Jersey, Wales, Scotland and England increasing PRS regulation
With Christmas just around the corner or already in every store on the high street!! It might be expected that things would be starting to slow down before the end of the year, however in the lettings industry it could be said to be as busy as ever.
At the beginning of the month in Jersey, MyDeposits launched its deposit protection scheme. As in the UK, all tenant deposits will now need to be lodged with the protection scheme or landlords and agents could risk financial penalties of up to £2000. Unlike the UK however the tenancy deposit protection scheme in Jersey will charge an admin fee of £20 plus GST (£21) to protect the deposit, which will be taken out of the tenant’s deposit when the deposit is protected. It will be interesting to see how this charge goes down with tenants in Jersey.
In Wales, Rent Smart went live on Monday 23rd November giving letting agents and landlords 12 months in which to comply with the new legislation. Landlords must not only register, but if they want to manage a property, become licensed as well. If landlords choose not to become licensed, they must use a licensed agent to manage their properties. As of Monday agents must openly display all fees including any additional charges or penalties which may be incurred during a tenancy as well as fees, charges and penalties which are referenced in the tenancy agreement and in Terms of Business. Fees should be displayed including VAT and agents must display fees at each of their premises and on their websites. With this already a requirement in England and many stories of how many agents are not displaying fees, how successfully this will be enforced in Wales will certainly be of interest to those in England, as without enforcement it will not deter criminals in the sector.
Meanwhile letting agents and landlords in Scotland were reminded this month that from the 1st December rental properties will require five yearly electrical checks of the fixed wiring and any electrical appliances. With Scottish Government statistics having shown that 69 per cent of all accidental fires in Scottish homes (more than 3,400 annually) are caused by electricity this has become an important topic for landlords. South of the border in England, the charity Electrical Safety First has claimed that the Housing and Planning Bill, which is in the process of going through Parliament, fails to protect English tenants in the private-rented sector from electrical danger in the home, despite 77% of MPs who took part in a recent survey by the charity agreeing with its call for mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks in the sector. What has become a part of the Housing and Planning Bill, which will have more of an impact on agents than electrical safety, is the amendment submitted by ARLA managing director David Cox making it illegal for letting agents to accept money from another person, in the course of lettings agency work, unless they have CMP. This amendment has been widely backed by agents, homeless charities, landlord bodies, deposit protection and redress schemes, and law firms.