Waiting for DCLG

During an exchange about the speech by the Secretary of State yesterday (more on that later I suspect – I’d quite like to do a conference round-up piece), it occured to me that there are an awful lot of actual housing law consultations that haven’t had a response yet. I just wanted to pull them together in one place to get a feel for what sort of law reform we might see over the next few years and to try and see if there is a reason for the lack of a response yet. I’ve limited myself to documents issued on or after 1 Jan 2016. The full list is here.

 

Mobile Homes

There is a two stage review of the Mobile Homes Act 2013 ongoing. Well, assuming a rather liberal definition of “ongoing”. Part 1 ran from 12 April – 27 May 2017 and took the form of a call for evidence on some of the problems that exist around pitch fees (what they cover or, more accurately, what they don’t cover). It was, if I may say so, a rather sloppy document. There is, for example, apparently something called the Upper Tribunal (Property Chamber) and anecdotal – and unparticularised – complaints about confusing and complex title structures which seem to be causing problems for the licencing regime under the 2013 Act. No analysis has yet been published of the responses (and there can’t have been that many, surely?) but Part 2 was “…to be published in May 2017…” and was going to be “…a call for evidence on how effective local authority licensing has been, how well the procedures for selling mobile homes, making site rules and pitch fee reviews are working and whether ‘fit and proper’ controls need to be applied in the sector…”.  No sign of Part 2 yet..

 

Banning Orders

One of the bits of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 that has the potential to be quite useful is the new Banning Order regime. Under the Act, the Secretary of State has to specify what criminal offences may attract a banning order (in outline, if you are convicted of offence X then the local authority may apply to the FTT for an order banning you from letting/managing property for a period of years). The proposed banning order offences were consulted on between 13 December 2016 and 10 February 2017. Still no sign of a decision or a draft SI. Looks like this won’t now be in force before April next year as a result.

 

Letting agents

It may be that we suspect this one is likely to go ahead, but, between 7 April 2017 and 2 June 2017, the government consulted on banning fees charged by letting agents to tenants. Now, this is really easy. Ban it. The agent is not the agent of the tenant but of the landlord and should recover his fees from him. And, although done imperfectly, Parliament has already said (Accommodation Agencies Act 1953) that, in principle, tenants should not have to pay to find accommodation. If the Secretary of State had wanted an easy but headline catching announcement for the Tory conference, why not do this one? It’d certainly have got him better press than yet more money for Help to Buy.

 

Leasehold reform

We have just seen the closure of a major consultation on leasehold reform, covering everything from the prohibition of new leasehold houses to ground rent reform/abolition and the use of Ground 8 in long assured tenancies (eg shared ownership leases). A related consultation also covered proposals to allow Recognised Tenants Associations to obtain information about the leaseholders in a block, presumably so as to facilitate enfranchisement or RTM applications. In fairness to the DCLG, this one only just closed and they got around 6,000 responses.

 

HMOs

The government has already announced that it intends to extend mandatory HMO licensing (i.e. PT 2, HA 2004) to all HMOs regardless of the number of storeys and will make a minimum space standard a mandatory HMO licence requirement. There was a further consultation on the mechanics of these reforms in October 2016…

 

Have I missed any? I know DCLG are busy. I know Grenfell is dominating their workload. But please could we deal with these consultations before any new law reform proposals are made?

 

 

 

 

About J

J is a barrister in London. He loves service charges and all things leasehold law related. He also likes beating rogue landlords and mortgage companies.

Posted in Housing law - All.

6 Comments

  1. Government progress on this is lamentable indeed. Assuming that legislation does not go ahead, there is a related issue that I believe needs to be addressed, which was highlighted by my 20 yr old nephews experience of securing a rental property. Tenant fees were £600 of which £100 was a fee for processing a guarantor (me). At the point that I agreed with nephews to be guarantor I asked the agents by email for a copy of the guarantor deed. I had no reply, or indeed to a further 4 attempted contacts by phone that were not answered. Eventually I received a completed deed, which included a clause that I would be liable to be guarantor for any further extension to the initial 12mths term, that was agreed between the landlord and the tenant. This implied an open ended agreement which is not what I had agreed with nephews. I referred this to a local solicitor who confirmed that my interpretation was correct. The agent told me that the agreement was standard and unchangeable. In addition they informed me that if the tenancy were to not go ahead the nephews would lose their £600 fees. So I am compromised – either I go ahead or nephews lose their fee, which has taken them months to save up!). Initially, the agents also refused my application on grounds of my income, despite that being over 40k per year. I subsequently learned that agents had refused a request for a draft contract from nephews at the outset fobbing them off with “Its a standard contract with nothing unusual.” I asked agents why they had not responded to my requests for a draft agreement and why they had refused nephews a copy of the draft contract at the outset. They told me that there was a cost to them of doing this which needed to be covered by the fees. Hmmm! The point that since they had said that it was a standard contract, the total cost to them would be all of 30seconds to take the file and attach it to an email seemed lost on them. They also told me that if the tenancy had failed to go though, even though it had been them that declined it, all fees paid would be non-refundable, as they had already incurred the costs. I think this is appalling, and even if tenant fees are not banned I believe that it should be a specific offence to take tenant fee money before drafts of all related legal documents are provided.

    I am waging a mini-campaign on this, but so far not much support. It seems to me that many prospective tenants are young or otherwise potentially vulnerable people, who deserve to be treated fairly. Thank you for reading this.

  2. Regarding Leasehold reform and provision of information S21(1) provides that on request the details of other and associated service charges must be supplied. It is continigent that this information is individualised and not anonymised to comply with the purpose of the section that is to verify the probity of the service charges. Whilst it is not a direct route for the purposes stated ibid above it should provide the information needed and in respect of due diligence.

    However

    compliance and enforcment on the managing agents and freeholders is poor if not non existant per ca or by procedural difficulty.

  3. Pingback: Tessa Shepperson Newsround #25

Leave a Reply (We can't offer advice on individual issues)