I wanted to fill our last newsletter of the year with Seasonal good cheer and happily, there is some good news. There’s the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and how that links to The Renters’ Rights Bill. Then, the additional and selective licensing schemes that aim to raise standards for renters in Ealing. Also, news of ‘Reel Homes’ film making competition.
But (ah!) we simply cannot ignore the latest stage of ‘right to rent’ rules imposed on landlords. Criminal penalties were introduced at the start of December and seem likely to increase landlords’ discrimination against renters who ‘appear foreign’.
Renters’ Rights & The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement
Like everyone else who has campaigned on the issue, we were delighted when Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement confirmed that
“The government will ban letting agents’ fees to tenants, to improve competition in the private rental market and give renters greater clarity and control over what they will pay.”
However, while some are already hailing this as ‘victory’, the fact is that “DCLG will consult ahead of bringing forward legislation”.
Of course, by the time of the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, the issue of letting agents’ fees had already been debated in House of Lords, as part of Baroness Grender’s Renters’ Rights Bill. The Renters’ Rights Bill passed through the Committee stage a few days earlier.
Having started in the Lords, the Bill still needs to get through the Report stage before it is looked at by MPs. Other provisions therein include mandatory electrical safety checks and allowing prospective tenants access to local authorities’ database of criminal landlords but S.2. of the Renters’ Rights Bill has it that:
(1) The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is amended as follows.
(2) After section 30B insert—
“30C Letting fees for tenants
(1) A letting agent who, in connection with the grant, renewal or
continuance of a residential tenancy, requires from the tenant the payment of any premium shall be guilty of an offence under this section.
(2) In subsection (1), “premium” means any fine, sum or pecuniary consideration, other than the rent or deposit, and includes any service or administration fee or agency charge.”
In quick response to the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, The Association of Resident Letting Agents, National Landlords Association and others stated their opposition to any change. Now, they will lobby hard to protect their own interests. It’s imperative that all of us – as individuals, members of groups and at work in organizations aiming to secure a more equitable deal for renters – present a robust case at consultation stage.
Under all the circumstances, it seems much too soon to claim victory, then. Now is the time to come together and push for real change.
Right to Rent Checks
Discrimination on the basis of nationality, ‘race’ or ethnicity is illegal. Still, 43% of landlords surveyed by the Residential Landlords’ Association admitted that they are less likely to rent to anyone who appeared ‘foreign’ since the introduction of right to rent checks. Now, introduction of a criminal penalty for landlords (from 1 December) looks highly likely to increase levels of discrimination.
New provisions set out by the Home Office have created four criminal offences to what was formerly a civil matter. The requirement for landlords’ to check the immigration status of prospective tenants before entering into a residential tenancy agreement incentivizes discrimination, ‘turning landlords into border guards’, according to JCWI.
The JCWI survey into the impacts of this government initiative invites responses from all renters who have moved homes since the rules came into effect nationwide,
on 1 February 2016. The closing date for responses is 31 December >> JCWI Renters’ Survey
Reel Homes Film Competition
Reel Homes Film Competition
in Association with Inside Housing
Chiefly aimed at undergraduate, postgraduate and recently qualified film-makers, the competition is also open to everyone new to film-making. Entrants are invited to submit a synopsis and test footage for a film about homelessness and the impact of the housing crisis.
The film can be either factual or fictional, as long as it addresses the central theme.The winning entrant will be afforded the chance to develop their idea and their film will be entered in at least one film festival.
Director Michael Chandler offers advice on how to avoid stereotypes and create an honest, authentic film >> here. There are more tips from Henry Barnes (competition judge and digital editor at BFI) >> here .
Ealing is introducing additional and selective landlord licensing, to help private renters in the borough. Once implemented, on 1st January 2017, Ealing Council hopes the schemes will improve living conditions for renters.
Every rented property of two or more floors, shared by four or more people forming two or more households (meaning four people who aren’t all members of the same family) but who share cooking facilities, a bathroom or toilet, MUST be registered by the landlord, wherever in the borough it’s located. Whether it’s a shared house, a maisonette or part of a building with mixed commercial and residential use, this type of dwelling is classified as a ‘house in multiple occupation’ or HMO and is subject to licensing. Certain types of buildings converted into self-contained studios and flats are also included in this licensing scheme.
In Acton Central, East Acton, South Acton, Southall Green and Southall Broadway wards, further selective licensing will be brought in. This applies to all privately rented homes, not just HMOs.
You can check whether or not your home has been registered by entering your postcode into this ‘Simple Search‘ tool.
If you think your property should be licensed and is not, please report it to Ealing Council, here.
If you want to know more, you’ll find full details of additional and selective landlord licensing in Ealing on the Council website, here.
For more information about the new licensing scheme, you can contact Ealing private renters’ enforcement team via email to the PRS Licensing team.