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City-wide licensing blocked, new rent figures, office conversions and arrears

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

In today’s political update we look at the government’s decision to block the renewal of Liverpool’s city-wide licensing scheme, dates for the release of new official renting figures, concerns over office block conversions and Scottish landlords’ 10 month wait for evictions of tenants in arrears.

Liverpool Council ‘concerned’ after government blocks scheme

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, is writing to the government expressing concerns over its decision to reject an application to continue its landlord licensing scheme.

HCLG Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, has turned down an application to keep the citywide scheme going for five years from April 2020.

The council rejects the Government’s view that the application “did not demonstrate robust evidence to support the existence of low housing demand across the whole city” and is asking for more detail on how it reached the decision.

The RLA had wanted the council its evidence failed to justify a city-wide scheme on the basis of low demand. The council’s own statistics showed increasing house prices and lower void periods across many areas of the city.

There were also issues with the administration of the scheme.

 You can read more on this story here.

ONS and RICS to publish new figures

This week will see two key monthly updates on the private rented sector:

The Office for National Statistics will publish its latest Index of Private Housing Rental Prices on Wednesday, January 15. These will cover the 12-month period to December 2019. 

 The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) will publish its latest Residential Market Survey for December 2019 this Thursday, January 16. This will include its regular assessment of the state of the lettings market, including what is happening in respective of supply and demand.

Office block conversions – councils ‘concerned’

Communities have potentially lost out on more than 13,500 affordable homes in the past four years as a result of rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission, according to the Local Government Association.

According to the LGA, in some parts of the country, office conversions carried out under the permitted development right amount to almost half of all new housing.

The association argues that this means communities have “no way to ensure developers meet high quality standards, provide any affordable homes as part of the development or ensure supporting infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services are in place.”

As a result, councils have expressed serious concerns about the quality, design and safety of housing converted under permitted development, as well as the location of new homes.

The LGA says that councils want to work with the government to tackle the housing shortage and ensure new housing meets the needs of communities. As part of this, it is calling on permitted development rules to be scrapped and local communities to be allowed to have a say on new developments in their area.

Latest figures show that since 2015, there were 54,162 new homes converted from offices under permitted development in England. The LGA estimates this has potentially led to the loss of 13,540 affordable homes.

While the total conversions amount to 6% of all new homes nationally, in some areas a significantly high proportion of new housing is office-to-residential conversions. 

Last year (2018/19), more than half (51%) of all new homes in Harlow were office conversions, with 48% in Norwich and 43% in Three Rivers.

Over a third of new housing in Spelthorne (39%) and Slough (35%) were also converted from offices.

Scottish landlords’ 10 month wait to evict tenants

The law firm, Aberdein Considine, has obtained data through Freedom of Information requests showing that Scottish landlords face an average ten-month legal battle to evict tenants refusing to pay rent.

According to the figures released by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, after changes to the system evictions usually take more than 300 days.

Ministers in Scotland moved all rent and repair issues in private sector housing to a new Housing and Property Chamber Tribunal in 2017.

The law firm said that the delays are putting unacceptable pressure on landlords.

Adrian Sangster, the company’s national lettings director, said: “By creating this increasingly hostile investment market for landlords, governments risk driving investors away, and by default cutting the availability of properties for let and driving up average rents.”

The average time taken to decide on an eviction application was 141 days. 

However, the eviction process can only begin after a tenant has accrued three months of rent arrears. 

As renters also must receive a 28-day notice period, which is added to the time taken for the tribunal’s decision to be published, with a potential 30-day appeal period and 14 days for a charge for removal, Aberdein Considine said the total rises to 312 days.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Communications Manager for the RLA and award-winning Editor of RPI magazine. With 16 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and editorial content for our media partners.

She issues press releases promoting the work of the RLA and its policies and campaigns to the regional and national media and works alongside the marketing team on the association’s social media channels to build support for the RLA and its work.

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