The main political event over the last month was the State Opening of Parliament, with the centre piece of the Government’s legislative programme for the forthcoming year being, “a Bill that further reforms Britain’s immigration system. The Bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.”
Of particular relevance to RLA members is the Government’s plan to make landlords legally liable for ensuring that their tenants are allowed to be in the U.K. Speaking in the House of Commons during the debate on the Queen’s Speech, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, declared that the Bill would: “introduce a duty on private landlords to carry out immigration checks when letting property. It will penalise landlords who rent property to migrants who are not entitled to stay in Britain.”
Although the RLA is awaiting details of the measure, the RLA has raised concerns that the reality of new immigration rules will have a negative effect on legal tenants living in the U.K. Tenants may see rents rise as letting agents increase fees to cover the costs of further checks on tenants. Figures may also increase in an effort to cover the greater risks new laws will bring, leaving tenants to foot the bill. The RLA is also concerned that landlords are being made scapegoats for failings by the UK Border Agency.
The RLA has already raised its views on immigration policy in a meeting with the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk MP and is seeking an early meeting with those officials leading on the policy.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Private Rented Sector, which the RLA provides the secretariat to, continues to go from strength to strength with the APPG having started its inquiry into how to achieve the Government’s aim of a “better” private rented sector. Over twenty written submissions have been made to the inquiry, including one from the RLA and a number of individual landlords. A successful oral evidence session has also been held on safety in the sector. In July the RLA will be giving oral evidence alongside other groups to consider how the private rented sector should be regulated.
As ministers continue to pursue their welfare reforms, a successful meeting has been held with the Chair of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, Dame Anne Begg MP, to consider the impact that they are having on the private rented sector.
The RLA has written to ministers calling for a full scale review on the impact that Article 4 Directions are having on the supply of private rented housing. The RLA has written to ministers calling for a full scale review on the impact that Article 4 Directions are having on the supply of private rented housing following concerns expressed in a recent government report showing the damaging effect of them being implemented, together with the changes to the Shared Accommodation Allowance.
A successful meeting was held with the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk MP, during which the RLA was able to present to the Minister the findings of its snap shot survey completed by members on the issue of empty homes. The RLA also shared with the housing minister, their proposals to boost growth in the sector as well as its views on how the sector should be regulated. A roundtable discussion is also being organised in Leeds with the Shadow Housing Minister, Jack Dromey MP, to continue the discussion on regulation within the sector.
Meanwhile, in Wales, the RLA continues to have serious concerns regarding the proposals for a licensing scheme announced by ministers in Wales. A briefing has been issued to all members of the Assembly to outline the RLA’s concerns. Furthermore, extensive press coverage has been given on the RLA’s fears about the cost of proposed reforms on tenure outlined in the Renting Homes Bill, which to be footed by the housing sector.