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Looking back: The RLA year in review 2018

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

It’s been a busy year for the RLA. Here we take a look back at some of the biggest changes we have seen in 2018, both nationally and within the association itself.

January

The year got off to a positive start, with the Government announcing that the ‘explicit consent’ element around landlords arranging alternative payment arrangement payments (APAs) under Universal Credit was to be removed. This was something we had long campaigned for.

Also in January, our Policy Director David Smith gave evidence to the CLG Select Committee on the Tenant Fees Bill. During the evidence session, Dr Smith warned that the proposals in the Tenant Fees Bill could mean that landlords will likely pick up the cost.

And Karen Buck MP thanked us for our support of her Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill

February

The positive changes to Universal Credit didn’t stop in January, as in February the seven day waiting period was removed, meaning that those in receipt of Universal Credit had to wait a shorter time to receive payment. This was also something we had been campaigning for, for some time.

February also saw us meet with the Minister for the PRS to press for a new housing court and contact councils to complain about potentially unlawful licence fees.

RLA member Paul Brown successfully challenged Hyndburn Council in February, with the Court of Appeal ruling that councils cannot use selective licensing conditions to impose new standards on PRS homes.

And as the Beast from the East hit, we offered landlords advice on how to keep their tenants and homes safe and warm.

March

As spring came round it was time to give the RLA a fresh lick of paint. For our twentieth birthday, we rebranded as ‘the home for landlords’, with a new logo and a fresh colour scheme.

Also in March PM Theresa May announced landlords ‘play an important role’ in the housing market and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) confirmed tax increases were choking off investment in rented housing.

We warned proposals to cap deposits paid by tenants at five weeks would play into the hands of rent cheats, while a government inspector slammed the right to rent scheme as ‘failing to prove its worth’.

April

On Easter Sunday the government announced it would be introducing a mandatory code of practice and new regulator as part of a move to tackle rogue managing and letting agents.

Banning orders and the rogue landlord database were also introduced this month, along with the Homelessness Reduction Act.

New gas safety rules came into force and we told the government it must change the way it taxes landlords, after a report from the Resolution Foundation claimed 16% of young people will never own their own home.

It was also time for the second of the association’s conferences, following on from the successful Future Renting Wales conference in 2017.

Future Renting North came to Manchester, and a stellar line up of speakers including the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, addressed over two hundred landlords and property professionals.

Mr Burnham announced plans to introduce a ‘good landlord scheme’ in the city, and buy up substandard homes to drive out the rogues.

April also marked our 20th birthday – with messages of congratulations and support coming in from across the sector.

May

We called for more support for older renters in May, following the publication of a BBC report which claimed the number of middle aged renters doubled in a decade.

We also objected to ‘flawed’ plans over new room sizes.

James Brokenshire was named the new Housing Secretary and the Hackitt Review into the Grenfell Tower tragedy was published.

However, arguably the biggest change brought in this month was the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In response we made a range of resources available for members to ensure they were compliant with the legislation.

June

In June, the High Court granted permission for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants – supported by ourselves – to launch a judicial review of the Government’s ‘Right to Rent’ policy. The hearing was held at the High Court on 18th December.

We also pulled together all our fire safety guides and interactive resources for PRS landlords to create a comprehensive fire safety hub within our webpages.

Also in June, the Government announced it would be holding a review into selective licensing schemes and their effectiveness, along with a consultation into the RLA’s housing court plans.

July

July was a busy month, with our Policy Manager John Stewart giving evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee on Hackitt.

The Government launched a consultation looking at the barriers to longer term tenancies, with documents that outlined a potential model which would see landlords offered ‘financial incentives’ if they offered longer tenancies.

This was one of our key asks in our 2017 Budget submission.

Figures from the English Housing Survey showed a large majority of private sector tenants, 84 per cent,  were satisfied with their housing and, as the heatwave hit, the RLA offered advice on everything from making sure tenants were able stay cool to tips on saving water.

August

In August it was time to mark another birthday as our research lab, PEARL marked its first anniversary.

We also voiced concerns about Brexit and its impact on EU nationals renting homes.

The Chartered Institute of Housing backed the RLA in calling for the freeze on LHA levels to be lifted. And as Shelter prepared a report on the issue, we reminded landlords they must not impose blanket bans that discriminate against tenants on benefits.

September

September arrived and it was party conference time, with our policy team in attendance at both the Labour Party Conference and the Conservative Party Conference.

And in Wales, our Vice Chair Douglas Haig spoke on the main stage at the Plaid Cymru conference.

A full roundup of the conferences can be read in our members’ magazine, Residential Property Investor.

September also saw us hold the second of the year’s Future Renting conferences, in London, hosted by radio legend Clive Bull.

We also held a Parliamentary reception as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations, attended by the housing minister, and revealed our new look training academy offering new classroom and eLearning courses.

October

In October, new rules were introduced in England which extended the range of properties that are subject to mandatory HMO licensing.The Deregulation Act was also extended.

With the budget just around the corner, we put in our budget submission asking for tax reform to encourage longer tenancies,

Research from PEARL, showed rent arrears were rocketing under Universal Credit and we explored the scandal of vacant properties during Empty Homes week.

On a happier note, RLA magazine, Residential Property Investor scooped a top award at the Association Excellence Awards 2018.

November

In November, came the announcement that landlord spend on making energy efficiency improvements to F and G rated properties would be capped at £3,500.

It was also announced councils would receive extra resources to tackle criminal landlords.

The first research project to be commissioned by our research arm RLA PEARL was also launched.

It found changes to the benefit system are behind the decade-long increase in homelessness from private rented housing.

In other research work we discovered two thirds of councils in England and Wales brought no prosecutions against private landlords in 2017/18, failing both tenants and landlords alike.

At the end of the month we returned to Wales for our Future Renting Wales conference 2018. Two Ministers spoke at the conference and took questions from delegates, with the then Welsh Housing Minister, Rebecca Evans AM, announcing an ‘exciting proposal’ for landlords in Wales.

December

December saw us react with dismay to the government’s decision to u-turn on plans to cap deposits at six weeks’ rent, instead reducing the figure to five.

We also warned landlords they may not be fully protected under new Client Money Protection rules which come in next year.

We also reported on MPs’ calls for the abolition of Section 21 during a Parliamentary debate and warned that any plan to introduce rent controls in London – as proposed by Sadiq Khan – could end up hurting those it is designed to help.

Elsewhere we offered the usual seasonal advice on protecting your homes over Christmas, and revealed our exciting new training programme for 2019.

We would like to wish all our members a very happy new year – and look forward to continuing to work for you all in 2019.

For all the latest landlord news into the New Year and beyond visit https://news.rla.org.uk/latest/

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

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