Quite a few news items this week so lets get on with it.
New government guides
As you may have seen reported elsewhere, the government has issued three new guides:
- How to let
- How to rent
- How to rent a safe home, and
- (For long leases) How to lease
The new edition of the How to Rent booklet is significant for landlords as you need to prove that you have given this to your tenant as a condition of being able to use the section 21 ground for eviction.
So you need to give the new guide now for all new tenancies and also give it to tenants when a tenancy is renewed. If you are looking to use section 21 it may also be a good idea to serve it on your tenants anyway the day before you serve your notice, just so they can’t say they haven’t had it.
If you are a landlord, it may also be a good idea to have a quick read of the guides, but frankly you should already know everything in them.
You will find the guides linked from here.
New Think Tank report
- Ending or severely curtailing tax breaks for buy-to-let and private landlords,
- A stronger role for local councils and
- Major reform of the planning system to allow communities rather than developers to lead the process.
It calls for government intervention in the housing market, including giving London councils the power to limit foreign ownership, saying
We need to change the balance between the rented sector and home ownership, We should protect existing landlords but discourage more people from investing in rental property, because the buy-to-let boom has bid up prices and reduced homeownership among younger people.
I don’t think there is huge objection to the reform of the planning system suggestions, or even a stronger role for councils (provided they are properly funded).
However the assertion that the taxation system favours landlords has been challenged by the RLA who say the report is fundamentally wrong in its analysis of private rented housing – and the number of buy-to-let mortgages is falling, not rising. David Smith, their policy director saying
Today’s report is riddled with errors and fails to address the fundamental point that we need more homes to rent, not less.
Rather than coming out with ideological assaults on the private rented sector, we need to reform tax so that it encourages the development of new homes to rent and longer tenancies so that the sector can adequately provide the pathway for tenants to go from renting to home ownership.
Needless to say the desire to create more home owners is driven by the parties obsessive belief that home ownership = Tory voter and so creating more home owners will increase their chances at the next election.
However notwithstanding the report’s dubious claims as regards the benefits or otherwise of increasing landlord taxation, it does have some good ideas, which have been overshadowed by the tax dispute. For example
It argues that planning permission for a hectare of agricultural land can add as much as £2.5m to its value. If the community could benefit from some of the increase, the report argues, it could be used to pay for the kind of services and infrastructure that new developments sometimes lack.
Instead of piecemeal development, it recommends that councils should have the power to put together land and create new settlements with services. It looks across Europe, where most local authorities have strong powers to initiate and shape development and link it to public transport.
However as we hear reports that Councils are on the point of bankruptcy, this will have to be resolved before they can take on any more responsibilities.
New report backs social housing
A major report from the CIH is calling for more social housing has been published.
The report says that following a Mori poll, social housing has strong public support, saying for example that:
- More than six out of 10 people across England support more social housing being built in their area
- 80 per cent of people agree that social housing is important because it helps people on lower incomes get housing which wouldn’t be affordable in the private rented sector
- 78 per cent agree that social housing should be available to people who cannot afford the cost of renting privately, as well as to the most vulnerable
- 68 per cent agree that social housing plays in important role in tackling poverty in Britain
- 65 per cent of people agree that the negative view of the people that live in social housing is unfair.
Recommendations include suspending the right to buy and linking rents to local incomes.
CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said:
The message we got from our research was loud and clear – social housing has a unique and positive role to play and it is highly valued.
It’s also clear there is a huge disparity between the support for social housing demonstrated in this report and the current level of investment. …
Ultimately, we cannot call ourselves a civilised society if we are failing to provide a safe, decent and affordable home for everyone who needs one.
Housing Legal Aid win
You may remember that I wrote a few weeks ago about a challenge to the governments new plans for housing legal aid schemes in courts brought by the Law Centres Network.
Well tenants will be pleased to hear that the challenge was sucessful and the Judge accepted the Networks’ arguments against the new plans to drastically consolidate the scheme and introduce price competition.
According to Andrews’ judgment, the justification given to ministers for the proposed changes – that small schemes were already proving to be unsustainable and providers were pulling out because they were not earning enough from the HPCD work – was not evidence-based and was ‘based on assumption or conjecture or, at most, “anecdotal” evidence from a handful of un-named providers’.
Andrews added: ‘In this case, I regret to say that the evidence falls a long way short of demonstrating that any minister (in person) gave due regard to the equality impact of the proposed changes.
‘There is a real risk that in consequence of the restructuring of scheme areas, clients using the HPCD service will no longer have the same access to the “wrap around” services that are not covered by legal aid and which may make all the difference to whether they end up homeless and destitute, that is something that the ministers should have been made aware of, and should have given due regard.’
You will find a report on the case here.
- The Mayor of London launches a new affordable property portal
- A record fine of £400,000 has been imposed on Lincoln landlord Bijan Keshmiri for a total of 28 offences incuding fire safety and disrepair issues.
- The RLA reports here on plans to consult on a new Housing Court which was one of their ‘key asks’ before the last election.
- More funding has been announced for cheaper housing in England
- A private tenant who illegally sublet a property to 35 men has been jailed for illegal eviction after changing the locks and refusing to allow them back in
- The number of people leaving London, particularly those in their 30s an 40s has reached its highest level
Newsround wil be back next week.