Another week another news post.
Perhaps one of the most welcome news items is about the Universal Credit helpline. Government is scrapping the charges for this which can apparently be up to 55p per minute on mobile phones.
The new Universal Credit system has brought forth a clamour of complaints about the hardship caused mainly by the waiting period before payments start – with dramatic increases in rent arrears and evictions following its implementation.
The justification for this is apparently that when you start work you have to wait a while for your first paycheck so payment for UC is lining up with this so you will not lose out when you start work.
However in view of problems that are occurring (and the enormous publicity being given to them), its seems that ministers are now giving “serious thought” to cutting the initial waiting period for payments from six to four weeks around the time of next month’s Budget.
I mentioned a number of consultations in my last newsround. It seems that there are now a few more.
Entitled ‘Protecting Consumers in the Letting and Managing Agent Market this call for evidence is for both letting agent regulation and for regulation regarding the problems associated with long leases.
The consultation paper looks at how regulation could work and the regulatory bodies needed.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid said the consultation is
‘part of my drive to deliver transparency and fairness for the growing number of renters and leaseholders. Our proposed changes to regulate the industry will give landlords, renters and leaseholders the confidence they need to know that their agents must comply with the rules’.
About time too. The consultation is here and will end on 29 November.
I suspect it could be serious for agents bearing in mind that they are also losing their income from letting fees to tenants. Certainly this is a tough time to be an agent.
While in Wales
There is a consultation on the proposed regulations for determining if a property is fit for human habitation.
You will find this consultation here and it will end on 12 January 2918.
Energy Performance Minimum Standards
We have known this is coming for a long time and government has now finally published some guidance.
All landlords, with a few exceptions, will need to ensure that either their properties have an EPC band E or higher, or are able to claim an exemption.
The main exemption will be that you cannot get funding for improvement works – as you are only required to do the work if it is fully funded.
However just being able to claim an exemption is not enough – you will also need to register this on the National PRS Exemptions Register which, when it is up and running, you will find linked from here.
These rules are due to come in (for new or renewed tenancies) on 1 April 2018 – just five months away – so if your properties do not meet the standard you should give this your urgent attention.
News from the NALS conference
A report here on Property Industry Eye on the NALS conference yesterday indicates that the enforcement of the database of rogue landlords will come into force in April but not the letting agent fee ban, although draft legislation is expected ‘shortly’.
There will be another consultation, also to be published shortly on the introduction of mandatory Client Money Protection. Good.
Lambeth County Court
When I worked in London, a long time ago, Lambeth was my local court and I spend many hours there (not necessarily happy ones though).
Lambeth is one of the courts due to close but it appears that the management of this has been exceptionally cack-handed with no-one seeming to know where cases are being referred to and parties being sent contradictory notices.
The full sorry story is explained on Nearly Legal. As he says, all this will probably cost some people their homes.
Susan Acland-Hood CEO of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, with responsibility for delivery of its major modernisation programme has subsequently tweeted
“I apologise to all those who have been affected by the confusion here. Not acceptable and we will learn lessons.
Which sounds a bit inadequate, to say the least. As Nearly Legal says:
While it is nice that this is a learning opportunity for HMCTS, this is about people potentially losing their home because of ‘the confusion’ (which, I presume, we must read as a euphemism for the complete failure over 2 years to make adequate arrangements, changing the situation at a few days notice and the strange belief that Stratford is anywhere near Lambeth or Southwark).
Ms Acland-Hood has (an official) blog here.
Bad News for Billionaires
Over the past few years, many billionaires have been buying bolt holes in New Zealand seeing this as a safe haven.
However, it looks as if this may have to end as the new Labour PM has just announced a ban on selling properties to foreigners.
Why can’t we do something like that here?
What made me smile this week
I have just seen this report in the Guardian about Sadiq Khan’s plan to increase the rate of affordable house building in London.
I’m glad someone is on the case.