Today in politics: ONS data, triple protection call, Right to Rent and more

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

We look at the new ONS futures, Sadiq Khan’s call for triple protection for tenants as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, questions to government ministers, Right to Rent and building regulations.

PRS rents up 1.4%

PRS rents in the UK have gone up 1.4% in the 12 months to March 2020 according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Its latest Index of Private Housing Rental Prices for the UK for March 2020 says:

  • Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 1.4% in the 12 months to March 2020, unchanged since February 2020.
  • Private rental prices grew by 1.4% in England, 1.2% in Wales and by 0.6% in Scotland in the 12 months to March 2020.
  • London private rental prices rose by 1.2% in the 12 months to March 2020.

In the 12 months to March 2020, inflation was:

  • 1.5% as measured by CPI(H)
  • 1.5% as measured by CPI
  • 2.6% as measured by RPI 

Tenants ‘continue to be liable for rent’ says minister

 Jessica Morden MP (Labour, Newport East) has received a response to her written question asking what steps MHCLG is taking to support tenants who are unable to pay their rent as a result of loss of income due to the covid-19 outbreak.

Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher MP, replied: “On 18 March, we announced a radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus. 

“Emergency legislation has been brought forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period. 

“As a result of these measures, no renter in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction during this time.

“Tenants will continue to be liable for their rent, and those tenants who can afford to pay should continue to do so. 

“The government has also announced unprecedented measures to support workers to stay in work during this period by paying up to 80 per cent of their wages, increasing the amount available to welfare claimants and raising the Local Housing Allowance rate to the 30th percentile, supporting tenants who may have already been struggling with their rent. 

“These significant financial measures will support tenants to continue to pay their living costs, including rental payments.”

Barry Sheerman MP (Labour, Huddersfield) has also received a response to his written question asking whether MHCLG has made an assessment of the feasibility of introducing a ban on rent increases for (a) social and (b) private rented housing for the duration of the covid-19 outbreak.

The Housing Minister responded: “The Government have no plans to ban rent increases during the COVID-19 outbreak as we have already announced extensive measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus. 

“Through the Coronavirus Act 2020, we have introduced legislation to delay when landlords are able to evict tenants. 

“The legislation does this either by extending the notice period that a landlord is required to serve on a tenant to at least three months or, in some cases, creating a three months’ notice requirement where a requirement to give notice does not currently exist.  

“The Master of the Rolls, with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor, suspended all ongoing housing possession cases for 90 days from 27 March 2020.

“All tenants remain liable for their rent and those who can afford to should continue to pay it. At the end of this period, if arrears have built up, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account the tenants’ individual circumstances. 

“Alongside this legislative protection, the Chancellor has put in place an unprecedented support package including support for business to pay staff salaries, as well as a strengthening of the welfare safety-net with a £7 billion boost to Universal Credit, income tax and VAT deferrals. 

“And we’ve increased Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates so that they are set at the 30th percentile of market rents in each area. These significant financial measures will help to support tenants to continue to pay their living costs, including rental payments. 

“We have also extended the three-month mortgage payment holiday to landlords with Buy to Let mortgages whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus.”

London mayor calls for ‘triple protection’ for landlords

It is being reported that the Mayor of London is calling on the government to introduce a new ‘triple lock’ of measures aimed at protecting private renters from eviction as a result of rent arrears caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

He has urged the government to increase welfare support for renters by restoring local housing allowance rates to median market levels and completely scrap housing allowance caps for those that suffer financial hardship as a result of the disease.

He has also called for more protection for renters from eviction, even after the government’s three-month ban on evictions ends in June.

This includes the scrapping of so-called “no fault evictions” and for changes to be put in place to make it harder for private landlords to evict tenants who have accrued arrears as a direct result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Mayor has also said that it is “unrealistic” for landlords and tenants to agree between themselves affordable payment plans to cover the missing rent over a period of time as called for by the Government. 

Mr Khan said: “With millions of low paid renters in London now facing increased financial uncertainty we face a ticking timebomb of debt, arrears and widespread evictions once the suspension in court proceedings is lifted.

“The government must urgently put in place measures that will prevent private landlords from evicting tenants who go into arrears as a result of COVID-19.

“Failing to bring in more support for renters will not only result in widespread financial hardship, but risks increasing the public health crisis, as renters may feel forced to return to work too soon with increasing debt and arrears hanging over their heads.”

Home Office to issue Right to Rent statement

Ministers at the Home Office will today issue a written statement on the Right to Rent scheme. The government won its appeal against a ruling that its Right to Rent scheme breaches human rights laws, it was revealed yesterday.

Questions on government support plans being ‘exploited’ by second home owners

Questioning the Leader of the House of Commons yesterday during a statement on business in the House, Anthony Mangnall MP (Conservative, Totnes) told the House: “On the point about business rates, my constituency has had a lot of business rates relief and, in certain cases, the small business grant has been exploited by owners of second homes.”

He went on to call for the Leader of the House to ask the Chancellor and his team “to review how business rate reviews are dealt with, how the relief is granted and how the small business grants that are there for businesses at this time of need are issued, because they are being exploited?”

The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, responded: “As I understand it, it is only available if second homes are genuinely used for businesses; if they are used for business purposes, the grant is available. That is fair and reasonable as long as they are being used for business purposes.”

Guidance on building regulations 

MHCLG has published guidance for Building Control Bodies operating in England on the application of the Building Regulations during the coronavirus outbreak. 

It can be accessed 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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