tenant Fees Act 2019(see section B10).”

EICRs (Electrical Installation & Condition Report)

Link to latest guidance, coming into force 1st April.

Landlords must:

  • Ensure national standards for electrical safety are met. These are set out in the 18th edition of the ‘Wiring Regulations’, which are published as British Standard 7671.
  • Ensure the electrical installations in their rented properties are inspected and tested by a qualified and competent person at least every 5 years.
  • Obtain a report from the person conducting the inspection and test which gives the results and sets a date for the next inspection and test.
  • Supply a copy of this report to the existing tenant within 28 days of the inspection and test.
  • Supply a copy of this report to a new tenant before they occupy the premises.
  • Supply a copy of this report to any prospective tenant within 28 days of receiving a request for the report.
  • Supply the local authority with a copy of this report within 7 days of receiving a request for a copy.
  • Retain a copy of the report to give to the inspector and tester who will undertake the next inspection and test.
  • Where the report shows that remedial or further investigative work is necessary, complete this work within 28 days or any shorter period if specified as necessary in the report.
  • Supply written confirmation of the completion of the remedial works from the electrician to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion of the works.


Section 44 Update

Notes from the outcome of a recent case: Northwood Solihull Ltd v Fearne & Ors (click to view more)

Concerned 2 matters:

  1. Requirements for companies when signing notices seeking possession
  2. Their requirements relating prescribed information for deposits

A Section 44 is:

A document is validly executed by a company

(1) affixing its common seal

(2) if it is signed on behalf of the company—

(a) by two authorised signatories, or

(b) by a director of the company in the presence of a witness who attests the signature.

  • A Section 8 notice given by a company does not need to be ‘executed’ in accordance with the formal requirements of the Companies Act 2006.
  • Effectively what it says, is that agents can sign Section 8 and probably Section 21 Notices on behalf of their landlord clients. This is because of the wording of the legislation. Section 8 and 21 notices are not required to be signed by the landlord serving the notice. The notice can be signed by an agent on behalf of the landlord. Judges views: it would “lead to the absurd result whereby a company director could not sign the notice without a witness but a third party agent could”.
  • Deposit was from July 2014 so the judgment is made on that law. And following the same logic, because Statutory Instrument says that the PI must be “signed by the landlord”, then Section 44 does apply.
  • Remember the Deregulation Act made changes to TDP to reverse the Superstrike judgment. Section 30(3) amended the 2007 Statutory Instrument to allow it to be signed by either a ‘landlord or the initial agent’.
  • Therefore, this judgment is unlikely to affectdeposits taken after the law came into force on 26 March 2015 as, following the judge’s logic, because an agent is allowed to sign, then Section 44 doesn’t apply.
  • You must sign it as you, not as the company.
  • But in any event, Judge may have erred in law. Deregulation Act made the law change retrospective so the judge should have bene looking at the amended SI, not the original and then may well have come to a different conclusion.