The Housing and Planning Bill is set to become a cornerstone of the Conservative Government’s vision for the property and rental market to 2020. This is a heavy weight piece of legislation, much of the content trailed in advance in the Conservative Manifesto and “Fixing the Foundations”, the new Government’s productivity plan – it has 145 clauses and 11 schedules.
The measures are far reaching and are intended to ease the way and encourage the building of new starter homes and self-build among many other things to do with planning and development.
Local authorities, many of whom have so far resisted planning and development measures introduced under the last government, for example the conversation of redundant office space to residential, will be put under a duty to promote the supply of new homes, and to prepare reports about the actions they have taken under the starter homes duties.
However, of most interest to landlords are the measures included to tackle so called “rogue landlords”.
A banning order is a new concept in housing which will be an order made by the First-tier (Property) Tribunal, which has the effect of banning a person from:
- letting housing in England;
- engaging in letting agency work that relates to housing in England;
- engaging in property management work that relates to housing in England; or
- doing two or more of those things.
The regulations will be set out what explaining constitutes a banning order offence.
A local housing authority in England will be able to apply for a banning order against a person who has been convicted of a banning order offence. Before applying for a banning order, the authority will need to give that person a notice of intended proceedings, informing them that the authority is applying for a banning order, and inviting them to appeal within 28 days.
The clause in the Bill provides that in deciding whether to make a banning order and if so, what order to make, the Tribunal must consider:
- the seriousness of the offence;
- any previous convictions that the person has for a banning order offence;
- whether the person is or ever was included in the database of rogue landlords and letting agents;
- the likely effect of the banning order on the person against whom the banning order is proposed to be made and anyone else who may be affected by such an order.
A ban must last for at least six months. If the order is breached, a the local authority can impose a financial penalty up to £5,000.
A breach of a banning order does not invalidate or affect the enforceability of any provision of a tenancy or other contract. In particular, this is to ensure that a tenancy agreement cannot be found to be invalid on the basis that it was granted when a landlord or letting agent was subject to a banning order. This provides protection for the parties to a tenancy agreement by ensuring that they do not lose their rights under the agreement as a result of the banning order.
Creating a Database of Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents
The Secretary of State is to be required to establish and operate a database of rogue landlords and letting agents. All local housing authorities in England will be responsible for maintaining the content of the database. Those with banning orders made against them will be included, plus those where a local authority deems them suitable for inclusion, even if they are not in possession of a banning order.
An appeal mechanism is to be available for those included in the “rogues’ database”.
Rent Repayment Orders
This provision in the Bill for Rent Repayment Orders will empower the First-tier Tribunal to make the orders to deter rogue landlords who have committed an offence, or rented housing in breach of the new banning order. The offences will be:
- breaches of improvement orders and prohibition notices and of licensing requirements under the Housing Act 2004,
- violent entry under the Criminal Law Act 1977, and
- unlawful eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
An order requires a landlord to repay rent paid by a tenant or to repay to a local housing authority housing benefit or universal credit which had been paid in respect of rent.
For clarity, the Bill provides for definitions of a “letting agent”, “letting agency work” and “property management work”. It also describes what is meant by “English letting agency work” and “English property management work”.
Recovering Abandoned Premises in England – Abandonment
Abandonment of rental properties has for a long time been a very difficult situation to deal with for landlords, given the provisions of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
The Bill provides that a landlord may follow course to recover possession of a property where it has been abandoned, without the need for a court order. A private landlord will be required to give a tenant notice which brings the tenancy to an end on that day, if the tenancy relates to premises in England and certain conditions are met:
- a certain amount of rent is unpaid (two months, if monthly, or one quarter);
- that the landlord has given a series of warning notices;
- and that neither the tenant or a named occupier has responded in writing to those warning notices before the date specified in the notices.
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