Another Friday and another set of news. What have we for you this week?
A challenge to the Right to Rent rules
The High Court has given permission for The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), supported by the Residential Landlords Association, to bring a Judicial Review of the government’s Right to Rent scheme. If successful this could result in the scheme being withdrawn.
The application follows numerous surveys and reports (for example this one) which state that landlords feel forced to discriminate against anyone who does not have a British passport as they fear the fines and prosecutions which could result if they allow anyone in who has no right to rent.
There is also the fact a government minister in the House of Lords admitted that he had no idea how the scheme was impacting tenants.
David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential LandlordsAssociation, commented:
Landlords will welcome the High Court decision to allow a judicial review of the Right to Rent policy which has put them in the impossible position of acting as untrained Border Police trying to ascertain who does and who does not have the right to be in the country. This has created difficulties for many legitimate tenants as landlords are forced to play safe and only rent to those with a UK passport.”
The announcement is an important step towards overturning a policy which the government’s own inspectorate had described as having yet to demonstrate its worth.
A cross-party group of MPs are also calling for the Government to review the scheme.
Rents and Staff shortages
A study by the GMB has shown that rents have increased by 18.2% between 2011 and 2017 whereas salaries have increased by just 9.8% on average over the same period.
As a result, many people will have no option but to vote with their feet and move to areas where they can afford to rent. Leaving more expensive areas such as London, Cambridge and Oxford with big staff shortages.
Warren Kenny, regional secretary for the GMB, said:
Policy mistakes have made the housing position for lower paid workers worse. Council homes for rents at reasonable levels were aimed at housing the families of workers in the lower pay grades and did it successfully for generations.
These were sold off – but crucially not replaced as a matter of Tory dogma. Housing benefit was introduced instead to help pay rents for those on lower paid and the costs to the taxpayer has ballooned to over £24 billion a year. It would have been far cheaper to build the council homes.
The chickens are now coming home to roost on these policy mistakes. There is a massive shortage of homes for rent at reasonable rents for workers in the lower pay grades.
There is now no alternative to higher pay to pay these higher rents, plus a step change upwards in building homes for rent at reasonable rents.
It is difficult to see any argument about this. Although another answer could be for businesses to provide accommodation themselves to their staff.
A commissioner for social housing?
Mayor Sadiq Khan is calling for the government to appoint a national Commissioner for social housing to represent tenants interests when policy is being made.
He first mooted the idea after the Grenfell fire and following a consultation is now proposing that the commissioner should themselves be a social tenant, saying
I’m deeply concerned that social housing tenants’ voices are not being heard in the corridors of power and that’s why we need an independent Commissioner to stand up for social tenants. It is clear to me, and to many Londoners who contributed ideas to my strategy, that this person should themselves be someone who lives in social housing,
It sounds like an excellent idea to me. Maybe someone like Edward Daffarn? If the local council had listened to him the Grenfell disaster would probably never have happened.
Electrical testing campaign
A new campaign is calling for mandatory electrical testing, including PAT testing, to be introduced for rental properties.
North East England-based electrical testing expert Seaward called on the Government to introduce new regulations and MP Grahame Morris has sponsored an Early Day Motion calling for the topic to be debated in Parliament.
A campaign which could save lives as Government statistics for 2016-17 show that faulty electrical appliances were the second largest cause of accidental house fires in the UK. For example, the Grenfell fire was caused by a faulty appliance.
Andrew Upton, managing director of Seaward, said:
Attention has quite rightly been turned to the cladding on Grenfell Tower but the root cause has not been considered as widely which may prove a costly mistake.
It’s important that we use this opportunity to think carefully about safety standards and make sure landlords and local authorities carry out very basic tests
The campaign is also supported by PAT testing company Hawkesworth, whose UK Operations Director, Michael Kiddle said:
We have seen substantial growth of fake/counterfeit items which without doubt have made their way into rented homes putting lives at risk.
It is vital those items along with standard deteriorating appliances are checked, identified and taken out of service.
Prescribed information provided too soon
A post on the Nearly Legal site reports on a case where a landlord was required by the Council to provide the prescribed information before the deposit money was actually paid over.
The Judge held that this did not comply with the rules as set out in s.213(3) and (5) of the Housing Act 2004 and the claim was dismissed.
This is a County Court case and therefore not binding, but it would be hard for any other judge in a similar case to find differently taking into account the wording of the statute.
So landlords – make sure your prescribed information notices are not served too soon – whatever the Council or deposit payer may say about it.
Although if they are adamant, make sure you protect your position by serving the prescribed information again after the deposit has been paid to you and protected (and within the 30 days time limit).
In support of Council planners
I was pleased to see a couple of articles in support of Council planners who perform an enormously important task. This article by councillor and chartered town planner Ben Rayner about his job and the report of Grand Designs’ Kevin McClouds talk at the Hay Festival about the importance of Town Planners.
they are one of the most responsible jobs in the world. They are hugely important and yet we don’t value them. They’ve had seven years of training and they are so underpaid and poorly respected. We all want to give them a hard time.
We should do more to encourage town planners and indeed all Council experts rather than denigrate them.
As I wrote here shortly after the Grenfell disaster, public service and the role of experienced and qualified council experts is enormously important in assessing projects and ensuring public safety.
- A new planning applications review site has been launched in Wales
- Anyone wanting to follow the Grenfell enquiry will find an archive of hearing videos and transcripts here.
- The government’s court form finder search is moving to the gov.uk website
- The Labour Party is arguing for the deposit cap in the Tenant Fee bill to be reduced to three weeks rent
- Councils in England are to be given new powers to deliver new towns and garden communities