The first Newsround of the New Year.
Well since the last Newsround post we have had a new Queen’s Speech which confirmed that new housing legislation is on its way which will include the removal of section 21 no-fault evictions.
But I have a separate post planned on that. I have also already written about the Minister’s desire to encourage pets in rented property, so lets take a look at some of the other news items.
£4 Millon for Enforcement
An announcement that the government is to fund over 100 councils with 4 million pounds to help them crack down on criminal landlords seems to have been universally condemned as not being enough.
However, it is some funding and it is interesting to read what they are going to use it for. The announcement mentions
- encouraging positive landlord/tenant/local authority relationships, particularly with vulnerable groups such as care leavers
- the need for better information – on housing stock, and on landlords and agents operating in their areas
- data sharing between authorities and agencies – identifying and bringing together different data sets to enable better enforcement targeting which protects the most vulnerable tenants
- internal ‘ways of working’ – improving housing-specific legal expertise, in-house communication between teams, and tools and strategies to effectively implement policy
- innovative software – for enforcement officers to record their findings, gather evidence and streamline the enforcement process
It’s good the government is starting to think in this way. For too long nothing has been done about enforcement and Councils have been starved of cash to do anything. Hopefully, this will now start to be reversed.
A Justice System ‘on its knees’
The Law Society has called for the government to do something about our justice system – which has seen the most savage cuts of all departments during austerity. Calling for the restoration of legal aid for early advice in housing and family matters, a rise in criminal legal aid fees and a guarantee of no future real-terms cuts, and an increase in the legal aid means test.
Law Society vice president David Greene described the justice system as ‘being on its knees’ saying
Years of underfunding have led to crumbling courts, a crisis in criminal justice and growing numbers of vulnerable people refused legal aid and unable to enforce their rights
CBA chair Caroline Goodwin QC said:
There is no option left for any government but to invest properly and substantially in the criminal justice system from end to end. To do anything less would be criminally reckless with all our lives – rich or poor, state or private, we are all in this together.
Housing is just one of many areas to have suffered seriously – with justice denied to tenants due to the lack of legal aid and problems with landlord possession claims due to massive delays in the courts.
There is also a problem with the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme which provides much-needed emergency advice to tenants being evicted at court. However, with an effective payment rate of £37.50 an hour, it is not commercially viable for law firms to do this work.
Over 400,000 Empty Homes
A Freedom of Information request to all UK local councils has shown that as at September last year there were 617,527 empty properties, of which 445,310 were residential properties and 172,217 were commercial.
Liverpool City Council had the most, recording 11,073 empty residential properties, followed by Manchester with 10,531.
Bradford has the highest number of commercial properties currently empty, with 7,908 business premises currently unoccupied,
For more details see the article.
However, it looks as if Birmingham is at least starting to do something about it as this report reports that Birmingham City Council has seized seven residential houses from their owners after they have each stood vacant for more than 10 years.
The properties will now be sold leasehold at auction, with the requirement that new owners bring them back into use within twelve months.
- The RLA research arm Pearl is seeking feedback on Rent Smart Wales.
- The newly updated Nearly Legal blog reports on a case on Property Guardians and Rent Repayment Orders.
- Foxtons announces it will change its car fleet to electric vehicles
- Landlords are warned that new MEES regulations come into force in April
- Scotland and Bristol move to regulate Airbnb
- Criminal sub-letter linked to cannabis farms jailed for seven years
- Manchester lettings agent ‘drops rogue landlord’ after protest outside office
Newsround will be back next week.