As the May bank holiday looms, what news items do we have for you?
New Breathing Space Regulations will come into force on 4 May
You will find details on the government website here. Basically, they give debtors a certain amount of protection – but only if started by an authorised debt adviser.
You may also want to watch the YouTube video below where the rules are explained by solicitor David Smith:
New Fire Safety bill fails to protect leaseholders from fire safety costs
This is a real scandal. Individual homeowners are not responsible for the lack of proper fire safety in their block, this is down to the builders and developers, but MPs have voted for the fifth time against an amendment, supported by Labour, intended to protect leaseholders.
Despite the fact that in February, Boris Johnson told Parliament
No leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects that they didn’t cause and are no fault of their own.
You can find out more about the problem from the End Our Cladding Scandal website and support their call to action. The government has estimated that the cost to leaseholders could be up to £75,000 per leaseholder.
Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivors group, said:
We’re deeply disappointed that ministers have broken their promises to leaseholders who have done absolutely nothing wrong. The government’s position on this is indefensible.
It’s a grave injustice that many innocent leaseholders will be financially ruined over fire safety issues that were not of their own making, while the government is letting those responsible continue to get off scot free.
We, and other fire safety campaign groups, will continue to put pressure on ministers to do the right thing and end this nightmare for hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
Training or Enforcement?
I was interested to see a couple of articles on Property Industry Eye where David Beaumont, managing director at Compliance Matters, discussed ROPA – the forthcoming plan to bring in mandatory training for letting agents.
Beaumont’s view is that this will result in little improvement saying that ROPA is not what it appears to be and that:
we have more regulators than ever in the sector, but there is less and less ‘enforcement’ across the board from local authorities. Mainly because of government cut-backs, funding restrictions and importantly because local authorities do not place agency legislation enforcement high on their consumer protection priority list. That will not miraculously change due to ROPA!
Going on to point out that with money laundering, standards increased not because of new training requirements but because HMRC introduced an active enforcement policy.
Prior to HMRC taking it on compliance was non-existent. Now compliance is every agent’s highest priority. Why? Because HMRC have a pro-active enforcement policy. They visit agents and issue penalties, some very large! It’s not rocket science.
The introduction of a new regulator with new codes of practice will not change the level of enforcement. There is no doubt about that. The enforcement agencies do not have the means or the incentive to increase enforcement. New funding will not miraculously appear for any of these agencies and so compliance will not improve.
In an opinion piece, he points out that RICS and Arla Propertymark are really consumer protection organisations rather than trade bodies for agents. Obviously, they favour ROPA because they will earn huge sums by providing the training.
It is less obvious that this extra training will actually benefit society without proper enforcement of standards.
It looks like Generation Rent may agree with this as they are calling for more enforcement having assessed freedom of information requests to Councils which show that 24% of improvement notices were served where category 1 hazards had been found.
Generation Rent says Police should tackle illegal evictions
This is in the context of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections which are due to take place next year. As we have pointed out several times on this blog, the Police are notorious for failing to support tenants being illegally evicted by their landlords, and often even assist landlords to move the tenants out!
Generation Rent want candidates to:
- pledge to improve training in eviction law,
- record all incidents involving tenants and landlords,
- work closely with councils to prevent unlawful evictions “and bring criminal landlords to justice.”
- call for more council funding to clamp down on illegal evictions.
As Baroness Kennedy says:
Being evicted illegally, often with your belongings dumped on the street is devastating. We have legal protections for renters for a very good reason, but when the Police fail to enforce these and we end up with a tiny minority going to court, renters lose confidence in the law and criminal landlords act with impunity.
May’s elections are an opportunity for police forces up and down the country to reset their attitudes to illegal eviction and make sure that everyone gets the protection they deserve.
A huge improvement generally takes place if police are given proper training as Ben Reeve Lewis reported here.
- The House of Commons briefing paper on affordable housing
- Future of renting? Fund is to buy and let 2,000 properties
- Berlin’s rent cap, though defeated in court, shows how to cool overheated markets
- Should landlords chase rent arrears when Covid ends?
- Consumers need protection as viewings go virtual
- Pilot arrears mediation scheme can help agents deal with backlog of evictions
- Politicians want rent controls – but the facts prove them wrong
- Landlord’s shock after flat is stripped of items by evicted tenant
Newsround will be back next week.