The big news of this week is the Government’s White Paper. I watched the introduction and statement in the House of Commons on the telly (as I happened to be having my lunch at the time).
There were a lot of questions and it is a hot topic.
About the White Paper
I hope to be doing a dedicated blog post on this in due course but on reading it through briefly I did not find a lot about actual landlords (who are mostly ‘small landlords’) and landlord & tenant law.
Most of the paper, quite rightly I suppose, is all about building more houses, and I’m pleased that they are looking to encourage alternative building methods.
However, I get the feeling that what they really want is for private sector companies to build properties to rent on longer tenancies. Nice hope but at the moment that isn’t happening.
At the moment the majority of landlords are small landlords who mostly let on 6 or 12-month terms due to
- Fears about difficulties in evicting bad or non-paying tenants during the fixed term as section 21 is not available until the fixed term is ended, and
- A ban on longer terms imposed by their mortgage companies
The white paper did not appear to mention either of these. But if the Government want ordinary landlords to let on longer fixed terms – these issues will have to be dealt with or it won’t happen.
A damp squib
Generally, the feeling I get from reading about the White Paper is that it is viewed as a bit of a damp squib.
For example, this writer on the Telegraph is scathing about the lack of decent properties being built, especially for older people, the taxes which discourage people moving and the dire state of conveyancing at the moment. The White paper does not really address any of these.
I say that anything which can help the public differentiate a good firm from a bad one has to be a good idea.
Although, as per my post here, even a seemingly good firm can turn out to be unsatisfactory.
In 2015 the Deregulation Act 2015 brought in new laws which prevented landlords from evicting tenants under s21 where the Council had served an improvement notice.
However, a Newsbeat report indicates that this is ‘not working’ as surveys show that Councils are not taking any action. The report has a video showing properties in a dire state of repair, whose tenants are terrified to complain as they are worried about being evicted and becoming homeless.
Nothing can excuse the properties shown in the report. However at least one of the tenancies reported started before the Deregulation Act rules came into force on 1 October 2015 – so that tenant would not be protected under it.
We may have to wait a while for the new rules to take effect.
Also under the Housing and Planning Bill, Councils will be able to keep more of the fines and costs, which (when this comes into force) is expected to encourage cash strapped Councils take more action.
So although I agree that the new laws are maybe over complex and little understood by tenants – it may be too soon to damn them completely.
Tax changes – lobby your MP
A post on Property Industry Eye warns that landlords should not ‘sleep-walk’ into the new tax rules and suggests that MPS should do more to lobby their MPs.
As many MPs are landlords they should already be aware of the new rules, but no harm in reminding them – you can do this online here.
Note that Easy Law Training will be running a Tax Workshop in April – watch out for more news of this, probably next week.
Doing it properly
It was nice to see Penny Anderson back in the Guardian, banging the drum for tenants rights.
The big problems, says Penny, are insecurity, society’s view of renting (not a favour or a gift) and no proper rent controls.
I don’t agree with everything she says, but it really needs to be said. Often. Tenants need to have spokespersons speaking up for their rights.
Particularly as most of the actual tenants suffering from bad landlords are scared to say anything in case they are evicted (see above).
An interesting post on Property Industry Eye here considers automation in the property industry and predicts that it will have a dramatic effect on jobs.
In point of fact, automation will not just affect jobs in the property Industry but all jobs, particularly middle class ‘white collar’ jobs.
Something for young people to think about when choosing a career. Try to pick something which cannot be done by robots or by automated systems.
What made me smile this week
This lovely story about the geese who visit the Belfast Skankill housing estate every year and who have become ‘part of the community’.
Newsround will be back next week.