All change for evictions notices

The government just announced more changes to evictions

As we blogged last week, following the extension to the evictions ban, landlords now have to give six months’ notice before they can evict a tenant. Now the landscape has shifted again. Last week, following increasing pressure to consider the problems being faced by landlords as a result of the newly extended ban, the government announced more changes to notice periods.

The new rules – which have taken immediate effect, – mean a range of different notice periods depending on the reason why landlords are seeking to evict someone.

The revised notice periods for landlords and letting agents are now as follows:

  • anti-social behaviour (now 4 weeks’ notice)
  • domestic abuse (now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • false statement (now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • over 6 months’ accumulated rent arrears (now 4 weeks’ notice)
  • breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (now 3 months’ notice)

This means landlords can now start the ball rolling to evict tenants who were already in arrears pre-lockdown. However, if they want to reclaim possession of their property in order to live in it themselves, they will still need to give their tenant six months’ notice.

Forms 3 and 6a have been updated and were published over the weekend and ARLA Propertymark told the press on Friday that it understands that notices will now be valid for 10 months. This means they won’t expire before action can be taken against the tenants in question.

So some good news for landlords. But as the National Residential Landlords Association says, the changes won’t make much difference unless property owners get a “cast iron guarantee” that the courts will re-open as planned on September 20. 

New court rules have also been agreed, coming into force on 20 September, that  mean landlords will need to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings.

So the best that landlords can do now is to follow the law to the letter and ensure that, if they wish to evict a tenant once the courts are up and running, that they have served the correct notice and have all their paperwork in order. There will inevitably be a huge backlog and being well prepared in advance will mean the least possible opportunity for further delay.

Our advice remains the same. Talk to tenants who are having financia problems and try to agree a payment plan that suits both parties. And if you are actively seeking new tenants for your property, make sure you carry out all the relevant referencing. With furlough coming to an end in October, many people could find themselves on the receiving end of a redundancy notice, so nothing is certain in these Covid times. But vetting tenants carefuly is a must. Our automated lettings platform PlanetRent could help, so check it out today.

End of evictions ban delayed – but what will happen when furlough ends?

Another extension to the evictions ban – but the government now needs some fresh ideas.

On Friday, as many suspected it would, the Government extended the evictions ban until 20 September. So another month will pass during which possessions cases cannot be processed by the courts. A short stay of execution for renters in financial difficulty and more pain for property owners facing arrears. Landlords now need to give six months’notice of eviction to tenants and the Government says it “will continue to work with the judiciary and stakeholders to ensure that the courts are prepared for eviction cases to be heard safely” once the ban is finally lifted.

This latest extension takes us comfortably into the next session of Parliament, which sits again from 1 September. We hope there can then be proper and urgent debate around ways to support both renters and landlords, who are equally compromised by the current situation.

What is even more worrying, is what will happen when furlough ends in October. Will there be yet another U-turn? Or an extended scheme for certain parts of the economy such as hospitality and the arts, which continue to suffer from severe economic problems? If not, we will be facing another, more extreme cliff edge as companies have to make difficult decisions about bringing staff back to work – or not.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, up to 20% of furloughed workers could become unemployed when the scheme ends on 31 October. This has huge implications for landlords as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation calculates that 1.5million private renters are being paid by the state and up to 300,000 risk losing their jobs when employers have to start paying wages again.

Over the weekend the Telegraph identified the parts of the country where landlords are most  of risk of finding their tenants unemployed and potentially in rent arrears. Areas with a strong emphasis on manufacturing are likely to be hard hit, as well as those places where tourism accounts for large numbers of jobs. Read the full article here

In the meantime, a £500 million Hardship Fund will provide council tax relief to vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by Coronavirus and Universal Credit and Housing Benefit have increased. Local Housing Allowance rates will now pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area. But for many that will not be enough and landlords will be expected, once again, to take up the slack.

Let’s hope the government has something inventive up its sleeve for the next session of Parliament to provide a safety net for those on both sides of the rental equation who find themselves in financial difficulty. We anticipate that some fresh inspiration will be badly needed.

Two good reasons to rent to students

Student demand for rental homes is high

New research published this week reveals good returns for landlords who buy properties near universities to rent to students. Good news for buy-to-let investors. But not everyone is keen to rent a home to students. Key issues are likely to be additional wear and tear on fixtures and fittings and the expectation that your property will be let fully furnished.

However, there are two good reasons to consider student tenants. First, demand for a rental property in university towns and cities is consistently high, and second, students are likely to want at least a 12-month contract, so you may not need to change tenants or market your property so frequently.

Despite the recent exam results fiasco and the prospect of Covid-driven online learning for many of this year’s under-graduates, demand is still expected to be high for student rentals. So which areas are currently generating the best yields? 

Landlord Today reported this week that “on average, university rental yields sit at 4.4% across the UK”. The most profitable returns are in Scotland, with best buys close to the University of Dundee where rental yields in the DD1 postcode could be as high as 7.2%. The University of Aberdeen comes in second with an average yield in the AB24 postcode at 6.8%, while the University of Strathclyde and the G1 postcode average rental yields of 6.6%.

In England, the University of Leicester is reported to be the best buy-to-let prospect. Yields average 6.6% in the LE1 postcode. Aston University in Birmingham also presents good rental opportunities (6.5%) together with the University of Leeds (6.41%), Nottingham Trent University (6.4%), Newcastle University (6.3%) and the University of Liverpool (6.1%). In Wales, Cardiff University has a yield of 5.9% in the CF10 postcode.

If you’re looking to buy a property with the intention of letting to students, we suggest looking for houses or flats with at least three bedrooms. Homes with good-sized or open-plan shared space and more than one bathroom are likely to have the most kerb appeal. And for obvious reasons, properties within walking distance of the university you choose are likely to be in demand.

If you are keen to market your rental home to students, why not do it via PlanetRent. Our automated lettings platform makes it easy for you to comply with all the regulations around letting a home in multiple occupation (HMO) and it already has a tie-in with Rightmove and Zoopla so you can promote your property on the UK’s two most popular portals on a pay-as-you-go basis. It’s all set up for you so, in just a few clicks, your home could be advertised to thousands of potential student occupiers in time for the start of the new academic year.

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Will the eviction ban end on Sunday?

Will the eviction ban be lifted or could we see another Government U-turn?

The eviction ban, brought in to protect renters during the Covid-19 outbreak, ends this weekend. The government is now under pressure from opposition parties and renters action groups to keep the ban in place beyond 23 August, with the London Renters Union planning a day of action demanding the government acts to protect tenants.

However, as we have said in this blog before, many landlords rely on rental income for their livelihood. New figures from the National Residential Landlords Association prove the point. Just-published independent research shows that 44% of those who let rental property entered the market to contribute to their pension and 39% report a gross non-rental income of less than £20,000 a year. In addition 94% of landlords are individuals not large lettings companies and they have unlimited liability should their businesses fail. 

The NRLA told Landlord Today, that it is wrong to assume that every tenant that has built up rent arrears because of COVID-19 will automatically be at risk of eviction. We agree – and we also support the NLA’s call to avoid what they describe as “unnecessary scaremongering”.

In order to soften the blow for renters, in July new rules around possessions came into force which landlords need to be aware of. Here’s a reminder.

  • Until September 30 a minimum of three months’ notice must be given to tenants if landlords wish to seek possession. This is to give more time for payment arrangements to be agreed.
  • Once the ban is lifted, anyone with a possession claim that was already in progress must provide a written ‘re-activation notice’ to the court and the tenant – otherwise the case will remain dormant.
  • For claims involving non-payment of rent, landlords are obliged to provide information on the tenant’s circumstances, including how they have been impacted by the pandemic. If this is not forthcoming, the case could be adjourned.
  • Priority will be given by the courts to possession cases based on serious pre-lockdown arrears and those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic violence.

To read the new rules on possession, click here.

Finally, don’t forget that we always advise landlords who are facing problems to engage with their tenants at the earliest possible stage and try and find ways to help them deal with rent arrears. Do contact us for help if this is proving difficult as we have extensive experience in the rentals market and may be able to offer some useful advice.

So with only a few days left until the ban is lifted, the big question remains whether or not Westminster gives in to demands to extend it further in England. In Scotland the moratorium is expected to be left in place until March 2021 and in Wales ministers have announced a six-month notice period for evictions. Following the U-turn on exams earlier this week, anything could happen, so both landlords and tenants will just have to wait and see. Watch this space!

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Landlords – don’t miss the new Covid-19 guidance

Keep track of all the latest legal requirements with PlanetRent

The government guidance on Covid-19 for landlords and tenants has been updated. At the end of July, a new guide was published, detailing recent changes to the law and explaining the implications of the Coronavirus Act 2020. The latest advice focuses on three key areas.

Rent, mortgage payments, and notices seeking possession – under the Coronavirus Act, until 30 September 2020 most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants three-months’ notice. Landlords can choose to give more notice if they prefer.

Court action on housing possession cases during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak – new or existing claims for possession will not be able to proceed before 24 August and landlords are strongly advised not to commence new notices seeking possession without good reason.

Repairs, maintenance, and health and safety – where safe to do so, it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are well maintained, kept in good repair, and free from hazards. Recent changes to guidance on working safely mean that landlords can now take steps to address wider issues of repairs and safety inspections, provided these are undertaken in line with public health advice.

To download and read the guidance in full, go to

The guidance mainly applies to England but some of the measures referred to also apply in Wales. Landlords with properties in Wales can find guidance from the Welsh Government at Landlords in Scotland can go to guidance/

During the ongoing pandemic, it is vital that we all understand and abide by the rules wherever possible. As the situation evolves, all Covid-19 advice is being frequently updated, so landlords should be checking regularly for changes.

If you are concerned about compliance, why not try out our automated lettings platform PlanetRent, which ensures you are fully compliant with all the legislation and regulations that landlords need to abide by. There’s no subscription, you can simply pay-as-you-go. We’ve made it really easy for you so why not take a closer look at PlanetRent today.

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Our tips for virtual viewings to let your flat fast!

Why not use our automated lettings platform to upload virtual viewings of your rental home

Earlier this week, Letting Agent Today revealed that in a survey about online viewings, more than half of prospective tenants were put off by the unkempt state of the property they were looking at.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, video viewings have really come into their own. But a staggering 56% said the pictures shown of the interior had put them off. And some even went so far as to call the rental homes they had seen online “disgusting”. 

Damning indeed – and certainly not what anyone with a home to let wants to hear. With more and more landlords and agents turning to technology to allow them to safely show tenants around their rental homes, a video viewing could be the only chance you get to showcase your home. So it’s really important to get it right.

The team at our Manchester-based lettings division LifebyRingley had been offering virtual viewings for some time before the country went into lockdown in March. MD Sam Hay has plenty of experience and knows more than most what works and what doesn’t. So here are her top tips for making your property look appealing online.

  • The best time to take videos/photos is when your rental property is empty and fresh before letting.
  • If possible try to keep all colours neutral and give the property a fresh coat of paint after each tenancy.
  • Keep furniture matching and neutral.
  • Always give the current tenants plenty of notice so they can ensure that properties are not cluttered with their personal possessions.

Sam advises always conducting virtual viewings initially to eliminate timewasters and prevent unnecessary in-person viewings.

Almost a third of the people polled said they would be happy to judge a property based on a video viewing provided they were convinced it gave a realistic impression of what the property is like. However, there will be plenty of people who still want to walk round the property and check it out in person.

This is a reason (if one is needed!) to keep a good relationship with the tenants throughout the tenancy so that they are happy to facilitate viewings. And where in-person viewings are needed, try to arrange block bookings so that you aren’t disturbing the tenants too frequently. This could make them less cooperative.

Our automated lettings platform PlanetRent has a facility for uploading photos and virtual tours, so why not check it out today. It’s pay-as-you-go so there’s no obligation and no subscription. You could be just a few clicks away from letting your property with PlanetRent.

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Section 21 saved – for now…

Section 21 is still in force – but for how long?

Good news for landlords this week. The government has indicated that Section 21 evictions won’t be scrapped for the foreseeable future. The Renters Reform Bill – of which removing the right of landlords to no-fault evictions is a key part – will be put on hold until at least 2021.

As far as we’re concerned, this is a victory for common sense. At Ringley, we have always urged the Government to think long and hard before it ditches Section 21, so we believe this is the right decision at the right time. With the courts facing a backlog of evictions once the possessions ban is lifted, there will be enough litigation to wade through without an impending rule change to deal with.

Official figures point to the fact that only 10% of tenancies are ended by the landlord, not the tenant. This is because a long term tenant is a good investment. There is no void rent loss and less move-in, move-out wear and tear.  But there are legitimate reasons why a buy-to-let landlord may need to evict someone when they have a change of circumstances. At the end of the day the property belongs to them and, within reason, they must be able to repossess it. Section 21 is a useful – and polite – way to evict a tenant when this becomes necessary.

Pre-lockdown the average time it was taking for a private landlord to repossess a property was nearly four months. That was far too long – and will now take even longer. So it is vital that repossessions are supported by an efficient court process.

Regardless of how useful a tool Section 21 may be, the Government proposes to effectively make tenancies open-ended, while at the same time strengthening the rights of landlords who want to recover their properties by giving the Section 8 process more teeth. As we have said in this blog before, getting this right will make or break any planned change in the law.

Last year, more than a third of buy-to-let landlords told a Landlord Today survey that they would consider selling their properties if the government axes Section 21; Another 33% said they would only continue being a landlord if “significant changes” are made to Section 8 first. The study also found that 70% of landlords would be less willing to consider a longer-term tenancy if Section 21 was no longer available to them, while 85% said they would be more selective with their choice of tenant. 

So a change in the law could have unintended consequences. Our view is that all those calling for Section 21 should be careful what they wish for. If Section 8 is not strengthened to give landlords the ability to evict rogue tenants when they need to – and without excessive delays – the market may not be able to meet the demand for more rental homes that we will surely see as the economy inevitably falters post-pandemic.

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We say NO to higher CGT on buy-to-let homes

Any increase in Capital Gains Tax could serously threaten the supply of rental homes

In the same week that Landlord Today reports one in four buy-to-let landlords is hoping to expand their property portfolio this year, the Treasury has announced it is to “seek views about capital gains tax”. This sounds ominous for those same BTL landlords and has prompted speculation that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning a tax hike for second homeowners, including people with buy-to-let properties.  

With a gaping hole in the country’s finances – which could be as much as £350bn – it’s pretty obvious that the Chancellor needs to claw back that money somehow. So taxes are in the spotlight. Landlords may be able to take comfort from the fact that the Chancellor has said the review is just an administrative formality. But with Rightmove reporting that rental demand is 40% higher than this time last year, any additional taxation that could damage supply looks a very bad decision indeed.

Landlords, who are already under the cosh from this year’s CGT changes, as well as the Tenant Fees Act and a range of new regulations now in force, are likely to quickly offload their rental homes if they are no longer viable and move their investment elsewhere.  At a time when the government is trying to support the housing market and make it easier for people to buy, anything that could push up prices by flooding the market with properties looks counterproductive.

If the Government is serious about boosting the housing market recovery and delivering more rental homes, we think it should exempt buy-to-let landlords from any increase in CGT.

The taxpayer will ultimately have to foot the bill for the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic. But how the government will choose to distribute the tax changes that will be needed is still uncertain.

We may not be able to do anything about CGT rates – but we can help if you’re unsure about compliance. To give landlords peace of mind that they need never fall foul of the rental regulations again, we’ve developed a great new cloud-based lettings platform that takes all the hassle out of compliance.  PlanetRent has a simple dashboard to help you manage compliance for one property or a whole portfolio. So if you are worried about complying with all the regulations that you need to be aware of, why not download it today. See all the great features we’ve included here and give it a try.

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Don’t fall foul of discrimination laws

A landmark case has outlawed ‘no DSS’ policies

Following a judgement in the County Court on 1 July, refusing to rent your home to a tenant because they are on housing benefit has now been ruled unlawful. The case revolved around a disabled single mother who challenged a letting agent for rejecting her application to rent a home on the basis that she was receiving benefits.

Prior to this landmark ruling, previous cases where renters have challenged what has become known as ‘no DSS’ policies (despite the Department of Social Security being dissolved in 2001!) have been settled out of court.  This time, supported by Shelter, the case was determined in court and the letting agent was found to be in breach of the Equality Act. As a result, the agent was ordered to pay the claimant £3,500 plus costs.

In 2018, Shelter carried out research into online advertising in the private rented sector and found at least one in 10 adverts stated they would not accept tenants on housing benefit. Now, that will have to stop. Instead, landlords will have to consider every applicant on an individual basis, carrying out careful referencing instead of simply using ‘no DSS’ as a blanket ban on people they regard as potentially a higher financial risk.

In April, we looked at the subject of renting to tenants on Universal Credit and offered some helpful tips for making sure the landlord-tenant relationship works. The blog includes a link to a helpful guide explaining ‘Alternative Payment Arrangements’. This is where the housing element of Universal Credit is paid directly to the landlord, giving both parties the certainty that rent payments will be made on time.  And if a tenant is already in arrears, the landlord can also apply for ‘Third-party Deductions’ whereby an additional amount is taken monthly from the claimant’s personal allowance to reduce the debt over time.

Many people on benefits have never been in arrears or caused problems for their previous landlord. Simply making assumptions about potential tenants on the basis of their personal circumstances is no longer an option – so make sure you do your homework when you’re looking for a new tenant. Don’t fall foul of the law and risk the chance of getting involved in a costly court case.

As we blogged yesterday, our cloud-based lettings platform PlanetRent automates rent payments, which also makes it easy for tenants to budget and to keep up-to-date – and it makes referencing really quick and easy for landlords. PlanetRent takes care of your marketing too. So why not download it today – it’s pay-as-you-go and works across all your devices.

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More support needed for buy-to-let landlords

Small landlords are struggling as much as their tenants due to the pandemic

Baroness Altmann echoed the feelings of many people in the private rented sector when she told Letting Agent Today last week that the Government needs to do more to support buy-to-let landlords. The Conservative peer and consumer campaigner highlighted the plight of small landlords, who may only own one or two properties and “ have been compassionate in the face of requests from renters during the pandemic” but who are now struggling with their own finances.

Despite supporting the eviction ban “in principle” Baroness Altmann also pointed out that an unintended consequence of the five month long moratorium has been that, aswell as protecting vulnerable tenants, it has also prevented evictions of anti-social tenants and has left some landlords struggling to pay their own bills.

As we have highlighted in this blog before, many buy-to-let investors enter the sector in order to furnish themselves with a pension.  Now, as a result of the pandemic, they are finding themselves with little or no rental income but must still find the money to pay for licensing fees, insurance, repairs and possibly even utility bills.

In response to the problems now being faced by buy-to-let landlords, Baroness Altmann is suggesting a range of measures including:

  • Government to clearly re-state that tenants must, wherever possible, continue to pay their rent as normal, and stop implying that all landlords are wealthy or are large firms who can afford to receive no income
  • Government to offer landlords and tenants additional support, including mediation, to agree rent repayment plans where arrears have built up as a result of the pandemic
  • Court processes to be urgently reformed so that possession cases are heard fast in order to help clear the backlog of cases
  • Clear plans to be put in place to respond to possible future local lockdowns, perhaps by pausing repossession cases in those areas, within a specific timeframe. 

We support Baroness Altmann’s proposals. It is only fair to continue to support vulnerable tenants wherever possible while at the same time making life easier for beleagured landlords. In the last few months we have all become accustomed to doing all kinds of things remotely, so we particularly like her practical suggestion that court reforms could easily include continued online hearings and making better use of web-based arbitration.

At Ringley, we’re doing our best to support the landlords we work with who find themselves with tenants in arrears. Using our new lettings platform PlanetRent may also help by simplifying rent collection. Payments are made automatically via direct debit on the same date each month, enabling tenants to budget for their rent. Another really useful feature is that payments are taken from joint tenants individually – improving the collection rate for landlords – and then jointly from other tenants if one should default.

There’s no subscription and we have a great pricing model. PlanetRent is pay-as-you-go, so why not check it out today and help your tenants pay their rent quickly, easily – and on time.

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