Will the election cost letting agents?

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Understandably the media is currently obsessing about the likely effects of the outcome of the election. We are invited to ask important questions like:

  • Would a Corbyn government unilaterally remove the UK’s nuclear arsenal? Or is it more likely that a post-it note will be affixed to each Trident missile asking users to:

P Please consider the environment before firing this missile

          If reports that the UK’s submarine fleet still uses a system based on Microsoft’s     Windows XP are to be believed, this fella could even pop up to assist:

 

  • Likewise, could an emboldened Mrs May take her love of u-turns (think general elections, NICs, airport expansion…..) too far leading to the generation of such enormous centripetal forces that far from leaving Europe, the rest of the continent is  drawn geographically closer to Downing Street?

 

  • Or  could the groundswell of support for Tim Farron’s anti-Brexit Lib Dems result in such a landslide that no-sooner have the polls closed they will need to be re-opened for the next referendum. After-all, if the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t have too much divisive democracy!

 

But, I digress…..

Although the outcome of the election is vitally important, so is the impact the process of holding an election will have on the UK. Quite aside from the estimated £170 million financial cost, there will be an inevitable regulatory cost – exacerbated by the ‘snap’ nature of the poll.

Despite the fact that the gap between Mrs May announcing the election and polling day will be longer than any general election since 1983, this is a ‘short’ campaign and as such there has been very little planning concerning what to do with legislation already in train or commitments which are now unlikely to be honoured (this side of June at least).

OK, what about letting agents?

The most obvious impact for letting agents concerns the proposed ban on fees to tenants.

As previously reported the series of consultation events organised around the country to talk to agents, landlords and tenants about the proposals have been cancelled in order to comply with rules on publicity during an election campaign. However, this should not be mistaken for closure of the consultation. This will continue to run until June and the results will be considered by the next government.

Is the ban still going to happen?

The truth is we don’t know. Frankly, we don’t know who will form the next government and consequently what their approach will be to letting agents.

What we do know is that there is practically no opposition to the proposal in any party in Westminster, so while the next government might have its own views on how to regulate letting agents it is unlikely that the concept will be dropped.

Is there anything else?

Yes. We expected consultation on plans to require letting agents to hold client money protection insurance. This has not begun, and will not prior to the election so it remains to be seen what the next government will do.

Any more?

Yep. The Housing and Planning Act introduced powers to ban criminal agents and create a register of rogue landlords and letting agents. However, the government needed to table secondary legislation in order to implement the policy and they are out of parliamentary time.

These provisions stay on the statute books, but it will (you’ve guessed it) be up to the next government to decide what to do next.

With all of the parliamentary hurdles already overcome, it would be odd for a future housing minister to abandon the notion, but you never know.

At very least it is likely that the original timetable for introduction will be abandoned.

OK, but if May wins surely will they just pick up where they left off?

Maybe, but probably not in all areas. Since becoming PM Mrs M has lacked a mandate of her own, which constrained some of her decisions (think NICs again). If she wins, and possibly increases her majority the gloves are off.

It is also very likely that we will be faced with a new housing minister. If the Conservatives are not returned, then obviously  the new PM will appoint from their ranks but even if the status quo is maintained Gavin Barwell is unlikely to remain unmoved.

To begin with he has one of the smallest majorities in Parliament, meaning he may lose his seat on 8th June and be unable to continue. If he is returned; he is well connected and popular in the Party, not to mention quite good at his job, meaning a promotion is on the cards.

Whatever happens we should get ready for yet another housing minister in Whitehall.

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