Category: Legal Guides & Packs

The Complete 2020/2021 Landlord Tax Guide

The Complete 2020/2021 Landlord Tax Guide

We are in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis, which is also impacting business and personal finances nationwide. Some tax changes are being introduced as part of the Government’s wider measures designed to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, though these are not directly related to buy to let. See our Coronavirus guide for up-to-date information, and ensure you communicate any changes to your financial situation to HMRC. 

Property taxes can be a complicated business, especially for new landlords. In the flurry of activity around getting your property ready to rent, choosing a tenant and planning what you’ll do with your anticipated new income, it’s all too easy to forget about tax.

Getting on top of capital gains tax, stamp duty, corporation tax, expenses and all the other things landlords have to think about can be a minefield. That’s where this guide comes in. As much as is humanely possible, we’ll tell you what you need to know and do about the taxes you’ll pay as a landlord, how to ensure you’re paying your fair share, clarify key terms, and give you the most up-to-date info about all things tax for 2020/21.

We can’t guarantee edge-of-your-seat thrills and spills, it’s tax after all, but we will touch on the most crucial things you need to know for the coming year and beyond. In this guide we’ll address:

  1. What taxes do landlords pay?
  2. Tax effective property ownership
  3. Property expenses – what you can and can’t claim
  4. Extra tax savings for married couples
  5. New buy to let tax changes for 2020/2021

Bear in mind, this guide is meant as a general overview of the current tax landscape. For further, more in depth personal tax advice tailored to your specific requirements and circumstances, make sure you seek professional advice from a tax specialist.

1. What taxes do landlords pay?

Let’s begin by looking at what property taxes exist, and when they have to be paid.

There are three key moments to think about in the property tax lifecycle.

You pay tax when you buy a property, every year you let the property, and later when you sell it.

If you buy a property over a certain price in the UK, you are eligible to pay tax. The exact tax you pay and the specific value of the property that triggers it, will be different depending on your location and circumstances; and you should always seek professional advice for personal tax related queries.

In England and Northern Ireland, individuals pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) on residential properties worth £125,000 or more, and on non-residential properties or land worth £150,000 or more. You must send an SDLT return to HMRC and pay your SDLT within 30 days of completing the purchase. Your solicitor, agent or conveyancer, if you have one, can do this on your behalf, or you can file a return and pay the tax yourself.

Property buyers in Scotland pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) on residential properties worth more than £145,000, and on non-residential properties worth more than £150,000. Scotland also has an Additional Dwelling Supplement, payable on properties worth more than £40,000.

You pay this if you already own a residential property and buy another. All LBTT is paid to Revenue Scotland through an online portal.

Property buyers in Wales pay Land Transaction Tax (LTT) on residential properties worth more than £180,000, and on non-residential properties worth more than £150,000. As in Scotland, there are additional charges for residential properties worth more than £40,000 if you already own a residential property and are buying another. You must send an LTT return to the Welsh Revenue Authority and pay your LTT within 30 days of completing the purchase. Your solicitor, agent or conveyancer can do this on your behalf, or you can file a return and pay the tax yourself.

These are only the basic rules. If you’re buying for the first time, the thresholds for paying stamp duty are generally higher, so you may not have to pay. If you’re buying-to-let, stamp duty rates are tiered and start at a lower value than those for other home buyers. In England, the rates look like this:

Property price
Buy to let stamp duty rate
£0 – £40,0000 percent
£40,001 – £125,0003 percent
£125,001 – £250,0005 percent
£250,001 – £925,0008 percent
£925,001 – £1.5 million13 percent
£1.5 million +15 percent
Payable Taxes Table

While you’re letting property – income tax

If you make money from letting a property, you may have to complete a self-assessment tax return, depending on your total income.

The rate of income tax you pay varies by income. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, from 2020/21, you pay no income tax if you earn less than £12,500 per year. You pay the basic rate – 20 per cent of your income – on anything after that income, up to and including £50,000.

The higher rate of 40 per cent tax applies to incomes over £50,000 – and if you make more than £150,000, you pay the additional rate of 45 per cent.

In Scotland, you will now pay no income tax if you earn less than £14,585. The higher rate of 40 per cent tax will apply to incomes over £43,430, while the top rate of 45% will remain the same at £150,000.  

As a landlord, you’re entitled to a £1,000 tax-free property allowance: if you make less than £1,000 a year from letting property, you don’t need to tell HMRC. If you are self-employed as a landlord – in other words, you don’t run a limited company and you file a self-assessment tax return – you’re also entitled to a £1,000 tax-free trading allowance.

If you make between £1,000 and £2,500 a year from letting property, you must make HMRC aware of the fact in order to pay tax. If you make between £2,500 and £9,999 after allowable expenses, or over £10,000 before allowable expenses, you will need to make a self-assessment tax return and may have to pay income tax.

If you’re filling out a paper form to make your self-assessment tax return, you must do this by 31 October each year. If you’re returning your self-assessment tax return online, you must do so by 31 January each year. Missed the deadline? Not to worry – here’s what you should do. 

The expenses you are and aren’t allowed to claim for are complex: we’ll cover those later

You may also have to pay class 2 National Insurance, if you’re running a business and:

  • You make more than £5,965 a year from letting property
  • Being a landlord is your main job
  • You rent out more than one property
  • You’re buying new properties to let out

You can also choose to pay National Insurance payments even if you’re making less than £5,965 a year from letting property, to keep your state pension topped up.

When you sell property – capital gains tax

When you sell a property that’s not your home – a house you bought, renovated, and let out for instance – and make a profit, you may be liable for capital gains tax. You may also be liable to pay capital gains tax on inherited property. 

From 6 April 2020, the annual exempt amount for individuals and personal representatives will increase from £12,000 to £12,300. For trustees of settlements, the annual exempt amount will increase to £6,150.

HMRC provide a tax calculator for working out how much capital gains tax you have to pay, if any. The calculation is based on the gain – meaning the market value of your property, minus any estate agents’ fees, solicitors’ fees, and the costs of major improvement works (building an extension would be included in the calculation; redecorating would not).

The level of capital gains tax differs for basic rate taxpayers, but it is currently set at 28 per cent for higher and additional rate taxpayers

UK residents now have to pay within 30 days of completing the sale. They were previously able to wait until the end of the tax year to include it in their annual tax return.

You may have heard of ‘lettings relief’. This was a reduction in capital gains tax for landlords who lived in the properties they let out. From April 2020, lettings relief will only be available for live-in landlords who are in shared occupation with their tenants.

You may still qualify for private residence relief, however. This is a percentage reduction in capital gains tax, based on the number of years you lived in a property plus the last nine months before you sold it.

Let’s say you lived in a property for five years, then let it out for 15. You would get private residence relief for those first five years, plus the last nine months you rented it out. Five years and nine months is 28.7 per cent of the time you owned the property. You’d therefore gain private residence relief on 28.7 per cent of the gain you make when you sell the property.

Corporation tax vs. income and capital gains tax

Businesses are taxed differently from individual taxpayers, instead of income and capital gains tax they pay corporation tax.

So if you choose to do business as a limited company rather than as a private individual, you may have to register for corporation taxfile a corporation tax return, and either pay corporation tax or report that you have none to pay.

What about landlords with more than one property?

Many landlords have several properties. When this is the case, tax liabilities are considered much the same as when running any other business.  For self-assessment, all rents and expenses from similar properties are pooled together into a single figure. This means you have to divide your properties, rents and expenses up along the following lines:

  • UK rentals – any buy to let or shared house rented out on a shorthold tenancy
  • Overseas rentals – any properties abroad let on a long lease
  • Holiday lets – homes located within the European Economic Area that qualify as furnished holiday lets. Holiday homes outside the EEA slot into the overseas rental category.

2. Tax-effective property ownership

Managing your portfolio to pay your fair share of tax is not easy. The next step in our tax guide for new landlords focuses on who has to pay tax, how multiple properties and portfolios are taxed, and what happens if you make a loss. For accurate tax advice tailored to your personal circumstances, always consult a professional. 

Who pays property tax?

Whoever benefits from owning a property pays the tax. Finding that person means following the money and dividing it between owners, or those who are paid from it, such as property managers.

Example

Imagine you’re letting out a property and allowing someone else to keep the money in return for managing the property. Even though you don’t receive a penny of rental income, you need to declare this on a self-assessment return, indicating where the money ends up – in this case, with the third party acting as your agent.

You need to do this to avoid tax mismatches. Property owners who pay higher or additional rate income tax sometimes attempt to hide their income and reduce their tax bills by passing off someone else – a basic rate taxpayer – as the person who benefits from the income. There are ways to do this legally, either by transferring allowances within a marriage or civil partnership, or forming a business partnership, but misrepresenting your tax situation by hiding where the money goes is not one of them.

What happens if a landlord makes a loss?

For tax purposes, you make a loss if your allowable expenses come to more than your rental income during a year. This loss is carried forward to offset against your future rental profits. 

You cannot store up losses to use when it suits you – for instance, to avoid becoming liable for higher rate income tax. You must offset losses against available profits each year, until they are exhausted.

Example

Your property earns £15,000 each year in rent.

In the 2018/19 tax year, your allowable expenses come to £18,000, leading to a £3,000 loss for the year. You pay no tax that year.

In 2019/20, you bring your expenses under control – down to £13,000 – and make a £2,000 profit. The loss from the previous tax year is deducted from your profit. You carry forward a loss of £1,000, and pay no tax for 2019/20.

In 2020/21, your expenses come down further, to £11,000. You’ve made a profit of £4,000. Deduct the loss of £1,000 to leave a taxable income of £3,000. You’re now liable to pay income tax.

3. Expenses – what you can and can’t claim

As a landlord, you should claim property expenses. Every pound spent on a property reduces profits, which reduces your income, which reduces your tax liability. It’s not tax avoidance – it’s paying your fair share; no more and no less.

If you’re self-employed, you’re entitled to a £1,000 tax-free property allowance, and another £1,000 tax-free trading allowance. However, if you’re claiming your £1,000 tax-free ‘trading allowance’, you cannot claim any business expenses. The allowance is there for low income side businesses – chances are that you have more expenses and more income to handle.

You should only claim tax-free trading allowance if your total income from letting property is between £1,000 and £2,000 a year.

Landlords can easily overlook rental income that they should include in a self-assessment tax return. If you retain money from a deposit to pay for repairs or cleaning when a tenant leaves, for example, this must be included in your tax return.

Example

You retain £500 from a £750 deposit to clean carpets and redecorate after a tenant leaves your property. You must add that £500 to the income you declare on your tax return. You must also add it to the allowable expenses you claim on your tax return, by including the bills for cleaning and redecoration.

The same logic applies if the tenant pays for extra services throughout the year, like gardening costs, or if you reduce the rent to repay a tenant for the cost of a repair they carried out. When you fill in your tax return, you still add the full rental income, but you also add the bill for materials and tradesmen paid for by the tenant as allowable expenses.

You are the landlord – you benefit from owning the property – the tax liability and the book-keeping responsibility both lie with you.

What are self-employed landlords allowed to claim as income tax expenses?

HMRC provides a checklist of allowable income tax expenses for landlords. Exactly what you’re allowed to claim will vary depending on whether you’re letting a residential property, a furnished holiday let or a commercial property.

Residential landlords can claim for the day-to-day expenses of running their properties, including:

  • Bad debts
  • Business costs like phone calls, travel and running a home office
  • Fees for services by professionals like accountants, letting agents, solicitors or surveyors
  • Ground rent on the property
  • Insurance cover, including for buildings, contents, and rent guarantee
  • Interest on loans and credit purchases
  • Repairs to and replacements for the property
  • Services like cleaning or gardening
  • Utility bills and council tax (while the property is unoccupied)

Some of these are straightforward, but some – especially business expenses, interest and repairs – often trip up new landlords. We’ll cover those in more detail.

Bad debts

Rent arrears are the most likely bad debt for a property business.

A debt does not become ‘bad’ just because someone owes the money. The landlord must make some reasonable effort to recover the money, like launching court proceedings or passing the case to a debt collector. Once it’s clear that the debt will not be recovered – if the tenant declares bankruptcy, for example – the debt has gone bad, and become a business expense.

Business costs

HMRC publishes guidance on allowable expenses for self-employed people. These include:

  • Office, property and equipment
  • Car, van and travel expenses
  • Clothing expenses
  • Staff expenses
  • Reselling goods
  • Legal and financial costs
  • Marketing, entertainment and subscriptions

A self-employed landlord can claim some of these – the costs of travel with your own vehicle and working from home – using ‘simplified expenses’. Simplified expenses use a flat rate for these costs to avoid complicated calculations: they’re by far the easiest way to claim expenses.

There are some specific things to think about here, as a landlord.

Firstly, your travel expenses. HMRC does not allow you to claim “regular and predictable” travel between your home and your place of work. This means you can’t claim for travelling between your home and your existing properties. You can claim for travelling to view new properties, but only if you end up buying the property.

Secondly, staff expenses. You can pay friends, family and employees who do not own a share of your property, if they’re doing work related to running the property. The rate of pay should reflect the work undertaken – paying your husband £50,000 to keep the books for a buy to let will be treated as tax avoidance. You can also pay for training, as long as you’re reinforcing existing skills. Buying a book or a guide on property tax for landlords is an allowable expense, but signing up for a get-rich scheme for property investors is not.

You can’t use simplified expenses if you’re running your properties through a limited company, or if you’re in partnership with one. For limited companies that you run from home, there are formulas for splitting your bills between personal and business use.

Fees for professionals

These are bills from accountants, agents, solicitors and surveyors.

Costs related to the day-to-day running of the business, like chasing bad debts, evicting tenants in rent arrears and keeping financial records are allowed. Costs related to buying, selling or planning applications for a property are not allowed – they are part of your capital gains tax calculation when you sell the property.

Interest

Landlords used to be able to claim tax relief on interest payments on borrowing to fund business costs such as buying land, property, supplies or refurbishments.

This tax relief has now been phased out.

You now receive a 20 per cent tax credit on these interest payments.

You can only claim the interest – not the actual cash amount – and you must prove the borrowed money was spent on buying land, property or equipment for the property business or funding repairs or improvements.

Repairs and replacements

A ‘replacement’ means replacing or renewing part of the fabric of the property, like a pump for the boiler, a tile for the roof, or a like-with-like kitchen refit.

An ‘improvement’ is a substantial upgrade that adds value: an extension, a loft conversion, or replacing a chipboard and Formica fitted kitchen with an oak and granite one. You can’t claim improvements as expenses for income tax purposes.

You can claim ‘replacement of domestic items’ relief for things like:

  • movable furniture; for example, beds and free-standing wardrobes
  • furnishings; for example, curtains, linens, carpets and floor coverings
  • household appliances; for example, televisions, fridges and freezers
  • kitchenware; for example, crockery and cutlery

Replacement of domestic items relief includes any sale or part exchange of the old item, as well as any incidental costs involved in disposal or delivery.

To claim this relief, you must have bought the item for the property, and removed the old one. You cannot claim the initial cost of fitting out a residential property for rental.

You also cannot claim the full cost of upgrading the item. If you replace a £1000 sofa with a £1200 sofa bed, you’re adding value: you can claim back the first £1000 cost as you’re replacing like with like, but the remaining £200 is an improvement and you can’t claim it.

If you’re letting out a fully furnished property, you can claim Replacement Domestic Item relief, which took the place of wear and tear allowance from 2016. Under this scheme, the initial cost of purchasing domestic items for a dwelling house isn’t a deductible expense so no relief is available for these costs. Relief is only available for the replacement item, including:

  • movable furniture for example beds, free-standing wardrobes
  • furnishings for example curtains, linens, carpets, floor coverings
  • household appliances for example televisions, fridges, freezers
  • kitchenware for example crockery, cutlery

You cannot claim the costs of buying property, getting it into a rentable condition, or making improvements.

These expenses are part of your capital gains tax calculation when you come to sell the property – you had to spend that money to make what you did on the sale, so it’s subtracted from your gain before capital gains tax applies.

You cannot claim “regular and predictable” travel costs – like journeys between your home and office, or between the properties you already rent.

You cannot claim wear and tear allowance on a property you are not letting as fully furnished.

4: Extra tax savings for married couples

Tax rules concerning married couples are complicated but can enable individuals to shift their assets between each other in a legal and above-board way to reduce their tax bill.

Here we will provide an overview of some of the ways in which a couple can do this. However, given the particularly complex nature of tax relating to married couples it may be advisable to consult a tax professional to carry out a full review of your specific situation.

If one of you doesn’t pay income tax: Marriage Allowance tax update

Marriage Allowance can work for couples where one person is earning less than the personal allowance, (which increased from £11,850 in 2018/19 to £12,500 in 2019/20) and the other person pays income tax at the basic rate, which in 2019/20 usually means their income is between £12,500 and £50,000. The marriage tax allowance went up from £1,190 in 2018/19 to £1,250 in 2019/20. This means the potential tax saving from the higher tax earner’s bill in 2019/20 is up to £250.

So, to benefit from Marriage Allowance, you must be married to (or in a civil partnership with) someone who does not pay income tax, or whose income is below £12,500 a year. You must also be a basic rate taxpayer. It doesn’t matter if you live abroad or are receiving a pension – as long as you have a personal allowance for income tax, you can claim Marriage Allowance.

The person with the lowest income needs to claim Marriage Allowance online. It can take up to two months to process the claim. The person with the higher income will get their new personal allowance when they send in their next self-assessment tax return.

If you both pay income tax: setting up a partnership

If you’re both basic rate taxpayers, one option is to set up a business partnership. Business partners share responsibility for any losses the business makes, any bills the business incurs, and the profits from the business – but each partner only pays tax on their share. Setting up a partnership means you can avoid one person moving into the higher rate for income tax.

Example

As a couple, you earn £50,000 from rent. If this is one person’s income, they would pay the higher rate of income tax – 40 per cent. 40 per cent of £50,000 means a £20,000 tax bill.

If this rent is paid to a partnership, and each partner has a 50 per cent share, each partner receives £25,000 in rental income. That only qualifies for the basic rate of income tax – 20 per cent. 20 per cent of £25,000 each is £5,000 each. 

The couple’s total tax bill is £10,000. However if the share of the property is not equal then percentage payments and the rules around it will differ. We advise you contact a property tax professional to assess your percentage split.

You’ll need to choose a name for your business (it can’t be too similar to an existing company’s name), and choose a ‘nominated partner’ who will be responsible for sending the tax return for the business. The nominated partner must register the partnership with HMRC.

Both members of a partnership must be registered with HMRC. Both partners must send their own self-assessment tax returns and pay income tax.

It’s a good idea to set up as a limited liability partnership (LLP). Partners in an LLP aren’t personally liable for debts the business can’t pay – this keeps you safer in the event that your business struggles in future.

If you might pay higher rate income tax: setting up a private limited company

Private limited companies are legally separate from the people who run them, have separate finances from the people who run them, and can keep any profits they make after paying corporation tax.

The advantage of a private limited company is that you can pay yourself a salary within the basic rate of income tax, and have your partner claim Marriage Allowance, or pay your partner a separate salary. The rest of your profits will be paid as dividends to people with a share in the company. Shares can also be bought, sold and transferred if you want to bring more members of your family into the company. It’s a way to make sure you don’t end up paying income tax at the higher rate.

The disadvantage is that it takes more work to set up a private limited company than a partnership.

You’ll need to choose a company name and registered address, appoint directors and a company secretary, establish and issue at least one share, and draw up a memorandum and articles of association which set the rules for running the company.

It’s only worth doing if you make more than £92,700 a year in rental income (the basic allowance for two people).

5. New buy to let changes for 2020/21

As if buy-to-let tax wasn’t fiddly enough, the rules also change fairly regularly. A range of new measures were introduced in the 2020 tax year for landlords to familiarise themselves with.

These include changes to mortgage interest tax relief, capital gains tax allowance and changes to how capital gains tax is paid on rental properties you used to live in. 

Mortgage interest tax relief

The Government began phasing out mortgage interest tax relief by 25 per cent each year in 2017, planning to end it completely by 2021. As a result, 2019 was the last year that landlords could deduct the interest paid on their mortgage from their income.

Instead, landlords are now given a 20 per cent tax credit for all their property finance costs. The aim of the policy is to increase the amount of tax paid by higher or additional-rate landlords, who used to receive generous tax deductions. Basic rate tax-payers should end up paying more or less the same as before.

Capital gains tax allowance increase

There are several changes to capital gains tax, plus how and when it is paid.

First, lettings relief, which used to apply to anyone who was renting out property they used to live in, is now only available to live-in landlords who are in shared occupation with tenants. The next change is to private residence relief. 

This used to be a percentage reduction of your total capital gains tax bill based on the length of time you lived there plus the final 18 months you rented it.

This additional 18 months has been cut in half to nine months. This is a bit complex and you can find a more detailed description of this above if you need it.

Finally, the amount of time the sellers have to pay capital gains tax has been reduced, falling from by the end of the tax year to within 30 days.

Managing your liability

Understanding your own tax liability will help you to make the most out of your property assets.

As we’ve discussed, you pay tax when buying, letting or selling a property; you become liable for higher tax brackets based on the value of the property and your overall income.

Managing your liability is a matter of knowing exactly what you can and can’t claim as expenses.

While there could be further buy-to-let tax moves, keeping accurate records of your costs, staying abreast of changes and always running your decisions past a property tax expert will leave you on the right side of HMRC.

How To Legally Evict Your Tenant (GUIDE)

How To Legally Evict Your Tenant (GUIDE)

As of 06th November 2020 There Is No Ban On Evictions Of Tenants Although Bailiffs Have Agreed On The Request From The Justice Secretary To Suspend Action Until 2nd December – Which Has Been Agreed By Both Representing Bodies. Eviction Procedures Will Take Some Weeks To Get Through To The Court Stage (At The Least!) New Eviction Procedures Are Still Current And Viable For Landlords With Tenants In Rent Arrears And All Attempts To Fairly Resolve By Negotiation Of Payments Terms Has Been Exhausted (Dealing With Rent Arrears Guide To Follow Shortly – 07th Nov 20)

  • Section 21 or Section 8 notice
  • Serve a section 21 notice of possession
  • Serve a Section 8 eviction notice
  • Make a possession order
  • Private Residential Tenancy in Scotland

The two types of assured shorthold tenancies

The following advice only applies to shorthold tenancies. The two types of assured shorthold tenancies are:

  • ‘periodic’ tenancies – these run week by week or month by month with no fixed end date.  They can also arise following the expiry of the fixed term tenancy if it is not renewed for another fixed term.
  • fixed-term tenancies – these run for a set amount of time.

Should I use a professional notice server?

Sometimes a tenant will not answer the door, so can’t have notice served on them. The way to deal with this is to take a witness and put the notice through the letterbox before 5pm. It is then deemed to have been served on the following day.

If this is inconvenient or it is difficult for you to visit the property personally or if you are worried about a confrontation with a tenant, use a professional process server.

Section 21 or Section 8 notice?

If you’re looking to notify your tenant that you’d like them to leave your property, it will be necessary to serve either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988.

  • A Section 21 notice of possession is served to give ‘notice of possession’ to the tenant.  This means you can take back possession of your property at the end of a fixed-term tenancy agreement, or trigger an agreed break clause. Importantly, you don’t have to provide any reason to claim possession when you serve a valid Section 21 notice.
  • A Section 8 eviction notice is served when you have grounds for eviction.  For example, the tenant has not paid the rent, damaged the property or is causing a nuisance. In such cases you can terminate the tenancy during its fixed term if the tenant has breached the tenancy agreement. But your tenant may dispute it, and it could go to court where you’ll need to evidence the reason for the eviction.

Even if you have good grounds for eviction, it might be more effective to serve a section 21 notice. 

For example, if the fixed term tenancy is coming to an end or the tenancy agreement includes a break clause which can be triggered to bring the tenancy to an early end.

You can, however, serve both a Section 21 and a Section 8 notice at the same time, and issue court proceedings based on one or both notices.

The notices are totally independent and served for distinct reasons, but produce the same outcome – you get your property back.

Tenancy Deposit Schemes (‘TDS’)

If you or your letting agent don’t protect a tenant’s deposit, it can can prevent you from using a section 21 notice to recover possession of your property.  

The tenant could also raise a claim against you for the return of the deposit and a penalty of as much as three times its original value. Read more about deposit protection schemes.

Serve a section 21 notice of possession

A Section 21 notice isn’t technically an eviction notice, but a notice to inform the tenant that you, the landlord, wish to recover possession of the property once they’ve left.

The first step is to give the tenant no less than two months’ notice that you need them to vacate the premises at the end of the tenancy.

If a fixed term of the tenancy has come to an end or there is a break clause that can be triggered, you can serve a Section 21 notice of possession.  

You can serve it even if the tenant hasn’t done anything wrong and you don’t have to provide a reason for recovering vacant possession of the property.

But, a Section 21 notice must be served correctly if you want to be able to enforce it in court.

Serving a Section 21 notice

Here are some dos and don’ts for serving a Section 21 notice:

  • Do give the tenant at least two months’ notice using the prescribed form of section 21 notice
  • Do serve the right amount of notice in writing, being careful to specify the required date of possession
  • Do try to be accommodating and reasonable, especially if you are trying to end a tenancy with tenants that have always been good to you and might not want to leave
  • Don’t try and serve notice to expire earlier than the last day of the fixed term, unless the tenancy agreement makes provision for this
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of getting the two months’ notice and date to vacate correct, as it’s unlikely you’ll succeed in possession if this is wrong
  • Don’t respond in a way that could be regarded as harassing or anti-social if a tenant becomes difficult or refuses to leave, as this could result in a tenant claiming harassment damages in court
  • Don’t forget a landlord is entitled to possession by default if a valid Section 21 notice is properly served

The Deregulation Act 2015 introduced changes to the way in which tenancies can be brought to an end using the Section 21 procedure.

Originally it only applied to tenancies that were agreed on or after 1 October 2015. But, from 1 October 2018 it applies to all tenancies – regardless of when it was agreed.  

The most important rules are:

  • A Section 21 notice can’t be served during the first four months of the tenancy  But, if the tenancy has been renewed following the end of a fixed term, you can serve a Section 21 notice at any point during the renewed tenancy.
  • The Section 21 notice will only be valid for six months from the date it was issued  If possession proceedings are not issued during the six month period, another notice will have to be served.
  • Complaints about the property  If your tenant makes a legitimate complaint about the condition of your property and you fail to deal with it, the tenant may then refer the matter to the local housing authority. A section 21 notice issued after the initial complaint will be invalid once the local housing authority notice is served.
  • Use the right form  You must use form 6A to make a section 21 notice. You can use our template letter to give a tenant notice of possession under Section 21, alongside the 6A form.

The tenant must also be given the following information when they start renting for a Section 21 to be valid:

  • A Gas Safety Certificate
  • An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • The ‘How to Rent‘ guide, this guide must be given to a tenant at the start of any new tenancy.  

3Serve a Section 8 eviction notice (Document Coming Soon)

If you have grounds to evict a tenant, you can start the eviction process by serving a Section 8 notice seeking possession.  

The grounds for serving a Section 8 eviction order are set out in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988.

The most common reasons for evicting a tenant are:

  • rent arrears
  • damage or disrepair to the property
  • nuisance.  

You must give your tenant a postal address in England or Wales that they can use for correspondence before rent can be treated as due.

To give your tenants notice using a Section 8, you must fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’.

You must specify on the notice what terms of the tenancy have been breached and have to give between two weeks’ and two months’ notice depending on which terms you are relying on.  

You’ll then need to apply to the court for a possession order if your tenants do not leave by the specified date.

Serving a Section 8 notice 

Here are some dos and don’ts for serving a Section 8 notice:

  • Do try to get your tenant to surrender the tenancy or reach a mutual agreement before serving the notice
  • Do consider a Section 21 notice instead, particularly if it’s approaching the end date of the agreed tenancy or it is a periodic tenancy.
  • Do be aware that if you end up going to court, the outcome might not go your way with the effect that no order for possession is granted, especially if the tenant has remedied the breach that you relied on to seek possession
  • Don’t think a Section 8 guarantees eviction, as a tenant may choose to ignore the notice and a judge in court may not decide in your favour

Make a possession order

If you’re tenant refuses to leave after being served an eviction notice you can take action

You can use an accelerated possession order if you served a Section 21 notice, there is a written tenancy agreement and you are not claiming any unpaid rent.

You can use the standard possession claim if you served either a section 8 or 21 notice, or want to get your property back and at the same time claim rent arrears from the tenant.

If the tenant fails to vacate after the order for possession has expired, it will be necessary to instruct the County Court Bailiff to evict – this may take a further four to six weeks or more depending on the County Court.

Standard possession claims

For standard possession claims you need to find the County Court for the area where the property is situated, then fill in a Form N5 claim for possession and N119 particulars of claim for possession:

You will not be able to use the online service for some kinds of standard possession claim, for example where you are making a claim against a squatter or trespasser.

The accelerated possession procedure

You can opt for an accelerated possession order if your tenants haven’t left by the date specified in your Section 21 notice, there is a written tenancy agreement and you aren’t claiming rent arrears.

The accelerated possession procedure is sometimes a quicker way to gain possession as there is usually no court hearing, but you will need to pay the court fee before the action can commence.

For accelerated possession you need to find the County Court for the area where the property is situated, then fill in a Form N5B claim for possession (accelerated procedure):

The court will then send a copy of the application to the tenant, together with a form of reply allowing the tenant to lodge an objection within 14 days, if they wish to.

If successful, you will get an order for possession without a hearing (normally enforceable 14 days after the order is made) and an order that the tenant pay the court fee.

If the paperwork is not in order or if your tenant raises an important issue in their objection, there might be a court hearing.

From the issue of proceedings to receipt of the order for possession, these proceedings normally take between six and ten weeks assuming nothing goes wrong.  

Private Residential Tenancy in Scotland

The new Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) in Scotland has been introduced under the Private Housing Tenancies Scotland Act 2016. It came into force on 1 December 2017.

What you need to know about leasing a property under the new tenancy in Scotland:

  1. Existing tenancies will not change automatically. They will carry on until the tenant or the landlord brings it to an end by serving notice.
  2. The new PRT will have no end date. It can only be terminated by a tenant giving written notice to their landlord or by the landlord using one of 18 grounds for eviction. 
  3. Tenants will have the right to challenge a wrongful termination.
  4. Landlords can only increase rent once a year. They are also required to give tenants three months’ written notice of any rise. 
  5. Tenants can challenge a rise in rent if they think it is unfair.
  6. Landlords will benefit from a more accessible repossession process and a simplified way to give notice.
  7. The new standardised private residential tenancy agreements are now available for landlords.
  8. Read the guides for landlords to find out more about the changes.
  9. Read Shelter’s new online enquiry system (Ailsa) that helps explain the new tenancy in Scotland.

Other useful renting guides

The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced guides which include useful tips for both landlords and tenants.

  • The ‘How to Let‘ guide is aimed at landlords and gives an overview of the private rented sector and includes the requirements for the protection of deposit and good practice suggestions.
  • The ‘How to Rent‘ guide is a guide aimed at tenants and contains details of the main protections afforded to tenant.  
  • The ‘How to Rent a safe home‘ guide is for prospective tenants and is a supplement to the ‘How to Rent’ guide.  It gives a detailed explanation of the main hazards you can find in a rental property.  It also explains your landlord’s duties and what you can do if you have concerns or need to make a complaint.

GUIDE: Quick Guide To Landlord Legislation

GUIDE: Quick Guide To Landlord Legislation

Legislation can be a minefield for landlords. Regulations and laws relating to the private rental sector are increasingly in a state of near constant flux, meaning changes can be easy to miss. And this can be costly for landlords who fail to comply.

The latest government survey into private letting found that many landlords are not compliant with basic legislation. For instance, 38 per cent of those questioned did not check a tenant’s right to rent, while 48 per cent did not issue tenants with the Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide. Meanwhile, over 30 per cent of landlords failed to provide carbon monoxide alarms. A potentially deadly mistake.

As a landlord, you have to stay one step ahead of changes in the law. Every year brings more stringent legislation and 2020 is no exception. Here, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know when it comes to legislation, updated for 2020.

1. Do you need a landlord licence?

At present, the only UK-wide ruling that requires a landlord to obtain a licence is if a property is let as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation). A property is classed as an HMO if at least three tenants live there – forming more than one household – and the toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared.

Courts are known to hand out huge fines to HMO landlords, and agents, who do not obtain HMO licences. In a recent case, a landlord and agent were given fines totalling £120,000 after a fatal house fire at an unlicensed HMO in Southall. LandlordZONE also reports that there are calls for tougher action surrounding the enforcement of HMO regulations, highlighting the need for landlords to ensure that they have obtained the appropriate licence for their property.

Individual councils are also able to issue selective licensing, through schemes that tackle poor housing stock or anti-social behaviour. This includes a 2018 ruling that allows them to define what constitutes an HMO in their area. An estimated 160,000 more rented homes required a licence under these decentralised powers. It is therefore a good idea to check with your local council to see if your property is classed as an HMO to license it correctly.

For more information on the exact guidelines for owning an HMO, please check the GOV UK licence details.

Landlords should also be aware that there are differences between HMO properties and bedsits which will impact licensing regulations.