News & Blog

Agents - some New Year’s resolutions!

In Memoriam 2020.

 

As the old year passed, albeit with a damp squib rather than the usual fireworks, the reality of the new one has sharply come into focus and, for many of us, it is with trepidation rather than anticipation that we look ahead to 2021.

 

This said, the opportunity for success and progress is as great as it has ever been, especially in the property sector and for agents in particular. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and therefore if you are in the position to help solve the obstacles faced by your customers, they will reward you handsomely for the service. As this recent Hamilton Fraser article reflecting on 2020 highlights, the sector pulled together in response to the pandemic and there are many positives to take away and reasons to be optimistic as we progress into 2021.

 

What you need to do, is to understand what is coming down the line and where you can access the solutions and assistance you need to help your clients. Below, I highlight some key changes that have occurred, or are on their way and will directly affect the landscape of the sector. To be forewarned is forearmed and means you can prepare and put in place the measures needed to get over the hurdles.

 

Your New Year resolution is to be the resolution for your clients and, as Tennyson reflects in his poem, ‘Ring out Wild Bells’ to:

 

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true …

Ring in redress to all mankind”

 

Rent arrears, possession claims and a way through the mess…

This past year has thrown challenge after challenge at landlords and letting agents, not least of which has been the impact of lockdown on tenants, the ‘domino’ effect on rent arrears – and an increasingly difficult landscape in which to do anything about it.

 

Here is a summary of where we are:

  • Notice periods: the notice periods to seek possession due to rent arrears are six months’ notice if less than six months’ arrears, and four weeks’ notice if six months’ arrears or more. A six-month notice period is required for all other grounds, including Section 21 notices
  • Court proceedings: landlords issuing proceedings are likely, in most cases, to face a further wait of at least six months. The courts are prioritising cases that were started before March 2020.  Claims for rent arrears starting later than this will only be prioritised where there is 12 months’ rent arrears or nine months’ rent where that amounts to more than 25 per cent of a private landlord’s total annual income from any source.  The courts are also making sure that the parties have used a mediation service before any possession hearing can take place
  • Evictions and bailiffs: bailiff evictions for all but the very worst cases are now banned until at least 21 February 2021. No evictions are expected before 8 March 2021.

Of course, given the nature of COVID-19 and that the situation is, like the virus, constantly changing, as an agent you have to be on top of things and provide robust support and the correct remedy for your landlord and for their tenants.

 

In my day job with the Property Redress Scheme, I have seen a rapid rise in complaints relating to coronavirus and many of these are because the agent has not understood the changes and new rules that are in place. That is why, having access to the correct legal advice and expert help to try and resolve the problems is essential.

 

We at the Hamilton Fraser family, offer a range of services that are here to help you.  In fact, 2021 is a special year for us as we will be celebrating our 25th birthday!

 

Our brand new Property Redress Tenancy Mediation Service, has been designed to deal with arrears cases before they get to court and to avoid the huge delays and frustrations that the new rules present. Agents can access the service, which will complement the work you are doing for your landlord. Find out more here.

 

Agents can also get practical and up-to-date legal advice by signing up to our dedicated agent’s helpline, HF Assist. This service provides comprehensive legal and business assistance at a fraction of the cost of engaging a lawyer. You are one call away from the help you need.

 

Of course, sometimes court cannot be avoided and that is why you need specialist, professional services, especially now the game has significantly changed in relation to gaining possession and undertaking evictions in the private rental sector. It is so easy to get things wrong and one mistake, more than ever, will cost your landlord dear. If you have been trying to help them, it will be your door they will be knocking at to pay their bills. That is why we recommend using our legal service, Landlord Action. With over 20 years of experience and fully regulated, their cost effective service will give your landlord the best fighting chance to get the best possible result. Find out more here.

 

Gone in 2021?

We all pray that the pandemic will be tackled and we can resume some sort of normality, however as far as the property world is concerned the big elephant in the room is what has happened to the Renters Reform Bill. The legislation promises the reform of the eviction process, lifetime deposits and the big question - will Section 21 will be gone in 2021? At the start of the pandemic and when the Government’s legislative programme was thrown into turmoil, I would have said the reforms had been the can kicked down the road. However, the measures taken in the last months to curtail possessions and evictions for the COVID-19 period, lead me to believe that these measures will persist beyond the 31 March end date and may well meld into permanent change. This will, in effect fulfill the objective of government policy in seeing the end of no fault evictions. Deposit reform is a little way away but again, expect the unexpected. (Learn more about the reforms by watching this exclusive LandlordZONE  webinar featuring the National Residential Landlord Association’s Ben Beadle – find out how to access the webinar here.)

 

To regulate or not to regulate? That is the question!

An area close to my heart is regulation and the Government has the opportunity to act on this and, in the form of Regulation of Property Agents (ROPA), has the blue print to implement a reform package, which could be in place within two years.

 

The Government has to start the ball rolling in 2021, as the pressures on the market will mean without effective rules and enforcement, the less savoury parts of the sector will see an opportunity and seek to fill the void. They will also need to ensure they address the gaps and put in place things like mandatory redress for tenants from landlords and that the private rent to rent model is brought into the scope of regulation.

 

There is clearly a lot on the Government’s plate and this is not taking into consideration, the cladding issue, leasehold reform, environmental standards of rental properties and what will happen to tenants from the EU now that the transition period has ended.

 

What is certain is that political pressures on the market, will only increase in 2021 and the year will be as stormy as the last one. On the other hand, with job uncertainty, lending being restricted and confidence low, demand for renting will remain high as people remain in or enter the rental market during these periods. Yes, some landlords will decide, enough is enough and try and bail out, however a whole fresh generation of investors is waiting in the wings, unencumbered by the legacy of the past and ready to enter the fray with the optimism and innovation needed for a thriving sector.

 

There is much to be optimistic about, and you, the agent, with the right help could be the key to a Happy New Year.

 

Check out some of the key dates for the private rented sector in 2021 here.

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