“The Residential Landlords’ Association’s (RLA) lobbying and representation on behalf of landlords has never been stronger”, RLA Chairman Alan Ward discusses 2013 from RLA’s policy point of view:
“Following a frank meeting with government minister Mark Harper, we had a letter from the Home Office to say he would make an amendment to the Immigration Bill – this success alone will ensure landlords are able to continue collecting rent or regain possession should they not carry out the correct procedures for checking the immigration status of tenants next year.”
Campaigning is a massive side of the RLA’s work for the members. Alan discusses other key areas within the RLA’s year ending 2013:
“The Welsh government will bring in registration of landlords and property licensing. Depending on the next general election this could be a precursor to changes throughout England. RLA is lobbying hard to ensure the policy is fair and unreasonable.
Universal Credit is an increasingly important area of work for the RLA and as such the Association has been engaging with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for greater clarity on definitions of arrears, when switchback to direct payments would be triggered and the progress of claims made against tenants.
The RLA has been working across the industry to resolve the legal mess resulting from the Superstrike decision about deposits taken before April 2007. We are pressing DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government) for early legislation.
We published a report by Professor Michael Ball on Longer Tenancies – countering Shelter’s proposal for a 5 year tenancy in which landlords would only get two months’ notice from tenants. Another report is due from Prof. Ball on the impact of PRS regulation.
We are also dealing with DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Control) with the complexity around Green Deal, with particular focus on the Consumer Credit Act, which currently means landlords have to sign up then transfer to a tenant. We shall shortly offer access to ECO [Energy Company Obligations] deals.
RLA held four fringe events at the Labour and Conservative party conferences this year – reaching out to the political activists and other lobby groups. RLA also provides the secretariat for the influential All Party Parliamentary Group for the PRS at Westminster
At council level, we oppose every selective licensing schemes – and occasionally find success, as in Bournemouth where the decision was made not to go ahead. Manchester City Council have also not renewed its scheme. We are working with more than 130 councils to improve landlord communications.”
Alan’s words outline major aspects of the RLA’s campaign work. Our engagement with Westminster has never been better and the ‘Ball Report’ has been requested as a reference document for debates within Government. Nationally, the RLA is working to ensure national policies recognise private landlords as crucially important to providing housing that is safe, legal, and secure.
While consultation responses each require case-specific arguments, licensing proposals often use the same conditions from local authorities. From Newham to Burnley, whether it’s mandatory, additional or selective licencing schemes, councils introduce proposals using similar arguments.
For example, in Burnley, Selective Licensing on privately rented accommodation has been proposed to tackle anti-social behaviour of tenants and empty properties.
The RLA argues that a landlord has very little power in controlling a tenant’s behaviour.
Burnley Council also argue that a large portion of the empty properties in the area belong to private landlords. Interviewed recently on BBC radio Alan Ward argued that it is never in a landlord’s interest to have a property remain empty. A landlord needs the rent to pay mortgages, utility charges and maintain the property and councils no longer allow council tax discounts for voids.
The RLA maintains a good working relationship with many other local authorities and sees Leeds as one of the leading metropolitan councils in the country. The combination of working with landlords and targeting specific areas for regeneration has resulted in benefits for communities, landlords and tenants alike with improved properties and demand in these areas.
Elsewhere, licensing fees often target the good landlords that are complaint and provide professional service. In areas that have mandatory licensing registration, it is against European law to charge more than any administrative costs of registering properties. These additional charges could trickle down to tenants and it is never fully explained how property standards will be improved through charging landlords more to conduct their business. Criminal landlords, who operate outside of the law, are likely to remain outside of licensing conditions by providing poor accommodation, not registering their tenant’s deposits and cash in hand for rent.
The RLA is keen to continue our working partnership with Central Government and the 130 local councils on our Local Network. We always encourage members and any other local authorities to get in touch to make sure we are aware of regional schemes and get updates when possible.
Join the fight by becoming an RLA member by visiting the RLA website for information and discounts reserved for members and associates.
For more information, please make sure you read the RLA Landlords’ News Hub. The News Hub is updated regularly to give members and the wider PRS audience a frame of reference of where the RLA is engaging and what is happening within the sector.