Difference in Property Law: Part one

Difference in Property Law: Part one

As a rule, we are a united nation. We tend to assume that we all follow a fairly similar set of rules! In the most part, this is true, however property legislation is far from the same across the UK.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have many different sets of rules and regulations set out to trip up home owners, buyers, landlords and tenants, and it’s not always clear exactly which rule you should be following.

We’ve compiled a guide of some of the legal pitfalls that trip people up, and exactly what you should be doing to avoid falling foul of the law.

Gazumping

Every buyer’s worst nightmare! Gazumping is one of the elements of buying a property that keeps you awake at night, and it’s not hard to see why. Put simply, when a buyer thinks they have agreed a deal to buy a house only for another buyer to step in and outbid them.

This frustrating process can cause chains to collapse, buyers to feel disheartened, and can even cost buyer’s money in the form of solicitor’s bills and surveys. Across England and Wales, gazumping has become increasingly common as housing stock has become a premium, however in Scotland it simply cannot be done.

Once an offer is made on a property in Scotland, it is a legally binding agreement. Once the offer has been accepted by both buyer and seller, neither party can withdraw without being held liable for the consequent losses of the other party – and these can be substantial.

  • England – Brace yourself, the power is with the seller
  • Wales - Brace yourself, the power is with the seller
  • Scotland – The law is on your side, no gazumping here!
  • Northern Ireland - Brace yourself, the power is with the seller

Landlord Licences

With house prices continuing to rise, across the UK, hundreds of thousands of people are reliant on the booming private rental market. With so many people placing their trust in their landlord, it is little surprise that landlord licensing is not very much a requirement.

But it’s not a requirement everywhere…

Landlords in Wales have been busy registering with the new Rent Smart Wales scheme, which was launched in November 2015. The scheme requires anyone who owns a private rental property in Wales to register and complete a certain amount or training, before being issued with a licence. Landlords have a year to register, or they face a fine.

If you’re a landlord letting out your own property in Scotland, you must register with Landlord Registration central online system. Your registration will be valid for three years from the date the council approves your application. There is a fine of up to £50,000 for non-compliance.

Since February 2014, all landlords in Northern Ireland must be registered with the Landlord Registration Scheme. The scheme collects and maintains up-to-date and accurate information on landlords and their properties.
In England however, there is no such scheme for landlord registration. Private landlords are not legally required to hold a licence in order to let their properties, unless they own an HMO.

  • England: No licence required!
  • Scotland: Make sure you’re registered.
  • Wales: Make sure you’re registered.
  • Northern Ireland: Make sure you’re registered.

Right to Rent

The Right to Rent scheme is being rolled out on February 1st, and is one of the major pieces of legislation set to launch in 2016.

The scheme requires a landlord or letting agent to ask to see a UK or EU passport, or a document showing that permanent residence in the UK or EU has been granted. A copy of the original document will have to be made, and retained.

If the landlord fails to carry out these checks and they take on a tenant who doesn’t have the ‘right to rent; they will be liable for an up to £3,000 fine.

However, the scheme is only being rolled out in England. Landlords in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland do not have to comply with the scheme, and will not be liable for any fines if they take on a tenant without relevant paperwork.

  • England: Have to check Right to Rent
  • Wales: No checks needed
  • Scotland: No checks needed
  • Northern Ireland: No checks needed

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