So another Queen’s Speech has come and gone, distinguished of course by the fact that it was the Prince of Wales rather than the actual Queen giving it.
The Queen was represented by the Crown sitting next to him, which I thought was a bit odd and vaguely somehow reminiscent of ‘have I got news for you’.
So what was said?
Not a lot about helping low-income families manage the various cost of living crises. Which makes it far more likely that they will be unable to afford their rent which in turn will cause problems for their landlords.
This is projected to get worse in the Autumn when energy bills are going to go up again. So if you want to keep your tenants, probably not a good time to put up their rent.
A white paper?
A white paper with plans for abolishing section 21 has been on the cards for years and keeps getting pushed back. I see I started writing a series of articles about this back in April 2019.
However, maybe with Mr Gove in the department, it will actually get done.
It looks as if it will include:
- Abolishing ‘no-fault evictions’
- Reforming the grounds for possession to allow landlords to evict non paying and anti social tenants
- Applying the ‘decent homes standard’ to the private rented sector
- Introducing a new ‘Ombudsman’ to deal with disputes
- Introducing a new ‘property portal’
Silence though on the ‘lifetime deposits’ idea, which presumably, on closer investigation, has proved too problematic.
Silence also on the ‘landlords register’ although the ‘property portal’ could be a form of landlords register with another name.
A few comments
The decent homes standard is rather old now and was designed for social housing anyway. Query whether it is suitable for the private sector.
Anyway, we already have plenty of regulations about the condition of rented property. The problem is not regulation. It is enforcement of that regulation.
Local Authorities (who do most of the enforcing) are unable to finance much enforcement work after the massive budget cuts and loss of staff due to Austerity. Meaning bad landlords ‘get away with it’. That’s not the fault of all the other landlords!
An Ombudsman sounds good and hopefully will relieve some of the pressure on our overworked and creaking court system. However, landlords will still presumably need to get a court order for possession so it may be of limited help.
If section 21 is to be abolished, there will need to be very clear guidelines for Judges to follow for anti-social behaviour cases. At the moment, evicting nightmare tenants who make other tenants’ lives a misery is very difficult, can take up to a year or more and is extremely expensive.
The problem is not the notice period you have to give before issuing proceedings, but the fact that when you get to Court (after a very long wait) Judges fail to grant the possession order, preferring instead to give the anti-social tenant ‘another chance’.
What will landlords think?
As far as section 21 is concerned, many landlords have said that if this is abolished, they will sell up and invest in something else. Which is worrying, as many landlords have already done this – particularly in Wales, where new rules are due to come into force in July. Which reduces the housing stock available to tenants, pushing up rents.
The view of the NRLA, though, is that abolishing s21 is OK so long as the process for recovering possession
- Against tenants in arrears of rent
- Where there is anti-social behaviour, and
- If they want their property back to sell
is improved and made workable. If that is done, they don’t have a problem. Pointing out that these are the main reasons landlords evict tenants anyway.
As NRLA CEO Ben Beadle said (in a quote I am unable to find) – most landlords don’t just sit around trying to find ways to evict their tenants for no reason.
In fact, most landlords want tenants to stay as long as possible – so long as they pay rent and comply with their legal obligations.
A warning about over-regulation
One point which I hope that the government is taking on board is that if landlords feel that they are overregulated, and their right to evict non-paying and anti-social tenants taken away, many of them will just sell up. As many are already doing.
After all, ordinary people (and most private sector landlords are ordinary people) don’t HAVE to be landlords.
And although those properties will still exist, they will (unless bought by another landlord) no longer be around for low-income families to rent.
So, where will those families live? Much of the social housing stock has already been sold off under the Right to Buy (and Boris is threatening to introduce this for housing associations too).
I hope the government has a plan for this ….