It’s been a busy year for the Residential Landlords Association and the PRS as a whole, with game-changing announcements, including plans to axe Section 21.
Here we take a look back at some of the biggest news from 2019 month-by-month.
The RLA celebrated the start of the year with the announcement membership had hit 35,000, reaching the milestone less than two years after hitting the 30,000 mark.
January also saw a number of government announcements, including the news that:
- landlords were to become legally obliged to join a landlord redress scheme or face a £5,000 fine.
- dozens of councils in England were to receive extra cash to help them root criminal landlords out of the sector, with a £2.4m pot of funding to be shared between 50 councils across the country.
- landlords were to be required by law to make sure they carry out five yearly safety checks of electrical installations in their properties and that inspectors they hire to carry out electrical safety checks have the necessary competence and qualifications.
The RLA gave evidence to the London Assembly Housing Committee on the roll out of Universal Credit, calling for the process of Alternative Payments to be improved, as the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, once again pledged to fight for rent controls in the capital. The campaign set to be a key part of his 2020 bid for re-election.
The Tenant Fees Bill banning landlord and agents from charging fees to tenants was given Royal Assent in February, to apply to all tenancies signed after June 2019.
Rent Smart Wales published new data on enforcement at the start of the month, revealing almost 500 fixed penalty notices have been issued across Wales, with 62 convictions.
And research from the RLA found councils across England had cut spending on enforcement work to tackle criminal landlords by a quarter in less than 10 years.
Elsewhere in the industry it was announced Reeds Rains and Your Move were to lose 124 branches under a restructure by parent company LSL Property Services.
On the first of the month, the High Court ruled the government’s Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights law. The RLA supported the JCWI to have the policy declared discriminatory.
Also on March 1, then Minister for Housing and Homelessness Heather Wheeler announced plans to end blanket bans on renting to benefits tenants. High street bank Nat West announced it would be removing restrictions preventing landlords with its buy-to-let mortgages renting homes to benefits claimants on the same day.
March also saw Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham announce he would be launching a new ‘rogue landlord hub’to crackdown on criminal landlords and agents.
Research from the RLA revealed landlord licensing schemes to be a postcode lottery – with the most expensive schemes costing 21 times more than the cheapest and NO clear link between a council having a licensing scheme in place and levels of enforcement.
March 16 was a big day for the RLA as the association moved to its new home – offices just around the corner from the original base in Sale where it was based for the last 20 years.
On the 20th of the month the Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018 came into force in England – giving tenants powers to take their landlord to court for breach of contract, force them to carry out improvement works, and claim compensation.
Research from the RLA revealed councils across England were failing to use Rent Repayment Order powers to tackle bad landlords in the private rented sector, with figures showed during the 18 months until the end of September 2018 just three Rent Repayment Orders had been made.
Empty homes were also on the agenda, with the RLA calling for tax measures to address the scourge of empty homes as new figures revealed the number lying empty had gone up by 30,000 in a year.
On April 1 it became compulsory for all letting agents in England to be signed up to a government-backed Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme.
However the biggest news in April was the government’s decision to consult on plans to axe Section 21, (so-called ‘no-fault evictions’, with the RLA immediately warning of the ‘serious dangers’ to the supply of rental housing, particularly for vulnerable tenants.
Mark Drakeford AM, the Leader of Welsh Labour and First Minister of Wales announced that the Welsh government would also be banning Section 21 and on April 18 the RLA launched a major new survey asking landlords for their opinion of government plans to axe Section 21
April also saw landlords welcome calls by a House of Lords committee for tax incentives for private landlords to improve the quality of their property.
And high street lender NatWest praised RLA lobbying in evidence to a government select committee on ‘No DSS’ advertisements.
The RLA’s biggest ever survey of more than 6,500 landlords and agents revealed more than 46% plan to sell some or all of their rental homes as a result of government plans to end Section 21 repossessions.
The RLA backed a new campaign launched by homeless charity Crisis, asking the government to commit to restoring Local Housing Allowance rates to support benefits tenants struggling to pay their rent.
And the ban on letting fees in Wales was given Royal Assent by the Queen in May, becoming an Act of the Assembly.
The Tenant Fees Act came into force in England on June 1, making it illegal for landlords and agents to charge certain fees for new tenancy agreements that are signed on or after 1st June 2019.
Also in June it was announced RLA plans to allow tenants to transfer a deposit between landlords when moving house are being investigated by the government.
A Labour-commissioned report suggested tenants should have council tax paid by landlords through the introduction of a “progressive property tax”.
The RLA attended high level talks at Downing Street on ending discrimination against housing benefits claimants, months after the government announced letting adverts which potentially discriminate against would-be tenants on housing benefit should end.
Proposals for a national register of landlords were included in a government commissioned report on selective licensing, with the RLA warning such a move could end up harming those it was designed to help.
At the start of June, the RLA brought together 18 landlords and letting agents’ groups at a summit in London to form the Fair Possessions Coalition, to address government plans to abolish Section 21. The groups united in warning plans to abolish Section 21 repossessions WITHOUT a new system in place would undermine investment in the sector at a time when private landlords are relied upon on to provide homes for one in five households in England.
In July the government confirmed it was planning to make changes to its Housing Health and Safety Rating System(HHSRS) used to assess health and safety in the home to make it easier to understand.
New figures from the English Housing survey showed the proportion of income spent by private tenants on rents had fallen over the past year.
And the government launched its own consultation into plans to axe Section 21 repossessions – as announced back in April.
Boris Johnson became the new Conservative Prime Minister, with the RLA taking a look at what this could mean for the PRS long term.
In Wales the RLA’s vice-chair and director for Wales Douglas Haig addressed the Welsh government inquiry into empty properties at the Senedd, saying real leadership is needed if councils are going to prioritise work to bring empty homes back into use.
It was also revealed that new plans to extend the notice period for so-called ‘no fault’ evictions in Wales would give tenants 12-month contracts by default.
In was good news for landlords in Stoke, as plans to introduce a large property licensing scheme were rejected by the government.
Figures from RICS showed tenants in private rented housing were bearing the brunt of the government’s focus on boosting home ownership, with the institute saying the fall in the supply combined with increase demand for homes to rent “likely to squeeze rents higher.”
And RLA research out in September reported 54% of private landlords who let to tenants on Universal Credit in the previous 12 months had seen them fall into rent arrears.
Further figures from the association showed 79% of private landlords with experience of using the courts to repossess properties were dissatisfied with the way they work, with 91% backing calls for a dedicated housing court.
August also saw the historic announcement that the RLA and NLA were planning to merge to create a single unified organisation. Members of both organisations were invited to vote on the plans in September.
September saw the tenants fee ban come into force in Wales, preventing landlords and letting agents from charging certain fees relating to a tenancy.
Labour announced proposals that would force landlords to sell homes to tenants for less than market rates, a move that the RLA said would ‘kill off’ the private rented sector.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pledged to cap rents in his speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, while at the Lib Dem conference plans for property inspections for rented homes were part of new plans announced for the PRS.
An independent report found that direct payments of benefits to landlords contributed most to reductions in rent arrears.
And Professor of Financial Economics at Imperial College London David Miles said the government’s approach to the private rented sector is “incoherent” in an exclusive blog for the RLA.
At the end of the month the RLA held its fringe event at the Conservative party conference with a panel including Kevin Hollinrake MP and Bob Blackman, MP.
And former Touchstone director of operations Ben Beadle was announced as the chief executive of the new National Residential Landlords Association, formed from the merger of the National Landlords Association and the Residential Landlords Association.
In response to the official consultation on ending Section 21, the RLA said the government proposals to reform the way landlords can repossess properties would not work and would threaten the supply of homes for rent.
Landlords warned of a rented housing supply crisis, with a new RLA survey showing more landlords were selling properties than buying whilst demand grows.
Rent controls hurt tenants by drying up the supply of homes to rent and increasing rents according to research published by the RLA in October.
And with the announcement there would be a General Election on December 12, the RLA produced its own six-point manifesto outlining key asks to make the PRS a better place for landlords and tenants alike.
October also saw RLA chief executive Andrew Dixon named one of the UK’s top business leaders in the CEO UK Awards 2019.
November saw the RLA host its third annual Future Renting Wales conference in Cardiff. More than 150 landlords and property professionals attended the event where expert speakers gave updates on the Renting Homes (Wales) Act, the fees ban and other changes on the horizon for Welsh landlords.
Confidence in the PRS was falling, according to RLA figures out in November, with the gap between the percentage of landlords planning to sell properties and those planning to buy up seven-fold in the last two years.
New government figures were released showing it now takes private landlords an average of 22.6 weeks from making a claim to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening – the third quarterly increase in a row.
Proposals by the Mayor of London to introduce rent controls were dealt a critical blow as figures show rents across the capital falling in real terms.
According to analysis by the RLA, the total number of regulations affecting landlords has increased to 156, up from 118since 2010.
And landlords with properties with an energy performance rating of F or G were told they would not be expected to pay up to £5k in order to improve the energy efficiency rating of the property, after a recommendation to raise the cap from £3,500 was rejected.
The latest figures from RICS at the start of the month warning of a crisis brewing in the private rental market as new figures show a sharp drop in supply over the last year. The latest Residential Market Survey saw RICS predict it will lead to rent increases of around 2% over the next year.
New regulations demanding landlords in Wales give comprehensive information packs to prospective tenants before accepting holding deposits were put on ice in November.
Landlords were told they would have just weeks to pull together lists of data to prospective tenants. However, the Welsh Government put the plans back until February following the intervention of the RLA.
December was, of course, dominated by the election, with a Conservative landslide on December 12. Ahead of the election Secretary of State for housing, Robert Jenrick told the i newspaper the government would move quickly to bring forward legislation on Section 21 over the course of 2020 to make it a reality, with the plans outlined in the Queen’s speech last Thursday. ******
The festive season also RLA news and research brought to a whole new audience, with the launch of a monthly slot on Property TV. The RLA now has a regular half-hour slot on the digital and satellite channel’s ‘Spotlight on Landlords’ show. To watch the first episode, click here.
For all the latest landlord news into the New Year and beyond visit our social media channels and our news site at https://news.rla.org.uk/latest/