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The main landlord legislation changes in 2018: What you might have missed

As usual, the festive season has flown by and we’re already well into 2019. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to reflect on the successes and progress in your property rental business – but have you caught up on all the changes in legislation that happened in the last 12 months?

It’s not always easy to keep abreast of every development, so we’re highlighting some of the most important changes. From a reduction to tax relief to new energy efficiency regulations, here’s what you need to know…

How to Rent Guide
A new version of the How to Rent Checklist was published in 2018. All landlords and letting agents in England must give this guide to assured short-hold tenants whose tenancy began or was renewed from 26 June 2018.

It’s important you issue a hard copy version of the How to Rent Guide to your tenant before their tenancy begins. If your tenant has provided you with an email address that they’ve stated can be used to communicate important information regarding their tenancy, then you can email the checklist to them.

SELF-MANAGING LANDLORD TOP TIP
Under Section 21 legislation, if you do not provide the document, you won’t be able to repossess your property should things go wrong. Although it’s not a legal requirement to get your tenant to confirm they’ve received the document, it’s a really good idea to ask them to confirm in writing that they have.  

Electronic Payment Changes
In January 2018 electronic payment policies in England and Wales changed. Now, a landlord or letting agent that takes rent or deposit payments using debit cards, credit cards, phone payments or PayPal, is no longer allowed to add a charge to tenants for doing so. Find out more.

HMO Regulations
As of October 2018, all HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) with five or more tenants are subject to mandatory licensing. This applies to homes occupied by five people or more that aren’t related, or where they share a bathroom or kitchen regardless of the number of floors. In October a national minimum bedroom size was introduced to all licensed HMOs, and councils now specify how many people can sleep in each room. If you have an HMO, refer to your local authority’s website for details. 

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards

In April 2018, the Government brought in Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for all new tenancies. It means that any property that falls below an ‘E’ rating on its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) can no longer be rented to tenants. This includes renewals of existing tenant contracts. Landlords that don’t meet the new requirements could face fines of up to £5000. Read more here.

Banning Orders
In April 2018, the Government launched new banning orders to tackle rogue landlords that have mistreated their tenants. A landlord or letting agent issued with a banning order is placed on a national database and cannot let property for a minimum of one year. Find out more on the Government website.

GDPR
You’ve probably heard of ‘GDPR’ (General Data Protection Regulations). The change in data protection rules came into effect on 25 May 2018, requiring all businesses to safeguard people’s personal information. There’s some useful information on what this means to landlords here.

Gas safety
In April, the Government announced changes to gas safety regulations to give landlords more flexibility. Landlords can now perform compulsory checks at any time within the two months before the renewal date, and much as with car MOTs, the deadline date stays the same the following year. The Landlord’s Guild has a useful guide on this. 

Reducing mortgage interest tax relief
Before April 2017, landlords didn’t have to pay tax on the interest on their mortgages. This then changed so that they could only claim relief on 75% of interest. In April 2018, this dropped to 50% - and will continue to decrease until 2020, when it will be replaced by a tax credit equivalent covering 20% of mortgage interest. Visit the gov.uk site for more information.

One of your responsibilities as a landlord is to make sure you comply with new changes to the law. If you’re in any doubt, refer to industry websites or speak to a friendly letting agent like us for guidance.