If we thought the last decade was difficult for landlords, 2020 is going to be a real minefield. There’s no doubt we’re going into another legislation heavy year with massive changes coming to our contracts, our responsibility towards the health and safety of tenants, and our obligations to record, record, record!
So far, there are 7 keys things to keep in mind this year. We’ll be expanding on these points in the coming months, and I will also be running seminars for those who would like to discuss them face to face (keep an eye out for those dates!).
1. Renting Homes 2016 Bill
The long-awaited Bill is scheduled for Royal Assent this year, and will be made into law soon after. This will be the most notable change to the way we let properties in Wales for over a generation.
New contracts and notices
Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) Agreements will be replaced with “model contracts”. A tenancy won’t be able to start without a signed contract being in place (unlike with ASTs), and notices will have different names, numbers and functions.
It is highly likely that notice periods will also be longer where there is no breach of contract.
Currently, there is no Section 21 equivalent. There was to be one, but since the Government announced last year that they would be revoking the no-fault eviction notice and replacing it with an entirely different system (no details yet provided), the Welsh Government have confirmed they’ll follow suit.
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) will become an essential part of our day-to-day lives as landlords. Not only do we have to thoroughly assess the condition of our properties against a list of 29 specific hazards, we are also required to provide documentation to prove it.
The Rating System has already come into effect in England, and tenants there have the ability to sue their landlords on the grounds of unsatisfactory accommodation based on this list.
Mandatory Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
In England, it has been a legal requirement for landlords to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for all their rental properties, and for these to be tested regularly. Again, it’s likely this will become a legal requirement here in Wales, too, and we will need to document each test.
Self-managing landlords will thus be obliged to schedule regular visits to their properties in order to comply.
Right to Rent Checks
Unless the regulation is overhauled (unlikely), Welsh landlords will be legally responsible for undertaking right to rent checks on their tenants.
The Government have made it clear that pets should be allowed in rental properties where the property is suitable to house them. It’s likely that the Welsh Government will adopt the same approach. You won’t be able to list properties as “no pets allowed” unless you’ve got a very good reason.
2. Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards
From 1st April 2020, all existing tenancies will be subject to the 2018 Energy Efficiency law that states landlords and agents cannot let a property unless it has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E or higher. This means that any landlords with properties that have F or G ratings will no longer be able to legally let them out.
Landlords will be expected to pay up to £3,500 towards energy efficiency improvement works. However, if work will cost more, landlords can apply for an exemption.
3. Capital Gains & Tax Relief
Changes are being made to Capital Gains Tax, and this year, landlords will get no tax relief on buy-to-let mortgages. If you’ve been putting off getting professional financial advice, now really is the time to reconsider.
4. The Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Prescribed Limits of Default Payments) (Wales) Regulations 2020
Building on the legislation of the Tenant Fee Ban, this regulation update will confirm the limits of permitted payments for tenants, and will potentially incorporate a security deposit cap. If this is the case, any balance already taken over the capped amount will need to be refunded to the tenants within a set period.
5. Mandatory Electrical Checks
The Rent Smart Wales Code of Practice states that landlords must ensure the electrics in their rental properties are safe, and it is strongly recommended that you instruct for anelectrical condition report to prove safety. It is likely that it will become a mandatory requirement in due course as it is in England from effect in April.
6. Double Council Tax Plans
As per our previous article, council tax liabilities are increasing for those with second homes. There will be a staggered roll-out, the first wave of which will come in April 2020.
7. Demand Set to Increase for Quality Rental Accommodation
To end this list on a more positive note, demand for quality rental accommodation is still set to increase, with predictions that almost 25% of the population will be in rental accommodation in just 5 years’ time. It’s also predicted that they will rent for longer terms.
However, landlords will really need to up their game to compete with the growing built-to-rent sector – something that Swansea’s student landlord market has already been affected by.
Swansea 2019 Rental Market – Rents Peak in October
Overall, rents in Swansea remained pretty stable across the last year, starting out at an average rent of £803 in January and slowly decreasing from the spring through the summer.
Looking at our data (sourced from Zoopla), rents peaked in October 2019 with an average asking price of £817pcm.
Surprisingly, the lowest average rent for Swansea came the month before in September, where the average asking rent was £764pcm. This is made more surprising by the fact that September also had the lowest number of available properties, so we’d expect rents to have risen.
The Tenant Fee Ban came into effect on 1st September; although delayed, the October spike in rents could reflect landlords looking to recoup losses (due to higher agency fees).
Wales Best Performing Region for House Price Growth in 2019
Good news though for Landlords in South Wales, as Zoopla highlights Wales being the strongest region for house price growth over 2019.
Zoopla reported that the collective value of homes in Great Britain increased by £124 billion in 2019, pushing total housing wealth up to £7.8 trillion.
The typical house saw its price rise by £4,702 – the equivalent of a gain of £12 a day.
Wales was the best performing region for house price growth, with house prices rising by 3.9%. That’s more than double the 1.6% average rate for Great Britain as a whole!
The typical home in Wales saw its price increase by £7,154 – or £19.60 a day.
Interestingly, Port Talbot was the town with the best performing housing market in 2019, with prices rising by 7.5% (nearly double the rate for Wales as a whole), adding an average of £23.22 a day to property prices, which ended the year at £122,074.