Well, its been a bit of a week. We have all these new reports with threatened changes – but are any of them going to happen with a new government?
All the ministers who put them on course are now gone.
So maybe we had better look first at who we have got.
The New Ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Let’s start at the top:
Robert Jenrick – Secretary of State for the department
He is not that well known, although the information page says he has been an MP since 2014 (Newark) and that he has been Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. He is a solicitor and before entering Parliament he practised corporate law and then had a ‘business career’ mainly it seems at Christie’s the art business.
So no background in housing work. Although, being a solicitor, presumably he will have some understanding of land law, leases and the law of agency. According to Property Industry Eye, he owns several houses so presumably is a landlord.
Esther McVey – Minister of State
She is considerably better known. She is a law graduate and has worked as a broadcaster and journalist. For example, she presented and produced programs for the BBC and Channel 4. She also has her own business setting up office space for new startups and established the ‘biggest women’s network in the North West. Which I have to say all sounds pretty impressive.
It’s not clear what her role will be though as the space under the ‘responsibilities’ title is blank. Although many are describing her as the Minister for Housing.
Heather Wheeler – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
She, of course, has been in role since 9 January 2018 which, compared to her colleagues, is a very long time. She was at least getting to know her brief so will provide some continuity and will be able to tell her more senior colleagues what has been going on.
** I have now learned that over the weekend Heather Wheeler has been moved to the Foreign Office so the whole team has now changed.
The effects of change
What the effect of such a big change in ministers will be in a Ministry which is introducing so many new policies and regulations is hard to say. Will it be business as before or will they change tack?
There are currently some ten to eleven consultations running just now on various issues ranging from social housing, a review of the rogue landlord database, redress schemes, to the proposed abolition of section 21. It will be interesting to see what these new brooms do with them. Assuming they remain in the Ministry cupboard long enough to see the consultations completed, that is.
So, let us now take a look at
The Section 21 Consultation
Or, to use its official title ‘A new deal for renting: resetting the balance of rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants’.
The introductory summary tells us
This consultation seeks views on implementing the government’s decision to remove Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and improving section 8 eviction grounds.
So, no ambiguity there then. Although does this mean anything when the government which commissioned it has gone? We will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, though all in the Industry should read the report and if it affects your business, put in a response. You have until 11.45 pm on 12 October to do so. By then we should have some idea of whether this new government is committed to this or not.
Housing Law in Wales update
If you live or rent property in Wales, things are set to become very different. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act was passed by the Welsh Assembly back in 2016 but so far has not come into force. When it does it will bring very substantial changes and the gap between Welsh and English housing law will widen considerably.
It looks as if this may not be that far off although David Smith in an interesting article here thinks that the Welsh government will have a tough job getting all the new legislation and guidance documents ready.
If you want to know what the act is about, this is what David has to say about it:
Renting Homes brings a radical change to the renting regime in Wales and will leave it entirely unlike England. Renting Homes gets rid of Assured and Assured Shorthold tenancies under the Housing Act 1988, secure tenancies under the Housing Act 1985 and residential licences, replacing them with standard and secure contracts. This change is intended to happen for all such tenancies, new and existing, on the date it comes into force.
Tenants will have to be given a written tenancy agreement which will contain a great deal of standard wording and the changes permitted to that will be very limited.
The possession regime is also entirely different and tenants have a great deal more rights in terms of changing tenancy and giving up possession early.
Finally, the repairing requirements on landlords are far greater and tenants will be entitled to make claims where the property has any HHSRS category 1 hazard, which is a considerably greater level of obligation than is available in England, even after the passing of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.
You will find another article by David for Local Government Lawyer here.
The new legislation coming out of Wales which IS likely to come into force is the Welsh version of the Tenant Fees Act which is scheduled to come into force on 1 September. Again, if you want to find out more, David has an article here.
I have to say that I have reservations about the splintering of our laws between regions. However good the Welsh laws are, it’s bound to cause more confusion – many landlords of Welsh properties are actually from England and I suspect will have no idea that this is happening. Its also going to be pretty tough on letting agents in the border country who will probably have to obtain two qualifications. Unless they deal with Welsh and English properties in different departments.
Finally, I was interested to read here that Oxford City Council has won £150,000 from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to improve energy efficiency in the PRS.
They are apparently one of six pilot areas to enforce the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES). I can’t immediately find any information about where the other five pilot areas are to be.
The question which springs to mind though is – does this mean that the MEES are not going to be enforced anywhere else?
- Agents are warned that data breaches could prove very expensive with penalties of £80,000 or more.
- Review of the Rogue Landlords database could add a new range of offences
- Alternative deposit company Flatfair has partnered up with mydeposits
- The London Mayor demands new powers to bring rents down
- Government accused of prolonging the housing crisis by failing to sell enough landlord for affordable social housing
- Agents warned to check they are signed up with the correct redress scheme after firm fined £3,000 in slipup over membership