political soundbite party conference season once again so batten down the hatches and prepare for the onslaught of speeches about our broken housing market, over-stretched public services, and the need to come together as a nation.
Last week saw Jeremy Corbyn remind us how wonderful it was to rent in the 1970s, with rent control, security of tenure, and around 10 per cent of the investment needed to sustain a twenty-first century private-rented sector.
In response Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, took to the stage on Sunday (1 October 2017) to outline the Government’s plans for housing and in particular solutions for those currently locked out of home-ownership.
Good, Bad, or Ugly?
How about all three? He started off strongly, openly deriding Labour’s call for rent control as likely contribute to such ills as inflated prices, unemployment and increased debt.
A decisive tick in the ‘good’ column so far as I’m concerned.
Next up we had landlord redress. So far as I can tell this means ensuring that private landlords, who choose not to use an agent will need to offer the same level of independent redress as letting agents. This seems fair, although if the standards are to be equal across the board, this could be costly for small landlords.
All in all, this is Likely to drive more business to professional agents, so why-not.
Moving on we get a little hazy on some of the detail. The Government is going to consult on establishing a specialist housing court, seemingly to speed up possession claims and ensure fair access to the judiciary. However, at the same time the minister seemed to announce that the notice period required to use the no-fault (s21) process will increase by 50 per cent – from two to three months.
He giveth, and he taketh away.
We also had a teaser about ‘incentives’ to be included in the Budget to encourage longer tenancies – but little more detail.
Finally, letting agents. Mr Javid confirmed his intention to publish legislation banning fees. No great surprise there. He also suggested that letting agents would be fully regulated.
Speaking to those in the know following the speech, it seems that Westminster are looking northward for inspiration, with the Scottish Government providing some pointers.
It seems most likely that agents will have to meet certain criteria:
- Abiding by a code of conduct
- Meeting a minimum qualification standard
- Adequate client money protection insurance
- Independent redress
Of course the devil is (as always) in the detail and a major point of contention is likely to be at what level to set the required qualification.
Another difficulty will be fitting in all of the legislation required to make this happen and doing so in a coherent way, which doesn’t drive everyone out of business. After all we are still waiting for the implementation of measures from last year’s Housing and Planning Act.
Answers on a post-card re. when this will become a reality and how it’ll all be paid for!