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Today in politics: Section 21, Universal Credit, LHA, evictions and more

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Today we look at evictions and the PRS, housing benefit, new reports and figures.

Law Society backs plans to end Section 21 

The Law Society has backed plans to end Section 21 repossessions.

Simon Davis, society president said: “Section 21 is one of the leading causes of family homelessness in the UK. In addition, because of the absence of legal aid support, many are unable to obtain the legal advice they need to enforce their rights.

“This creates an inequity of power between landlords and tenants. The rule of law should be available equally to both sides.

“There are fears that current legislation has led to so-called ‘retaliatory evictions.’ For example, if a tenant has raised concerns that a landlord has failed to comply with their own legal obligations.”

Highlighting the need for balance between the rights of tenants and landlords, the Society has also recommended the widening of Section 8 – the powers of a landlord to regain their property in some circumstances.

He warned: “There is a delicate balance to be struck between improving security of tenure and ensuring that landlords are not disincentivised from entering into longer-term fixed term tenancies.”

The announcement was made as the society it’s response to the government consultation on ending Section 21. 

You can read the RLA response here.

DWP publishes advice for landlords of tenants on Universal Credit

The Department for Work and Pensions has published a summary of good practices and advice for landlords who have tenants on Universal Credit. 

It has also published guidance on how to resolve landlord queries about Universal Credit. 

It includes links to online information, and telephone numbers for specialist support and can be accessed here.

You can view the RLA’s dedicated Universal Credit pages here.

New LHA research show changes will make little difference

The planned rise in housing benefit rates will make only a fraction more homes affordable, according to new research carried out by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

When the Bureau applied the new rate to a list of more than 62,000 two-bed rental adverts across Great Britain collected last September, the rise made barely any difference, with just 900 more properties affordable under the increased rate compared with the current one.

Overall, only 7% of the properties advertised in September would have been affordable had the proposed rate applied then, up from 5.6%. In the majority of the country the increased rates would make little to no difference in the number of affordable properties.

You can read more about the investigation here.

For more on the RLA’s reaction to the LHA announcement click here.

Peer on PRS evictions

Peers yesterday questioned the Government on the issue of homelessness.

Of note, Baroness Grender (Liberal Democrat) asked if the Minister agreed “that evictions from the private rented sector and the freeze in the local housing allowance in 2016 caused real damage?” 

She said: “The end of that freeze is welcome, but the harsh reality is that a 1.7% increase falls woefully short of the 15% increase in rents in the past seven years. 

“An extra £10 a month will not make up the current shortfall of £113. Does he agree that failure to address this specific point will lead to more homelessness?”

The MHCLG Minister in the Lords, Viscount Younger of Leckie, responded by noting that whilst Baroness Grender had focussed “on one point”, she would “know that there are many sad reasons why people end up homeless.” 

He continued: “We have delivered our commitment to end the benefit freeze, and the majority of people in receipt of housing support will see their support increase as a result. We are also bringing forward the renters’ reform Bill, which will look at abolishing no-fault evictions. There is action on the way.”

To read a transcript of the exchange click here.

The Labour Party will also be initiating a debate on homelessness in the House of Commons next Wednesday, January 29th.

‘No plans’ for register of short lets

Baroness Gardner (Conservative) has received a response to her written question asking what assessment the Government has made of 

(1) the impact of the Deregulation Act 2015 on short-term lettings, and 

(2) the proposal by the Mayor of London in April 2019 for the introduction of a registration system for those renting property for less than 90 days in a calendar year in London; and what plans it has, if any, to introduce such a system.

The Minister, Viscount Younger, responded: “The Deregulation Act 2015 limits short-term lettings in London to 90 days per property per calendar year. 

“We have not made any specific assessment of its impact on short-term lettings. 

“As to the proposal by the Mayor of London, the Government has no current plans to introduce such a register. 

“However, we are aware of the work by the Short-Term Accommodation Association as well as platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway and TripAdvisor to put in place their own procedures to avoid breach of the 90-day limit which we note with interest.”

Minister ‘cautious’ over VAT plans

Rachael Maskell MP (Labour, York Central) has received a response to her written question asking what assessment the Treasury has made of the potential merits of reducing the rate of VAT for retrofitting costs of residential housing.

Responding, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman MP, warned that applying a reduced rate of VAT in such circumstances “would come at a significant cost to the Exchequer.” 

He went on however to provide the standard line that the Government keeps all taxes under review and that future decisions on VAT will be taken “in line with the normal Budget process.”

BEIS publishes latest ECO funding statistics

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published the latest Household Energy Efficiency statistics. 

Of note, of 29,420 households in receipt of ECO measures in July-September 2019:

19,730 were owner occupied properties.

3,144 were private rented properties.

6,546 were social rented properties.

The figures 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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