Supporters of the Law Commissions long project and reports, will be pleased to see that this is acknowledged and referred to in the response which confirms that many of the Law Commission’s ideas are being considered. However it also states that they do not think the time is right for the extensive changes in tenure proposed in the Renting Homes report.
No doubt further comments on the paper will be made later, but on a preliminary reading, the following points stood out for me.
The report acknowledges that most tenants are satisfied with their landlords and that the majority of landlords provide a good service. The main thrust of the proposals therefore are intended to support good landlords, improve standards generally across the sector, and drive out the persistent bad landlords.
The paper proposes a national register for landlords. This will be ‘light touch’ and mostly web based. Landlords will need to register their name and address, and details of their property holdings, and pay a small fee annually. They would then be given a number which would have to be used in all landlord related paperwork such as tenancy agreements, tax forms, benefit claims, and court proceedings etc. The register would be run by an independent organisation.
The benefits of the register for government is that it would give them accurate statistics, and they could use it as a way of disseminating information to landlords (such as regarding energy efficiency standards). It would presumably also (although this is not specifically stated) help the revenue with tax collection.
Landlords who fail to comply with the regulatory regime or where there are ‘persistent abuses’ will be removed from the register, be unable to let out property by themselves, and will probably be ineligible to receive housing benefit.
They are considering introducing mandatory tenancy agreements, as suggested by the Law Commission, and are seeking views on how this should best be implemented.
They propose increasing the limit above which tenancies are not longer ASTs to £100,000 pa (currently it is £25,000 pa)
Regulation of letting agents
The paper concludes that voluntary regulation of the letting agency sector has not worked, and propose full compulsory regulation of all letting agents. This would include
- entry requirements
- a code of practice
- business and consumer protection (e.g. indemnity insurance, client protection schemes, complaints procedures)
- monitoring of compliance by an independent body
- enforcement powers and sanctions
Dispute resolution, Courts, etc
The Law Commissions proposals put forward in their Proportionate Dispute Resolution paper are being considered in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice.
Encouragement of investment
They are considering setting up a Private Rented Sector Initiate to encourage institutions to invest on a large scale and in the long term
Support for tenants being evicted by landlords mortgagees
They will be looking to change the law to ensure that tenants in this position are given at least two months notice to find alternative accommodation.
Significantly the report simply says that the treasury is aware of changes proposed (e.g. by the Rugg Report) to the tax system to support the private rented section, and will keep them under review. Which presumably means that nothing will happen.
They discuss how local authorities can better engage with local landlords, perhaps by dealing with them through their small business unit rather than via environmental health, and by giving better training to staff. Many local authorities are of course already doing this sort of thing.
They would also like to build on the various current accreditation schemes for landlords, perhaps with a view to developing a national standard.
There is a lot more in the report (which runs to 37 pages) but the above gives a flavour of what it says.
The paper is also a consultation and various questions are asked at various stages for feedback on particular points. These should be submitted to the department by Friday 7 August. Note that I hope to be able to set up one of my online answer forms for this shortly, so watch this space.