Another Friday, another Newsround. Let’s see what housing related news the week has brought.
The Ministry of Housing
As you will no doubt be aware there has been a government reshuffle which has brought us the seventh housing minister since 2010, Dominic Raab. The last Housing Minister, Alok Sharma has spent less than seven months in the role.
It is to be hoped that Mr Raab is in post a little longer – part of the problem with our ‘broken’ housing system is that ministers are not around long enough to do much about it.
However the head of Department Sajid Javid has had his role title amended to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the department itself has been renamed the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Hopefully, this signals a determination to do more about housing, one of the biggest domestic problems on the government’s plate and one which is a top priority for many voters. Although it will no doubt also mean an orgy of re-branding expenses.
Tenant fees ban
It looks like the implementation date for this has been pushed back until 2019 so the earliest we can expect anything is April 2019.
One thing they will need to sort out by then is the human rights issue raised by Professor Ian Loveland of the City Law School at the University of London in a pre-legislative hearing:
“It appears the local authority can raise its fine to £30,000 if it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the landlord or the agent has committed an offence under Clause nine.
“That, I must say, seems to me a quite extraordinary proposition because it appears to be empowering the local authority itself to decide that someone has committed an offence, even if the person has not been brought before a magistrates’ court and actually convicted.”
He warned that there would be “great difficulties in reconciling” such a situation with the Human Rights Act.
Always assuming of course that we still have a Human Rights Act after Brexit.
As you probably know, it is planned to introduce new rules about holding deposits, which at present are largely unregulated. It looks as if the new rules will allow landlords to keep the holding deposit:
- If the tenant fails a right to rent check
- If the tenant fails to take up the tenancy or
- Provides misleading information
Otherwise, they will need to be refunded to tenants within 7 days of the tenancy being competed or within 15 days of taking the deposit if the agreement is not completed for reasons within the landlord’s control.
You can read more about it here.
There is a report of three agents having been thrown out of the Property Ombudsman property redress scheme due to rent and deposit issues.
One of these firms is apparently still trading, once again raising issues about the enforceability of property redress scheme awards. Enforcement is in the hands of Local Authority Trading Standards Offices but their track record on enforcing housing related offences is (save for a few honourable exceptions) is pretty poor.
Personally, I think that trading standards should have powers to go in and physically close down agents continuing to trade after a ban, in the same way, that restaurants failing health and safety checks are closed down.
Consultations in Wales
If you are based in Wales, today is your last chance to submit your views for the fitness for Human Habitation Consultation
See here for details.
Turning to lighter matters, I have two technology wonders for you.
Ben has drawn my attention to this video which shows a mobile house which can open up within ten minutes and then close up again so it can be moved elsewhere. I just hope no-one gets left inside when its closing up.
Then – how do you feel about a robot showing your prospective tenants around your property? Not quite an Asimov robot with a positronic brain, more like an iPad on a stick. But could it be coming to an letting agent near you?
Newsround will be back next week.