Our roundup of news items over the past week. This week we discuss the concerning news that most local authorities do not accurately record complaints within the PRS, Sadiq Khan’s plans to introduce a landlord register into the capital, welcome the new Housing Minister, Stuart Andrew.
Majority of councils do not record the number of complaints concerning PRS
Research by the NRLA this week has shown that 56% of local authorities do not accurately record the number of complaints they get regarding private sector housing. This figure rises to 61% in regards to local authorities that have a selective licensing scheme in place.
In terms of the councils that did record complaints: the average amount of complaints that each local authority received was 274 per year.
In addition, between 2018-2021, councils as a whole conducted just under 100,000 inspections under the HHSRS. This equates to around 1 in 45 houses within the PRS. According to findings, 1% of HHSRS inspections resulted in a follow-up prosecution, with 4% of improvement notices resulting in the imposition of a civil penalty.
This comes just a week after the Levelling Up white paper was released (as discussed in our previous newsround) where the Government said they were considering a consultation on a landlord register to improve housing conditions.
EPC rating system set to be reviewed
This week an article published by the Daily Telegraph Newspaper has said that the Department for Energy, Business and Industry Strategy are reviewing the current rating system of the EPC’s.
This has come after fears that under the current system, heat pumps would actually decrease a properties EPC rating. Heat Pumps are a type of home heating system which the Government have been promoting, and are even offering grants and payments for under the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive.
The current EPC rating system is based on an estimate of what it costs to heat a home rather than the carbon emissions generated. Heat pumps – which transfer thermal energy into a property from the ground or air – produce less CO2 than burning gas, but are not necessarily cheaper to run. This is why they could potentially lower a properties EPC rating. Hopefully, this issue will be resolved in the near future.
Mayor of London calls for Overseas Landlord Register
This week Sadiq Khan has called for a register of all overseas landlords in a bid to clamp down on money laundering in the capital.
According to Mr Khan, these properties could be used to launder and shelter billions of undeclared funds. Khan has also said that he suspects many of these properties are left unoccupied, in a time when many Londoners are struggling to get on the housing ladder.
The land registry has revealed that around 85,000 properties in the greater London area are held by foreign individuals or companies.
The mayor fears that a lack of transparency in the legal and beneficial ownership of companies and individuals who own these UK properties could be aiding offences such as tax evasion and money laundering, as well as hiding other assets.
Nothing new here of course, but it is good to see an attempt being made to do something about it.
Over 2,000 complaints over Airbnb-style short lets in Westminster
Westminster council are calling for the London Assembly to be given similar powers to those in Amsterdam and Paris to stop anti-social behaviour and other problems caused by short term lets.
Amsterdam has very strict regulations towards short term letting a blog post can be found here) which include registration with the city council, a form of taxation and a restriction on properties being rented out for more than 30 days per year.
Meanwhile, in the west end of London, the leader of Westminster council is calling for stricter regulations, while his council have a full team currently investigating 2,000 breaches of short term let rules.
Complaints have increased post-pandemic and they range from noise, rowdy parties, serious overcrowding, dumping rubbish and even sex work occurring within nightly lets. In addition to this, almost one in three residents have reported what the council refers to as ‘irresponsible short-term letting’ as a problem in their area.
New Housing Minister Revealed
Finally, we have a new Housing minister: Stuart Andrew!
Mr Andrew is the MP for the Pudsey Constituency in West Yorkshire and is also a landlord. Andrew has already received criticism for his previous actions in 2016 after voting against an amendment to legislation to make all rented homes ‘fit for human habitation’.
However, a housing minister who already has a vested interest in the private rented sector by being a landlord himself may have some understanding of the issues faced by landlords. It is currently unknown whether this change will delay or hasten the process of getting the Renters Reform bill through parliament.
Stuart Andrew’s voting record can be found here.
This continues the revolving door for housing ministers, briefly halted by Chris Pinchers 2 years in post. Andrew is the 11th person to hold this post in the past 12 years.
Newsround will be back next week.