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Westminster round-up 22nd December 2017

John Stewart
Written by John Stewart

The week started with the publication of the interim report from Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety, and her appearance before the Communities and Local Government committee.

The report states that building and fire safety regulation are not fit for purpose. The RLA submitted written evidence to the review and former policy director, Richard Jones was also interviewed. While much of the report looks a construction, many of the RLA’s concerns about building management practices and enforcement once occupied were reflected in Dame Judith’s findings and recommendations: o call for simplification of regulations and guidance; clearly identified individual responsibility; and, an acceptance that the current regime for low rise and less complex buildings broadly work.

Monday and Tuesday saw the Finance Bill stemming from the Autumn Budget, scrutinised by the Commons. Chair of the All Party Group on Universal Credit, Ruth George MP, highlighted the RLA’s recent research on Universal Credit, when challenging the government to do more to restore landlord confidence in the welfare system.

The Minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector were back in the spotlight on Tuesday as the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy launched a consultation on changes to a regime that is not even in force yet! Homes will be required to have an EPC rating of E or above for new PRS tenancies granted from April next year, unless an exemption applies.

The government’s problem is that, as there is supposed to be not upfront cost to the landlord, exemptions could apply to almost all F and G rated properties! The main thrust is to remove ‘no upfront cost’ and replace it with a cap on spending. Initially, the cap was touted at £5,000, but has been cut to £2,500. The government intend the changes to be implemented in spring 2019.

The government came under further pressure, as the Public Accounts Committee published a report attacking its record on homelessness. It claimed a lack of urgency and a failure of departments to work together, a lack of understanding of the needs of homeless people and a shortage of realistic housing options. The full report can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/taxing-gains-made-by-non-residents-on-uk-immovable-property

Finally, on Thursday Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, promised a range of measures on leasehold reform, including preventing the sale of new build leasehold houses and setting the ground rents on new long leases at zero. The government will also take steps to ensure that there is more support for existing leaseholders, and to make buying the freehold or extending a lease easier, faster and cheaper.

Parliament is now in recess until 8th January.

About the author

John Stewart

John Stewart

John is the Deputy Director of Policy and Research for the NRLA. He has over 20 years experience working in politics, as a successful election agent, MP’s assistant, local councillor and council leader, and is a former charity chief executive.

He oversees RLA policy work across all levels of government – central, devolved and local – working to ensure that landlords’ views are represented and officials, MPs, Assembly Members and local councillors have key information and evidence about the PRS before they take decisions.

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