Here is our Newsround for this week, we start off with the amount of homes sitting empty.
£194.3bn worth of vacant homes sitting empty
This is the staggering amount of homes that are standing empty in the current market, though it has improved slightly.
Birmingham is home to the highest volume of vacant homes with 12,585 empty properties, followed by Leeds (11,666) and Liverpool (11,028) whilst Lincoln has seen the worst increase with 133% vacant compared to the previous year at 3085.
Gove has promised to end this scourge of unoccupied homes with the government putting in plans for the commercial property sector being forced to rent out empty shops.
Colby Short, co-founder and chief executive of GetAgent.co.uk, said
Coincidental, perhaps, that such a sustained period of property price growth has also coincided with a fall in the number of empty homes found across England. In fact, London is the only region where this level of empty properties hasn’t fallen and it’s also the only region where property price growth has been largely stagnant over the last two years.
But while it seems as though some have decided to cash in while the price is right, there remains a substantial number of properties lying dormant across the market. Homes that could go some way in satisfying the nation’s hunger for homeownership.
Read more here.
Report states ‘hit & miss’ results of underfunded PRS enforcement
Here, a lack of hard information about local private rental sectors means many councils find it hard to make decisions, while some under-staffed teams are mostly ‘fire-fighting’ rather than going after rogue landlords, it has been revealed.
Those without political or local backing also find it hard to robustly enforce PRS standards, leaving many councils to operate a reactive, rather than proactive service that only targets the worst properties, finds a new government report based on a survey of 140 local authorities across England.
Ministers intend to strengthen local councils’ enforcement powers and ability to crack down on criminal landlords by seeking to increase investigative powers and strengthening the fine regime for serious offences. Gathering evidence was described as one of the biggest challenges that enforcement officers face, with few authorities able to demonstrate convincingly that their approach was driven by the effectiveness of their actions.
Councils report that rent repayment orders (RROs) act as an incentive to landlords to comply with HMO licensing and although most do not think it a worthwhile use of their resources to apply themselves, they are more enthusiastic about supporting tenants to apply.
Mandatory licensing of HMOs and selective licensing was widely praised for helping to improve standards and conditions, and was seen as a good way of collecting data. But officers called for a mandatory register of landlords and agents to help facilitate their work, along with better access to financial data such as bank records. Local authorities would also like to see a simpler legislative framework for enforcement (I am sure we would all like this!).
Landlords backed over tenants
A survey conducted by the Lincolnshire Live news website suggests many feel landlords are wrongly restricted in terms of who they allow in their properties.
The government says it will ban Section 21 evictions and extend the Decent Homes Standard to the sector. It will also end what it calls
Arbitrary rent review clauses, give tenants stronger powers to challenge poor practice, unjustified rent increases and enable them to be repaid rent for non-decent homes
It will be illegal for landlords or agents to have blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits. And it will make it easier for tenants to have pets, a right which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse. Read more here.
Second homes & holiday lets clampdown
Owners of second homes in many coastal and holiday locations could face a ban on renting using lettings websites like Airbnb.
Tourist hotspots such as coastal towns in Cornwall and Devon are particularly affected. In many of these towns, locals claim that their communities are being eroded because of a scarcity of affordable homes to buy, or to rent long-term.
The situation is only going to get worse as buy-to-let landlords, faced with increasing regulations, taxation, and the latest proposals contained in the Government’s White Paper – ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector” – see the financial benefits of short-term lets over long-term lettings.
ARLA Propertymark claim that 230,000 UK landlords are likely to switch to short-term lets. With short-term listing numbers on Airbnb rising rapidly over recent years, plans are now being drawn up by Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, which would give regional mayors extra powers to restrict people renting out second home properties.
Second-home ownership has always been a politically contentious issue. A more recent problem has been the rapid rise of online rental platforms such as Airbnb allowing owners to more easily market their properties to short-term tenants.
A further incentive for landlords to switch is the higher rental returns that are possible with holiday lets. It is incentivising landlords to evict their long-term tenants because they can make more money from short-term holiday lets. It is feared that with the end of section 21 in sight, landlords will use the time they have left to evict even more tenants before it is too late.
Indeed NRLA CEO Ben Beadle blames the increase in holiday lets directly on the government, saying:
The growth in holiday lets is a direct consequence of the Government’s attack on long-term rented housing.
Tax policies actively discourage long-term investment in the private rented sector by landlords.
With a Housing Secretary that wants to shrink the size of the sector, it is little wonder many landlords have jumped ship to the holiday lets market.“As a result, for many in holiday hot spots finding a long-term home to rent is all but impossible. With demand for such housing at a record high, all it is doing is increasing rents when tenants can least afford it.
The government needs to end its anti-landlord attitude and develop pro-growth tax plans to help renters access the housing they need.
Airbnb to the rescue
Although a private members bill hopes to deal with the problem of Airbnb and party homes, Airbnb itself is acting on the party homes issue by banning them. Amanda Cupples, general manager for northern Europe at Airbnb said:
Since being introduced, the ban has led to a reduction in reported incidents and helped minimise the impact of noise and nuisance issues on communities. In the rare event of an issue, our Neighbourhood Support Line allows anyone with concerns in the community to contact someone at Airbnb directly so we can fully investigate.
Newsround will be back next week.