The call for evidence on the renters reform bill has now been published. The report was informed by the opinions of the wide range of industry representatives.
The report shares recommendations from cross party levelling up, housing and communities committees. These are now suggestions that will be taken forward within the white paper.
Addressing affordability issues.
There is a huge amount of concerns now in the industry about people not being able to afford their rent. There has been a 25% drop in supply volumes in the past 3 years and figures indicate this may be an increasing issue in the sector.
Due to the huge amount of increase legalisation that has caused landlords costs to rise as more rules come into play. Including upgrades to properties. The renters reform bill and proposed new energy performance certificate requirements may see landlords profits squeezed even further. Ultimately forcing them to sell up and those remaining to increase their rental figures.
It is important that people recognise the affordability issues in the private rented sector. The committee recommends a review of the current tax resume for landlords in the buy to let sector. The goal to be making investing in this sector more financially attractive to more landlords.
Some of the suggestions are:
- Further clarifying the role of the property redress scheme to understand the value of Government places and smaller portfolios.
- Realigning housing benefit with the 30th percentile in each broad rental market area to ensure it covers the tenants housing costs.
- Implementing the tourism accommodation registration scheme in England as soon as possible.
Giving landlords more security has also been discussed.
The report recognised the introduction of periodic tenancies should strike a balance between security of tenure for tenants and a agree of security for landlords. The recommendations are at a requirement for tenants to wait at least four months before they can give two months notice. This will give the landlord a legal six months rent from the outskirt of the tenancy.
Fixed term tenancies for students.
The report proposes that fixed term tenancies should stay in place across the whole of the housing sector for students.
Landlords will therefore be required to sign the existing codes of conduct. The report advises that there is an alternative of creating one single national code. Financial penalties may also be introduced for landlords that try to use this exception to rent to non-students.
Court processes and section 21.
The report highlights the necessity working with landlords on adapting the court process before abolishing the section 21. This is to ensure that landlords have the confidence in the system.
It suggests creating a specialist housing court to unblock the process. This would then have better prioritisation and fast tracking claims of rent arrears and anti-social behaviour.
There are proposals for more changes to the section 8.
The reports recommends strengthening further section 8 grounds for sales or occupation. It proposes;
- Increasing the notice period that landlords have to give when gaining possession of the sale or occupied property to 4 months.
- Extending the amount of time that must pass in the tenancy before grounds can be applied, from 6 months to 1 year.
- Increasing the notice period from 2 months to 4 months.
- Not allowing landlords to remarketing or relet the property within 6 months of the grounds being exercised.
- Encouraging landlords to sell the property to the sitting tenants.
The report also advises that ground 14, which addresses anti-social behaviour, should become mandatory. This includes more guidance to define anti-social behaviour and under certain circumstances possession to be granted.
A realistic decent homes standard.
This currently only applies to social housing sector to ensure homes are of a decent standard. There is a call to introduce a legally binding decent homes standards to the PRS.
The report states that the Government plans to “provide a suitable time table for implantation” giving landlords time to make relevant upgrades. They will also consider a gap on associated costs to meet state of repair and reasonable modern facilities and services. Together with a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
This will all increase landlords costs.
The scope on the ombudsman.
An ombudsman currently exists for letting agents to mediate complaints that tenants may have. However, no ombudsman exists to mediate directly between landlords and tenants in the PRS.
The housing ombudsman for social housing associates recently suggested that the new ombudsman should cover both social and private rented sectors, with the same level of potential compensation to tenants.
The report proposes replacing current letting agents schemes with a “single ombudsman covering all letting agents and landlords” to avoid confusion and to streamline the dispute process.
Decent home standards will be extending to apply to both sectors, monitoring and addressing complaints throughout the industry through a single ombudsman that can also deal with enforcements.
The property portal.
The bill proposes for a new property portal aims for all property documents to be hosted on the online space, to create more visibility for industry state holders.
How the portal will work at this moment in time nobody understands. It is believed that a unique property reference numbers are likely to be deployed to match relevant documents such as deposit and electrical certificates and to monitor compliance.
The report states that other items should be included in the portal such as gas and electrical safety certificates and reports and other reports generated by trades people such as any performance data, details of the ombudsman and deposit protection scheme membership.
The report highlights the need to digitise all the information. Financial penalties for false or misleading information would also be introduced.
The report suggests that the Government should abandon its plan to legislate that landlords cant unreasonably withhold consent. However, they want to define the word unreasonably. The report calls for the Government to explain how it will stop landlords from banning tenants on benefits.
The Government are trying to streamline as many issues as possible without realising what the consequences could be. The Government are very keen to push this bill through as quickly as possible but again the detail is so small and confusing it hasn’t yet got a defined direction in which it is going. We will give further updates.
Mark Harrington proprietor to Harringtons Lettings