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Today in politics: English Housing Survey, Europe, broadband, Rented Homes and tenancy agreements

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Today’s update looks at latest PRS figures, commons activity and new bills to affect landlords and tenants.

English Housing Survey

A total of 19% of households in England are now living in the private rented sector, according to figures from the English Housing survey, out today.

In 2018-19, the average rent was £200 per week in the private rented sector. The average private rent in London was £341 per week, about twice the average rent outside London (£162 per week). 

The proportion of household incomes spent on private sector rents was 32.8% in 2018-19, down from 32.9% the year before and the lowest it has been since at least before 2010-11. 

For more details and RLA reaction to the findings click here.

MPs refuse to back hard copy document plans

MPs have rejected an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would have seen EU citizens with settled status given a hard-copy document to prove it. 

The RLA had backed the plan – which was passed by the House of Lords before moving on the Commons.

The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Stephen Barclay MP said that as a result of the amendment, which had been backed by the Lords, the Government would be “unable to issue digital status to EU citizens without also issuing physical documents, including to those already holding a digital status under the current scheme.”  

He argued that this “would increase the risk of fraud and raises costs to Government and citizens.” He said that digital status “is more secure than any physical document ​could ever be.”

Shadow Minister for Exiting the EU, Thangam Debbonaire MP(Labour, Bristol West) quoted the RLA during the debate – and described the provision of a physical document as “vital”.

She said: “Surely we in this Chamber all know that internet signals are not reliable. People do not all have smartphones. Other categories of non-UK citizens have a physical document, so it is not surprising that the Residential Landlords Association say that it is deeply concerned about the lack of physical proof and that landlords are not, and should not be treated as, border police.”

She added: “Members should consider that the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the3million and the Residential Landlords Association have all warned that there is a risk that landlords and employers will be reluctant, without that immediate physical proof that other Windrush citizens lacked, to let a home or offer a job to EU citizens.”

The Bill has now completed its passage through Parliament and only requires Royal Assent to become law. 

The transcript of MP’s consideration of the Lord’s amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is available here.

MPs back bill to improve renters’ access to broadband

MPs yesterday gave approval, without a vote, to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill at second reading debate. 

This Bill includes measures to provide a bespoke process for telecoms network operators to gain access to multiple dwelling buildings (blocks of residential flats and apartments) in order to deploy, upgrade or maintain fixed-line broadband connections, in cases where a tenant has requested an electronic communication service but the landlord has repeatedly failed to respond to an operator’s requests for access. 

The transcript of the debate can be accessed here.

First reading of Rented Homes Bill 

Baroness Grender (Liberal Democrat) yesterday secured first reading of her Rented Homes Bill. 

This seeks to amend the Housing Act 1988 to abolish assured shorthold tenancies and to extend the grounds upon which landlords of residential housing may recover possession. 

The bill would require government support to make it to the statute book – which is unlikely as the government has already made similar proposals, which will be included in its Renters’ Reform Bill.

Government to consult ‘small group’ on changes to model tenancy agreement

The Shadow Housing Minister, Alex Cunningham MP (Labour, Stockton North) has received a response to his written question asking when MHCLG plans to:

(a) review the national model tenancy agreement and 

(b) publish the reviewed national model tenancy agreement.

The Housing Minister, Esther McVey MP, responded: “We will shortly publish a revised and updated Model Tenancy Agreement on the website to assist tenants and landlords of assured shorthold tenancies in the private rented sector.

“While we will continue to update this document as required, we do not intend to conduct a fuller review, as the Government is planning a fuller overhaul of the assured shorthold tenancy framework through the Renters’ Reform Bill.”

Mr Cunningham also received a response to his written question asking whether MHCLG plans to include a consultation process in his review of the national model tenancy agreement.

The Minister responded: “We intend to seek feedback from a small group of key partners on our proposed changes to the national Model Tenancy Agreement ahead of publication.”

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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