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Our round-up of news items over the past week.

This week we first consider the National Audit Office report on the PRS, just out today, and then look at how some of the top mortgage lenders prohibit landlords letting out to asylum seekers, the long-awaited Liverpool HMO scheme and the rise in Covid rent debt.

National Audit Office (NAO) Report on the PRS

This report is just out today, and we will be publishing a separate review later once we have had an opportunity to read it properly.

However, we understand that it is highly critical of the government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC),  for not having a proper plan for dealing with the Private Rented Sector (PRS), where properties are more likely to fail safety standards, and for failing to collect the necessary data which would allow them to measure the impact of any interventions it may make.

The report also criticises the piecemeal approach to regulation from Councils where some inspect hardly any PRS properties and others inspect a larger proportion.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said:

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities should improve the quality of its data and insight into the private rented sector, so that it can oversee the regulation of the sector more effectively. It should develop a clear strategy to meet its aim of providing a better deal for renters.

Rise in tenant debt worries landlords

Data revealed this week by the NRLA shows that the average rent debt still owed by tenants as a result of the pandemic has increased by 41% since May.

The data found that the average Covid-related rent arrears owed by affected tenants has increased from £970 to £1,270.

However, with that being said, the number of tenants in arrears has dropped significantly from March last year, with the number almost halved from 7% to 3.7%. While this still amounts to 430,000  private renters, this shows a substantial improvement.

The survey noted that 59% of those in arrears are not in receipt of housing benefits, meaning that they are not eligible for discretionary housing payment which would offer them financial support.

Airbnb listings in Devon outnumber rented lettings 60-to-1

Figures revealed this month have shown the vast market differences in the south west and in particular, the county of Devon between ‘normal’ lettings and AirBnB short term lettings.

For example in the seaside town of Exmouth, there were 253 Airbnb listings compared to just 4 residential listings. Perhaps the most unbalanced location is the seaside town of Ilfracombe where there were 326 short holiday let properties compared to just 4 residential listings.

In addition to this, The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that house price inflation in Devon is at 13.4%. North Devon at 22.4% is in the top 10 districts in the country for house price growth with Torridge on 19.8% also.

Due to these worrying trends, Devon county council have created a housing task force. It hopes to lobby MPs to press for tax loopholes on holiday lets to be tightened so that it short term lets become less attractive to landlords.

How mortgage lenders prevent landlords renting to asylum seekers

An investigation by the Mirror newspaper claims that 55 out of 72 mortgage lenders investigated have terms and conditions in their loans that prevent landlords letting to asylum seekers.

The lenders will explicitly say that ‘will not consider applications where the property will be let to an asylum seeker’.

The mirror revealed the largest lenders that do not allow asylum seeker tenants are NatWest, TSB and the Metro bank.

Hopefully, shining a spotlight on this discriminatory and xenophobic practice will lead to its prohibition.

Renters want landlords to help with their energy bills

Research published this week has revealed that 46% of tenants are worried about paying their household bills as a result of the impending rising energy prices.

In addition to this, tenants also want landlords to ensure that their homes are better insulated as this will affect the amount of money renters will pay.

Peter Smith, director of policy and advocacy National Energy Action, said:

Landlords have a big role to play in helping to make the impact of higher prices more affordable and therefore increasing the chances their tenants can make the rent.

The current market is pushing up energy prices, as the energy price cap is due to rise by 40% in April according to Moneysavingexpert’s Martin Lewis.

Landlord Law Blog currently has a series where we look at each local authorities energy efficiency support, grants and funding. You can find them linked from here.

Government backs Liverpool HMO licensing scheme

This week the Government has approved a HMO licensing scheme in Liverpool after two years of proposals being rejected.

The scheme targets 16 wards and is said to affect around 45,000 of the 55,000 properties in the original city-wide scheme – which ran from 2015 to 2020 – are covered.

The new licensing scheme will be introduced from April 2022 and will run for the maximum five years.

Senior Liverpool councillor Sarah Doyle says:

 This is brilliant news for tenants living in poor housing conditions. Too many vulnerable people in our city are in poor housing conditions… The Landlord Licensing scheme will give us regulation of private rented houses, so that we can take action when concerns are raised.

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.



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