A new year often brings with it changes to rules and regulations on renting in the UK.
This year is no different, and with the Covid-19 pandemic still playing out, it’s hugely important to stay on top of your rights as a tenant.
Here are five key things you need to know about renting in 2021…
1. The Renters Reform Bill
You may have heard about the Renters Reform Bill as a tenant – but what does it mean and how could it impact you?
The Renters Reform Bill is currently waiting to be heard in Parliament after it was delayed in 2020 due to coronavirus.
However, with the vaccination programme now under way, the Bill could come back to the table this year.
So, what does it all mean?
One major part of the proposed legislation would see the end of no-fault evictions. For you as a tenant, this means your landlord would be unable to use a section 21 notice to regain possession of their property at the end of your fixed term tenancy agreement or during a periodic tenancy.
This should provide you with more security as a tenant, although the Bill is also proposing to give landlords additional rights to regain possession through the courts when there is a legitimate need for them to do so.
Elsewhere in the Bill, there are also proposals for so-called ‘lifetime deposits’. This would mean that, rather than having to save for a new deposit when moving, while you wait for your existing deposit to be returned, your existing money would simply follow you to your new rental property.
2. Can my landlord evict me?
Evictions were banned when the UK entered the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 and the ban ran until September.
During that period, your landlord would have been unable to evict you from your rental property.
Now we are in another national lockdown due to the coronavirus, evictions are once again on hold – this time until February 21, 2021. Your landlord can’t serve a section 21 ‘no fault’ notice until after that date. Your landlord must also give you at least six months’ notice if they wish to regain possession of their property at the end of your tenancy agreement or during a periodic tenancy.
However, if any of the below applies to you, your landlord could seek to give you a shorter notice period:
• You have been behaving in an anti-social way, or there is a concern of domestic abuse at your property
• You are six months or more in arrears on your rent payments
• You are in breach of immigration rules and don’t have a ‘Right to Rent’ a property in the UK
All other evictions are subject to that extended six-month notice period, which is in force until March 2021.
3. Electrical and fire safety
Since July 1, 2020, landlords in England have been required to provide an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) before all new tenancy agreements.
The report confirms that all wiring and sockets in your rental property are safe and have been tested by a qualified electrician.
The EICR report is valid for five years and your landlord should provide you with a copy within 28 days of it being carried out.
From April 1, 2021, EICRs will be required for all tenancy agreements.
So, if you have an existing tenancy that started prior to July 1, 2020, your landlord must provide a valid EICR before April 1, 2021.
Meanwhile, if you’re renting a property in Scotland, your landlord will be required to install heat alarms in your kitchen, a smoke detector in the living room, hallways and landings, and a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with carbon-fuelled boilers, fires or heaters.
The deadline for this is February 1, 2021, but could be extended due to the pandemic.
4. Brexit and Right to Rent
Now that the UK has finally left the European Union, changes to immigration rules came into force from January 1, 2021.
Under pre-Brexit rules, your landlord or their letting agent is required to check that you have the right to rent a property in the UK based on your immigration status.
However, with the UK’s new points-based immigration system now in force, the way Right to Rent checks are carried out is likely to change in 2021.
For now, your landlord or their agent should continue to use your passport or national ID card as proof of your right to rent in the UK.
But this is an interim measure until June 30, 2021, when new rules, whatever they may be, are expected to come into force.
5. Rental prices in your area
Demand for quality rental properties in the UK remains high and, as such, rental prices increased in most areas in the final few months of 2020.
According to Rightmove’s Rental Price Tracker, demand switched towards larger properties with additional space as more renters work from home during the pandemic.
According to the Rental Price Tracker for the third quarter of 2020:
• The average asking rent per month in the UK increased to £964
• That figure was a 1.6% rise on the previous quarter and a 2.4% rise annually
Areas that saw the highest annual rise in rent prices between September 2019 and September 2020, meanwhile, include:
• Weybridge, Surrey – 14.3% rise
• Liverpool – 10.9% rise
• Chatham, Kent – 10.4% rise
• Plymouth, Devon – 8.2% rise
Regionally, only Greater London saw a decline in average rents during the third quarter (Q3) of 2020. Elsewhere, rises in average rents were:
Average rent – £772
Annual rise – 1.9%
Average rent – £655
Annual rise – 3.3%
Average rent – £817
Annual rise – 3.1%
Yorkshire & The Humber
Average rent – £751
Annual rise – 3%
Average rent – £859
Annual rise – 3%
Average rent – £838
Annual rise – 2.6%
Average rent – £757
Annual rise – 2.5%
East of England
Average rent – £1,188
Annual rise – 2.3%
Average rent – £1,373
Annual rise – 0.3%
Average rent – £1,048
Annual rise – 4%
If you’re currently renting but have aspirations to buy your first home in 2021, take a look at our guide to getting on the property ladder as a millennial.
And if you’re going to be renting for the first time, this piece on the dos and don’ts of renting can help.