Property news in review – the big stories of 2021

What a year it’s been for landlords, tenants and property managers who, as well as coping with the Covid fall-out of rent arrears and court delays, lockdowns, have faced new regulations and an extended evictions ban as well as growing Universal Credit headaches and burgeoning licensing schemes.

With 2022 shaping up to be equally challenging, we take a to look back at the sector’s biggest stories of 2021.

Lets & Pets

In January, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher launched an update to the Model Tenancy Agreement to prevent landlords from issuing blanket ‘no pets’ bans. Instead, consent for pets would be the default position, with rejections only made where there was good reason such as in smaller properties or flats where owning a pet could be impractical.

Portfolio savvy sale

In what was thought to be the country’s largest-ever mortgage transaction, one of Britain’s biggest private landlords, Alastair Kerr, transferred ownership of his 330 rental homes in west London into a company structure in February, saving himself more than £10 million in tax and mortgage interest, to take advantage of incorporation relief rules.

Fallen property guru

Property guru Glenn Armstrong, of Property Millionaire Academy, was declared bankrupt, owing £4.9 million to at least 38 creditors, who were queuing up to claim back huge amounts of up to £537,000. Armstrong also had 10 unpaid county court judgements against his related companies as well as 10 unpaid personal county court judgements.

Electrical reports

Landlords were warned not to expect a grace period or extension to the deadline for properties to conform to the new electrical safety standards. They had been told that after 1st April, all existing tenancies would need an EICR (electrical installation condition report) but argued that this would be difficult given the challenges of accessing properties and finding approved electricians to do the work during the pandemic.

Unlimited fines for Fire Safety impersonators

HMO landlords and their managing agents were told in March they could face unlimited fines if caught obstructing or impersonating a fire inspector, or if they breached fire safety regulations under the upgraded Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 legislation.

Stamp duty holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the extended stamp duty holiday would end on 30th June instead of the end of March, but made no immediate change to Corporation Tax or Capital Gains Tax in his spring Budget. Corporation Tax would increase to 25% in April 2023, while small businesses with profits of less than £50,000 would remain at the current rate of 19%. The government also announced that owners of second homes or holiday lets would soon have to rent their properties out for at least 70 days a year in order to pay the cheaper business rates tax, rather than just making the property ‘available to rent’.

Right to rent

The government reassured landlords that they wouldn’t need to evict a tenant without settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme unless issued with a ‘Notice of letting to a disqualified person’ by the Home Office. In April, new guidance stated that from 1st July, if a tenant couldn’t produce evidence of their continued right to rent, landlords had to make a report to the Home Office to maintain their statutory excuse – or face a civil penalty.

Green homes grant end

The government axed its much-maligned Green Homes Grant in May, six months after it was launched. It was plagued by a lack of tradespeople willing to go through the Trustmark approval process to join the scheme, Covid restrictions, confusion over which upgrades and improvements qualified under the scheme and a lack of applications.

Ban extension

The evictions ban was extended by a further two months until at least 31st May, after being repeated several times during the Covid pandemic. It meant that a landlord who gave notice of eviction on 31st May would not be able to physically evict the tenant until November, while those who already had warrants lined up, now had to wait a further two months to evict.

Breathing space

From 4th May, landlords, agents and their solicitors were told to include details of the government’s breathing space debt scheme within paperwork when seeking to gain possession of a property, or risk the eviction being rejected – giving someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from their creditors for up to 60 days.

Renters reform

Eighteen months after she first announced the Renters Reform Bill, the Queen’s Speech included the government’s intention to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, as well as plans to strengthen repossession grounds for landlords and proposals for a new ‘lifetime’ tenancy deposit model. The NRLA’s Ben Beadle said that within 18 months, landlords in England and Wales would have to register with a redress scheme, be recorded on national database and embrace a new, portable ‘lifetime deposit’ for tenants in order to be legal.

Tax simplifcation?

The Office of Tax Simplification recommended that those selling property should be given 60 rather than 30 days to report and pay their Capital Gains Tax (CGT), to give the 150,000 people who report their property sale to the tax authorities each year more time to work out if they are due to pay CGT, and for the 85,000 who are usually liable to pay it more time to file their UK Property tax return.

Mick’s offer

Nottingham landlord Mick Roberts offered to pay his tenants’ deposit so they could buy their homes, after becoming disillusioned with the sector. In June Mick blamed government policies, licensing schemes and a tortuous Universal Credit system for his decision after 24 years as a landlord housing mainly benefit claimants.

Huge fine

Landlord couple James and Catherine Doig were ordered to pay more than £34,000 in back rent to six tenants after sub-letting their unsafe, unlicensed HMO via a rent-to-rent deal – despite insisting that they didn’t know about licensing rules covering their property in Fordwych Road. Camden Council also uncovered numerous safety issues including obstructed fire escapes.

Form relief

Landlords who own leasehold properties in low and medium-rise apartment blocks affected by the cladding scandal would no longer have to supply an EWS1 form when selling or re-mortgaging their properties, the government announced in July.

Landlord register

Housing minister Eddie Hughes told a Conservative party conference fringe meeting in October that both a landlord register and a lifetime rental deposit scheme in England were set to go ahead. However, he indicated the White Paper was unlikely to be published until the New Year and said he was keen that the new measures would “not have unintended consequences” for either landlords or tenants.

Alarming changes

Revisions to the smoke and carbon monoxide detector regulations in November made it mandatory to fit smoke alarms in all rented accommodation regardless of tenure, and required carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted when new appliances such as gas boilers or fires were installed in any rented home. All landlords – in both private and social sectors – also now had to repair or replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once told they were faulty.

Looking back over the last 12 months can help give perspective on just what has happened in the property industry and indicate changes needed in the future.

New double instruction for IPM in Manchester

New double instruction located in Manchester

Inspired Property Management are pleased to announce the new instruction of two buildings as part of this development totalling 24 apartments located in Manchester.

The property is now under the management of Inspired Property Management.

Earlier instruction from this year of 236 apartments in South West London

Updated news of instruction in South West London –

Inspired Property Management are pleased to announce this development in South West London totalling 236 apartments across 3 buildings, is under management of the expert IPM team.

New Instruction for IPM of 29 units in Essex

New Instruction located in Essex –

Inspired Property Management are pleased to announce the new instruction of Lexington & Maddison House in Essex.

The property is now under the management of Inspired Property Management.

Best practice advice for fire safety in flats

ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents) has issued a ‘Fire Safety Management in Flats’ Guidance Note to share best practice with professional Fire Safety personnel involved in the residential leasehold sector, including managing agents, developers and landlords.

The Guidance Note has been produced in line with statutory guidance and industry best practice and independently reviewed by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, ARMA’s Primary Authority Partner and can be accessed by clicking here.

Dr Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, said: “ARMA members have access to over 100 Guidance Notes on a wide range of topics affecting leasehold properties. This is the only one that has been made available to non-ARMA members, as we wish to promote Fire Safety industry-wide.
Information courtesy of News on the Block.

Top 10 tips for fire safety in flats:

  1. Ask your managing agent to provide you with a copy of the building’s latest fire risk assessment. It is, effectively, a guide book for fire safety plans in your building.
  2. If your managing agent won’t provide you with a copy of the fire risk assessment then complain to the individual agent directly. If that does not work, then make a formal complaint through the internal complaints procedure at the agent’s company.
    If you are still unhappy, you can complain to a redress scheme. All managing agents in England must be a member of one these redress schemes:
    o The Property Ombudsman
    o The Property Redress Scheme
  3. If there is no fire risk assessment and the responsible person will not conduct an assessment, then contact your local fire and rescue authority (FRA). Your FRA is responsible for enforcing fire safety regulations. They can make the person responsible for fire safety in your building carry out a fire risk assessment.
    Your local fire service can tell you who the FRA is (it might be your local council). You can also search on the National Fire Chiefs Council website.
  4. It is recommended that for low-rise blocks of up to three storeys above ground, built in the last 20 years, fire risk assessments should be:
    o reviewed every 2 years
    o redone every 4 years
    For blocks with higher risks (for example, because of the age of the building), or those more than 3 storeys high, it is recommended that assessments should be:
    o reviewed every year
    o redone every 3 years
    In extreme cases (for the highest-risk buildings), a new fire risk assessment is recommended annually.
    When you receive your building’s fire risk assessment check when it was last redone and/or reviewed.
  5. If you have received the assessment, check that the managing agent has or will act on its recommendations.
  6. Fit smoke alarm(s) in your flat and test them monthly.
  7. Be vigilant that the communal areas are free of obstructions to your escape from fire; and that fire doors in communal areas are not propped open.
  8. If a specific ‘evacuation plan’ is agreed with the Local Fire Authority then you should read the plan carefully, so you know what to do if you ever need to evacuate.
  9. Check that the managing agents have regular testing and servicing arrangements in place for any fire-fighting and detection equipment.
  10. If alterations to doors or the internal layout of the flat are planned, consider implications on fire safety and check any issues with your managing agent.

If you would like to know more about the safety standards undertaken by Inspired Property Management in managing your development please get in touch with a member of our team.