MPs want tax review and courts reform – NRLA approves

The landlords’ trade body is broadly welcoming some proposals from MPs to reform the private rented sector.

Some aspects of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee’s report have emphasised points already made by the National Residential Landlords Association.

In its report the committee warns that:

“It is not clear whether the Government fully appreciates the extent to which an unreformed courts system could undermine its tenancy reforms.”

Whilst the report calls for the development of a specialist housing court, it sets out how, at the very least, measures are needed to considerably speed the time it takes for the courts to process legitimate possession cases.

Specifically, it states how matters relating to rent arears or anti-social behaviour require a swift response from the courts.

The committee report concludes that all forms of anti-social behaviour by tenants should be a mandatory ground for possession even if a criminal conviction has not been made. Suitable guidance for the courts should be developed to ensure such cases are dealt with swiftly and with certainty about the outcome.

It also says tenancies should be exempt from plans to make every tenancy open ended. It warns that the Government’s current plans “could make letting to students considerably less attractive to private landlords, as the student market mirrors the academic year and benefits greatly from 12-month fixed tenancies.”

And it says that “the most serious challenge currently facing many private renters is neither security of tenure nor housing conditions, but the high cost of renting caused by the housing crisis.”

Mirroring the NRLA’s calls ahead of the Budget, the Committee recognises the value of private landlords by calling on the Government to “review the impact of recent tax changes in the buy-to-let market with a view to making changes that make it more financially attractive to smaller landlords.”

Chris Norris, Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association, says:

“The NRLA has never been against reform of the sector, but it has to be fair and workable for both tenants and landlords.

“That is why the committee is right to call for court reform to underpin the ending of Section 21, changes in plans for student tenancies and ensuring cases of anti-social behaviour are prioritised by the courts.

“As the committee rightly notes, the biggest challenge faced by many renters is that there are not enough homes to rent. All the protections in the world will mean nothing for tenants if the homes are not there in the first place.

“That’s why the government should accept the committee and the NRLA’s call for a full review of the impact of recent tax changes in the sector.”

However the committee’s recommendations are by no means all to landlords’ liking.

The government’s proposed tenancy reforms – including the banning of section 21 evictions – could be undermined by delays in the court system, says the cross-party report.

The committee’s Reforming The Private Rented Sector report expresses concerns that the government’s White Paper – delivered back in June last year – may have a negative impact on the student private rental sector market and highlights what it sees as the threat to the sector of the rise in holiday-lets.

The report warns that the government’s proposed ‘sales and occupations’ grounds for eviction, outlined in the White Paper, could be “too easily exploited by bad landlords and become a backdoor to no-fault evictions”.

The committee recommends a series of changes to the sales and occupation grounds to help combat what it calls “unfair eviction and insecurity of tenure.”

The report welcomes the government’s plans to introduce a legally binding decent homes standard but points to a series of obstacles threatening the ability of local councils to enforce the standard, including precarious local government finances, shortage of qualified enforcement staff, and a lack of reliable data.

The report recommends the government introduce a tougher civil penalties regime in the proposed renters reform bill to ensure councils have the capability to collect financial penalties on landlords who breach standards.

This article is taken from Landlord Today

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