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Today in politics : Cabinet reshuffle and new PRS data

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

In a bumper edition we look at the impact of the cabinet reshuffle, data from RICS and the Ministry of Justice as well as HMOs, Disabled Facilities Grants and much more.

Javid quits and housing minister McVey leaves role

Sajid Javid has quit as Chancellor of the Exchequer after number 10 told him to sack his special advisers.

It is being reported that a new joint team of special advisers will be created between No 10 and Number 11, highlighting the power that Downing Street will seek to wield over government. 

Rishi Sunak MP (Conservative, Richmond – Yorks) is the new Chancellor.

At the same time Housing Minister, Esther McVey MP, has left the Government as part of the Prime Minister’s ministerial reshuffle.

In a tweet issued this morning she said: “I’m very sorry to be relieved of my duties as Housing Minister. I wish my successor the very best & every success.

“I’m very grateful to the Prime Minister for having given me the opportunity to serve in his government & he will continue to have my support from the back benches.”

Priti Patel MP (Conservative, Witham) remains as Home Secretary, a post in which she continues to have overall responsibility for policy related to the Right to Rent.

Former housing minister Alok Sharma MP (Conservative, Reading West) has been appointed Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy where he will have responsibility for energy efficiency issues. He moves from having been International Development Secretary.

Robert Buckland MP (Conservative, South Swindon) will continue as Secretary of State for Justice which includes court reform policy.

New RICS figures show predicted 2% rent rise in PRS

RICS has today published its latest Residential Market Survey for January 2020. 

In relation to the private rented sector, it notes: “In the lettings market, tenant demand rose at a steady pace in the three months to January (seasonally adjusted quarterly series), with a net balance of +24% of respondents citing an increase. 

“At the same time, landlord instructions were reported to have fallen by a net balance of -13% of contributors, extending a run of negative readings for this series into a fifteenth straight quarter. 

“Given this mismatch between rising demand and falling supply, rents are expected to increase over the coming three months, while twelve-month expectations continue to point to rents rising by a little over 2% in the year ahead.”

The RLA believes these new figures prove government policy is failing on housing. Read more here.

Just 18 landlords and agents on rogue landlord database

Sir Christopher Chope MP (Conservative, Christchurch – Chair of the APPG for the Private Rented Sector in the last Parliament) has received a response to his written question asking how many landlords in England are registered on the government’s rogue landlord database; and what his estimate is of the number of rogue landlords who are not yet registered.

The former Housing Minister, Esther McVey MP, responded: “There are 18 individual landlords and property agents and five companies currently registered on the database for offences committed since 6 April 2018.

“For mandatory inclusion on the database a landlord must be convicted of a banning order offence and receive a banning order. 

“If the landlord receives a conviction for a banning order offence or receives two of more civil penalties for a banning order offence within a 12-month period then the local authority has the discretion to include the landlord on the database. The database is intended for the worst and most persistent offenders, who neglect their responsibilities to provide tenants safe homes.”

Sir Christopher has also received a response to his written question asking how many houses in multiple occupation are licensed by local authorities; and what estimate MHCLG has made of the number of unlicensed houses in multiple occupation in England.

The Minister responded: “The Department gathers data from local authorities on the estimated number of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) annually. According to our most recent data covering 2018-2019, there are an estimated 516,000 HMOs.

“There are an estimated 140,000 properties which are licensable under mandatory HMO licensing, of these there are an estimated 76,000 currently unlicensed. 

“Mandatory licensing applies to properties with five or more people from two or more households who share facilities, such as a kitchen and bathroom. Landlords are required to obtain a licence for these properties. 

“Other HMOs may be subject to additional licensing by local authorities where there are three or more people sharing facilities. HMO licensing protects tenants from overcrowding and poor housing conditions.

“It is a duty of local authorities to ensure all licensable properties are licensed and that landlords who illegally let out unlicensed properties are prosecuted. Government is working with local authorities to support them to meet this duty through using the powers available to them.”

Government ‘pressed’ on Renters Reform Bill

The Shadow HCLG Minister, Lord Beecham (Labour) has received a response to his written question asking when the Government plans to introduce the Renters’ Reform Bill.

The HCLG Minister in the Lords, Viscount Younger of Leckie, said that it would be introduced “when Parliamentary time allows.”

Access to Disabled Facilities Grants ‘tenure blind’ says minister

Lord Beecham has also received a response to his written question asking what progress the government has made to ensure that Disabled Facilities Grant is more easily accessible to older tenants in the private rented sector and their landlords.

Viscount Younger responded: “Anyone can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant, including people living in private rented accommodation, subject to a means test and an assessment of need. 

“Tenure should not impact a person’s ability to access the home adaptations they need. 

“The government also funds Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies. Foundations works closely with local authorities to promote best practice in the delivery of home adaptations, including providing information and advice to older people living in private rented accommodation and their landlords.”

The RLA’s Residential Property Investor magazine recently featured an interview with an agency which specialises in matching people with disabilities to accessible properties. For more information click here.

Government quizzed on protection for tenants

Royston Smith MP (Conservative, Southampton Itchen) has received a response to his written question asking what steps the Government is taking to protect tenants from 

(a) landlords and 

(b) letting agents that are exploiting tenants by:

(i) misrepresenting properties in online advertising, 

(ii) unfairly holding deposits after the lease ends and 

(iii) illegally charging agency fees.

The former Housing Minister, Esther McVey MP, responded: “The government has already taken steps to protect tenants from the small minority of landlords and letting agents that may seek to exploit them. 

“Landlords and agents are responsible for the accuracy of advertisements and listings they post online. Misleading advertisements and listings may constitute a breach of consumer protection legislation, such as the transparency provisions of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

“The additional steps government takes are detailed in the Tenancy Deposit Protection legislation, which allows tenants to challenge their deposit being held unfairly when their tenancies end, with recourse to dispute resolution if there is no agreement on deposit repayment. 

“Additionally, under the Tenant Fees Act 2019, which came into force last June, landlords or letting agents are prevented from charging unfair fees in connection with the tenancy.

“Landlords and agents can be subject to enforcement action by Trading Standards and fined if they are found to have illegally charged prohibited fees. Trading Standards are supported by a new lead enforcement authority for lettings, the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, which is funded by Government to provide advice and support to local authorities.”

Repossession times on the up – yet again 

The Ministry of Justice has published the latest Mortgage and Landlord Possession statistics for October to December 2019. 

Of note:

  • In October to December 2019, the greater proportion 60% (15,370) of all landlord possession claims were social landlord claims, 17% (4,345) were accelerated claims and 22% (5,723) were private landlord claims. Since the same quarter last year, the proportion of all claims issued that were private landlord claims increased by three percentage points (pp), whereas the proportion of claims that were accelerated and social landlord claims both decreased by 1pp.
  • The fall in landlord possession claims is across all regions, with the largest actual decrease seen in London and South East courts. There were 6,351 London court claims and 4,793 South East court claims in October to December 2019, accounting for 25% and 19% of all landlord possession claims respectively. This was a decrease of 11% (from 7,111) for London claims and a decrease of 13% for South East claims (from 5,529) in October to December 2018.
  • The 9% decrease in warrants in October to December 2019, when compared to the same period in 2018, was driven by decreases seen in London and Midlands courts (down 17% and 23%, to 3,358 and 2,235 respectively).
  • The overall fall in landlord repossessions is mainly driven by the London courts where landlord repossessions fell from 2,388 in October to December 2018 to 2,045 in October to December 2019, down 14%.

To read the latest RLA news on possession and court waiting times click here.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.

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