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Our round-up of news items over the past week. This week we look at issues of second homes and holiday lets in Wales, as well as the new updates to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm regulations.

Welsh Government considering rent controls

Labour and Plaid Cymru in 2021 have created an informal coalition to push forward on policies that they both agree on. So far as the private housing sector is concerned, they have two crucial points of reform: increased limits on second homes and rent control.

The National Residental Landlords Association has issued a statement saying:

Evidence from across the world shows rent controls do not work.They make it harder for renters to find an affordable home, encourage rent rises, see housing conditions deteriorate and can lead to a reduction in the overall number of homes to let as landlords leave the market. We would encourage the Welsh Government to resist any moves to introduce them.

Section 21 cases drop over the past two years reveals data

Analysis of Government data by the NRLA has revealed that section 21 possession cases made in the third quarter of this year are down 55% on the number of cases in the same quarter in 2019. This is surprising considering the ‘eviction ban’ which was lifted in England on the 1st of August 2021. It has also been revealed that only 1 in 10 tenancies end because the landlord asked the tenant to leave.

At present, it can take an average of almost 59 weeks from a private landlord making a claim to repossess a property to it actually happening.

This is despite the rhetoric surrounding landlords currently that they are eagerly waiting for their tenants to slip up and evict them!

However:

Cuts to legal aid puts tenants at risk

An article in the Financial Times looks at the problem of ‘advice deserts’ following cuts in legal aid, following a Westminster Commission on Legal Aid who produced a report in October.  The report found that

  • There has been a continued and gradual decline in access to justice with increasing numbers of people across England and Wales unable to access legal advice when they need it.
  • It seems likely that this need will increase as we emerge from the pandemic, rebuild our communities and ‘level up’.
  • This decline in access to justice has a number of causes including the areas of law taken out of the scope of legal aid, firms and organisations leaving legal aid and difficulties recruiting and retaining lawyers in civil and criminal legal aid.

Overall, we found that the service being provided to the public is not sufficient and the legal aid profession as it stands is not sustainable.

This arguably results in more expensive outcomes for the state (as the cost of rehousing a family can be huge). The House of Commons justice committee has also produced a report in July calling for fundamental changes to civil legal aid and it looks as if a new pilot scheme may start next year.

The FT article looks at the work of a legal caseworker and is worth reading (you may need to answer a marketing questionnaire to gain access to it though).

In the meantime, if you are a tenant facing eviction proceedings click here.

Important update on the Carbon Monoxide and Fire alarm Regulation

There is a significant update to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm regulations following a consultation in the past few months. While the update contains significant changes for social landlords too, the following are the most important changes that private landlords should take note of:

  • you will be obliged to ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room in homes with a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers)
  • in any home, when a new fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers) is installed, a carbon monoxide alarm will have to be installed
  • you will be legally obliged to repair or replace alarms once informed that they are faulty (testing will remain the resident’s responsibility)

In addition to this, the guidance document will now contain information for landlords on how to encourage routine testing of alarms and what the product standards for both CO and fire alarms. While no timeline is currently in place as to when these regulations will be brought in, it is likely to be in early 2022.

Councils in Wales to be given power to restrict second homes and holiday lets

Proposals drawn up by the Welsh Government reveal that homeowners may in future need consent from the local council to convert properties into holiday lets and second homes.

There has long been concern that second homes price people in some parts of Wales out of buying property, particularly those living in communities where the Welsh language is widely spoken, such as in Pembrokeshire. In addition, holiday lets in popular tourist areas, such as Pembrokeshire and Conwy County have also created affordability and housing stock problems. An area within Wales has been selected for a pilot area and £1m will be made available to purchase and refurbish vacant properties in the local area as a potential response to the issues caused by second homes.

A further consultation is currently underway which will seek views on the use of ‘class order’ in planning which would allow local planning authorities to require planning applications for additional second homes and short-term holiday lets in areas where they are causing significant difficulties for communities.

This is combined with a recent petition which has gathered 6,000 signatures for an anti-second home campaign within Wales. The petition claims that ‘67,000 are on social housing lists in Wales, and 38 per cent of the homes sold in the county of Gwynedd in 2019-20 were purchased as second homes’. The petition has several demands on solutions to the current Welsh housing crisis, which can be found here.

New report urging politicians to ban new homes in high-risk flood areas

A report published this week has urged housing secretary Michael Gove to ban the practice of allowing houses to be built in high-risk flooding locations.

The report has been published by the think tank Localis, who have argued that due to deepening climate change pressures and growing housing demand, that this has resulted in an increase in flooding on properties in at-risk areas.

Research has shown that 200 planning permissions inquiries have been granted on floodplain land so far this year with around 4,255 properties within areas pre-identified as highly likely to flood. The report recommends, amongst other policies that:

  • Make developers liable for the sustainability and insurability of any new developments built in floodplain areas.
  • Support effective collaboration between the public, private and civil society with the aim of reinvigorating and re-incentivising flood insurance schemes and partnerships – for example comprehensive risk management in at risk urban regeneration zones.

Our advice to anyone (property investor or homeowner) looking to buy a property, to check whether it is at risk of flooding – you can do this here.

Snippets:

Newsround will be back next week



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