Maybe it’s a good thing.
After so much legislative change over the last 13 years, a Queen’s Speech that did not seek to baffle landlords and tenants with yet more laws is probably welcome.
Covering almost every issue except housing, yesterday’s Speech announced 22 individual bills that should occupy MPs for a good 18 months at least.
Despite the lack of specific bills tackling housing issues, there are still a number of bills in the current Parliamentary session that should interest landlords and which we will look at in detail:
- From a landlord’s perspective the announcement of a new Welfare Bill should reignite hope that the Coalition Government will seriously tackle the problems surrounding Local Housing Allowance (LHA). The Conservatives had promised to reinstate tenant choice in having their LHA payments paid directly to their landlords. That remains the right thing to do to cut waste and improve confidence in LHA so we will be arguing for its inclusion.
- Next is the Decentralisation and Localism Bill. We know that this is the bill that will enable the Government to achieve its long stated aim of abolishing HIPs (although EPCs will continue). But there is more to the bill than just that. What will be the extent of a new power to enable local groups to force referenda on local issues? Will a ‘general power of competence’ mean that local authorities are given a free reign to do whatever they want ‘in the best interests of their voters’?
- There is also an Energy Bill planned. This will have a major impact on how we (as a nation and individually) pay for energy efficiency in our homes.
The problem is that there is so little detail available about these bills to make a proper judgement about the possible effect on the housing sector.
Finally, if the end of the last Government taught us anything, it was that Acts of Parliament are not the only way to change the law. The recent changes to planning law for shared housing, which is causing increasing problems for landlords across the country, and the general consent for local authority licensing schemes in the private-rented sector were both brought in using secondary legislation.
So, despite the lack of a Housing Bill, there are some urgent priorities for us over the next 18 months. We will be watching this new Government very closely indeed.