While there has been much focus on private tenants during the COVID pandemic, many private landlords feel their protection has been weakened. Therefore, it was no surprise to see a lukewarm welcome for the Queen’s speech covering government intentions during the current Parliament. There are many things to consider regarding landlord and tenant protection in the private sector, and there would appear to be hope for the future.
Enhanced tenant rights
We should see the publication of a White Paper in the short to medium-term, which will outline plans to improve security for tenants in the private sector. Interestingly, the same White Paper is also rumoured to contain changes to the repossession process favouring landlords. So, what can tenants expect going forward?
While the proof is most certainly the pudding, it would appear that the UK government is currently considering:-
- Introducing a lifetime tenancy deposit model
- Writing in law a tenant’s right to redress
- The creation of a landlord register
There are certainly some exciting developments in the above list, but many will be surprised at the “writing in law of a tenant’s right to redress”. Indeed current legislation already gives the vast majority of tenants the right to redress via the courts?
Lifetime tenancy deposit model
While this idea has been given a rather grand title, it simply means that rental deposits can be passported when a tenant moves property. Some of the landlord associations have given this idea a lukewarm reception. They are concerned that private landlords may be exposed to rental defaults if the deposits “moved over” need topped up. There is talk of introducing a bridging loan, backed by the UK government, to take up the slack in the short-term. As ever, the devil will be in the detail as and when legislation is announced.
Even though private landlords are often characterised as the “devil incarnate”, they are as keen as anybody to rid the sector of the rogue elements. The introduction of a landlord register is not a new idea, but it may finally allow substandard landlords to be identified by the public. In reality, this kind of system should already be up and running to make the sector more transparent. After all, this is as much for the benefit of law-abiding landlords as it is for tenants.
Will the government acknowledge landlord concerns?
There is no doubt that the outline proposals by the UK government offer some of the most significant changes in the private rental sector in more than three decades. However, it will be challenging to find a balance between improving landlord protection and that of tenants. Many observers have the misconception that all landlords are wealthy property owners. This is certainly not the case!
Sceptics would argue that the UK government continues to kick the can of private rental sector changes further and further down the road. The government would say discussions have already taken place with the sector, tenant associations and legal advisers. As ever, the proof will be in the pudding, and we await the production of the legislative cake with anticipation.
While there are some new elements to the Queen’s speech regarding the private rental sector, much of the proposed changes have been mentioned before. The UK government needs to recognise the legitimate concerns of private landlords while offering a degree of protection to tenants. Unfortunately, if the level of legislative and financial assistance for private landlords during the COVID pandemic is anything to go by, hopes are not high.
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