What happened in Westminster this week

John Stewart
Written by John Stewart

A short week in Westminster, as both Houses rose for the half-term recess at close of business on Tuesday, but as ever, a busy one for landlord news.

On Monday, the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid MP, and updated MPs on the progress of the independent recovery taskforce established following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The taskforce has made a number of recommendations which have been accepted in full by Kensington and Chelsea council.

Recovery efforts have focussed on the housing and support needs of survivors, but only one third of households have moved into either temporary or permanent accommodation. 

As part of its response to Grenfell, the government set up an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

The RLA has now published its submission, calling for an new safety regime for high rise blocks, with one identified individual responsible for fire safety, and a single enforcement authority.  

Meanwhile, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called for the Government to meet the cost of retrofitting sprinkler systems in high rise blocks owned by social housing providers.  The call will likely go unheeded, given the government has failed to make good on promises to fund the removal and refitting defective cladding. 

Later in the week, DCLG published the report of its electrical safety working group.  It makes a number of recommendations, including mandatory electrical safety checks for all private rented housing, and new electrical safety guidance.

The government will now consider its response to the report.

The same day a consultation on the review of the regulations requiring private landlords to install smoke detectors in all properties, and carbon monoxide detectors in high risk rooms.

This is the 8th DCLG consultation and 16th in total issued by the government affecting the PRS, this autumn.  Surely something that could have been captured by the Hackitt Review, instead? 

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions saw concerns raised about the roll-out of smart meter, fires caused by tumble dryers, the proposed cap on energy prices and the government’s plans to tackle global warming, ahead of the next UN climate change conference.

When it comes to domestic energy, the private rented sector bears the brunt of targets, with the imminent introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards, and the RLA met BEIS officials to discuss our concerns about support for landlords to meet these commitments, the accuracy of EPCs and the Green Deal framework.

In a written question, Labour MP Stephen Timms, asked if the government had evaluated help to rent schemes.  DCLG confirmed it is reviewing the effective of such schemes.

This was followed by a debate on the high cost of temporary accommodation.  Siobhain McDonagh MP told the House that over 77,000 homeless families were temporary accommodation, including 120,000 children.  Homeless charity, Crisis, with the support of the RLA, has called for national funding of help to rent schemes, as a way of cutting the temporary accommodation bill and securing long term homes in the PRS for families.

We recently held a joint meeting with Crisis and officials from DWP, DCLG and the Treasury, in a bid to secure support for help to rent in the Budget. 

To end the week on a bright note, the latest Ministry of Justice figures show possession claims by landlords are continuing to fall.  However, the average length to regain possession remains at an unacceptable 43 weeks.

The RLA has briefed MPs and officials on our proposals to speed up the housing justice system through reform of section 8 and a new specialist housing court.

About the author

John Stewart

John Stewart

John is the Deputy Director of Policy and Research for the NRLA. He has over 20 years experience working in politics, as a successful election agent, MP’s assistant, local councillor and council leader, and is a former charity chief executive.

He oversees RLA policy work across all levels of government – central, devolved and local – working to ensure that landlords’ views are represented and officials, MPs, Assembly Members and local councillors have key information and evidence about the PRS before they take decisions.

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