Plans for more ‘Transparency and Fairness’ in Housing Market in Queen’s Speech
By Carl Agar
Clamping down on rental costs for tenants - in a bid to make private renting fairer, affordable and more transparent - is a key promise of the newly-elected government which was outlined in the Queen’s Speech during the State Opening of Parliament last month.
As well as promising to implement a ban on letting fees (the two month consultation for which ended on June 2), a draft Tenants’ Fees Bill was also proposed to introduce caps on both holding and security deposits to one week and four week’s rent respectively. The Conservative Party’s intentions are to create what it hopes will be a ‘fairer’ service for those who rent privately and, at the same time, reduce their upfront costs.
As is often the case the government appears to have failed in recognising the complexity of the PRS which is a very diverse market place and is implementing changes that effectively only work for a small part of the market.
The sceptic in me says its 10 million tenants votes vs circa 2 million landlord votes so let’s not be surprised at the shape of the new legislation! Any way let’s explore some of the key points.
Landlords will need to do more checks under Immigration Bill
Set to affect landlords in England and outlined in the Queen’s Speech, are proposed changes to the Immigration Bill. This is due to the necessary repeal of the European Communities Act under Brexit negotiations.
It will inevitably mean changes to Right to Rent legislation with landlords having to carry out similar ID checks on prospective tenants from the likes of France, Germany, Spain etc that they currently provide for non-EU citizens.
Smart Meter Bill confirms roll out by end of 2020
The government will also push forward with its plans to introduce smart metering to every household by the end of the decade, announced by the Queen. This will make it much easier for tenants to ensure their utility bills are accurate. At the same time landlords in HMOs will benefit from the fact there will be no more regular meter readings to carry out.
Courts Bill to allow landlords to claim quicker
All business owners, such as landlords, will be offered the opportunity to chase up debts more easily and in a shorter space of time thanks to new digital services being introduced into English courts through the Courts Bill.
Making leasehold options more transparent
The government also intends to introduce more fairness when it comes to the sale of leasehold properties and ground rents. To do this it promises to follow up on the promised consultation with developers and the Competition and Markets Authority, which it has already referred to in the Housing White Paper.
In addition, plans are afoot to make the overall process of buying a house much “cheaper, faster and less stressful.”
New Housing Bill will oversee construction of further homes
The government hopes building further housing will not only cut down on homelessness and the need for private renting, but also reduce the cost of those private rents.
These plans, however, were given a ‘lukewarm’ reception by the Local Government Association. They say the Conservative’s need to lift the housing borrowing cap for local authorities and also allow them to keep 100 per cent of receipts from Right to Buy sales. LGA Housing spokesman Martin Tett also wants any changes to the private rented sector dealt with locally rather than nationally.
“A thriving private rented sector can contribute to a balanced mix of available housing and councils have a stake in ensuring that tenants have access to decent housing. Any reforms should be implemented in a manner that is fair to decent landlords, whilst protecting tenants from substandard accommodation. This requires a local approach, led by councils,” he said.
What are your thoughts on the proposed changes?