The RLA policy team decamped to Cardiff last week, for the RLA Future Renting Wales conference, so we’ll be looking back a little further this week, to catch up with Westminster goings-on over the last fortnight.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, followed up his party conference announcement that all landlords will be required to be covered by a redress scheme, by promising a consultation in the new year. He told an audience of housing professionals that ‘bold options’ were being considered, including a single housing ombudsman covering home owners, home buyers, landlords and tenants.
With ongoing consultations on the fees ban, agent regulation and client money protection it’s hard to believe the government has any sort of joined-up plan for private renting.
The House of Commons debate on the Budget concluded last week, with MPs largely splitting along party lines on housing issues. Conservative MPs welcomed the headline cut to stamp duty for first time buyers and additional funding for the development of new homes, while Labour focussed on the failure to address the shortage of affordable housing. The following week the resultant Finance Bill 2017/18 was published and will be scrutinised by MPs later in the month.
The regulations on banning order offences were published, confirming which offences could lead to landlords and agents being banned from property related business, and confirming banning orders will come into force from April 6th next year.
If used properly, banning orders could be a key tool in removing the worst operators from our sector and help improve the reputation of private renting. However, this will depend on effective enforcement by local authorities.
On Monday, tackling homelessness dominated Communities and Local Government Questions with opposition MPs pressing the government on funding for support services. The Communities Secretary highlighted funding for local authorities to implement the Homelessness Reduction Act and new funding in the Budget for help to rent schemes.
Inevitably, the well-worn accusation that the ending of private sector tenancies as leading cause of homeless was trotted out, followed by call for an end to s21 for possession claims. The RLA remains vigilant in defending the need for a assured route to repossession for private landlords, and continues to make the case for a specialist housing court to speed up access to justice in housing cases.
The Labour Party continued its assault on Universal Credit, forcing the government to publish the five project assessment reviews carried out on UC since 2012.
During the debate, Labour MP, Karen Buck, quoted our recent research into landlords attitudes to the budget reforms.
The Treasury has launched the competition for financial technology entrepreneurs, offering up to £2 million of funding to develop applications to enable tenants’ rental payments to be taken into account for credit referencing purposes – one of the RLA’s election manifesto asks.
Finally, in the House of Lords, another PRS consultation was promised by the government – this time on electrical safety – when pressed by peers on why it was taking so long to implement the recommendation of a working group for 5 yearly safety checks for all PRS properties.