As the country comes out of national mourning there is no shortage of housing news to end this week. And we start off with some relatively good news for landlords.
Lower Rent Repayment Orders
There seems to be some fairness afoot in the courts. Landlords who have keep records, hold a good conduct and maintain an otherwise good property but forget to licence their property may be let off more lightly in future according to the Upper Tribunal ruling.
Tenants are often awarded 100% of the rent regardless of the type of offence even it is a minor offence. But new guidance has now been issued by a judge that they should not take the whole rent as a starting point.
Going forward with new cases it should be viewed as the whole of the rent less utilities along with the seriousness of the offence balanced off with some ‘fairness’. This is then the starting point for adjustments to be paid taking into account the conduct of both landlord and tenant.
Sarah Cummins, senior associate at Anthony Gold Solicitors says
It is an examination of the conduct of the landlord within the context of the actual offence and involves looking at all the circumstances of the offence: how serious is it, how culpable is the landlord, what harm has been caused?
The tribunal will need to evaluate the factors in the individual case and reach a conclusion on where on the scale of seriousness the offence lies. No doubt there will be differing views on this, and future appeals may revolve around whether the tribunal has carried out that assessment correctly.
Read the full article here.
Selective Licensing grows
Birmingham council have proposed the biggest ever selective licensing scheme in history to cover all private rented property within 25 of their wards, which has been granted permission by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Landlord today reports that this huge initiative will take 130 staff to deliver it and will cover near on 50,000 properties, it will last five years and come into force next year. The cost of a licence will be £700 for up to five years.
Sharon Thompson, a councillor says
The new scheme will help us drive up standards across the private rented sector. It was approved after extensive consultation and 130 new jobs will be created to deliver the scheme. We want to ensure that private properties in our poorest wards are providing fit and proper accommodation and that landlords are adhering to their legal responsibilities. While many already do, the introduction of licence conditions that cover a range of issues including waste bins, references and tackling anti-social behaviour will ensure the council is in a position to engage and regulate this sector appropriately.
The Selective Licensing Scheme will allow Birmingham Council to work with all landlords to drive up standards across all private rented sector properties and join up with other services such as the police to tackle issues such as the high levels of crime that have blighted these wards for too long. Improving standards in the longer term will lead to safer and more stable communities, enabling more tenants to fulfil their potential especially children.
Further reports say that a selective licensing scheme will ensure high standards are maintained giving tenants a stable home and improving communities. The consultation period ran for 10 weeks and only a minority of landords and agents agreed it would address crime and deprivation.
Is this the sign of things to come for all of the PRS?
Scotland feels the squeeze from the rent freeze
Belvoir Group has reported that things are getting pretty ‘desperate’ within the Scottish private rented sector following the governments rent & eviction freeze. They report of up to 1000 people bidding for properties as landlords exit the market this is only making matters worse. Andrew Jack from Belvoir in Edinburgh says
As an example, we have received over 9000 tenant enquiries in the past four weeks, which is unprecedented. We recently released two flats to the market, and within 48 hours had received over 1,000 enquiries for each of them from potential tenants. Not only is it logistically difficult to process 2000 enquiries, but clearly, we were only able to offer these flats to two tenants, leaving 1998 perfectly good potential tenants still looking to find somewhere to live.
Ron Campbell, of their Dundee branch says
The challenges facing tenants have never been as bad as they are at present. Demand is completely outstripping supply, and it is emotionally draining for my team members to continually deliver bad news to those people who come into our offices day in and day out looking for somewhere to live.
You can read the full article here.
Landlords could be forced to pass on £400 energy discount
There is discourse brewing as the government have said landlords will be forced to pass on the £400 energy rebate to their tenants with all inclusive bills. It says
Additional funding will be made available so that £400 payments will be extended to include people such as park home residents and those tenants whose landlords pay for their energy via a commercial contract. The government is committed to ensuring such households receive the same support for their energy bills. The government will introduce legislation to make sure landlords pass the EBSS discount on to tenants who pay all-inclusive bills.
However, the Chris Norris of the NRLA says
Given payments under the support scheme have not begun to be made, the government’s plans to legislate are premature and are demonising landlords unnecessarily. It sends a dangerous and misleading message that landlords cannot be trusted to do the right thing, creating needless fear and anxiety for tenants. The reality is that one-off pots of money like this cannot compensate for the fact that the benefits system is systematically failing to protect the most vulnerable tenants. At a time when households finances are being squeezed it makes no sense to have frozen housing benefit rates.
Read more here.
Remember that the Smoke and CO alarms regs are changing
New rules are due to come into force on 1 October 2022 (not long now). In particular, landlords will now be obliged to repair and replace alarms during the tenancy.
There is a good summary of the new rules here.
Newsround will be back next week.