Levelling-Up White Paper – Big on Soundbites, Small on Detail
What Is It?
The government recently published the much-anticipated white paper on how it plans to “level up” the UK by means of a complete “system change”. But what does this actually mean for the Private Rental Sector (PRS)? To answer this, we will focus on the major upcoming changes: the abolishing of section 21, consultation on a National Landlord Register, and the introduction of the Decent Homes Standard.
Section 21 Abolishment
The abolishing means landlords will no longer be able to serve a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice, affording tenants protection against eviction without reason. This is not the first time the abolishment of Section 21 has been announced. Read our post here when the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MCLG) announced the intended change.
But how will the government give confidence to the PRS without Section 21? After all, there are many reasons why a landlord might need to serve notice, and in our experience, eviction is never actioned for “no reason”. The real problem is not eviction but the availability of affordable housing, and it will be interesting to see the details of “Generation Rent into Generation Buy” and how the “First Homes Scheme” will help.
National Landlord Register
This is a move to crack down on rogue landlords by having a register, thereby making it easier to identify who is unregistered and committing a criminal offence. It’s not a new idea – all the devolved states except England already operate such a register. However, there are some questions that need to be asked.
Will such a register just be a list of names? Will it include those not on Assured Shorthold Tenancy, like lodgers? Will local authorities consider the adequate fitness and training of landlords and have powers to enforce a code of conduct?
Who benefits? A public National Landlord Register will undoubtedly be beneficial for prospective tenants to check out their landlords. Private landlords do not currently have to abide by many of the requirements their agency counterparts do, and as such, there is considerable scope and opportunity for criminal activity, unwitting or not. For example, private landlords should be signed up to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for GDPR purposes, but we have no way of knowing this. They also do not have to be part of a national redress scheme, have PI/PL insurance, or registered for anti-money laundering.
Landlords who manage privately will require training to keep to the standard demanded by government. Unfortunately, rogue landlords are here to stay, and while, in theory, the National Landlord Register seems like a step in the right direction, much needs to be fleshed out.
Decent Homes Standard
The government announced that, for the first time, all homes in the PRS will have to meet a minimum standard, as outlined in the Decent Homes Standard. However, ‘decency’ has yet to be defined and will be established through a review due to be completed by summer 2022. The government’s target is for the number of non-decent, rented homes to fall by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.
The Decent Homes Standard has been in existence since 2004 but only for the social rented sector. The National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) issued a press release last week expressing doubts about the initiative and stating the standard must be fit for purpose.
Information regarding the execution of the UK’s levelling up is sparse and we can expect to learn more in the white paper coming out in the spring. None of this will affect our existing clients, including the provisional definition of ‘decency’ according to the 2006 guidance. If you are not our client, however, you should speak with your agent to see what you can do to spread the cost of any improvements you may need to implement over the next few years.
Do you feel confident about the upcoming changes? If not, call us on 020 3588 5115 to find out how we can help you.
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