With Parliament taking the half term recess, politicians were free to roam the land this week. The Labour Party used the opportunity to publish an animal welfare plan, which included proposals to allow pets in rental properties as default.
While many council and housing association leases ban pets it was the private rented sector that appeared in the media dock. The Labour policy appears to be tenure-neutral, affecting both social and private lets, and this is just one area of the policy that the RLA has written to the Labour Party, seeking clarification.
There are many good reasons why landlords may wish to restrict pets in a property, from allergies in shared accommodation, to inappropriately large pets in flats. Of course, the government’s tenant fee ban proposals will also prevent landlords from taking a larger deposit or from requiring tenants to take out insurance to cover damage.
Where problems with pets do arise, particularly where the pet becomes a nuisance neighbour, the current possession process is slow and expensive. A whole lot more thought needs to be given to encouraging landlords to offer pet-friendly tenancies.
In a Home Affairs Committee report, published this week, the RLA’s research on right to rent checks was again referenced, this time in relation to European Union citizen rights post-Brexit. There remains concern that there is lack of clarity on how EU citizens will be treated when it comes to the immigration checks outsourced by government to landlords and employers.
On a positive note, this week saw the end of the seven day waiting period for people making a new claim for Universal Credit. This, combined with monthly payment in arrears, meant that many tenants found themselves with two months of rent arrears, before their tenancy had even started. Combined with direct payment and a freeze of housing allowances. Many landlords have been reluctant to let to people claiming benefits, and the RLA has been campaigning for change. The end of the seven day wait, combined with other changes announced in the Autumn Budget, will begin to make a difference, but there is much more to do before landlord confidence is restored.
A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, published on Friday, showed home ownership falling dramatically amongst the 25-34 year olds. It identifies the key reason, if not sole, for the decline to be the widening gap between family income and house prices. Family incomes grew by only 22% over 20 years, compared with house prices rising by 152%. It all rather undermines the government’s excuses for recent tax raids on private landlords. It’s not landlords stealing houses from under the noses of first time buyers, as the government claims, but stagnating incomes and soaring house prices fuelled by a lack of supply. Meanwhile, the same policies risk choking investment in private rented property just at the tine young families are increasingly dependent on it.
The Office for National Statistics also released data this week, showing a continued slowdown in rent increases, with rents increasing by 1.1% nationally – well below both measures of inflation. It was bad news for those clamouring for rent controls in the PRS. If rents were linked to inflation, as many wish, tenants would be facing increases of up to three times higher.