Our roundup of news items over the past week. This week we look at the Autumn budget, consider Labours comments on the delayed White Papers on the Renters Reform Bill and discuss proposals to improve the EPC rating of rented properties.
Government Budget allocates £324m for court funding
In last weeks budget announcement, it was revealed that the Government are allocating £324 million towards updating the court system, in light of the recent issues caused by the pandemic.
Around £200 million will be spent on upgrading court technology in a bid to speed up the hearing of cases. Hopefully, this will help clear the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic.
Government to consider expanding dispute resolution in eviction cases
Geoffrey Vos, head of civil justice in the court system wants to expand dispute resolution in a plan to speed up evictions and other types of litigation.
Vos, in a speech made in Dublin last week said landlords could be forced to go through dispute resolution before taking court action, rather than it just being seen as an alternative.
At the start of the pandemic, much of the court system had to close. Within the PRS, the eviction ban and increased notice period , combined with the closing of the court system, has caused a mass backlog of cases. Dispute resolution is seen as a partial solution for the backlog, as a way for many cases to be solved and resolutions found before it even reaches court. This will likely be funded by the allocation in the above report.
Propertymark has welcomed this, but commented that dispute resolution is more successful if it is done early in the dispute process.
Labour Joins call for scrapping of section 21
Labour has joined Generation Rent and Shelter in calling for the earliest end of section 21. It was hoped by these two groups that plans of scrapping section 21 would be revealed this autumn in the governments promised white paper. However, the Government has now said this would be delayed until 2022.
Sem Moema, Labour’s London Assembly housing spokesperson said:
No fault evictions not only unjustly uproot the lives of too many families and individuals, but add to the insurmountable pressures already being placed upon councils.
It was reported that between April 2019 and March 2021, councils across England had to support around 91,000 tenants from eviction.
With that being said, Propertymark have since welcomed the delay in the scrapping of section 21, saying that it is concerned with what will replace section 21 and the impact it will have on present and future landlords.
Timothy Douglas, head of campaigns at propertymark argued that the delay was inevitable as due to:
the significance of the proposals, it is only right that the government do not rush into making large-scale reforms to the private rented sector in England without taking the time to develop them properly
£330 billion needed to reach Government EPC targets
The Estate Agent Savills estimate that for the Government to reach its target for all rented properties to have an EPC certificate rating of ‘C’ by 2035, the cost will be around £330 billion. That is far greater than the amount provided through Government funding, so, they say, a more radical approach is called for.
The cost of upgrading a home with an EPC D to C rating has been estimated at around £6,472 – but with an average annual cost saving of £179, it will take 36 years to pay back the initial investment according to the English Housing Survey.
Savills advise the Government that, especially in older houses with usually a much lower EPC rating ,to offer ‘discounts and surcharges on property-specific taxes such as stamp duty and council tax’ as a way to incentivise getting energy efficiency improvements
On Landlord Law Blog we have recently been publishing Green Support grants and funding offered by local councils in order for homeowners to make improvements to their properties. You will be able to find them via the index on the pages, for example here.
Figures reveal over 100,000 properties are let illegally
Property Tech company Kamma say that over 100,000 properties in the UK are being let illegally because they fail to meet EPC rating requirements.
Kamma is also critical of a recent government initiative to give funding to 59 councils to help improve standards – ignoring, the firm says, 281 other councils that collectively account for 78 per cent, or 83,208 of non-compliant properties.
With properties being one of the main drivers of UK emission, Kamma is questioning the use of public funds. However, they agree that the Government’s announcement of grants helping lower-income properties receive energy-efficient heat pumps is a huge step in the right direction.
The greatest amount of non-compliant PRS properties is in Cornwall with around 3,693 properties, with Birmingham (2,119 properties) and Liverpool (1,803 properties) close behind.
But is it possible to improve the energy rating of all properties?
Solicitor David Smith has commented that the proposed suggestion that landlords be required to bring their properties up to an EPC rating of C will affect around half of the buy to let sector, and that it may be impossible for some properties:
The approach taken by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in their proposal is difficult to understand as it fails to take into consideration the reality of properties in the UK.
There are some new build properties which do not meet the new requirement of a band C EPC and older properties which will never be able to meet it, regardless of the owners’ best efforts and intentions.
There is also the question of how to manage the removal of properties from the sector. The BEIS proposals do not recognise that energy inefficiency is unequally distributed.
For example, rural areas often have older properties with lower levels of energy efficiency which are also harder to upgrade. There is a risk that there will be drastic losses of private rented property in specific parts of the country with nothing available to replace it.
A worrying thought.
Newsround will be back next week.