Industry news News in brief

• The London Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched his private landlords on-line database, allowing tenants and prospective tenants across the capital to check whether any prosecutions or civil enforcement actions for housing offences have been successfully undertaken. The new Rogue Landlord and Letting Agent checker contains data from ten councils with a further eight boroughs submitting data early in 2018. It also allows tenants to report unscrupulous practices by landlords. Records from the three national organisations offering a free and independent service for resolving disputes with landlords have also been made available.

• Meanwhile the Government says private landlords in England who want to rent a property to five or more people, from at least two different families, should be licensed under new proposals to improve standards in the sector. In addition, the maximum number of people who can occupy a room will be specified in the property's licence. The changes are designed to tackle rogue landlords and will also make flats and one and two-storey properties subject to licensing for the first time. National mandatory licensing currently only applies if properties are three or more storeys high.

• Research undertaken by the Liberal Democrats has revealed more than 11,000 homes have been lying empty for longer than ten years. The data was collected through freedom of information requests to local councils. It showed 60,000 properties had been empty for two years or more while 23,000 homes have been empty for five years or more. Some 216,000 homes have been empty for six months. At the same time over 9,000 people are sleeping on the streets and 78,000 households are living in temporary accommodation.

• Councils will not be forced to sell off any high value homes before April 2019 or pay over the proceeds to the Treasury, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed. Fears had been raised after the announcement to run a pilot Right to Buy extension to HAs in the Midlands from July this year.

• Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected calls to add any residents to the expert panel advising the Grenfell Tower public inquiry. The inquiry is not now expected to hear evidence from witnesses until after Easter but an expert on social housing complaints may be recruited to advise the inquiry’s chair.

• Fire safety building regulations are not ‘fit for purpose’ according to Dame Judith Hackitt, the Government appointed expert, in an interim report released in late December. A full report with recommendations is expected after Easter but Dame Judith has called for a thorough overhaul of attitudes and the culture of cutting corners and costs in the design, construction and on-going maintenance of our homes.

• Only one sixth of council-owned tower blocks with the same type of cladding as Grenfell Tower, have had the material completely stripped from them according to Government figures. A total of 162 tower blocks taller than 18 metres had the same aluminium composite cladding, with removal work started on only 57 and completed stripped from just 26. Work to install replacement cladding had started on nine buildings and only completed on a single building before Christmas. No figures have been released for privately owned tower blocks.

• The company responsible for managing and maintaining Council homes in Kensington & Chelsea has controversially handed back its contract. The K&CTMO had previously had its work on Grenfell Tower and the Ledbury Estate withdrawn, but the board has decided it can no longer honour its commitments and tenants should be consulted on future management arrangements.

• The main investment body for providing new social and affordable housing has been rebranded as Homes England. It has also acquired extra powers to make development projects easier to assemble, such as through the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders. The HCA’s regulatory functions will formally be hived off into an independent and standalone organisation, known as the Regulator of Social Housing.

• The Residential Landlords Association has called for a suspension and review of the Right to Rent scheme over fears that it is being manipulated by criminal gangs and leading to a situation where many private landlords will only let to people in possession of a British passport.

• The High Court has ordered the Home Office to end its illegal policy of deporting rough sleepers who are citizens of other EU countries. The Government has ruled out an appeal and said it will accept the judgement.

• The influential Public Accounts Committee has criticised the Government for its complacency over the rising tide of homelessness and says it is placing too much reliance on the forthcoming implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

Housing in Government reshuffle A

fter weeks of rumours that we were going to see a new cabinet level Housing Secretary, the Prime Minister surprised the

sector by simply adding the ‘H word’ to the title of Sajid Javid, making him the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. His department has been rebranded as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). We wait to see what real impact this will have, but on his appointment the new Housing Secretary

said: “Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the Prime Minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.” Below the cabinet, Alok Sharma has been moved

to Employment after spending recent months preparing for a Housing Green Paper and talking to social housing tenants, being replaced by Dominic

6 | HMM January 2018 |

Raab who becomes the PM’s third housing minister since mid 2016 and the seventh housing minister since 2010. The revolving door continues. Meanwhile at the Department of Work and

Pensions, Esther McKey has taken over responsibility for implementing Universal Credit from David Gauke who has moved to the Justice department after just seven months at the DWP. Research has recently revealed that three quarters of private landlords are reluctant to let to tenants in receipt of UC due to rent payment fears.

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