At a Glance...
Spring may feel a long way away at the moment as the weather gets progressively colder – but the spring term is well underway in Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff as their respective executives stake a claim on the future of the private-rented sector (PRS).
A stone’s throw from NLA HQ, Parliament is currently busy considering the Localism Bill, Energy Bill and the recently introduced Welfare Reform Bill. All of which are likely to have a lasting impact on the business interests of landlords in the future.
Although off of most landlords’ radar, the Energy Bill is enjoying uncharacteristically lively debate as it progresses through the House of Lords with amendments changing its intent and content on a daily basis.
Although previously blocked by Government ministers, recently proposed amendments would have seen F and G rated properties barred from letting and sale in the near future. Needless to say the NLA is working with the Government and likeminded peers to ensure that amendments like these are not allowed to damage the PRS and is happy to report that, following pressure from th NLA and other industry stakeholders, insfficient support was gained for the amendments to pass.
The first of March also saw the approval of legislation in Scotland establishing requirements for tenancy deposit protection products North of the Border. Details are yet to surface of potential providers, but it is likely that a scheme, or schemes, will be confirmed this year.
In England, the seemingly endless march of the planners continues as town halls decide to arbitrarily limit shared homes in their patch. So far the NLA has mounted local campaigns in Newcastle, Portsmouth and Milton Keynes and is aware of at least 20 further councils considering implementing an Article 4 Direction in their areas.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of more than 1,000 NLA members concerned about changes to local planning rules, we have engaged more with 50 individual Members of Parliament and a significant number of local council representatives.
In February Wales passed legislation making it the first country in the World to require the installation of sprinkler systems in all new-build properties. This does not impact on other parts of the UK.
The long awaited Welfare Reform Bill was finally introduced to Parliament on the 16th February. It has subsequently been scheduled for its first major debate on the 9th of March when politicians will have the opportunity to question Government Ministers on the drafting and intentions of its various clauses.
The Bill is intended to realise teh GOvernment's radical shake-up of welfare benefits, and introduce the Universal Credit. This will bring together a number of out-of-work benefits and tax credits encompassing the current system of housing support, Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance (LHA), within a single payment paid directly to the tenant.
Like the present system, social landlords will still be eligible to receive direct payment of the housing component of the Universal Credit.
Landlords should note that the bill will also :
- introduce an overall cap on the total household benefits that can been received;
- link rises in LHA rates to inflation through the Consumer Price Index, rather than in line with market rents;
The bill had also intended to introduce an additional 10 per cent cut to Local Housing Allowance for tenants receiving Job Seekers Allowance for longer than 12 months. However, after intense lobbying by the sector, including a concerted effort by the NLA, the Government dropped this measure.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to last month’s mini-survey on ‘access to justice’ the results of which will be used by the NLA policy team to help shape our influencing work on this important issue.
The headline results of this are as follows:
More than 55 percent of contributors indicated that the Courts Service does not provide a satisfactory level of service for landlords conducting their business.
Resultantly, it is hardly surprising that almost 90 percent of landlords are concerned about the impact of the forthcoming court closures.
Asked to identify a satisfactory solution, those landlords who participated overwhelmingly showed their support for some form of ‘specialist housing court’.
The NLA is working to make sure that these views are heard by the Ministry of Justice and to ensure that landlords are able to access a fair and effective judicial system.