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Our roundup of news items over the past week. This week we focus on the Government’s levelling up white paper which sets out potential reforms the Government is considering.

Government’s plans for housing reform are revealed

This week the Government has launched the widely anticipated levelling up white paper, which contains significant plans to reform the private rented sector.

A white paper is a policy document that sets out proposals for future legislation. So while this hasn’t been set in stone into an act, this is the planned route that the Government will take.

So what are the significant changes planned for landlords:

  • Section 21 ‘no-fault evictions’ to be abolished.
  • All homes within the private rented sector will have to meet a minimum standard- the decent homes standard
  • The creation of a Landlord register or a policy equivalent in order to crack down on rogue landlords.
  • The Government will further commit to building more genuinely affordable social housing.
  • A new Social Housing Regulation Bill will deliver upon the commitments the government made following the Grenfell tragedy in 2017

Let us now look at each policy proposal in detail as well as the reactions of industry figures.

The End of Section 21

The proposal to abolish Section 21 (or ‘no-fault eviction’) goes way back to 2019 (when we published a series of posts on the topic), and was supposed to be outlined in a housing white paper, still expected later this year.

In this levelling up white paper, the Government describe no-fault evictions as an

unfair situation where renters can be kicked out of their homes for no reason.

However, many within the industry are worried that this will diminish landlords’ power to repossess their own property. While many agree that no-fault evictions should be removed, agents and landlords alike are anxious to know what the replacement structure and process will look like.

Timothy Douglas, Head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark warned that the replacement process will

need to maintain confidence in the market for landlords

Many landlords are anxious over the abolishment of section 21 and are eager to understand the process of possession from tenants that the Government will announce.

On the other side of the argument, Shelter’s Osama Bhutta,  Director of Campaigns welcomed the abolishment, arguing that ‘Renters have had a rotten deal for years’

There is currently no news or information on what the replacement to section 21 will be.

The Decent Homes Standard

The Decent Homes Standard is already in use today in social housing and was introduced in 2006 under the Blair administration. Under the criteria, it sets out four standards that at all times must be followed:

  • it must meet the current statutory minimum standard for housing
  • it must be in a reasonable state of repair
  • it must have reasonably modern facilities and services
  • it must provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.

In a recent Government report, the Government estimated that around 23% of PRS properties did not meet the Decent Homes Standard (which is around 1.1 million properties). In addition, it also held that the PRS has the worst housing conditions of the three sectors.

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the NRLA said that

The existing Decent Homes Standard is not the right vehicle’ to judge private rented properties as this ‘does not reflect many of the differences between it and social rented properties.

Shelter’s Osama Bhutta responded that having a universal standard was a welcome change for tenants who for

Far too many have been forced to live in shoddy conditions, afraid to complain for fear of eviction.

The Landlord Register

This policy has been debated hotly and the consultation will bring with it a wide spectrum of views.

The Government has announced that they will consult on a universal landlord register as a way to crack down on rogue or criminal landlords. The Government and many pro-tenant organisations argue that a landlord register will make it easier for local authorities to identify and make checks that all landlords within their jurisdiction are conforming with property standards.

However, many figures within the PRS industry argue that previous attempts of a landlord register have failed. David Cox, Rightmove’s compliance and legal director argued that

landlord licensing in England has been talked about for 15 years and that, despite the government’s interest in greater regulation of landlords, it didn’t work in Scotland… and will not work here

In addition, others are of the opinion that having a database of landlords’ names will have no effect on actual property standards if funding to local authorities regarding enforcement is not increased. Timothy Douglas saying that:

What’s key for ‘levelling up’ the private rented sector is ensuring that local authorities have the staff and resources needed to actively go out, inspect properties and prosecute.

However, with this being said, a landlord register and database is just one of a number of ways that the Government is considering to raise properties standards within the PRS.

Lets now take look at the remaining news stories of the week

Landlords reminded of the upcoming Right to Rent Changes

Landlords and letting agents are reminded of the upcoming changes to right to rent following the digitalisation of the process.

Landlords have up until the 6 of April 2022 to keep performing checks over the video calls. However, after the 6 Landlords are reminded that they will have to use the Right to Rent Online Checking Service for Biometric Residence Card / Permit holders and manual checks will no longer be possible.

In addition, 6 April will also be the date when certified Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT)is introduced.  And service providers, who will be able to carry out right to rent checks on behalf of anyone holding a British or Irish Passport.

Information on IDVT can be found here.

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

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