If the UK government can back its recent rhetoric with action, we should expect several changes in the private rental sector. On the flip side of the coin, the government has received widespread criticism for the early closure of the Green Homes Grant scheme. Life as a UK Minister covering the property sector is not an easy one!
What happened to the Green Homes Grant scheme?
When Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a £1.5 billion Green Homes Grant program, headlines were aplenty. Launched in September 2020, the scheme was closed by the end of February 2021 despite an original closing date of March 2022. During that period:-
- 123,000 grant applications were received
- 28,000 vouchers issued
- 5800 energy-efficient installations completed
The UK government has committed to a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. The Green Homes Grant scheme was open to 19 million homes in the UK that required energy efficiency improvements.
Many believe that the scheme failed because the logistics were outsourced to a US company that worked in a different time zone. There were also concerns that the US partner was unaware of the unique characteristics of the UK housing sector. Add the fact that there were various layers of eligibility to the Green Homes Grant scheme, and this was, surprise surprise, a disaster waiting to happen.
It seems only a matter of time before the UK government announce a revamped Green Homes Grant scheme. Hopefully, a simplified and UK based version!
Rental changes afoot
While the Renters Reform Bill was not mentioned by name during the Queen’s speech, this is expected to be the UK government’s vehicle for change in the private rental sector. As we touched on in an earlier article, the plan is to tighten both landlord and tenant protections while updating the legislation. Some of the other issues to be covered by the bill include:-
Abolishment of Section 21 eviction powers
It is fair to say that the UK private rental sector has been governed by laws that are effectively out of date. Much of the current legislation seems to overlap, contradict and can be nigh on impossible to understand. So, while the abolishment of Section 21 eviction notices was initially greeted with concern, it may be an interesting development that will benefit everyone.
The idea is simple; abolishing Section 21 eviction powers will tighten legislation and focus on the Section 8 eviction process. The UK government had previously announced plans to speed up the process of considering applications for eviction. Now is the time to deliver!
Building safety regulator
Many tenants and landlords will be scratching their heads this morning amid news that the UK government plans to establish a new building safety regulator. This directly references the Grenfell Tower disaster and snail’s pace at which potentially dangerous cladding is being replaced across the UK. Is this really the time for a new regulator, another layer of bureaucracy?
Each day brings news of property owners struggling to remortgage or sell their property due to dangerous cladding. Many have been quoted repair bills in the tens of thousands of pounds with an apparent lack of recourse to the original builders, freeholders, local authorities or government regulators. So, while under normal circumstances, introducing a new building safety regulator would be welcomed, it is now the time for actions, not more words.
Will the UK government deliver this time?
Those who follow the property sector will see several promises repeated time and again by the UK government. Indeed, many of the “new” proposed changes to the property sector have been ongoing for some time. It is fair to say that the COVID pandemic has caused a delay in introducing new laws, but now is the time to introduce a workable timetable.
The fact the life-threatening issue of dangerous cladding on buildings up and down the country has yet to be resolved is a significant concern.
We know that talk is cheap in the world of politics, and actions speak louder than words. When Boris Johnson claimed a considerable majority in the 2019 general election, many believed we would see relatively quick changes in private rental legislation. Yes, there have been changes, but many of the promises made have yet to be fulfilled. At this moment in time, many private landlords believe the protection of tenants is being used to curry favour with the electorate.
This is before we even consider the embarrassing failure of the Green Homes Grant scheme!