Still more new legislation on its way. First
The Tenant Fees Bill has now passed through Parliament
It just needs the royal assent and so is certain to come into law. We are told this is to be 1 June.
David Cox, Chief Executive, ARLA Propertymarksaid:
The tenant fees ban is now an inevitability, and agents need to start preparing for a post-tenant fees world.
At a recent webinar, he also warned that agents who ignore the bill and continue charging fees will be heavily fined and could be bankrupted. He also said
We’re expecting the guidance to say that as long as the tenancy continues after the introduction of the ban, you won’t be expected to retrospectively give back two or three weeks of the deposit.
If you’re signing the contracts today or in the next few days, you can continue charging fees for a period of 12 months after the ban comes into force – so the last date of chargeable fees for existing tenancies will be May 31, 2020.
So far as earning commission for selling products, such as insurance to tenants, is concerned, he confirmed that this is permissible so long as they are optional, saying
If they’re a condition of the tenancy, they’ll be a prohibited charge, but if they’re optional, that’s absolutely fine as it’s the tenant’s choice to take that out
His advice to tenants who need to make up the income was to charge landlords for services they currently provide for free, saying
Landlords take agents for granted and I think it’s time to tell your landlords the amount of work you actually do for them
Landlords to be required to join a Redress Scheme
The Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has announced plans for a new Housing Complaints Resolution Service in an overhaul of our ‘broken housing complaints system’.
This will cover the entire housing market including both homeowners and tenants. For example
From broken boilers to cracks in the wall, the new Housing Complaints Resolution Service will potentially help millions by providing a straight-forward way of getting help when faced with unresolved disputes about problems with their home – such as repairs and maintenance.
Pointing out that the housing market currently has several different complaints bodies for homeowners and tenants and a complicated and bureaucratic system
Establishing a single housing complaints service for all residents – no matter whether they rent or own their home – will prevent people from battling with their landlord or builder to resolve issues on their own and make it easier to claim compensation where it’s owed.
For the first time, private landlords will be required to join a scheme – with a fine of up to £5,000 if they fail to do so. There will also be a New Homes Ombudsman for home buyers.
It looks though as if the new service will mainly be a single point of access (perhaps a website?) for consumers to use when ‘in house’ complaint processes have not resolved the problem and that any current schemes will remain to provide alternative dispute resolution. So reading between the lines I suspect that the existing TPO and Property Redress Schemes are unlikely to be replaced or closed down.
The scandal of benefit payments to banned landlords
The Guardian has once again written about the scandal of convicted rogue landlords continuing to be paid benefit by Councils using their properties to house tenants.
The use the example of Bernard McGowan, believed to own a £30m property empire, who has been convicted six times under the housing legislation. However, a FOI request has revealed that he has been paid more than £500,000 from the same Council which banned him.
The fines that he was ordered to pay, fall far short of the income that he is receiving, although the article indicates that he may be outsourcing the management of his properties.
Property Industry Eye reports a Council spokesman saying that while it has powers to fine McGowan and remove his licence, the housing benefit payments to him cannot be stopped due to how Government legislation is written:
The reason he is still permitted to receive housing benefit payments while being barred as a licence holder is related to central Government legislation. We are calling on the Government to change this.
Benefit regulations are different from those covering licensing, and it is possible for different decisions to be made under the different legislation.
From the housing benefit side, regardless of whether the property is correctly licensed, there is a legitimate rental liability, and so there is a duty for the council to pay housing benefit.
You can watch McGowan getting into the wrong car while trying to escape the Guardian reporters here.
Pressure builds to scrap Right to Buy
Freedom of information requests having confirmed what we knew already – that up to 40% of properties sold to council tenants are now owned by private landlords – there are renewed calls on Government to scrap the right to buy.
Millions of pounds are now being paid by local authorities to rent properties they once owned and some councils have bought these back at more than six times the amount they were forced to sell them for.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said:
Social housing is more affordable and more secure than private renting, and provides much-needed stability for those at risk of homelessness. It is unacceptable to see what little social housing options are available are being removed.
What we need to see from the government going forward is suspension of the right-to-buy while it invests to build the 90,000 social homes needed in England each year to keep up with demand.
- The London Mayor is looking to introduce rent controls across London, despite warnings from the Industry that it has not worked in the past
- A landlord has lost his case for compensation against his freeholder after a fire damaged flats
- An IT meltdown is currently causing chaos in the Courts with thousands of cases disrupted and delayed
Newsround will be back next week.