Another week of landlord & tenant related news.
The MP’s report
Suddenly everyone in politics seems to be waking up to the things Ben and I have been writing about for years.
The latest report is from The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee and I have finally been able to locate it here.
I have not had time to read it yet, but according to the Property Industry Eye post it reports as follows.
Although most tenants are happy, a “significant minority” of rental properties are “shockingly inadequate” with some 800,000 private rental homes having at least one Category One hazard.
However, enforcement is far too low with six out of ten councils not prosecuting a landlord in 2016. The reason for this (surprise surprise) is that Councils cannot afford the high cost of bringing a prosecution, particularly when fines are very low.
So although new Council enforcement powers are welcome, they are “meaningless if local authorities do not, or cannot, enforce them”.
The report calls for
- Greater legal protection for tenants against retaliatory eviction, rent increases and harassment;
- A new fund to support local councils undertaking enforcement activities;
- Informing tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities;
- Requiring local authorities to publish their enforcement strategies online;
- A new housing court;
- A review of existing legislation relating to the private rented sector to see whether it can be simplified
Well, we will have to see. Incidentally the Law Commission, after a long project, made proposals for a simplified system way back in about 2006 but it was ignored by Government (although part of the proposals are being implemented in Wales).
John Healey and Labour’s Green Paper
There has also been an article by John Healey announcing a new Green Paper setting out what Labour would propose doing about housing which you can read in the Guardian here.
Proposals will (according to the article) include:
- building 1m genuinely affordable homes over 10 years
- the biggest council housebuilding programme for over 30 years
- redefining ‘affordable housing’
- stoping the sell-off of 50,000 social rented homes a year by suspending the right to buy
- ending all conversions to “affordable rent” and
- scrapping the government’s plans to force councils to sell the best of their homes
- transforming the planning system with a new duty to deliver affordable homes,
- creating an English Sovereign Land Trust to make more land available more cheaply
- ending the “viability” loophole that lets commercial developers dodge their obligation to deliver affordable homes.
- backing councils, housing associations and community providers with the funding and flexibility to build big for their communities, and (after Grenfell)
- making safe homes for all the very highest priority
Big plans. We shall see. They have to get elected first. NB I can’t seem to find a link to the green paper itself so if you know where it is can you put a link in the comments?
Grenfell – the fatal renovation
Turning to safety and Grenfell, new shocking reports are showing that the problems which caused the tragedy were largely down to recent renovations.
“Deficiencies” introduced during renovation works included poorly installed fire barriers, gaps around window frames, and flammable cladding and insulation. Had this work not been done, the report suggests, deaths could have been avoided.
Words fail me really. Read the article for more information.
The Guardians take on this is that David Cameron’s assault on ‘red tape’ is largely to blame.
They also refer to the massive reduction in value of properties in other tower blocks – for example, the case of Cecile Langevin whose flat has fallen in value from £475,000 to £50,000.
The land of opportunity
The Private Rented Sector is indeed a place of contrasts. While the MPs report shows that some 28% of tenants who have experienced problems do not complain due to fear of eviction, other reports show that the number of buy-to-let investors is increasing rather than decreasing – despite the tax changes which everyone said would drive landlords away.
According (the report says) to recent HMRC data, the number of buy-to-let investors in the UK rose to a record high of 2.5million in the latest tax year – an increase of 5% on 2016/17 and a rise of 27% over the past five years.
Buy to let is, it seems, considered more of an opportunity than a threat – although this is largely due to the dismal performance of other investment types.
Another report shows that there has been an increase in the number of build to rent homes.
Windrush and Right to Rent – mandatory racism?
Finally, an opinion piece by Ros Renshaw in Property Industry Eye calls for an immediate suspension of Right to Rent while the whole ‘hostile environment’ policy is re-examined.
She points out that letting agents can be fined or even prosecuted under the right to rent rules if they let a property to someone without proper paperwork. However
many of the Windrush generation – children of parents specifically invited to come to this country – have no papers that can prove they have been legally living here, contributing to our society and paying taxes, for years.
The fiasco means that without documentation, they cannot prove they have any right to rent, or to work, or to receive hospital treatment.
The system, she says,
comes perilously close to legalised, indeed almost mandatory, racism.
Very true. Right to rent is also due to be challenged by judicial review so we shall have to see what happens.
News round will be back next week.