September sees some big changes in the law that impact landlords and tenants, including fast-track planning for home extensions and cash for improvements to make homes greener.

This update wraps up all the changes including proposals to lend tenants in Scotland and Wales money to pay their rents.

Other essential news for landlords covers the latest rule changes for evicting tenants.

Cash for green home improvements

Thousands of landlords can sign up register for a £5,000 home improvement voucher later this month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged the money in his July Budget.

The new Green Homes Grant will give landlords in England £5,000 vouchers to install loft and wall insulation, heat pumps, draught proofing and other improvements to cut energy bills for tenants.

The government figures the measures could save tenants up to £600 a year on gas and electricity costs.

“Green home improvements will save people money on their energy bills, help to cut carbon emissions, and create new work for many thousands of builders, plumbers and other tradespeople,” said Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma.

To claim the grant, landlords must improve:

  • solid wall, under-floor, cavity wall or roof insulation
  • add air source or ground source heat pumps
  • install solar thermal equipment, like roof panels

Providing at least one of these improvements is carried out, landlords can go on to claim more cash towards:

  • replacing single glazing with double, triple or secondary glazing,
  • installing energy efficient doors
  • fitting hot water tank thermostats and heating controls

Landlords can find advice and support on improving the energy efficiency of their homes from the Simple Energy Advice (SEA) service.

DIY installations do not count towards the voucher – a TrustMark registered tradesman must carry out the work.

Vouchers will be available at the end of September so work can start.

Planning rules eased for home extensions

Updated permitted development rights let landlords fast track planning for home extensions.

Landlords can add up to two additional floors to a home to create new self-contained homes or more living space for families through the fast track approval process.

The new laws cut waiting times from 16 to eight as part of a revamp of the planning process.

The government has also removed the need for full planning applications to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes.

They also allow commercial and retail properties to be quickly repurposed to help revive town and city centres.

The idea is that unused commercial properties can be quickly switched into homes to support the need for housing.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are reforming the planning system and cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing.

“These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high quality homes at the heart of their communities.

“It will mean that families can add up to two storeys to their home, providing much needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows.”

Eviction update

A ban on courts hearing cases from landlords evicting tenants in England and Wales has been stretched until September 20 to stem tenant worries about losing their homes.

In most cases, renters will have to be given six months’ notice if a landlord wants to evict them.

Form 6A (section 21 prescribed form for England) has been updated to a new version.

Courts had been due to resume cases in late August after a five-month pause during to the coronavirus pandemic.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said he wanted to “support renters over winter” amid the ongoing effects of the coronavirus outbreak, although he indicated the courts would first hear the most serious cases of anti-social behaviour and rent arrears.

Tenant loan schemes

Regional governments in Wales and Scotland have promised to lend money to pay the rent private tenants who are short of cash due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Wales, ministers are putting the finishing touches to the Tenant Saver Loan Scheme, which will help tenants clear rent arrears that have built up since March 1.

Loans have no cap and can be repaid over a term of up to five years at 1% interest.

Applications will be taken from later this month.

Scotland housing minister Kevin Stewart has announced a similar £10 million hardship fund for renters – but loans are interest free.

Stewart said: “This new £10 million fund, along with a further increase in our Discretionary Housing Payment funds, will mean that no one should be left in a position where they cannot access support to pay their rent. The intention is that this fund will open in November for those unable to access other forms of support to help meet their housing costs.

“We have been clear that no landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic. I fully expect landlords to be flexible with anyone facing such challenges.”

New laws for landlords FAQ

The law changes coming into force in September signal a new way of thinking for landlords and tenants.

Tenants need landlord support to apply for hardship loans in Scotland and Wales, while landlords must take a more lenient approach to rent arrears and no-fault evictions while the courts are closed.

Is there a hardship fund for tenants in England?

No – and so far, the government has not indicated that support for renters in money troubles following the coronavirus pandemic is coming.

Can landlords add rooms to HMOs under the new planning rules?

The new rules do not exclude HMOs and simply refer to homes, so unless fresh guidance indicates otherwise, landlords should be able to extend HMOs and buy to let homes.

When can I repossess a rented property in England?

Although the courts are scheduled to reopen on September 20, any landlord giving notice in England today has to offer six months’ notice – taking the date a renter must vacate the property until March.

Do tenants or landlords claim green homes vouchers?

The homeowner orders the work and claims the voucher.