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We take a look at some of the main stories of the past week.

Freezing Housing Credit ‘Absurd’ warns CEO of NRLA

Official data suggests that 56% of renters who live off universal income have an average gap of £100 between the amount they receive in benefits and the rent they pay. Almost 60% of renters who have two children who rely on universal credit have a shortfall between the benefit they receive and the rent they must pay.

Local Housing Allowance is used to calculate the amount tenants can receive to support housing costs as part of a Universal Credit payment. In response to the pandemic the Government lifted it in April 2020 so that it covered the bottom 30 per cent of private rents in any given area. In April last year the rate was frozen in cash terms. This means that current LHA rates will not mirror current rental prices in areas.

This situation has been exacerbated by the current cost of living and energy crisis, which has squeezed many families and renters as well.

The NRLA in response to this are calling for the Government to unfreeze housing credit to cover the average rent, so those who are vulnerable have a form of security.

Ben Beadle, in discussing the Government’s decision, said:

It is simply absurd that housing benefit support fails to reflect the reality of rents as they currently stand. All the freeze is doing is exacerbating the already serious cost of living crisis.

The Chancellor needs to listen and respond to the concerns of both renters and landlords and unfreeze housing benefits as a matter of urgency.

 Policy Document on making Courts more efficient to be released in Spring

This week, Justice Minister Kit Malthouse has set a date for the Government to set out how it will improve and make the courts more efficient for private landlords – 4 years after the consultation regarding this subject. A policy response will be revealed in spring, according to the minister.

The original Government response document, from November 2018, identified several issues with the court system which made it inefficient. The most significant reasons being:

  • Enforcement- the report estimated that it would take on average 10 weeks from the possession order being granted for the landlord to take back possession.
  • Backlogs and bottlenecks in the court administrative process- this has been largely attributed to lack of staff, funding and the closure of courts (which have subsequently not been helped by the pandemic)

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has said it intends to set out its response in the Spring, taking into consideration the wider Renter Reform commitments and the impact of the pandemic on the possession process. The end of ‘no-fault’ evictions or section 21 will be a significant consideration.

Welsh and Lancastrian Landlords most affected by the EPC rules change

Data produced this week has shown that Lancaster and Wales are the two areas with the greatest amount of privately rented properties with an EPC rating of lower than band ‘C’.

The Government has targeted 2025 as the year in which all new private tenancies should be within a property of an EPC rating of band ‘C’ and the same for all tenancies by 2028.

In the worst affected region, Gwynedd in North Wales, only 22% of all private rented properties have an EPC rating of between A-C. Indeed, 4 of the worst 10 performing districts are in Wales, with Castle Point in Essex, Pendle and Blackpool in Lancashire being the worst in England.

The areas with the highest percentage of properties with an EPC rating of A-C, are found in London or the home counties. The best performing district is Tower Hamlets in London, which has 72% with the City of London second with 60%.

You can find the 25 best and worst-performing districts here

Rental Reform Legislation appears to be delayed….Again

This week, in a Government job advertisement, the rental reform white paper still appears to be some way off, casting more doubts about the industry’s future.

This week, the Government published a job advertisement for a position working on the landlord register (the job application can be found here). From this advertisement, we can deduce some aspects of the rental reform white paper, as well as the potential release date. The application form makes it clear that part of the programme is to ‘Publish a White Paper detailing this reform package in the autumn, with legislation to follow in due course.’.

This is only a few months after Eddie Hughes, the undersecretary for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, told us that the white paper would be revealed in Spring 2022.

However, this job advert does indicate that a landlord register will be part of the wider reform package to England.

Ignorance is not an excuse after Landlord fined due to unlicensed HMO

A Landlord has been fined £20,000 after blaming the managing agent of the property for renting out an unlicensed HMO.

A landlord in Camden claimed that managing company Crown Lets had rented out a four-bedroom property as a HMO, after specifically tasking the agency to let it out to a family. This was signed in 2018.

However, in 2020,  the house was found to be used as a home for five people sharing the kitchen and other facilities. There were also numerous deficiencies with the property such as no smoke or heat alarms, inadequate fire doors and the property layout posed a significant fire risk.

After the landlord told the court that he believed that this should have been regulated and managed by the agency, the first tier tribunal instead fined the landlord saying that ignorance is no excuse. Adding that the landlord did not take proper responsibility for the property.  He was fined for failure to license the HMO or complying with HMO regulations.

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

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