Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of the year the NRLA has been lobbying ministers for support for landlords, in both running their businesses and helping their tenants.
Since then the association has brought about significant changes – both in terms of the coronavirus response and more generally – with work continuing as we lobby for further measures to help landlords and tenants, as restrictions are lifted and we enter ‘the new normal’.
Wins for the association so far include:
1. The Local Housing Allowance being changed to the 30th percentile.
2. The mortgage deferral scheme being extended to include landlords where tenants were struggling to pay their rent.
3. The Government confirming tenants remain legally responsible for adhering to the obligations of their tenancy agreements, including rent payments where possible.
4. The Labour Party rejecting the policy adopted under Jeremy Corbyn of cancelling all rent payments in the PRS, just days after the NRLA spoke with the Shadow Housing Secretary.
5. The Housing Minister agreeing, following representations by the NRLA, that the Universities Minister was wrong to say tenants with individual private landlords are automatically entitled to support such as repayable rent reductions or postponements if impacted by COVID-19
6. The Government confirming that the courts will begin to hear repossession cases again from 24th August, just days after the NRLA told the HCLG Select Committee that the suspension of such cases should not be extended further.
7. The Government agreeing with the NRLA that getting rid of Section 21 should happen separately from the response to COVID-19 and as part of a broader package of measures envisaged in the Renters’ Reform Bill.
8. The withdrawal of an amendment to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill in the House of Lords, which would have allowed tenants to request services to be installed without the landlord’s permission. This happened following an email sent from the NRLA to key peers with an interest in the Bill opposing moves to allow such installations without the permission of the property owner.
In addition to this the Housing Minister has quoted from and cited NRLA briefings sent to him in responding to oral questions in the House of Commons and the NRLA has provided oral evidence to the HCLG Select Committee inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on the PRS.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA said: “These are unprecedented times, but despite the pressures being felt across the board we have continued to campaign on behalf of our members and lobby government to bring about practical change to support them during these challenging times.
“We know that landlords are struggling and feeling pain, so whilst we have achieved some successes that will assist, we continue to work tirelessly in our members’ interests.”
The NRLA has a five-point plan to help support the private rented sector. It is asking for:
1. A clear statement from the Government re-iterating that those who can pay their rent should do. The eviction ban extension should not be used as an excuse for those with the means but who choose not to pay their rent.
2. Further support for tenants most in need, to pay their rents by:
– Developing government guaranteed interest free, ring-fenced loans for tenants to solely pay for all or part of their rent. The funds would be paid directly to the landlord to cover the rent due. The tenant would pay back the loans over a number of years.
– Increasing the Local Housing Allowance to the 50th percentile.
– Converting Universal Credit advances into grants.
– Suspending the Shared Accommodation Rate for under 35s as called for by the Social Security Advisory Committee.
3. Support for landlords who face financial hardship as a result of the impact of coronavirus by providing compensation from the Government for those who: (i) had an order to repossess a property granted by the courts at the time of lockdown but who have not been able to execute it because of the evictions moratorium; and (ii) have lost rent or incurred damage to property as a result. Where rent arrears can be clawed back, landlords should then make suitable repayments to the Government.
4. The courts to prioritise repossession cases when they begin again. Priority should be given to cases where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence, possession cases which were started prior to the lockdown but were then paused, cases where rent arrears were built prior to the lockdown and instances of tenants deliberately not paying their rents despite having the means to do so.
5. Clear plans to ensure courts process legitimate possession claims more swiftly. Prior to lockdown in the first quarter of 2020 the average (mean) time between claims and repossessions taking place for private landlords was 23.6 weeks. This is far too long. Reforms should include making much greater use of deciding cases electronically or through mediation. The Government’ had consulted on developing a housing court closed in January 2019 but no response has yet been provided to it.