Quite a lot of news to talk about this week so let’s get on with it.
The Tenant Fees Bill
This has had its third reading in the Lords where it was announced by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, the Government’s housing spokesperson there, that it will come into force on 1 June, saying.
It has been clear throughout that this is a Bill that will introduce important changes for the private rented sector.
It is in all our interest to introduce this introduction as soon as possible.
Implementation is subject to the parliamentary timetables and amendments need to be considered in the other place (the House of Commons.)
We need to enable agents and landlords following Royal Assent to become compliant but we intend for the provisions to come into force on June 1st 2019.
This would mean the ban on lettings fees would apply to all tenancies signed after this date.
Government guidance is to be published nearer the time.
Good news for Landlord Law members is that ARLA Propertymark CEO David Cox will be taking our March training webinar where he will bring us all up to date and give guidance.
Bad news for tenants in Kent
Fergus Wilson has announced that he is selling up and has issued eviction notices to 90 households.
As he and his wife are believed to have a property portfolio of between 200 and 700 properties, no doubt he will be issuing a lot more, which will be bad news for the local authority homelessness officers who will have to try to help many of them find alternative accommodation.
The Guardian reports him as saying
“I feel remorse but, at the same time, I am going to have to do it. If I give them six months, so what? Unless somebody is going to rapidly build a lot more houses, where do the people live in the meantime? ”
He admitted that evictions, if they require court action, “can totally ruin their lives”, but said: “I don’t make the problem.” adding “They are not doing very well at finding somewhere to go. If their household income is under £30,000, you can bet your boots they won’t get a property.”
Extra funding for Councils
The Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler, has announced further funding for Councils to crack down on rogue landlords – as a common complaint is that many Councils do nothing about them.
Inevitably people are saying that the funding, around £3,2 million, is not enough, but it is better than nothing.
The main problem many Councils have is that they had to let their best people go during austerity and now have few properly trained staff to carry out the work.
Hopefully, some Councils will be taking on more and giving training to existing staff, and indeed we have had more enquiries and bookings for our in house training services recently. Councils needing professional training can find out more here.
Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary has announced some changes in Universal Credit to make it fairer which you can read about here. The most welcome proposal is to introduce a scheme for direct payment to landlords.
This will go a long way towards encouraging landlords to take in benefit tenants. However, the big problem in the past when direct payments were made to landlords in the past, was clawback when it was found that tenants were not eligible. Councils finding it easier to clawback from landlords than from tenants.
My view has always been that landlords are better off getting tenants to use a credit union ‘jam jar’ account or the Tasker Payment Service which avoids this.
Problems with the homeless and legal aid
I found a worrying post on the William Flack Blog on the issue of legal aid.
He points out:
Legal Aid is supposed to be available for homeless people who need assistance in refusal by a local authority to provide them with accommodation which they are entitled to.
The problem with the means assessment system is that a homeless person who is not receiving a passported benefit or an extremely low wage is likely to be ineligible for assistance. This is because they do not have any housing costs to be deducted from their income when calculating their disposable income.
If they had temporary accommodation which they were liable to pay rent for this rent could be taken into account but once they are homeless there is no housing cost and their disposable income goes up to a level which will often take them over the limit of £733.00 per month.
Flack, who is a legal aid solicitor, gives a real-life example where this problem occured but no doubt there are many others.
- Landlords in Bath should sign up to a new additional licensing scheme introduced there
- The new Landlords Alliance accuses the ICO of not doing its job claiming Councils are breaching Data Protection rules
- Good news in Wales – Self-Build Wales, the Development Bank of Wales will offer loans on pre-agreed plots which will be repayment free until the new home is mortgaged, allowing people to build their new home and cover living costs.
- Sambuca in Italy are selling houses for 1 Euro – but with a condition that you have to do them up. Sounds good though!