Diaries of a Trade Association Policy Team: Volume One

Big Ben and Parliament at dusk with passing car lights in foreground
From quiet bat-people to exciting adventures with the euro-sausage it’s all go in Westminster

Representing landlords may not always be the most glamorous job, but it sure does keep us busy. From travelling up and down the country meeting with local authorities, to lobbying Government officials and ministers across various departments, there is never a dull day.

And this week was no exception.

Implementing the Housing and Planning Act

The recently passed Housing & Planning Act includes a whole raft of measures aimed at the private rented sector (PRS) that need to be implemented by regulations.

The process of drafting those regulations started this week with the inaugural meeting of the Housing Standards Group at DCLG – of which we are a member. We received an update on the Government’s thinking, including a provisional timetable for regulations on electrical safety checks, a new abandonment procedure, banning orders, civil penalties and the extension of Rent Repayment Orders.

Essentially the Government is looking to introduce these measures in either April or October next year, after they have set up some working groups (in which we will be representing landlords) to hash out the details.

Council Tax Working Group

Another day and another meeting with Government officials! This time we attended a working group at DCLG chaired by Dame Angela Watkinson (MP) to look at ways that Local Authorities can be encouraged to make better use of the powers they have to identify potential problem landlords – without resorting to major interventions like selective licensing!

Universal Credit

We visited the DWP for one of our regular meetings with civil servants to discuss the roll-out of Universal Credit. Problems remain, including the lack of a means of sharing information with private landlords and the fact that private landlords will not be able to use the benefits system to recoup past arrears.

However, one positive point appears to be that the previously announced policy of removing the default eligibility for housing benefits of 18-21 year olds may not become a reality after all as it is still being ‘considered’ more than 12 months on.

Mayoral Priorities

With the election of Sadiq Khan as the new London Mayor, a new set of housing priorities and PRS policies are set to be implemented over the next 4 years.

To get ahead of the curve, and to make sure that landlords’ voices are heard at City Hall, we met up with the Greater London Assembly housing team to talk through these priorities. Up for debate were a range of plans including to tackle letting agent fees and “name and shame” rogue landlords.

In better news, at his first Mayor’s Questions Mr Khan ruled out campaigning for powers to introduce rent controls as well as campaigning for powers to impose a London-wide licensing scheme. Both changes are a contradiction to his manifesto pre-election, but you’ll find no complaints to the U-turns here.

Consultations and Evidence

Two new consultations were launched by the Government this week that could have a bearing on landlords. We’re researching the issues to ensure that the landlords’ perspective is put across to Government in an effective way.

First up is a review of energy assessor accreditation scheme operations, aimed at addressing concerns about both the quality and accuracy of energy certificates.

A second consultation was opened on quicker switching for consumers across all sectors, including mortgages. The Government is interested in how switching times could be reduced to a maximum of 7 days.

The Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into household energy efficiency measures is currently ongoing and this week we submitted our written evidence. This will ensure that the committee considers the view of landlords in the private rented sector as it reviews the workings of the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation. You can view our submitted evidence here.

The Local Angle

Not content with just talking to central government, we make sure we make our presence felt with local councils across the country. This week saw our Local Policy Officer travelling to Scarborough where, along with our local representative, he met with a number of councillors and council staff.

Scarborough, home to Winking Willys, is looking to introduce selective licensing in a rolling programme over five years into different areas.

However, they have not put thought into how the impact of displacement will affect the scheme (as seen in other seaside towns) and have not made any provision for mental health or alcohol issues. The big question of how to manage the issues the council has identified has not been answered, yet they are proposing one of the highest fees in the country at £750.

The Quiet Side

A lot of what we do is in meetings, in response to consultations and inquiries, and generally things which aren’t natural headline catchers.

However, we are constantly looking to ensure that the interests of landlords are being heard and considered across the country, including across all levels of Government.

If you are a member and have any questions, you can always contact us: policy@landlords.org.uk

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